On October 1, 2020, Nigeria celebrated its 60th year of gaining independence from the United Kingdom. For the 6 decades, a number of achievements were made in socioeconomic and political areas. The country also experienced challenges within its socioeconomic and political systems. In spite of its achievements, Seyi Odetola, a Nigerian in the United Kingdom, speaks with our analyst on progressivism and inclusive social reforms. He believes that political leaders with progressive and social reforms mindset remain elusive in the country.
Tekedia: How would you describe the present political situation in Nigeria in terms of party politics, especially internal democracy among the political parties?
Odetola: The present political situation is gory and the instability is what we are witnessing in the last few days across the country. There is no internal party democracy, hence to expect free and fair democratic elections in the country will be a tall order.
Tekedia: Everyone is claiming he is a progressive like previous leaders such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, how would you describe a politician as progressive in the Nigerian politics?
Odetola: If chief Obafemi Awolowo, in the 1950s, 60s, ’70s and ’80s was a progressive politician with evidence of his socio-political and economic contributions, we may thus ask this question: Who is a progressive politician?
In order to understand who a progressive politician is, we must ask what progressivism is all about: Progressivism is a political philosophy in support of social reform. In the 21st century, a movement that identifies as progressive is “a social or political movement that aims to represent the interests of ordinary people through political change and the support of government actions.”
We see the above definition played out in Awolowo narrative, but today’s politicians are symbols of oppression, insensitivity, corruption and public treasury looting in the broad.
Tekedia: Who are the progressives in terms of leadership quality and good governance in the current Nigeria democratic project?
Odetola: I do not see any progressive politicians today, except the Governor of Borno State whom I have been following at a distance.
Tekedia: Can we actually use project implementation as a yardstick for describing someone or a political party as progressive?
Odetola: Using project implementation isn’t a yardstick for measuring progressivism if the projects are not focused on social integration and cohesion!
Tekedia: How would you x-ray the performances of the ruling parties in South-Western states of Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos?
Odetola: The South West governors have failed woefully to integrate the social classes or we can say they failed to reduce the social gaps which is evident in the mantra we are seeing over the last days: Them v Us…demand for the generational shift in socio-political landscape is a function of seemingly degradation faced by the dislocated class which today we will call the youth though the evidence isn’t pointing the old-young dichotomies.
Tekedia: Would you say they are progressives in terms of executing projects that benefited citizenry positively?
Odetola: The South West governors are not progressive in thought and actions neither are they driven by any policies. They are just men without vision!
Tekedia: It has become a tradition among the government at all levels to execute projects without carrying the citizenry along in their planning and eventual implementation. Would you say we are actually practicing democracy as it is supposed to be done?
Odetola: The present service delivery is affected based on the likely pecuniary benefits to the occupier of offices rather than the citizenry. For instance, we have had looting of government warehouse in the recent days.
The question arises: why should we have locked up food items whilst the people were suffering? The answer is simple: the occupiers of government are waiting for the best politically advantageous times for the maximum good public relation to them and not the people.