In the season that we are in, I think it is very important for political parties to x-ray their operations and honestly examine their motives to see if they are contributing to peace or to tension. This is because people are more likely to advocate their passions through politics than through violence, if political parties have internal democracy whereby it is possible for one to have upward mobility without being connected to the right people.
It is also important for the maintenance of a stable society for the public to see political parties as coalitions of people with the same ideology instead of a coalition of people with the same hegemonic ambitions.
Political parties shouldn't just exist as a vehicle for people with a desire to secure political power. They ought to be a place of common ground for people who share the same broad ideas for the advancement of human civilisation within the sphere of influence of the city/state or nation whose citizenship or residency they hold. And a political party can only bring about positive change when it offers people common ground.
Where a political party does not offer a common ground, it will inevitably become a battle ground. And sometimes, there is the danger that the battle ground continues to widen and may eventually result in collateral damage to the people that are meant to be served.
Let me go deeper.
In my experience, whenever politicians come together to form a union, they unite in one of three types of relationships. They either unite as friends, constituents or comrades and I have listed these relationships in the descending order of their attachments to each other.
A friend is somebody that is for you. He is not for what you are for or what you are against, he is just for you. You can count on the support of a friend irrespective of whether or not you have common interests or common enemies.
A political party can hardly be built on this foundation but a political movement within a political party can be built on this premise. This is the premise upon which the original Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) founded by the late sage, General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, was built on. This is the reason why PDM functionaries like Chief Anthony Anenih continue to wield political influence irrespective of the political order of the day.
A constituent however, is someone who is for what you are for. In other words, you share common interests. You can count on the loyalty of a constituent as long as you share the same interests. A party built on this foundation is stable and cohesive only if the interests are stable and cohesive. If for instance the interests in question are economic, then the party can not be stable because economic interests are not stable. If on the other hand such interests are stable, such as a national interest, then the party will be stable.
The African National Congress (ANC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are both built on the foundation of national interests which is why one is the oldest existing party in Africa while the other is the oldest existing party in Nigeria. Finally, a comrade is not for what you are for, neither does he share the same interests as you. A comrade is simply one who is against what you are against. In other words, you are bound by a common enemy.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is a party founded on this premise. Those who are enemies of president and the PDP gathered together to form a party whose foundation is their common enemy. They share no ideological connection, neither are they friends. In actual fact, they may even hate each other, only that they hate the president and the PDP more and are wiling to temporarily suppress their hatred for each other in order to gang up against their common enemy.
In my experience, it is better to have a party built on common interests than to have one built on a common enemy. This is because as even a political novice will tell you, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies only permanent interests. Now, if the above is true, what would happen to a party that is built on a common enemy? Parties built on this foundation last only as long as the enemy is in power. Once their enemy is no longer in power the party disintegrates.
Can Nigeria ever be safe in the hands of those who see politics from the prism of enmity rather than the prism of friendship or even interests? Where a political party founded on friendship or interest will see a challenger as a rival, a party grounded in enmity sees a challenger as an opponent. Where an interest or friendship-based party sees politics as love by other means, an enmity-based party sees it as war by other means.
This is why they will spare no ill or foul language in describing a gentleman like President Goodluck Jonathan who has repeatedly said that "I have no enemies to fight". With all that has been said about the president and his party, the PDP, if you focus on the facts and not the propaganda, you will realise that the president's peaceful mien has permeated his party and that the PDP has been a reflection of peace and friendship.
Where is all the political violence in Nigeria taking place?
When was the last time you heard of politically motivated violence in PDP states? PDP states look up to the president for inspiration and having seen his peaceful mien, they have followed suit. The PDP is not peopled by those who spend all their time and invest considerable intellectual capacity on imagining negative things to tweet, BB and Facebook because it is a party built on a foundation of friendship with a president who believes in accommodation.
So, while many are keen to change the narrative and focus the minds of Nigerians on the negative, I urge Nigerians today to soberly reflect and ask themselves who but President Jonathan would have shown the restraint and maturity in the face of such undeserved hostility? This is a man with nothing to hide. He signed the Freedom of Information Act into law so that Nigerians could see that he is an open book. How many of the so called progressive states have domesticated this Act? As I write to you, there is not a single political prisoner in Nigeria and we are one of the few countries in Africa where you have freedom of speech and freedom after the speech.
This analysis is necessary to show that a gathering of friends will achieve much more than a gathering of enemies and it is high time that we moved our politics away from the battle ground to the common ground.