Conservatism refers to an acceptance of political affairs as they are. Ideally, this means free enterprise and private ownership. In Nigeria, however, conservatism only protects the interests of the elite. As a result, there is no room for conservatism as a political stance in Nigeria. The staggering disparities between rich and poor mean that an acceptance of political affairs is neither practical nor possible.
A conservative Nigerian party recently made an announcement that illustrates this. As it had been in power for 13 years, this party had more than enough time to demonstrate its capabilities to Nigerians. Having failed to do so, however, the party now apologises for its “several shortcomings” to the millions of people it has failed. My people, this is nowhere near good enough.
The party itself has failed Nigerians, but the fundamental ideology it represents is an even bigger failure. A fatalistic acceptance of affairs is problematic, especially in our case where affairs feature overpopulation, mass poverty, and corruption. Another issue with conservatism is that it, like several other features of Nigerian politics, was copy-pasted from the British political system. Conservatism works in Britain, as it has had almost 500 years to develop and arrive at where it is at today.
In Nigeria, however, there is much to be seen by way of development and security. As a result, there is no room for conservatism in Nigeria’s political spectrum. We need to take a more radical approach towards the crises which plague our country. Our country is so fractured that we need to overturn conditions entirely instead of trying to maintain them.
Many conservatives assert that it is the only way to achieve and maintain peace. But conservatism in Nigeria has proven unable to address sectarian conflict. If anything, Nigerian conservatism has aggravated conflict by marginalising groups which have been left out of power since independence.
The Ijaw, the Niger-Delta militants and many other groups will continue to promote discord until the conservatism which holds their rights hostage has been eliminated. Much like the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Nigeria is in need of a revolutionary spark not only to improve conditions but also to secure and maintain peace. This is not the time for social conservatism and maintenance, it is the time for a critical reappraisal of Nigerian needs and the structures needed to protect them. We must put an end to the lazy ideology of conservatism and replace it with an intensive movement for change.
Funmilayo Adetokubo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.