Politics of the absurd

Disillusioned by World War II and determined to break from the Romanticism literary movement that held sway in the 19th century, prominent writers like Franz Kafka, Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett pioneered the absurdist genre.
The absurdist literary genre, which became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, was characterised by an emphasis on the experiences of characters centered around the notion that life is incongruous, irreconcilable and meaningless. According to one pundit, absurdist fiction “involves the experience of the struggle to find an intrinsic purpose in life depicted by characters in their display of meaningless actions in the futile events they take part in.”

The events of the past two weeks in the Nigerian political space, presaging party primaries based on the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Elections, speak eloquently of an absurdity which even Kafka and Company could not have imagined or contrived. Across the two major political parties in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), not less than 40 persons aspiring for the presidency have picked nomination forms running into billions of Naira.

As I write, not less than 30 persons have collected the nomination forms in the governing APC. At the princely price of N100 million per nomination form in the APC, the party is reported to have hauled nearly N2 billion the sale of presidential nomination forms alone.

The proliferation of aspirants is simply unprecedented. Never in our annals have so many persons aspired for the presidency. And never has so much been required, monetarily, for such an exalted office at a time of unprecedented destitution when 97 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line; at a time when the paltry N30,000 per month minimum wage is seldom being paid by most states; when pensioners are owed for months on end; and when public universities have been shut down on account of lack of funding!

It is not only absurd. It is bizarre. And not a few Nigerians are outraged and flummoxed. Two foremost columnists captured the absurdity succinctly. Dan Agbese referred to the phenomenon as “madness”. Sonala Olumhense characterised the charade as “a drunken, drugged, sick joke”.

But to this madness and sick joke, there is an unwholesome antecedent. The protracted and labyrinthine political transition programme of General Ibrahim Babangida in his quest to enthrone a “new breed” of politicians decimated the ranks of the political class. In their stead, he promoted a crop of inferior and pliant politicians who held sway. Politics became a turf, not for the serious or cerebral in the mould of the Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwes, Chief Obafemi Awolowos or the Aminu Kanos. It became an arena where carpet baggers and parvenus thrived. Matters were not helped by the diminishment and assault on our cherished and uplifting values.

Also to this madness and sick joke, there appears to be a method or purpose, ignoble and deleterious, to our progress: Many of these aspirants, particularly those of the APC, view the contest as some stake or equity in a blue chip company. And they are reportedly being spurred to buy forms so that in the event they lose, in a consensus arrangement, they are assured of relevance and well appointed offices in a post-Buhari dispensation. Their contributions, according to this school of thought, via the nomination fees paid, would then be used to fund the campaign of President Buhari’s anointed candidate.
Others are being galvanised to pick up forms, which are being paid for by proxies, to divide, down the middle, the quest for power rotation to the South. At first this was in the realm of enlightened speculation until prominent northerners such as Senate President Ahmad Lawan.picked his form and until Tanko Yakassai, one of the few surviving politicians of the First and Second Republics, confirmed the strategy.

But what seems an absurd theatre has serious implications for our polity and progress. The first implication is that the mad rush to aspire and pick nomination forms by persons largely of no substance or pedigree reduces our politics to a circus and makes us the world’s laughing stock. A cursory look at all the aspirants, across the APC and the PDP, will betray the fact that not more than three of them, thus far, have articulated any exalted vision for Nigeria. In other words, the quest for power is not informed by any ideals or value addition or the over arching desire to deliver good governance. Rather, it is a vain display by Nigeria’s filthy rich.

Worse, the quest for power being viewed as an ” investment”, will bring to the fore only persons with deep pockets or those proximate to them irrespective of their agenda. An aspirant who is prepared to invest N100 million, will certainly, and at best, recoup his money as soon as he has access to power or position. At worse, such a person will either loot the treasury or sell the country down the River Niger.

The determination by a cabal to drive a wedge between and among Southern aspirants, thereby retaining power in the North, is perhaps the most bizarre and self-destructive of political gambits. I dare say that such advocates must be the North’s, and by extension, this embattled country’s worst enemies. After the North’s disastrous outing in the past seven years, what moral right does it have to succeed itself or to govern in perpetuity? I think some folks are taking their sense of entitlement to ridiculous extremes.

Against the background of the North’s resounding failure, it is only prudent and politic that power should not only rotate to the South but that it be deliberately zoned to the South-east. The South-east is one of the geo political areas that has not governed at the centre since 1999.

Zoning the presidency to the South-east is a win win because it will carry the zone along, give it a sense of belonging, end its decades-long feeling of marginalisation from the political space, and end, once and for all, the separatist agitation in that part of the country. The North, if it were wise, should beat a retreat, do some introspection, put its house in order and subsequently, when the climate is auspicious, put forward its First Eleven, and not some garden variety candidate.

Above all, this absurdity in the political space shows in bold relief that the APC and the PDP may not be the Special Purpose Vehicles we require to salvage the country. Nigerians must begin to think outside these two contraptions and consider other viable aspirants and parties. They should consider parties/candidates which lay premium on addressing squarely our existential challenges and restoring the country’s lost glory.

Dazang writes from Abuja