By Dr. Chuks Osuji
Simply put, political culture means those known behaviours and attitudes which people exhibit and possess within the realm of political practice. These behaviours and attitudes must include doing things in a civilised manner which everybody subscribes to when politics is being practised. They should include some norms, pattern of behaviours which are certain to emerge when issues of politics are being practised. Certainly, such political culture of a people, in fact, must be those norms and practices which are common among the people when they are playing politics.
Ordinarily, a political culture of a people must include acceptance of democracy as the best form of political interaction and practice, respect for other people’s views in political matters, respecting other people’s views to have right to belong to a political party of their choice, believing in a process of choosing those to form governments, subscribing to total respect of any government in power, etc.
Political culture is, in fact, what drives civil obedience, respect for law and order and, above all, the general belief and agreement that when people of different ideas, economic necessities, social differences etc. come or live together, they must have the cause to disagree and to know how to agree after disagreeing. It is for this reason that the existence of opposition in a country, community or within a group must be seen as an integral component of a political culture with a political system. Therefore, nobody should be denied that right to belong to any political party of one’s choice in accordance with the detects of one’s belief without being subjected to harassment, discrimination or injustice.
Taking this one step forward, we know that many countries of the world have developed political cultures with which they are known and appreciated. For example, the hallmark of American democracy is hinged on the political culture of the Americans – strong subscription to principled ideas of a free society where politics is played without rancour or brigand.
It is part of American political culture that there must be a clear-cut separation between the church and government; that the judiciary must be seen to be unbiased in its adjudication of legal and constitutional justice; that the body of civil service must not discriminate against anybody on ground of political or whatever affiliation; that members of political parties should subscribe to the programmes and manifestos of their parties, but more than that, the ideologies of such political parties.
Political culture in America encompasses the following: constitutional foundation, separation of powers, checks and balances, mechanism for political compromises, but over and above, strong subscription to Rule of Law.
Political cultures in other democracies such as England and France follow almost the same pattern like that of America. In all Western democracies, including all other countries in North America, political culture has been developed, and this moves the wheel of democracy.
In fact, properly put, there is no country today which enjoys political stability, economic buoyancy and social cohesion that does not have a set of political culture which serves as an engine room which propels such a nation.
However, when it comes to Africa, particularly in Nigeria, one of the problems today is lack of political culture. Many scholars opine that our own political culture must evolve after all the seeming trials and errors, wobbling and fumbling period of political experiments. Of course, many disagree, saying that given the complexities of our heterogeneous population with different social outlooks, tribal diversities and sometimes numerous ethnic incompatibilities may make it difficult, if not impossible, for the emergence of a political culture in this country to which all and sundry could subscribe.
They hinge their argument and postulation on the fact that the ethnic compositions of the Nigerian nation are too diverse and too divergent. It is for this that there are monumental suspicion, rivalry and endless struggle for political power and economic domination, not only among the three largest ethnic groups – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Because according to Samuelson Knott, “political culture emerges out of cohesive interwovenness of the people in a given country. If there are those striking differences which divide the people, the emergence of a political culture may not be feasible.”
If we attempt to identify in Nigeria today some type of political culture, it may be possible, but it will be a negative political culture. For example, one can point at election rigging, lack of internal democracy among political parties, a mixed grill of political partisan memberships, large scale corruption in our political processes, monumental citizens’ apathy in participation, massive ignorance among the large segment society, spasmodic and inconsistent constitution amendment processes, corruption in the judiciary which negates the rule of law, etc. These anti-social and political imperatives could be identified as the type of political culture which exists in our political system today. But who can accept these to be a welcome political culture? Absolutely nobody!
The root of the disconnect in our political system is the type of constitution imposed on the country by the military. The constitutional provisions are seriously flawed in many respects; hence it has remained difficult even for the Parliament to do something positive and meaningful, because they are seeing everything from the perspectives of quantum of selfishness and myopic tendencies.
Painfully enough, today, we are certainly rolling down the hills for which where we shall terminate is unknown.
Thus, the madness which characterises our today’s political system is because we have not developed any political culture. How this can be made possible or resolved is a challenge which stares political leaders in general and legislators at the National Assembly in the face. And since many of them don’t seem to have political will to do something, it means that tomorrow is bleak for our political advancement. That seems too harsh, but that is the bitter truth.
Therefore, the reason for series of political madness, which pervades our political system, makes it difficult for us to fashion out a steady and stable political culture. Politics in Nigeria, to say the least, has been reduced to a source of economic enrichment, social elevation and recognition. The madness in our political system is a product of the general misconception of what politics is and should be. In Nigeria, among political gladiators, spectators and by-standers, politics is an entrepreneurial venture from which one can become rich overnight. That is why people have not stopped registering political parties when few others are merging; people struggling to become governors no matter what happens; all manner of people gearing up for political activities in 2015 which they see as the best opportunity to liberate themselves from the seeming enclave of impoverishment, hardship as well as social and economic deprivation. That is why it will be difficult in the long run for us to evolve workable and acceptable political culture.