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It is “illegal” for the APC to field a same religion presidential ticket — By Albert Okwudiba Nnoli

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Okwudiba Nnoli

Recent discussion of the choice of the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC has illuminated the political bankruptcy of the Nigerian petty bourgeoisie. For over three weeks the news cycle was dominated by the issue of the propriety or otherwise of a Moslem-Moslem ticket. The embers of the flame of the fire of this controversy was not only lit by the petty bourgeois Press but constantly stoked by Seun Okinbaloye and Reuben Abati, some of the most visible members of that sub-class.

Characteristically the discussion was all of form without content, devoid of any dialectics and sense of history, and practically useless in its relevance to the urgent developmental needs of the country.

From the viewpoint of history the APC was quagmired in double speak, accepting the principle but not the practice of religious representation on the ticket, seeking to eat its identity political cake and still have it. There was no reference to the history of this principle or of the results of its practical application. The result is lack of analytical depth.

The principle has its roots in the 1975-1979 political debate which ended with a petty bourgeois consensus and agreement on a package known as the federal character policy. Aspects of it were codified in the 1979 Constitution. Others were left as convention. All were expected to lead to increased national cohesion. It’s central operating rationale was to give everyone in Nigeria’s diverse society a sense of belonging.

In reality, however, it was a strategy to end the chaos, and establish order, in the primordial factional struggles of the class for advantages in the sharing of the national cake.

Various programs emerged to implement the principle: at least one Minister from each state, balance of primordial factors in appointments to posts in the pubic service, quota admissions into Federal Government Colleges and public tertiary educational institutions, a Federal Character Commission to coordinate and implement these programs etc.Some political parties codified it in their constitutions. Others did not but nevertheless implemented it.

Thus it’s “illegal “ for the PDP and NNPP not to rotate their Presidential candidates to the South, and for the APC to field a same religion Presidential ticket. Unilaterally breaking the agreement and consensus of 1975-1979 by pleading merit which was rejected by the agreement cannot be acceptable. They should have renegotiated the agreement first. They have no excuse to limit the reintroduction of merit only to the electoral sub-system and not also in admission to the federal government colleges and public tertiary institutions of education, as well as the appointments of Ministers and public officers, etc

Nevertheless, characteristically of the petty bourgeois frivolous and  un-dialectical method of social analysis the discussion totally ignored the practical objective of the principle under discussion. The cohesion of the country. Instead the journalists and politicians took us on a merry go round of forms of a similar phenomenon in the US and Britain. Always form without content!!!!

Pat Utomi invoked Harold Wolpe the US scholar of ethnic politics, ignoring the views of more world renowned African scholars of ethnic politics like Claude Ake, Mahmood Mamdani, Archie Mafeje and Bernard Magubane who daily lived the practice.

What is the score card of over forty years of the practical implementation of this principle. Has national cohesion improved? Obviously not. Instead it has greatly deteriorated. How has the Moslem/Christian regime of Buhari performed? The same people who oppose the Moslem/Moslem ticket of the APC would gleefully complain that it has been worst under this regime. Has the principle just become a mere fetish???

No it’s worse than a fetish. It’s dangerous for national progress and survival. This is palpable from the discussion. As we warned in the 1970s the controversy and its discussion only serves to increase and exacerbate primordial identity and tension. Like the federal character principle itself, the controversy and discussion put the primordial factors of ethnicity, religion, gender, and age on the front burner of national consciousness, political and social. As I warned in my book, Ethnic Politics, published in 1976 focus on the ethnic and other primordial factors would create a conflict spiral. Such spirals always end in disaster.

The British colonialists created and exploited this visibility for their strategy of divide and rule. But I don’t think that today they are happy with what they left behind. Just like the leaders of political sharia during the Obasanjo era do not now like the Boko Haram that they left behind. And the petty bourgeois through out the country. do not like the various separatist groups they have left behind by their exploitation of ethnicity and religion. For the British colonialists ethnicity was for divide and rule, for the Nigerian petty bourgeois it was for divide and loot..The fissiparous tendencies let loose by primordial forces tend to lead to the breakup of the country.

In addition, the frivolous discussion obfuscated the attention that the priority issues of the election deserved. Focus of efforts was shifted from the three highest priorities of security, employment and poverty reduction. No attempt was made to link the discussion to these issues. Inane and silly obsession with who attended a meeting superseded the desire of the youth to know how their search for jobs will end in success.

The petty bourgeois, your days of rule are numbered.

You long ago ran out of governance ideas.

You’re are fast running out of political space.

In due time farmers, workers and fisherfolk will organize and defeat you in an electoral landslide.

Let the organization of political parties outside the petty bourgeois party system begin.

The disadvantaged classes shall prevail.

Long live the people.

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