By Danlami Nmodu
It was a gathering with two goals.First, to have experts examine the topical issue “Nigeria’s Progressive Movement :How to deliver on the promises of democracy”. Second, the event to bid farewell to Mr Thomas Mattig , outgoing resident representative of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung ,FES and welcome Mrs Seija Sturies, the new FES resident representative in Nigeria.The occasion in Abuja, Wednesday May 22, 2013 turned out an exciting evening of intellectual interrogation of the crisis bedeviling Nigeria’s progressive movement.
Dr Jibrin Ibrahim , of the Centre for Democracy and Development said on the occasion there is a sense that democracy has smashed the progressive movement in Nigeria. He argued among others that most progressives are essentially just critics now ;but it is evident that playing critic has its limits.Maybe, he reasoned , the way out is to launch a party with the ideals of the progressive movement that has a clear charter with commitment to egalitarianism. He equally noted that though this has been tried over and over , little success has been achieved because people have failed to vote for the such possibly because the message doesn’t fit into the bourgeois narrative.
So what is the way out? This might include ,Jibrin argued, the need to redefine the agenda of the progressive movement ;the need to give attention to the constitutional provision about the commanding heights of the economy ;looking at the core problems facing the country to focus on issues such as the fight against corruption and rethinking political platforms to go beyond sectarianism.
Professor Lai Olurode, a national commissioner with the Independent National electoral Commission, INEC raised some fundamental questions that need to be tackled .Basically , he argued that section 14 the Nigerian Constitution envisions the federal Republic to be progressive.So where is the disconnect? he asked,arguing that the missing links may be found if the nation find answers to critical questions such as:what should be the ethical foundation of the country? How do we promote the sense of voluntarism arising from citizenship?How do we grow institutions? How do we secure democratization ?How do we tackle the issue of poverty ? And most fundamentally, the imperative of restructuring, among others.
Speaking earlier,Dr Ifeyinwa Ofong advanced the need to cater to the needs of womenfolk.More needs to be done to empower the female gender .Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, president of Nigeria Labour Congress in his intervention argued inter alia that, ideally democracy should ensure peace and security, growth ,welfare and wellbeing of the people ;and that good governance should also ensure transparency ,prudence,equity and equality before the law.But in Nigeria, he posits, politicians have decided to do their things their own way.Politicians have isolated themselves ;they are far away and they do not know what is going on at the grassroots,Omar said.Even on the issue of security, he observed that the best part of the security men are busy protecting the few privileged ones . No democracy like this can deliver the promise of peace and security, Omar argued.
Comrade Issa Aremu who also among the panelists commended the initiative of Mr Mattig ,the outgoing FES representative.Aremu argued that the experience of the labour movement so far is a testament to the fact that dividends of democracy cannot be delivered (automatically). ‘We don’t have to rely on the goodwill of the elected people,we must work for the rights of the people’ ,he said.Democracy he averred gives space for contestation , for advancement as the struggle against removal of fuel subsidy has proven,
Beyond the economic struggle , Aremu argued that there is the need for the progressives to assert themselves politically. He noted that what Adams Oshiomhole has done in Edo state as a governor shows that progressives can make a difference.
An Australian asked what happened after the fuel subsidy protest.He noted that the protest was interpreted by the international media that there was an awakening in Nigeria.But the lull afterwards is forcing people to ask whether the international media was wrong when they argued that there was an awakening in Nigeria.
Comrades Hauwa Mustapha and John Odah asked equally trenchant questions .Mustapha said that there is the need to defined the philosophy behind Nigeria’s democracy.Odah appears suspicious ,intellectually speaking about the on going merger moves,if they would not guarantee truly progressive change.
YZ Yau reminded the audience that the two known strands of progressive movement in Nigeria :the ideological articulation and the political progressive movement are practically extinct.There is therefore , the need to reconstruct a new articulation of the progressive movement.Otherwise, argued Yau, to assume that there is a progressive movement now is to put the cart before the horse.
By Danlami Nmodu