Sunday, 21 April 2013

Article: Building An Alternative Political Party Platform In Nigeria

By Jaye Gaskia

For quite some time now, and particularly since the announcement of the decision/intention to merge by the main opposition parties into a mega party with the proposed name – All Progressives Congress [APC]; there have been quite a lot of euphoria and near jubilant excitement within the ranks of emergent politically conscious youth and young activists and active citizens radicalized principally by the January Uprising of 2012 on the one hand; as well as barely suppressed excitement on the part of activists and active citizens, whose politically radicalization predated the January Uprising, and many of whom can rightfully be considered veterans of the anti-military, human rights and pro-democracy [including pro-democratization or deepening of democracy struggles] – that is those activists and active citizens that were involved in the struggle to chase out the military, and have been involved in the struggle to check the excesses, and challenge the gluttonous ineptitude and light fingeredness of their civilian successors since 1999.

Those among both the emergent and veteran wings of the growing activist and active citizen community who could not rationalize political association with any of the individual opposition parties [the ruling PDP, was never given much consideration] of CAN, CPC, ANPP, APGA etc; are now willing to consider association with the APC entity, the intended and proposed outcome of their merger process!

The reason for this accommodation with the outcome of the arithmetical sum of these opposition parties, the APC, has been varied; nevertheless, however varied, what has been constant in the rationalization of this very blatant process attempting to put old wine in a new bottle with a new label [re-branding according to the doctrine of the Nigerian ruling elite – remember the re-branding of Nigeria process.....?]; what has been constant as basis for making such probable  rationalization can be reduced to three broad categories. These are first; that somehow the merger process and the merged outcome represents an entity qualitatively different from its constituent elements and proponents; second, that because it is a supposedly new entity, it actually provides a real platform, with a somewhat level playing field for outsiders who have been invited and encouraged by the proponents and ‘owner occupiers’ of the new entity [APC] to engage with the polity and the political process in a manner that will allow these outsiders to be able to influence the direction and character of the emergent entity, if only they are organized; and of course the third reason, is the negative one [the first two being the positive reasons], and it is predicated on the proclaimed lack of capacity of the activist and active citizen communities to organize independently of the political platforms of the acknowledged representatives of the ruling political elites.

My intention is to respond to each of these three reasons briefly in this write up, and potentially more robustly as the debate evolves and the polemics deepen over time.

The place to start is to contend the purported newness of this new emergent entity called APC. What is really new about this pretentiously new party? What is or will be in the proposed manifesto and constitution of this new party that will be qualitatively different from the manifestoes and constitutions of its constituent units, the ‘owner occupier’ parties? How will the mere announcement and or consummation of this merger change the practice of those elected on the platforms of the owner occupier parties in office where they are already in office in executive and legislative roles? Where is the governance agenda, including legislative agenda of this new emergent entity, for the period between the merger and the 2015 elections, as well as for the 2015 general elections? Is this agenda any different from a quantitative assemblage of the current and ongoing agendas of the owner occupier parties? In what ways can the current agendas of the owner occupier parties be described broadly, much less truly progressive, and thus qualitatively different from the practice and agenda of representatives of the current ruling party [PDP] which they want to displace, in government? What is qualitatively different from the practice of the Sule Lamido, Rotimi Amaechi, Fashola, Fayemi, or Okorocha, Al-Makura etc administrations?

Finally what is or has been the antecedents of the acknowledged representatives of the owner occupier parties, and proponents of the new emergent entity? What has been their record in power? Did we fight the Buhari – Idiagbon regime merely because it was a military dictatorship? Or did we fight it also, and primarily because of its policies and practices in power?

Now to the issue of the new platform somewhat creating a level playing ground between the owner occupiers and the invited outsiders! How much of a level playing ground can be engendered or enabled in a context where the owner occupiers are the ones deciding, and have decided the manifesto, constitution, name, logo the offices, and how it will be shared of the new party? In what way does being presented with a fait acompli that one has no reasonable possibility of changing fundamentally without a serious and elemental struggle the creation of a level playing ground? In what ways without a very serious struggle and internal battle can we hope to influence the direction and character of this new party?

And lastly, at least for now, the much trumpeted question of capacity! If we agree for the sake of argument with those among us who have projected the lack of capacity by activists and active citizens as a reason for engagement with the APC, then, we must also agree that it follows that we shall also be entering the APC without capacity! Now if this is the case; it also follows that in other to be relevant and be able to truly influence the new entity, we would have to build up within the APC, the capacity sufficient to make us to be taken seriously as a political force. Not only this; we would have to build up and acquire this capacity in the context of a clear and programmatic contestation with the owner occupiers of the new party within the new party!

If these suppositions are correct, why should we be willing to put in all this energy and effort into battling implacably placed forces within their own party structure, and in a context where it is not likely we shall be able to triumph in this internal contestation without significantly dropping and redesigning our platform and agenda to accommodate and integrate with the platform and the agenda of the owner occupiers?

If all we want and are after is a platform that grants direct access to office without the ability to change or influence party policies and practice; then we can all rush into APC; and simply be contented with occupying offices without the power to transform or implement our own agenda.

It seems to me that if our aim and objective is genuine and radical transformation of the sort that this nation requires; one that can help lay the foundation for national liberation and reformation, as well as social emancipation; then it will require the same effort to build a genuine platform strong enough to influence the party within the APC, as it will be required to build a genuine alternative platform, independent and autonomous of the owner occupier parties, their acknowledged representatives and entrenched God Fathers & Godmothers, and the Proponents –In – Chief of the new but old APC!

Across this country and in every significant dispora community across the world, there are activists and active citizens genuinely concerned enough about the fate of our country, to be willing to do something concrete and positively drastic about it. An increasing majority of these activists and active citizens are increasingly convinced that this requires taking a political step and actively organizing politically.

This is already a huge pool of human social capital, the most significant capacity factor that we require; And although it is yet a potential, it is a potential that can be very quickly activated and actualized.

We can collectively build an alternative political platform independent of these treasury looters, and autonomous of these inept managers of our public affairs; we can if we each commit to the effort.

Although this may sound simplistic, what would it take really for each of us to commit, wherever we are to building active organized units of this new alternative party? And actively canvass for membership for those units? Let us say across the world we number maybe only 20,000 politically conscious activists and active citizens; let us say further that only 5,000 of us heed this call and take to organizing actively and proactively this alternative party platform; let us further suppose that each of these 5,000 are able to establish active party units, and are able to convince 100, or 200 other citizens to join the unit; what this will translate into is a party with active membership base of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 members!

With such a mass movement party would we not be able to confront in political battle all the major factions of this treacherous, ruinous, gluttonous and treachery looting thieving ruling political elites; PDP and APC and the other ones?

Is it not preferable to build up the necessary political capacity in this way, still in contestation with the ruling elites, but on our own tuff; rather than in a blistering battle within one of their parties?

For me, and a growing number of others, the choice is clear! We lack the capacity now because we are operating as individuals or at best grouplets; we can and must build up the necessary political capacity; we can achieve this in a manner that qualitatively transforms the political process only if we build autonomously of the ruling elites!

It can be done, and it shall be done! The largest parties in Greece and Italy today did not exist two years ago; they are led by people without a link with the discredited establishment! And they are peopled and supported by citizens disillusioned with the establishment. Our task is to provide a genuine alternative, not to help a faction of the discredited ruling elites re-invent itself.

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