ANOMALOUS POLITICAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA: A WAY FORWARD1.0 INTRODUCTION: “Nigeria”, for people who reside or who have lived within this geographical, enclave and independent political entity, this appellation rings a bell, and raises different notional reservations, a broad phenomenological descriptive analysis of its issues would see coming to the fore several unnerving characterizations that has left it perpetually effete and almost moribund, that one hardly sees any light at the tunnel that beckons or elicits any hope for survival within a naïve expectant patriot (if there are still any left). These issues are painted in a picture of structural violence that ranges from ethnic-religious-ideological antagonism, economic dilapidation, cultural struggle (shock), education crisis, infrastructural decay, social unrest, political anomalies amongst others.
For some, it seems that the root of these problems find their basis in the last on the above enumerated list or at least its correction is the first step in our salvific mission towards the restoration of national peace, normalcy, equilibrium, serenity, and conviviality that is conducive for development.
The talk of political anomalies that have bedevilled the country has for generations been recurrent in national debates, indeed it is one of the most over flogged issues, and for some, the greatest disturbing issue. The menace has manifested itself in different guises. It is seen in political conflicts, electoral malversations, post-truth politics, neo-political terrorism, (a systematic use of terror, force, and fear inducement mechanics in politics to acquire power), political apathy, political manipulation of the polity, and all these culminating in bad governance which forecloses national development.
How these political anomalies can be resolved is the issue this presentation seeks to address. To do justice to this issue, this presentation shall first help us understand some unsuspecting key concepts like Anomaly or Anomalous and Politics, that ordinarily taken for granted, their meaning may be assumed. However, a proper contextual exposition will help us appreciate more the perspective in this issue and so narrow down the meanings and applications in context.
It shall try to uncover the foundational cause(s) to the national political crisis in Nigeria from where it shall see how a dysfunctional political system and structure hamper the basic building of institutions that would run the political lifeline of the state. This presentation shall show how the loss of national and political identity has rid the people of their national spirit (patriotism) which is the key to political consciousness and functionality. These issues exposed will now enable us to see how they make people to misconstrue politics and the adverse effects it has on the country’s development, having done this it shall now proffer a tentative solution to these issues raised.
Since this is an academic paper presentation and considering the issue being addressed, this presentation shall adopt an analytic-descriptive-prescriptive approach. Considering the approach to be employed, there are basically two ways of approaching Nigeria’s myriad of problems namely:
• The proximal approach, and
• Original/foundational approach.
The proximal approach looks at the proximate or immediate causes of the country’s problems like the economic recession, weak political institutions, terrorism, fiscal corruption, incompetent governance etc. the original/foundational approach is however, more basic and thorough in its methodology as it goes to the origin of the country to seek out the primary and foundational causes of the country’s problems which are located at the root and formative stages of the country’s development. The later approach is what this write-up shall adopt.
2.0 Elucidation of Concepts
The two concepts in review are Politics and Anomaly. First, it is pertinent to begin with politics
The word/term politics is a derivative of two Greek words polis – city or state and techne – art, both giving us a common meaning; the art or science of the state. Here the state is seen as a maze of intricately woven system of diverse structures, institutions, bodies, agencies and persons which requires the expertise and ingenuity of an adroit technocrat through whose intellectual dexterity and acquaintance with state theatrics can deftly and tactfully manage the matrix involved in the state. A politician therefore as Plato would say, is one who knows the web of the art of the state. Politics therefore involves the complex life of the people in the state, the activities, programmes etc.
Considering the second concept in review which is anomaly or anomalous the origin of this word could be traced to the Greek anomalos, literally translated as ‘uneven’ from a – homalos which means ‘even’, from homas – same (not same). It also has an origin in latin anomalus meaning uneven, not same, irregular, unusual. These concepts point to the fact the term anomaly simply refers to a deviation from the common rule. Something anomalous is something different from the normal, abnormal, not easily classified, an aberration, oddity, an inconsistent procedure or deviation from the usual. These expositions would help us to capture the emphasis of this write-up, namely that politics is that which requires artful management, which however, unfortunately in Nigeria’s scenario has turned anomalous and thus become dysfunctional because of its aberrant organization and management. The contention becomes the way forward.
