Political Transhumance in Nigeria -By Abimbola Lagunju

Filed under: Democracy & Governance |

In the last lines of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the pigs under the leadership of Napoleon had invited local businessmen (whom they had chased out of manor Farm in a revolution) to a party on the Animal Farm, the general ideology of which was founded on “four legs good, two legs bad”. Only the pigs could party with the humans; all the other animals were ordered to stay out and at best watch the party from the windows of the event hall. Humans and pigs ate and drank in excess, spoke loudly, joked familiarly and partied wildly until It reached a point where the animals looking from the windows could no longer differentiate between the pigs and the humans. Right before the animals watching from the window, the pigs and human became one and transmogrified into an unfamiliar being, devoid of any ideology and only interested in power and personal economic gains.

Except for students of political science who may be required to painstakingly put together the details of the recent tsunami of defections from one party to the other, from APC to PDP and vice versa, and from other parties to other parties, most Nigerians will only recall that there has been such a wave of defections that has brought to fore the lack of principles, decency or ideological leanings of the Nigerian political class. But for a few well-known names, it is difficult these days to know who belongs where in the Nigerian party politics. Yesterday of this party, tomorrow of another, and day after tomorrow of yet another. Yes! Just like in the Animal Farm, the pigs and human have become one and transmogrified into an unfamiliar being, devoid of any ideology and only interested in power and personal economic gains – a fearful self-economy machine.


Abimbola Lagunju


Everyone is claiming to be looking for democracy….! They accuse each other of various political and economic crimes that we the people have now accepted that by and large, all Nigerian politicians, almost without exception are guilty of something. They accuse each other of being murderous saints, treasury plunderers, outright criminals, oil “bunkerers”, economic saboteurs and perpetrators of many other crimes that are maybe yet unknown to the Nigerian Criminal Code.

There are two common reasons that defectors invoke when moving on. The two are linked to one another. Firstly, they accuse their erstwhile party of lack of democracy within its ranks and secondly, they claim not to have been considered in the “sharing” of dividends of power, read corruption. This “sharing” encompasses some political posts, which Nigerian media call “juicy posts”, dubious and inflated contracts, as well as bags of money from the Nigerian treasury. The plight of the people, the common people does not figure in the excuses of the defectors.

Power and money are to a Nigerian politician like pasture to the Fulani herdsmen. In the pursuit of power, political party platform can be changed at will, everyone can be corrupted (remember the recent conventions of the major political parties in Nigeria), mandates can be stolen, violence can be unleashed, and people can be crushed and killed. What we see in Nigerian political transhumance is very similar to the Fulani seasonal transhumance which brings tears, sorrow and death to farming communities across Nigeria. It is one and same vicious exhibition of savagery, primitiveness and complete disregard for civilized behavior.  Nothing matters like pasture to the Fulani and power to the Nigerian politician.

In the course of political transhumance, it is the individual that matters. This individual politician, armed with a primitive survival instinct and self-enrichment obsession betrays his erstwhile political platform to join another that will massage his ego and satisfy his greed. He whimpers and sheds tears publicly to win sympathy. He claims to be the father of democracy, the guardian of the rule of law, the savior of the people, a magician with solutions to all the problems of his target constituency. But many years of our existential experience has shown that this politician bears no goodwill to anyone. Democracy is as far from his mind as the skies are far from the earth. His trick is to use the illusion of the horizon to manipulate those that he cannot bribe to reach his political pasture. He is not concerned with the welfare of anyone but himself. The Nigerian State and its peoples do not matter.

And just like their transhumant herdsmen analogues who move from pasture to pasture, the Nigerian politician also seeks new pasture at the expiration of a mandatory term at an elective post.  The Nigerian senate is the favorite further-afield pasture grounds for governors; and to achieve this, he can be as ruthless as a Fulani herdsman with hungry and thirsty livestock.

Voting at any level for any politician that has defected from one party to another at any point in his political history is encouraging political transhumance. It is like making a murderous Fulani herdsman accused of pillaging villages and killing people for his animals the chairman of your Residents’ Association.

PS: Transhumance is the seasonal movement of livestock to fresh pasture far from the original place of the holding.


Abimbola Lagunju is a writer and author of several books.

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