Almost every time public analysts talk about Nigerian politicians, you hear that Nigerian politicians have no ideology. It is said that this lack of ideology is the reason why Nigeria’s politics is terrible and the country turns out to be horrible.
Indeed, if you ask most Nigerian politicians to tell you what their ideology is, majority would not be able to articulate a meaningful response but that in itself is proof of a different problem altogether.
What we have is not a lack of ideology but ignorance about what the word ideology means. Indeed, majority of Nigerian politicians, public analysts and masses are ignorant about many things that they ought to know, ideology is just one of them. Since ideology is a system of thought and the set of principles it births, it is impossible for a people who actively engage the public in making promises on public welfare to not have a recognizable pattern that runs through their thoughts and a discernible set of principles that go with it. They don’t have to be conscious enough to have a name for it. It just happens that there is always a pattern and that pattern always fits the description of a particular ideology.
So we may say that Nigerian politicians have no intellectual consciousness of their ideology, hence they cannot articulate what their ideology is. The same would be true of most Nigerian elites and this clearly points at a gap in our education system. We like to pillory our politicians yet we carry the same fault in us. So you hear people complain that our politicians have no ideology, yet they cannot themselves tell you what their own ideology is.
Home grown ideologies
When analysts complain of a lack of ideologies, they often have at the back of their minds, what they consider as the glorious days of homegrown ideologies by African leaders of past eras i.e Awoism, Zikism, Nkrumaism and the likes.
This is why some contemporary politicians have responded by coining Buharism for instance but what difference has that made?
Many thought leaders in Africa have cultivated an aversion to what they consider as Western thought and they teach this aversion even within university walls. The uncanny resemblance with Boko haram (boko haram means western education is sin) regardless, many African elites have convinced themselves that western ideologies are not good for Africa.
Hence, from generation to generation, the search for original African ideologies persists. Almost every time a new African ideology is announced, it is named after an African leader and the ideology appropriates virtually all the features of Marxism which was named after Karl Marx.
You cannot reinvent the wheel
African thought leaders of our era should remember that while we may adapt it and improve on it, we cannot reinvent the wheel.
The supposedly homegrown ideologies in Africa are essentially variants of socialism, communism and fascism. While Africans have especially embraced socialism under different names, claiming that socialism is inherently African, they have tried to reject capitalism as western.
People have said that Ubuntu and other good neighborly practices in Africa means that Africa’s defacto ideology, prior colonialism is socialism and that capitalism was an imported idea, brought about by colonial masters.
Hardly do people remember that these English words are all equally western. People barely recognize the difference between the free market system of voluntary cooperation amongst neighbors i.e. communal living and the command/control system of forced cooperation by government i.e. communism.
Capitalism is by no means any more western than is socialism and vice versa. Ideas are universal, whether good or bad. There is nothing inherently western about capitalism, socialism and etc. They are all human thoughts that have occurred to different people on different continents at different times and have been practiced to varying degrees, under various names, everywhere.
The fact is that African societies prior colonialism operated mostly free market systems with open borders, voluntary cooperation and other features of capitalism thriving alongside communal living. These thrived until colonial and post-colonial rule introduced artificial borders, took control of local resources and replaced free market systems with command and control systems. In other words, they replaced African capitalism where the indigenous people owned land and other resources which they traded freely with African socialism where they created artificial borders and formed new African states. These new African states took the control of all resources away from the indigenous people and suddenly, the later became dependent on the socialist state.
The idea of socialism is that the state takes control of all resources so that the state can then redistribute wealth to all citizens. The reality of socialism is that to redistribute wealth, you have to concentrate power. Once you concentrate powers in a central government that is far from the people, the people are effectively deprived of resources and wealth. The state distributes to cronies who then take control of all the resources and start a system of crony-capitalism better called cronyism.
This cronyism is what most Africans now call capitalism. When people complain about capitalism, probe deeply and you will find that the problem is not free market capitalism, it is cronyism.
Due to the defacto socialist state structure, cronyism and prebendalism have inevitably eaten deep into the fabric of our society that the people become ever more dependent on the crumbs that may fall from government who in the socialist state has become almost the only source of resource for the masses. The people therefore, wish for more and more crumbs to fall from the table of government.
In their ideation process, rather than think along classical liberal and libertarian lines in order to liberate themselves, the people clutch ever more tightly to the socialist system, to socialism.
The politicians who emerge from amongst the people are no different from the people. They make promises of socialist Eldorado and the people cheer them on to office but even if they truly have goodwill towards the masses, they all remain trapped in the helplessness of a socialist state with fascist features. Since they and the people hardly know better, it is aluta continua but only with a change of course, can victory be ascertained.
Feyisade is a trans-disciplinary educator, an academic staff at Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Academic Director, Students for Liberty (Africa) and the founder of Chale Institute.
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