The death of Ideology
Ideology, that systematic body of concepts as we knew it especially about human life or culture is dead or is in the process of dying. Whereas my generation grew up recognizing the need and power of political and social ideas, we have entered a phase in our national life where ideas, at least political ideology do not count anymore. There is a variant of this on the world stage; the configurations of political ideologies have changed somewhat. Nobody preaches capitalism or its ‘inherent contradictions’ or ‘class suicide’ anymore. Indeed, political sloganeering has somewhat gone out of fashion. Also, advocates of the Socialist model have kept quiet owing to the challenges which the ideology faced in the real world. Indeed, China and Russia (successor to the USSR) have ventured into capitalist practices, something that was anathema or a death sentence at the height of ideological conflicts and warfare.
The fundamental of my argument is that when there is a clear-cut ideology of any sort, commitment to a cause is usually greater. We grew up with Marxism, Socialism, Welfarism and Communism dominating the political space of our world. We leaned to the right or to the left. Even military Governments thought about creating political parties that were a ‘little bit to the left and a little bit to the right from the centre’. It was not an ideal world. But it was a world in which political ideology and belief determined where one stood on issues. It created a bi-polar world. A third force was created. It was the world of the non-aligned. Countries that flirted with socialism or bathed in capitalist practice were part of this movement. What it meant was that everyone in politics perceived and understood the world from a particular ideological framework.
Political ideology shaped the kinds of programmes which a party developed and presented to the electorate. It made people with deep convictions form or join a particular political party. It also determined their following. Belief in or professing a type of ideology also determined membership or the type of members a party attracted to itself. For example, we knew that Alhaji Aminu Kano of Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) could never be a member of the bourgeois NPC or NCNC. We also knew that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe could never be a member of or team up with NEPU. We knew that Chief Obafemi Awolowo could team up with the anti-feudalist NEPU but not with the NPC.
Ideology! A political party ought to have its colour, its character and its objective. It brings like-minds together. The ultimate objective is to capture power; but this capture comes through a particular package that must be presented to and accepted by potential members. When people affiliate with political parties for the reason of their political convictions, it is usually to push them out of that party. If they leave that party for any reason, they often tend to form another party of the same worldview or team up with an existing party with whom they can do business.
When the political party system lacks an ideology it makes jumping from one party to another easy and possible. This is unhealthy for the development of the country. It also encourages a public that is ignorant. It fuels lack of commitment to goals or objectives. It encourages flip flops or summersaults. How did we completely veer off the path of political commitment to ideals in our country? How come all the political parties in the country have the same face, the same level of flip flops, and the same level of failure? Is there any difference between PDP and APC? Why did we hope that the APC would be a better political party than the PDP when almost all APC members were previous members of the PDP?
The reason for this is that the culture of espousing ideology is dead. Ideology or a serious commitment to a particular belief is dead in our clime. Whereas previous ideologies have been replaced by new ideas in other climes, in our home country it is dead or in the throes of death. And this is dangerous for our country. In the universities we no longer have associations or bodies which pursue commitments to particular ideals. Whereas our generation organized seminars, symposia and lectures on topical issues of the day, these days students are more interested in going to the beach, dressing up in a particular fashion, or having a party in an exclusive hotel. Ideas no longer count. If they develop ideas, it is how to make money faster than their parents did. If they join political parties it is to perpetuate the unethical practices of their older ones. This has grave implications for the future of the country.
It is true that some very powerful ideas have emerged in religious groups, Christian and Islam. These groups have broken off mainstream religions to fill a void which had been created by lack of a properly focused ideological development. Religious fundamentalism has grown even in prosperous societies, for example in the United Kingdom, Belgium and France. This is why I disagree with the view that Islamic fundamentalism thrives only where there is economic poverty. A religious ideology is something of the mind. It is moot point here to contend that Boko Haram and ISIS are not Islamic movements. They are built on a notion which promotes the establishment of an Islamic state. Thus whether we like it or not, an ideology has emerged to fill a void in the minds of young ones. North East Nigeria is a clear example.
If we now produce young people who are not persuaded to think critically about their society from ANY particular ideological framework, then we do not expect any change to come to the land. They were born into a culture that kills thinking; they are likely to do things the way their fathers did and expect a different result. Does it surprise us that Ghana as a country seems to have a deeper understanding of international politics than we do? Was it the result of some planting which Kwame Nkrumah did both in the political life and in the educational system?
Ideas govern the world. Not money. Not mere political power. If we have billions of dollars in foreign accounts or we have a wealthy economy or a rich natural resource base and lack the ideas to translate these into concrete development, then we would remain n rudimentary and underdeveloped nation till the end of time.A sound African or Nigerian ideology is needed to translate our resources to wealth. If we had a developed ideology, it would not matter whether the President is from the north or from the south or a Muslim or a Christian.Let us begin to think about creating an ideological base for our focus on development. Let us begin to teach our youth about how to think things through. Let us create and register political parties which have a clear ideologically-focused manifesto. That way, we would know who is joining which party and the reason for doing this. As it is, we are in an era of ‘Ideology is Dead; Brigandage is Alive”.