Published On: Thu, Jun 11th, 2015

The Game of Power: How Nigeria works

The million naira question for Tinubu; what did the South West vote for?
This week’s happenings at the National Assembly sent me in search of the classic bestselling book I read a few years ago to refresh my memory. We shall return to the book’s substance some other time but I have adapted the title for this article. It is entitled, The Game of Power: How Washington works, by Hedrick Smith. Its introduction states; Americans are a nation of game players. Americans are preoccupied with winning and losing. Competition is our creed; it is a knit into the fabric of our national life…
Politicians themselves know that there are advantages for those who understand the rules and the moves, the power realities and the winning gambits, and those who are savvy about the traps and escape routes of modern politics. Some like to say that the power game is an unpredictable casino of chance and improvisation. But most of the time politics is about as casual and offhand as the well practiced techniques of an Olympic athlete…
What took place at the NASS on Tuesday during the election of its leadership reflects, indeed, exposes, the simplicity as well as complexity of our politics. Its simplicity is demonstrated in the fact that the hand writings were so boldly and clearly visible on the walls and had been alluded to, if not predicted, by some people including this writer. But most people were intoxicated by the formation of APC and subsequent defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan that they failed to focus on the dynamics of the workability of the contraption.

 
The merger that produced APC was a South West sell-out to the North to return power to them for practically no advantage; yet most people in the West, usually critical and perceptive, missed the point completely because of their hatred for Jonathan and beholding to Tinubu’s media enthrallment. You needed basic understanding in Nigerian politics to grasp its unfolding dimensions; yet even the most enlightened people balked at it.
Politics is a game of power and power is not shared; you either have it or not. This is where Tinubu and his co-travellers failed the South. The idea of dual leadership in APC is a deceit and misnomer that flies in the face of political reality. There cannot be two centres of power in a government or party. Even Tinubu has demonstrated this so eloquently in Lagos that he should have known better. But power corrupts, because he did not know his limit. All the fights in the states between governors and their predecessors derive from this fact. It has no viable precedent in history.

 
Our politics is also complex in that Nigeria is not a nation with common interest. Everything here is a product of bargaining and balancing interests. Since independence every democratic government has flowed from political compromise and trade-offs. Politics of winner takes all practised by Tinubu is alien to the political culture and orientation of the North, which though in dominant position on account of disputed numbers, understand that they cannot go it alone and would therefore prefer to share power than risk losing out. This is what has always kept them in power. God-fatherism has never been part of national politics.

 
The North and West have never worked together in a democratic government. The West is too politically conscious and restive, rich and self confident to play second fiddle to the North which insists on their divine right to rule. How Tinubu intended to change these psycho-cultural orientations in APC was a major puzzle for any student of political development.
With the outcome of the NASS leadership election Tinubu has not only been cut short but the West has lost out eventually. It was the West that burnished Buhari’s image and provided the platform that elected him. Yet, the only thing they have is the vice president which is a glorified sinecure. Tinubu sold the West for a morsel.
Furthermore, there is also the conflicting world view between the different regions in Nigerian politics. Actually the political marriage that birthed APC was out of unholy convenience and steeped in irresolvable contradiction that it would take a most blind leap of faith by the West to effect. Northerners knew what they wanted and where they were going. But what did the West want from the alliance – change. Now, look who is crying!
Southerners, particularly, Westerners, have this misplaced, and frequently condescendingly disarming, perception that the North is backward and uneducated in Western ways of life. This is only true except in politics where they are probably miles ahead of the South. This is the origin of the born to rule mentality which scandalizes most Southerners yet we fail to understand how it works. Northerners do not believe in getting everything like us; they only insist on everybody getting something while they get power anyhow.
Northerners are also masters in divide and rule which the British bequeathed to them. Remember it was the South in PDP that joined with the North to defeat the South in APC in the NASS leadership contest. It was also the reverse arrangement, which produced APC that ended Jonathan’s ambition.
All the foregoing points to one thing: Tinubu made several political mistakes and miscalculations in the APC alliance and failed to learn the lessons of Nigerian political history. We were carried away by the ill-digested and dishonestly contrived mantra of change and forgot the fact that history has an uncanny way of repeating itself. In fact as Ruth First once put it, the more things change the more they remain the same. What were these mistakes and miscalculations as well as the derivable lessons going forward? TO BE CONTINUED

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