The Veil Of Partisanship: When Loyalty Clouds Judgment

By Isaac Asabor

In the theater of politics, partisanship often takes center stage, casting a long shadow over the electorate's ability to discern and decide. This allegiance to party over policy, leader over leadership, has become a blindfold, tightly bound by threads of loyalty and tradition. It is a phenomenon that sees voters casting their ballots not for the candidate who stands tall on the merits of success and integrity, but for the one who waves the familiar flag of their political faction.

The consequences of this blind loyalty are profound. Leaders, once elevated to power on the wings of partisan support, find themselves insulated from accountability. Their failures, rather than being scrutinized, are defended with fervor by those who placed them there. The electorate, bound by the blindfold of partisanship, continues to champion their chosen leader, even as evidence mounts of their inadequacies and missteps.

This unwavering defense is not rooted in ignorance, but in a deep-seated belief that allegiance to the party transcends the individual's actions or capabilities. It is a belief that to admit failure in the leader is to admit failure in the party, and by extension, in themselves. Thus, the cycle of defense and denial perpetuates, with the blindfold remaining firmly in place, obscuring the reality of a leader's performance.

Explanatorily put, the primordial sentiments in the form of tribal, religious, and party affiliations on leadership in Nigeria have remained the reasons why Nigeria, since 1999 when it returned to democratic system of government, cannot have good political leaders in positions of power across the three tiers of government.

Given the foregoing viewpoints, it is sad that a nation, like Nigeria, which is celebrated for its cultural diversity and rich heritage, has its political landscape been persistently marred by the undercurrents of tribalism, religious biases, and partisan loyalties. These primordial sentiments have not only shaped the social fabric of the country but have also had a profound impact on its leadership dynamics.

Without a doubt, tribal loyalty is a potent force in Nigeria, often taking precedence over national identity. Despite the fact that the allegiance to one's ethnic group can overshadow the common good of the people, the shenanigan persists from one political dispensation to another leading to a leadership selection process that is biased and exclusionary. In fact, this tribal favoritism breeds a sense of disenfranchisement among minority groups and fosters a political environment where leaders are chosen based on ethnicity rather than competence or vision.

Besides, religion is another cornerstone of Nigerian society which significantly influences political decisions and leadership. The interplay of religious pluralism and party politics often ignites fierce contestations, with political parties and candidates leveraging religious sentiments to garner support. This intersection of faith and politics have compelled leaders to prioritize religious agendas over national unity and development.

Without any iota of exaggeration, partisan politics in Nigeria is characterized by a struggle for control over resources and power. Party affiliations can become the primary criterion for leadership roles, sidelining merit and fostering a culture of patronage. Thus, the political narrative often revolves around which party can offer more immediate benefits, rather than long-term national progress.

Against the foregoing retrogressive trend in Nigeria’s politics nay governance, it is germane to opine that thepath forward is for Nigeria to break free from the shacklesof these primordial sentiments. To break free from the shackles, there is no doubt that a collective effort is needed to foster a sense of national identity that transcends tribal, religious and party affiliations. The establishment of robust anti-discrimination laws, similar to those in developed nations, could serve as a deterrent to tribalistic practices. Additionally, promoting a political culture that values transparency, accountability, and inclusivity can pave the way for leaders who are truly representative of Nigeria's diverse populace.

At this juncture, permit this writer to confess that this piece is a call to lift the veil of partisanship, to vote with eyes wide open, and to defend not the leader who fails, but the principles that guide successful leadership. Only then can the electorate truly serve as the guardians of democracy, ensuring that those in power are worthy of the positions they hold.

The call is unarguably expedient as it is no more news to say that in the vibrant and diverse political landscape of Nigeria that the electorate's decision-making process is often influenced by deep-rooted primordial sentiments. These sentiments, reiteratively recalled at this juncture,primarily revolve around tribe, religion, and political affiliations, and they have historically played a pivotal role in shaping the outcomes of elections and, consequently, the nation's governance.

Without a doubt, there is no denying the fact that tribal loyalties in politics is a double-edged sword. In fact, tribal loyalty is a potent force in Nigerian politics. With over 250 ethnic groups, voters often gravitate towards candidates who share their tribal identity, hoping for representation and advocacy for their group's interests. While this can ensure a voice for various tribes, it also leads to a form of tribalism that can overshadow a candidate's competence or policy positions, and in most cases opens the windows of patronage appointments, thereby paving the way for incompetent leaders in critical offices.

Religion is another significant factor influencing voter behavior in Nigeria, and it has predominantly engendered a division between Islam and Christianity, as aspiring candidates in any given election are often evaluated based on their religious background rather than their governance capabilities. This religious bias has no doubt led to the election of leaders who have proven to be incompetent and clueless, and have in the same vein demonstrated that they were not the most qualifiedcontrary to their grandstanding during their electoral campaigns ahead of the elections that rightly or wrongly ushered them to the positions they occupied or now occupied.

Another primordial sentiments that characterizes Nigeria’s political tapestry is political affiliations, which also dictate electoral choices. Without a doubt, the loyalty to a political party sometimes obscure the assessment of an individual candidate's merit. This have resulted in the perpetuation of power within certain parties, regardless of their performance, and has been hindering the emergence of potentially more capable leaders from outside the established political structures.

In fact, the reliance on these primordial sentiments has led to the election of leaders who are not necessarily aligned with the broader national interest or the most pressing needs of the populace. A bad as it is, it fostered a political environment where leaders are more focused on appeasing their base rather than implementing policies for the greater good.

At this juncture, it is expedient to ask, “What is the way forward? To answer the foregoing question, it is expedient to opine that to mitigate the impact of these sentiments, there is a need for increased voter education and awareness. By emphasizing the importance of policy over primordial loyalty, and the track record over tribal or religious identity, the electorate can be encouraged to make more informed decisions. Civic education campaigns and open dialogues about the implications of sentiment-driven voting can empower citizens to prioritize the nation's progress over narrower interests.

Without a doubt, it is germane to opine that while it is natural for voters to feel an affinity towards candidates who represent their identity, it is crucial for the sustainability of Nigeria's democracy that electoral choices are made based on a candidate's ability to govern effectively and inclusively. Therefore, it is expedient for all Nigerians of voting age to break the cycle of primordial sentiment-driven voting as it is essential for the country to move towards a future where leaders are chosen for their vision and capability, rather than their tribe, religion, or political affiliation

The reason for the foregoing advocacy in this context cannot be farfetched as it is crystal clear that the journey towards effective leadership in Nigeria is fraught with challenges posed by deep-seated tribal, religious, and party affiliations. Therefore, addressing these issues head-on, with a commitment to fairness and equality, can usher in a new era of leadership that is capable of steering Nigeria towards a more prosperous and united future.

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