Most Nigerians believe that all Nigerian political parties and politicians lack clear ideologies. The sentiment is reinforced every election cycle with a slew of defections across parties, mostly for personal interests.
The APC refuses to accept that characterization. It describes itself as a party of “Progressives”, even though its members do not agree on everything from true federalism to liberalization of the petroleum sector. As if those claims are not enough, the APC has now taken it upon itself to define its main rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with two leaders of the ruling party – National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Party Chairman Adams Oshiomhole – describing the PDP in recent statements as a “conservative, right-wing party.”
While inaugurating non-elected national officers of his party in July, Oshiomhole described the PDP as “the conservative right-wing party.” Alluding to the presence of PDP members in the Buhari administration, the chairman said “we cannot entrust to conservative forces an agenda for change.”
This same description was used in another speech by Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos, where he touted a war of ideology between his party of progressives and the “conservatives”. “We believe in government of the people, for the people and by the people but the conservatives believe in government of sharing,” said Tinubu.
“The other party, the Poverty Development Party (PDP), has no vision. For 16 years, we gave them the opportunity to change Nigeria, but they failed. They believe it’s sharing money and looting of the treasury,” Tinubu said. “Buhari came with progressive ideology, for all our money to be accounted for, through TSA, it is a war between the progressives and the conservatives. It is a war of ideology.”
The Flawed Argument:
The APC leaders in their attempt to ridicule the PDP fail to define the clear ideological difference between both parties. Looting is not an ideology, neither is it unique to any of the two parties. Trying to define conservatism as looting is incorrect and an overreach. After all, the APC warmly and openly accepts into its fold people who they had condemned previously as corrupt (hello Obanikoro; hi Akpabio!)
But they may have a point:
The APC may however have a point. The PDP appears to be a conservative leaning party as seen by some of its policies while at the centre. It championed free markets philosophy like the liberalisation of the economy and seems to favour private control of the economy. Key conservative policies enacted by the PDP administrations include deregulation of power, telecoms, and privatisation of government assets. Proponents of this line of thought may also argue that with programmes like YouWIN, G-WIN, YEAP/Nagropreneur programmes, the PDP appear to support self reliance as opposed to long term welfare.
The APC in its three years at the center, appears to favor government control of the markets, which is classic liberal progressivism. Recent moves by the Buhari led administration to regulate the foreign exchange system and control prices of commodities, as well as government’s reentry into businesses such as the National Airline, Fertiliser/Vaccines Production are a drastically different approach from that adopted by the PDP. The welfare emphasis is also more focused on providing for the poor as a means of reducing inequality and poverty. A key initiative of the APC government in this regard is the Social Investment Programme which include school feeding, government stipends to the poorest of the poor and unemployment benefits through the N-Power programme.
Are these enough to define these parties as progressives or conservatives? Hardly! The policy slant they have adopted at the center have been more about the preferences of the leaders at the top at the different times, and not a deliberate cultivation of ideologies.