Sunday, December 7, 2014

The gods of Nigerian politics

It has been interesting watching the primaries of all my political opponents. Sometimes when your opponents put on a good show, it is ok to just lean back and enjoy. The easiest way to understand the way political parties in Nigeria operate is to compare them to religious systems.
I will start with the PDP. The ruling party of Nigeria is not like a monotheistic religion, like Christianity or Islam. There is no single all-powerful god. In fact, those who made the mistake of believing that there is, have paid very dearly with their political lives. The PDP is like Greek mythology. So many gods. Some hate each other, some love each other. Some of the gods die and new ones emerge. But there is always a clash of gods. That is why the gods in the Obasanjo years gave way to the gods in the Yaradua years. And people like El-Rufai were chased out because they didn’t understand how to play with the new gods. As a PDP loyalist you have to be loyal to many gods at once, because gods die as easily as they are born. Some people understand this and they are able to serve, or at least be friends with, every government in power. Look at people like Professor Jerry Gana or Ojo Madueke. Have you ever heard them condemn a government? They understand political polytheism and thus are able to eat at the table of every god that rises to prominence. They will live long.
The APC on the other hand, especially in the South West is very monotheistic. The APC god, based somewhere in Lagos, is a very jealous god. It will not share its glory, not even with good governors. There were some top APC officials who foolishly thought that it was enough to excel at their job or reform governance. Every member of a monotheistic religion knows that it is just not enough to be a good person. You also have to profess faith in that god and perform rituals prescribed by that god. There is nothing strange about this. A monotheist cannot make heaven by good works alone. Same with the APC. You cannot retain your seat or appoint your own successor by good works alone. Those who understand this have been rewarded with party tickets. And those who don’t have lost elections.
Personally, I think having to worship many gods is stressful. You end up spreading yourself too thin and having no certainty to go with that. You do not want to be like our Vice President, who in spite of all his loyalty cannot be absolutely certain that he will spend the next four years in Aso Rock. That is a very stressful kind of loyalty. Political monotheism makes it easier to determine if one will be successful or not. For example, hours before the end of the Lagos State APC gubernatorial primaries, many online news and gossip sites already had headlines that read ‘Ambode wins Lagos APC primaries’. At the time, many people online protested that the primaries were not yet over and thus no winner could be declared yet. But everyone who knew what the god of the APC wanted had no doubt about the outcome. I like the APC god. He is not only predictable and reliable; you can be sure that once you have obeyed his commandments you will make political heaven. A reliable god is a faithful god.
Political monotheism is a bit like watching reruns of your favourite football game that you have missed. Your blood pressure will not be unduly high and you can watch the game in peace, enjoying all the highlights. That is how watching the Lagos APC primaries was. It was clear that Ambode would win. But it was nice to watch anyway.
I do not envy the people who will take part in the Lagos State PDP gubernatorial primaries. There will be no superior god in charge. And no one knows if it will end in chaos or the child of which god will emerge victorious. Whatever the case, I wish them all the best.

On 10 December, the APC will be holding its presidential primaries. Only god knows who will emerge. 


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