Nigeria is a country or political enclave, bordering Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east and Niger on the north with its coast in the south the lying on the calf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The modern – day Nigeria has been the site of numerous kingdoms and tribal states over the millennia. The modern state Nigeria is a politically independent territory that was arbitrarily drawn up by the British, during the British colonial rule beginning in the 19th century, by the merging of the Southern Nigeria protectorate and Northern Nigeria protectorate in 1914. The British set up administrative and legal structures whilst practicing indirect rule through traditional chiefdoms. Nigeria formally became an independent federation in 1960. The country is viewed as the Giant of Africa owing to its large population and economy with approximately 184 million inhabitants. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and 7th most populous in the world. It is viewed as a multinational state; as it is made up by over 500 ethnic nationalities.
Prior to the British colonial rule, these different nations that formed Nigeria existed independently, without any political interference, they developed politically, socially, culturally and economically in their natural pace but with the advent of the British rule, they arbitrarily drew up artificial territories forcing people/nations that are ideologically, culturally, religiously, historically and even more unfortunately identically apart and incompatible forcing an unsolicited and unceremonious marriage between people of dissenting views and wills. In his bid to describe this anomaly the American historian Martin Meredith exposes the views the prominent founding fathers of Nigeria, he writes
“A prominent Northern Nigerian, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who was destined to become the first federal prime minister, remarked in 1984: ‘since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves signs of willingness to unite…Nigerian unity is only a British invention”. In a book published in 1947, the Yoruba leader, Obafemi Awolowo, who dominated Western Nigerian politics for more than thirty years, wrote.”Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English”, Welsh”, or “French”. The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not”.
This however, goes to show that the country Nigeria is not only an abrupt British creation but also that even its founding fathers and fore-most occupants lacked faith in it. And this was the genesis of the political apocalypse that was to engulf the country. With the unexpected and unhappy end of the British colonial in Nigeria the British, left sowing a political seed of discord in Nigeria’s formative political system. A seed that encouraged and deluded the North into seeing themselves as predestined and divinely ordained hegemonic rightful rulers of the enclave while conceiving the south, especially the south east as their slaves and opportunist manipulators that should not be given a breathing space to decide the political fate of the nation. The south saw their selves as short-changed in the political arrangement of the country and the north as unworthy usurpers of the country’s leadership and politics. This early rancour and feud formed as it where the political foundation of the country and so one could clearly observe that the founding values and vision of Nigeria were erroneous, and ill-motived there was no sense of direction for the country, no national purpose and that it was a British tool of economic amassment and display of British political power and strength in the world politics.
This lack of national purpose and political vision turned the country into a playground for political jobbers and a wonder land for thieves. Thus political conflict was at the background of the Nigerian – Biafran War and this political and ideological acrimony was the vicious vice that cemented and crusted the country’s political foundation. Falsehood and lies were used to decorate its foundation. It is however true that no country or nation that is built on falsehood and acrimony will ever hope for genuine development characterised by a stable, upright and responsible political system.
A system is basically understood to mean a set of interacting or independent component parts forming a complex or intricate whole. It is also understood to be a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method. It is associated with such synonyms as organization, network, arrangement, methodology, procedure, technique, process, framework, modus operandi etc.
Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning, systems underline every phenomenon and all are part of a larger system. A system is usually organized and purposeful and so is equally understood to be an organized, purposeful structure that consists of interrelated and interdependent elements/components, entities, factors, members, parts. These elements continually influence one another directly or indirectly to maintain their activity and the existence of the system in order to achieve the goal of the system. Systems can either be closed or opened. In closed systems components do not interact with the outer environment while in opened systems i.e. real world systems allow exchange of energy, material and information. This is where the political system locates itself. In politics a system is a prevailing political or social order.
Systems are more basic than structures, structures actually explain systems. A structure is the arrangement of, and relation between parts or elements of something complex. It is synonymous to construction, formation, constitution, shape and make-up. It is the way something is built, arranged or organized, the object or system so organized. It is a complex system considered from the point of view of the whole rather than a single part, e.g. the structure of a political system.
Structures have defined boundaries within which (1) each element is physically or functionally connected to the other elements, (2) and the elements themselves and their interrelationships are taken to be either fixed (permanent) or changing only occasionally.
