A political mathematician recently brought Albert Einstein to shame by the sheer exactitude of his reading of Nigeria’s political barometer. Let us do a wider canvass and called him a lobbyist, image launderer and a committed Utomist delicately assigned to sell PU to the uttermost amidst the ravenous pack of NVS blogosphere. The insinuation and subtext of Abdulmumini Yinka Ajia turn of phrase in, “Now That The Issue Has Turned To Dr. Utomi, Let’s Examine The Two Realities” published in NVS 5 July 2008 is to lament the demise of that shinning moment when PU held out hope for the progressives but wickedly denied the oxygen of support by a supposedly enlightened class of superhuman who live in gated communities.
First, it is egregious nonsense to pretend not to compare PU with Barack Obama when comparison was the central tenet of the piece in question. What Ajia achieved in that piece is to give me a bigger yawn when I stumbled on this double-speak: “If fact is our guide, Dr. Pat Utomi has more accomplishments than Barack Obama”. Exuding further confidence given only to a recondite acolyte, Ajia has this to say of PU : “…he has more experience than most of our previous presidents combined”. Really? I would have preferred Ajia to engage the public in the present progressive comatose and the death of liberal politics in Nigeria, but instead he hobbled the piece on the altar of praise singing ‘gloriana’ of the condensed achievements of a failed presidential hopeful.
One way to address the dramatic retreat of the progressives from the political terrain is to draw up a balance sheet between poverty and prosperity, winners and losers, voting apathy and enthusiasm. For the record, Nigeria’s social climate is encircled by a massive gulf of acute and deepening deprivation which in effect promotes a more savage form of social polarisation. Our society is one that exists on the logic of the ghetto which demands food on the table as opposed to re-calibrating robust, progressive and intellectual-driven governance grounded in a new, radical vision of a practical, reformist democratic politics. The real politics, that preposterous phenomenon, as opposed to shabby screeds and moralising rhetoric of progressive politics presents a dilemma at variance with the more radical reversal of the old trend which was PU’s crusading sermons.
In effect, the progressives feel decidedly queasy to enter into that collective train journey into the future with an untried and untested Pat Utomi whose antecedent does not go beyond business boardrooms. His calming and humanistic rendition of a benign or new altruistic social enterprise for the Nigerian voters was dismissed as a theoretical ‘progressive utopia’. Politics, for all its brazen nastiness, must articulate empirical reality and this was sadly lacking in Utomi’s grand nirvana. Majority of voters are still ring-fenced and are yet to cut and run from the yoke of political elitism, demeaning tribal stereotypes and cabal dominance.
In Nigeria, right in the middle of the 21st century, class loyalties couple with political and tribal identifications have become malignant forces which harden people’s ambivalent feelings into voting for the old, discredited personalities who promote themselves with money and connection in high places. Few inspiring images of progressive stories are being proffered. Rather, the nation is grounded in shame. It is still entwined in political robbery, corroding corruption and a shocking re-emergence of muscular form of tribal solidarity through Northerners’ recapturing of lost colony during Obasanjo’s caretakership. As the retreat of the Nigeria’s progressive class faces its greatest challenge, there should be an ongoing and constant re-description and the search for new vocabularies that will allow all Nigerians to talk to one another and thus expand the circle of understanding of progressive agenda. The new progressive mission should be to educate, enlighten, civilize, bring order and encourage enthusiasm for rational progressive exchange of ideas.
Also, there should be a more capacious sense of the other Nigerians, those at the other side of the fence who are daily mired in poverty, helplessness, decay and pessimism. There should be a common progressive brotherhood behind the green and white flag of this nation and a more elevated enlightenment that will eventually create mutual solidarity and trust which had been grossly lacking among the progressives. The progressives must rein in their divisive elements in the form of freethinking tempers who desire to range free from common party consensus. Those assigned with the role to lead the progressive renaissance should avoid antagonistic debate and disputatious polemics especially in the public domain as this could encourage polarity and distorts understanding and destroy followership. PU will take note of this fact if he still desires to run for the presidency in 2011.
The animating spirit driving the agenda of the progressives is to take back Nigeria from political charlatans and conservative moneybags with ideological root in one, indivisible Nigeria. This is the real existential battle of the progressives. Are the new intellectually-driven progressives going to retool Nigeria without dismantling it or support the resurgence clamour for separation of nationalities? The separation of nationalities is a stirrer of anarchic emotions and millions of Southern youth are rooting for this outcome. If I were to hedge my bet, any future southern leader on the platform of progressive alliance has to recast our collective hope on social democracy by articulating attractive, people-oriented ideology for a better Nigeria, I repeat, NIGERIA, without the need to fall into the narrow vision of our separatist mobsters.
In Nigeria, the road back to a genuinely progressive democracy is going to be long, arduous and painful but the wisdom of its distinctive ideology of egalitarianism and inclusion provides a ready appetite for patience.