TRANSACTIONAL POLITICS AND THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY

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The conduct of the business of politics still leaves much to be desired, contends Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje

Nigeria’s political system is an interesting subject for exploring the impact of transactional politics, not only because it emerges from almost 60 years of poor leadership the people have had to endure, but also as a result of a system that reflects the wider political divisions in the society. The relentless shenanigans of the treacherous political class will continue to erode democratic values and ethos in Nigeria if left unchecked.

Indeed, the democratic space needs a kind of reformation whereby competency-based principles and self-governing norms replace today’s ruthless politics of divide and rule. Is it possible to achieve political re-engineering and leadership success without the fraud, cupidity and deception that currently plagued the states and other major political parties in Nigeria?

This article explores how the application of talent and leadership principles to the political environment can re-establish democratic standards for integrity and restore the image of political parties in the marketplace of ideology. It offers practical advocacy for rebuilding the core values of party organisation that will lead to leadership reformation and renewal for attaining the highest level of discipline, ethics and integrity devoid of manipulations, which will go a long way in improving the outcomes of the 2023 general elections and beyond.

Nigeria’s politics and party organisation are in deep leadership crisis. Hegemonic insurrectionary leaders, often called godfathers in Nigerian politics, always seek to steer their loyalists and associates toward a master-servant relationship, where the winner takes all, whilst proclaiming non-existent internal democratic norms. Alliances are forged with sympathetic party members and at the end they turn around to obstruct the organic growth and development of the party hierarchy. This overarching political master-servant relationship creates the illusion of an unquestionable order resting on transactional politics. This existential illusion is now in a fix as the democratic space evolves and the viability of patronage oligarchy is increasingly becoming doubtful from the emerging trends in Edo and Ondo politics. The uncoordinated party organisation and management is resulting in political dislocations with the resurgence of political rascality in the states.

Transactional politics portends a pronounced threat for the 2023 elections and the entire political process. Genuine critical stakeholders and analysts are worried about these negative and unwholesome developments. This underscores the need for a robust political party architecture engineered by a host of reforms ranging from membership recruitment to ownership of party organisations and the entrenchment of critical values such as party ideology and identity – all with a view to fostering intra-party relations, sustainable democracy and leadership ethos in Nigeria.

Regrettably, most hegemonies across the political divide seek alternative clienteles rather than remain dependent on the party structures and the largesse and support of their erstwhile political sons and daughters. These transactional leaders and their opaque networks within the party system press against the norms and pieties of our nascent liberal democracy.

Additionally, the power monopolies thrive on rents and patronages from state resources which are firmly embedded in recruitments and negotiations for governors seeking elective offices as well as political appointees. The self-styled leaders have painted themselves as guardian angels of liberal democracy. Some of the challenges in the leadership of the political parties stem from shifting political circumstances and the poor dispositions of individual leaders. Furthermore, they are constantly engaged in democratic backsliding in their parties for self-interest and ego, thereby subverting the will of the majority.

The political radicalism of the two sides of the power chess game has given rise to pervasive, crude and malevolent groups violating the peace in the states. The future could be more tumultuous and bloodier if the intemperance of the masters in the APC and PDP is not mediated by men of goodwill who are not blinded or blurred by the lenses of political correctness. The rise of engaging and authentic leaders in the parties’ structures will rival the evils of the autocratic, hegemonic chieftains and godfather entrepreneurs marauding as progressives and party men.

Expectedly, autocratic and hegemonic administrations have hijacked the management and organisation of political parties to limit or even eliminate the influence of popular candidates. Some of the so-called leaders played a key role in the pre-1999 democratic process. They imposed undemocratic tight frontiers on popular and authentic candidates that will not do their bidding and now sponsor their own candidates to unleash terror, blackmail and mudslinging to suppress party supremacy, aided by a carefully orchestrated public communication and reputational damage campaigns that sustain evil politics and unexceptional leaders.

These hegemonic regimes also use social media platforms to disrupt candidates and meddle in the parties’ internal democratic processes. Transactional power contestation, party monopoly of patronage and the emergence of factional movements have altered organic leadership development for governance and performance reward system that will leapfrog stable democracy. Scapegoating performance-driven party men is inimical to the overall development of human capital and strategic management.

Indeed, the virulent campaign nationalism and hateful rhetoric in the last Edo elections may have won votes across the divide, but it also left in its wake citizens who are more divided than ever before. While radical personalities are being absorbed into mainstream politics and “yes” men become commonplace in our nascent democracy, the vanishing tide of true democrats is increasingly becoming worrisome.

Despite visible progress, the democratic process in Nigeria continues to face significant challenges. Idolatrous political parties, partisan bureaucracies, the lack of an independent INEC, misunderstandings between the APC and PDP grandstanding orchestra and their manipulative partners are challenges that continue to hinder the advancement of democracy. Thank God peace reigned in Edo State!

Orovwuje is Founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, based in Lagos