The political crisis bedevilling Nigeria’s democracy and national development is actually rooted in the systemic-structuring of the country’s politics and governance. By systemic-structure, I mean that the political crisis or anomalies are found in the framework of those country’s componential—elements, the factors, elements and general network of structures that make-up the country’s political practices is basically faulty from the onset. The vision, values, principles, procedures, processes, methods, techniques and goals that underpinned the systemic formation of the country’s general political framework were displaced and ill-formed. It was built on falsehood, misplaced values, selfishness, unpatriotic spirit, national distrust. This was solely based on the reason that the political amalgam called Nigeria was not freely, choicely and collectively created, unlike the United States where the founding fathers, based on shared values and purpose, decide to form a free nation of their own, Nigeria is a British construct, with values, goals and principles created and induced by the British and so the so called founding fathers or better put independence strugglers merely adopted an already made British product which they knew little or nothing about and so they individually and collectively never perceived it as their own rather each ethnic group sought to secure its interest within the national construct, following this the adopted a political systemic-structure that was incompatible with their diverse natures and this has kept the country politically redundant and moth-eaten.
When a political structure is faulty it can be easily fixed as far as the system is well formed but when the system is malformed, irrespective of how the body is structured the contraption would remain anomalous. During the first and second republic of the country’s democracy, following the political distrust that was at the base of the independence, the different key political actors in the then political set up formed parties along ethnic–religious lines, this was the beginning of the country’s political failure.
Again, the present federal democratic system being practiced in the country since after the civil war has been its greatest undoing, for a country made up of people, ideologically, culturally, ethnically, religiously and identically apart who do not share a common purpose, vision, interest and value achieving a collective national development is clearly unattainable, and unrealizable. Practising a system of government where power is overwhelmingly concentrated in the centre with one region clinging to the power for like ever, does not guarantee political safety, freedom and conviviality. An economic system that does not allow individual states or regions to harness their natural economic potentials but rather encumbers them with the restrictive and stifling laws of the hegemonic federal might. Nigeria cannot develop in this current systemically structured state. If it is to see a glimpse of genuine development the power has to be decentralised so that the constituting regions can grow and develop at their own pace and along their respective ideological lines and values. Only then can the people develop a sense of belonging and ownership for their nation or state.
The political system in Nigeria which determines the structure of the institutions, agencies, parties and general government (all of these being anomalous) can only be redressed and corrected only when the people that make up the contraption called Nigeria come to negotiation table to renegotiate their co-existence as a political state, only then can they begin to talk about the correction of their anomalous political system and practices.
5.0 National and Political Identity: The Missing Link: Hegel in his politics talks about national spirit as the main driver of national development, where this is absent, it is very hard to garner the collective will of a people to present a formidable front. This national spirit as evidenced in the collective will of the people is what drives national development, it is what stands behind the people as the face any national challenge with one heart, spirit and faith, it drives individual sacrifice for the nation as it equally motivates national sacrifice for an individual, it is the mother of patriotism, it is the faith an individual has in his nation, an unflinching love for one’s nation. When these values are infixed in majority of the citizens, they proudly identify with their nation, this forms one national identity and with this identity, they people form a political identity. This identity bears their cherished national values that give birth to their political values and this could be manifested in such values as love and respect for democratic ideals like free, fair and credible elections, accountability in governance, political honesty, value based politics etc. This is what is referred to as national and political identity. When a people share a common national and political identity, political anomalies will be easily detected and eschewed from their political system.
In Nigeria this is basically missing, it is the missing link in the political system. It is the missing link that has destroyed the nation’s politics. It is at the background of the misconceptions we have about politics in Nigeria. In Nigeria the spirit of patriotism is missing right from the leadership to the fellowship as no one has the minutest faith in the country, each person is at best ethnically inclined to his clan and so in politics it becomes a do or die affair; it becomes a question of who have defend his ethnic and religious identity better and who can amass the greatest wealth for himself and his people. The National stage becomes the battle ground for ethnic struggle and the national interest (if at all there is one) becomes a-nobody’s-business, at best citizens been a-political. This is the basic cause of the political anomalies in Nigeria.
