By Edwin Madunagu
We have been on this subject for quite some time. I think I should, at this point, recap and reformulate the central question before proceeding. The subject to which I refer and which now appears in the singular was originally three. The first was the location and movement of Nigeria’s presidency; the second was the geopolitical restructuring of the country; and the third was what I may now call popular-democratic reform of the politics and political economy of Nigeria. The need to combine, or rather, integrate, the three subjects into what I have tentatively called Restructuring under popular democracy occurred to me at the end of last year.
The four articles that have so far appeared in this column this year, taken together, may be seen as a contribution to current efforts to rescue the Nigerian nation, which I have now likened to a “sinking boat”. My proposition in the four articles can be summarised as follows: The geopolitical restructuring of the country into eight regions; the retention of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as they are presently constituted; the retention of the 774 Local Government Areas as they are presently constituted; and the constitution of Local Council Wards as Neighbourhood Organisations: at least one Neighbourhood Organisation in a council ward.
The administrations at the Federal, State and Local Council levels will be “governments” as presently understood, but those at the Regional and Neighbourhood levels will not be “governments” as such: there will be Secretariats and Governors Forums at the Regional level and only Secretariats at the Neighbourhood level. Their functions were listed and described in the preceding articles. The key feature of the Federal Government is the eight-member Collective Presidency with rotational Chair and Deputy Chair. The Chair doubles as “ceremonial” Head of State.
That is the general picture showing the main features of the restructured federation, which will be republican, secular and democratic. Of the other features, the most significant is the overall redeployment of the nation’s resources in favour of the masses –the most significant means of doing this being the radical reduction of the appropriations of political office holders, radical war on corruption, and the canceling of some taxes and levies, which the masses now pay.
This is what strikes you immediately you view the proposed structure. Others include the reduction of the fraction of the nation’s resources that goes to the Federal Government. What is removed from the centre is shared between the States and the Local Government Councils. The states then finance the Regional Secretariats while the Local Governments finance the programmes and coordination of the Neighbourhoods. The restructuring as a whole derives its “popular” description mainly from what happens at the Neighbourhood level, that is, at the grassroots.
This fifth level of the proposed structure – with the federal, region, state, and local council as first, second, third and fourth levels respectively – should not be seen as an appendix, an abstract or theoretical exercise, which can be excised from the structure. No; the Neighbourhood or Grassroots level is the level that holds the promise of minimally ameliorating the current pathetic material conditions of the masses and simultaneously reducing the level of their political alienation and marginalisation; and, I may add, soften the masses’ class anger. The other “novelty” in the proposed structure, the Collective Presidency with Rotational Chair and Deputy Chair, is essentially designed to prevent the present crop of rulers from setting the country on fire through their struggle for the presidency. We don’t want them to link up with Boko Haram!
Having summarised what we have said so far, we may now move ahead. We begin by asking: Why is every major national political crisis in Nigeria reflected more clearly in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) than in any other political party, and why does every major political crisis in the country always threaten to become a national political crisis? To appreciate this composite question more concretely, you may take, as illustration, the question of location and movement of the Presidency and, more generally, the difficult question of “distribution of power’ (otherwise known as “zoning”) between the various segments of the ruling classes and power blocs, which is played out more clearly in the PDP.
This question may be reformulated as a statement: Since the ruling People’s Democratic Party is the dominant and the most national political formation of Nigeria’s ruling classes and power blocs, every major political crisis in the party quickly transforms into a problem of the ruling classes and power blocs as a whole. Furthermore, because of the current political and ideological dominance and near – hegemony of the ruling classes and power blocs in the country, every major political crisis (such as the “zoning” crisis) quickly draws in the other classes and social forces, thereby threatening to expand into a national political crisis.
It can also be proposed that the seriousness of a general political crisis in the country – whatever the origin – can be measured by its impact on the ruling classes and power blocs and, then, more concretely, on the PDP – for the same reason of dominance and national coverage. These questions and propositions will help explain many things, including why in this question of “struggling for seats in a sinking boat” I may seem to dwell more on the crises within the PDP than the struggles between PDP and other parties; and why I may sometimes make generalisations from analysis of the situation in PDP.
Nigeria is currently like a sinking boat, as I have said. Boko Haram; corruption and political economy of class and state robbery; state delinquency (that is rapidly acquiring features of a failed state); mass poverty and dispossession; armed robbery and kidnapping; gross social inequality; unpatriotic ruling classes; marginalisation and anomie; violence, mass insecurity and kindred social maladies – are, in their combined effect, literally sinking the country. Then an inevitable national resistance – open and covert, organised and unorganised – sets in to increase the speed of sinking. In the midst of all this, the rulers are fighting for the next presidency. This is what I have likened to “fighting for seats in a sinking boat”.
We are all observing and living through the national “social maladies” – of course from different locations and with different degrees of concern. We are also seeing the effect: the “sinking” of the nation. This article is, however, not about the “social maladies”. I shall only touch upon them tangentially – after all, the maladies, their descriptions and mobilisation against them can be taken as the main concern of this column since its inception. I have returned to the subject again and again. The aim of the present article is rather to describe aspects of the current fighting for seats in a “sinking boat” – to see how and how far the proposed five-tier popular democratic structure can contribute to national rescue operation.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaigners opened the “salvo”, as the saying goes. The Nation newspaper carried the front page story captioned “Outrage as Jonathan’s 2015 posters flood Abuja streets” in its January 3, 2013 edition. The story is that “Federal Capital Territory (FCT) residents resumed from the New Year’s holiday to see the streets flooded with posters campaigning for a second term for President Jonathan. The glossy posters with a bold picture of the President carries the inscription ‘2015: No vacancy in Aso Rock. Let’s do more’. Also inscribed on it is ‘one good term deserves another; support Dr. Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan for 2015 presidency”.
The Presidency and the president’s party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), according to the newspaper report, immediately “disowned” the posters, saying that the president had stated that “he will talk about the Presidency from 2014” and that “those doing this do not have the consent of the president”. The opposition parties and, of course, the public, did not believe this claim of ignorance, innocence or “distance”. One opposition party remarked: “there is nothing wrong in President Goodluck Jonathan displaying his posters for 2015… But Nigerians won’t be fooled the second time”, thus ignoring the Presidency’s plea of non-involvement and reminding Nigerians of the country’s culture of official falsehood that predates Jonathan’s presidency.
No undue significance should be attached to the appearance of President Jonathan’s “glossy” campaign posters in the nation’s capital on the first working day of the year; nor is the response of the opposition to be taken as anything other than 2015 election campaign. The Presidency and the opposition are playing the same game: politics of “hide-and-seek”, official falsehood, messianism and mechanical conception of social transformation. What is of significance is the silent statement made by the president’s January 3 posters, namely, that the campaign for Presidency 2015, which we observed as soon as Jonathan was confirmed as president in 2011 has indeed started and that he will fight hard to win PDP’s presidential nomination and also fight hard to win the main election.
• To be continued.
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