Nigerian politics took off effectively in 1934 when Lagos (later Nigerian) Youth Movement (NYM) was formed. Azikiwe and Awolowo’s membership of NYM was a catalyst for Nigerian politics but it also led to its polarization over Ernest Ikoli and Samuel Akinsanya electoral political disagreement between Azikiwe and Awolowo.
The polarization of Southern politics has remained a major problem to the political health of Nigeria especially given the fact that Britain exploited this division to set up the Hausa-Fulani unipolar politics in counterpoise to the bifurcated Southern politics. When the 1947 Macpherson Constitution took effect, British colonial authority had created the Hausa-Fulani political establishment by selecting Northern leaders made up of some emirs and some educated commoners to represent the North in the central legislature.
It was through this means that British agent; Robert Wright headhunted and groomed Tafawa Balewa as an arrowhead of British-created Northern political leadership that it hoped would become its neo-colonial manager of Nigeria after independence. North’s politics during this period centred on its implacable thought that Nigeria was an impossible project.
It was in the light of the foregoing that Balewa made his famous 1947 speech at the Legislative Council declaring that unity was an impossible proposition unless they become rulers. Between 1947 and 1954, an irreparable damage was done to Nigerian politics through British conscious manipulation and subterfuge playing Northern politicians against their Southern counterparts and having divided Southern political solidarity under Azikiwe’s NCNC by empowering Awolowo’s AG to take control of Western Region, a Northern unipolar politics was created to overwhelm the South at any political contest. With respect to the structure, political and constitutional framework of Nigeria, British strategy was to deploy Indirect Rule System to structure constitutional framework and form the Central Legislature and in that way undercut and sideline the southern nationalists in the urban centres.
Through this strategy, Azikiwe, Awolowo and other Southern nationalists were not nominated into the Legislative Council, but Balewa, Ahmadu Bello and other Northern political leaders were. It was at the Legislative Council between 1947 and 1950 that Balewa and Bello unfurled the definitive Northern political charter of accepting unity only at the cost of ruling Nigeria and this was accomplished at the 1950 Constitutional Conference when important decisions such as conceding 50% representation to the North, sustenance of the 3-region structure instead of breaking up Nigeria into many regions and so on were taken.
By 1954 Constitutional Conference, the South was hopelessly divided over the ratification of the 1950 concession of 50% representation in the Parliament to the North regardless of the demographic data and question of creation of new regions. Azikiwe and Awolowo could not agree as a result of Southern disunity. And the North prevailed! The general elections of 1959 was blatantly rigged by British colonial authority led by Governor James Robertson and this treasonable felony was even contained in British official records declassified and published in 2000 and as confessed by Harold Smith, a British colonial officer Governor Robertson tried unsuccessfully to conscript to participate in rigging the Northern Peoples Congress into power.
The political heist was accomplished and Balewa was installed as prime minister to usher in independence. After independence in 1960, the ruling party, the Northern Peoples Congress deployed its political arsenal not just to rule but to subjugate Nigeria and render the other parties not submitting to it irrelevant.
Thus, having entered into alliance with Azikiwe’s NCNC in 1960 to form government, NPC set its eyes on decapitating Awolowo’s leadership and triumphed when Balewa-led Federal Government deployed federal power to probe Awolowo’s tenure as Premier of Western Region whereupon corruption indictment per Coker Commission and Bairamian Panel of Inquiry rubbished Awolowo. Meanwhile, a crisis was instigated in Western Region government when Federal Government declared state of emergency in the Western Region and appointed Balewa’s personal physician, Dr Majekodunmi as administrator. The Western Region having been bludgeoned and contained, allegation of coup against Awolowo and his lieutenants was made and Awolowo and some of his men were rounded up and jailed. By 1966, all seemed quiet at the western front but soldiers sympathetic to Awolowo overthrew Balewa government.
Politics under this dispensation is a culmination of the Shagari, Babangida, Abacha and Abdulsalam Abubakar political mores. This political culture is defined by unconscionable use of money, violence, abuse of judicial process and other kleptocratic principles. There are no redeeming features making politics a social process of reforming and developing the society under the present era that spanned 1957 and 1999 into the present day. One remarkable feature that is common to all the epochs was the massive and unconscionable use of money and violence to acquire political power and to exploit that public power and authority for selfish private ends.
Every politician’s motto is that the end justifies the means and acquisition of power is regarded as an absolute value hence anything could be done, including taking human life to achieve it. Another remarkable feature of politics between 1957 and 1999 stretching to date is the deployment of religion, money and ethnicity in the conduct of politics in Nigeria. Religion is a major staple in Nigerian politics, especially in the North where devious politicians fall back on Islam as a joker against their Southern counterparts. Now, this religious card has graduated to a major quagmire as its deployment under Buhari presidency has opened Nigerians’ eyes to its deleterious effects and now Islam is being squared up to Christianity. The use of money and materials has been a political culture in Nigeria but since 2003 the usage has been excessive that to contest for any position at the local government level, the aspirant must have a war-chest of millions while at the state and federal levels the war-chest runs in billions if not trillions.
Of course, the issue of ethnicity has been an irredeemable feature as an aspirant must belong to a major tribe or section of the country, state or local government to succeed in Nigeria. It is these negative features defining politics that politicians exploit to present politics as a ‘rocket science’ or an ‘arcane art’ in Nigeria. Politicians present politics as forbidden act which only the initiate can play.
So, when Atiku says Obi has no structure he is referring to these obtuse features and when Kashim Shettima says Obi can only be president in Igbo land he is referring to religion, violence, money and ethnicity as factors of politics in Nigeria. What is it that makes politics difficult to practice in Nigeria other than these base instincts of illicit fund, tribalism, religion and kleptocratic principles of lies, roguery and violence that are off-putting to otherwise decent men, “but a leisurely affair for amoral people. To become a politician in Nigeria, you are required to undergo a period of tutelage under a master who grooms you and possibly sponsors you for the office-desired as godfather.