6.0 Misconceptions of Politics in Nigeria and their Effects.
At this point in our political discussion, it is pertinent to highlight some of the major misconceptions people have about politics in Nigeria which are all about consequences of the lack of a national identity and a malformed systemic-structure. They can be outlined thus:
(1) Politics as a source of wealth creation and amassment
(2) Ethnic-religious based politics
(3) Politics as a dirty game
(4) Politics of resource control
(5) Politics of fame and name: (against common good)
(6) Neo-political terrorism
(7) Power – based politics: (Machivellian Politics)
(8) Identity Politics: (Particularism)
These misconceptions are at the heart of the political practice in Nigeria and as such form the immediate causes of the political wrangling and conflict in the country and so they give rise to several problematic effects which are outlined here as follows:
• Political conflict/violence
• Social conflict
• Unaccountability in government
• Hegemonic perpetual leadership (Power Grip)
• Unequal political representations in governance
• Political marginalization of a section of the country
• Sectarian political domination
• Lack of national development
• Political immaturity
• Political apathy
The solution to these problematic effects is what this presentation presents as a way forward.
In considering, a way forward by means of a solution, many things come into play. First the diversity and intricate nature of a problem also determines the assortment and method of answers that would form the solution proffered. In the introductory part of this presentation, I had outlined two approaches to the political anomaly in Nigeria namely the Proximal and original/foundational approach. In tendering a solution as a way forward both approaches would have to be employed, but with the later coming first. Which means, that we have to first solve the underlying issues in the country’s political construction before looking at the present issues bedevilling it which are but in my opinion natural inevitable aftermaths of the foundational issues.
Secondly, another question that has to be asked is: what best methods or procedures should be hired in solving it or what best way can these anomalies be solved? Do we need political solution, a spiritual solution, a psychological/rational solution, economic solution, or identity solution? It would not be out of place, overambitious or unrealizable to say all of the above. This is because the problem of Nigeria cuts across all these areas or aspects.
Nigeria has got a political problem, as it is evidenced in our political practice we cannot seem to get anything in our political practice right. From mere election to the intricacies of governance it appears a very difficult job to do. Psychologically most Nigerians are not quite stable, a recent report this year has it that more than 68% percent of Nigerians are psychologically unstable and this is evidenced in our public behaviour, people find it hard to patiently queue up in a line to receive a public service, people rush and drag taxis, customer service in and businesses is abysmally annoying, noise pollution is outrageous, the streets are filled with dirt and squalor as people dispose trash unhealthily and construct buildings indiscriminately without plans, politicians and public office holders loot and embezzle funds irrationally to the tune of unnecessary billions that are way too much for a few individuals to consume. These are evident instances that point to the fact that we need psychological help. Nigeria equally needs an economic solution, even I for nothing, its still grappling with an economic recession. And for an identity solution that is basically needed if we are to regain our national purpose and spirit. How best can we advice this then I think two approaches can easily nip the political anomalies in Nigeria on the board and these are the systemic structure approach and the identity approach.
In the systemic structure approach what is need is to reconstruct, resystemise and restructure our political framework. In a country of diverse culture, ethnicity religion and ideologies fostering a common vision would be unattainable if the different nations are not allowed to individually decide their fate, and progress in their natural pace and according to their God given values. The centre is too powerful and is reining on the individual regions that have the capacity to develop and harness themselves, some parts are short-changed and others are limited by federal might. The respective regions should be left alone to practice their politics in the way they know best. And just to be clear on thus I cannot calling for a fiscal federalism, but for a confederate (state, it is only within such political framework/systemic structure) can the individual regions that make up the entity Nigeria genuinely witness development. If this fails to happen then regional secession is inevitable, it is only a matter of time and mass political consciousness which is speedily growing among some of the region.
Another, approach is the identity solution, which had already been pointed at when I mentioned National and political identity. Winning back a national identity that would instil a genuine national spirit and consciousness in the citizens is pivotal to solving the political anomalies in the country anomalies political misconceptions like ethane-religious based politics, politics of wealth amassment and wealth creation, Neo-political terrorism etc. can be solved if the people of Nigeria share a common purpose, vision, values and identity. These shared values are what well help us see the country Nigeria as our own and view the polities as a rational game through which it is organized and made better. But this dream will continue to be a far cry until the different people come together in a true negotiating table devoid of pre-conditions and intimidation to reconsider their terms of co-existence, recreate a country of their own a which they can cal by their name, a name that reflects their common purpose and ownership. Without theses windows of solutions I have proffered, in any opinion, am afraid the present British invention called Nigeria is only a potentially defunct state.