Contending forces within government 

504 views | Abdulrazaq Hamzat | March 19, 2021

No government is short of progressive and regressive forces within its folds. It doesn’t matter if it is in Nigeria or America.

The fact is that, no matter how progressive a government claims to be, there are always regressive forces within it and no matter how regressive we think it is, there are always progressives within it and each of these forces would be struggling to drag government towards their direction.

The question would therefore be that, which of these forces is making headway in its strive at driving government towards its direction?

By progressive, I do not mean a formal group which calls itself progressive by name, neither do I mean regressive as a formal caucus which calls itself that name.

Progressive and Regressive forces here would be identified by the issues they are pushing within the government, either rational or emotional (factual or deduction), the direction they seek to convince government to take (conservative or liberal), the agenda they seek to prefer (status quo or reforms) and most importantly, the tactics they adopt in pushing these agenda (lobby or blackmail).

Although, there is another third force in government, which I would simply describe as anywhere belle face, because they are usually on the fringe and not decided. They are always waiting to see where the pendulum swings before following the trend.

But, substantially, civil service and sometimes, media and civil society are mostly the pawn in the chess game of political governance and they amplify the voices of either of the contending forces, knowingly or unknowingly.

To say it differently, civil servants, media and civil society will largely determine which of the contending forces will succeed in making significant headway in its quest to drag government to its direction.

While civil servants have cultivated a reputation for resisting reforms that would affect their personal comfort, no matter how progressive, the bias of media and civil society on the other hand often tilt towards controversial contents that would attract readership or gain visibility for prominence and either of the contending forces that can aid the process of creating such content would naturally get media goodwill.

When you read media reports quoting unknown sources within government or referring to certain secret documents, you should know that a contending force within government is trying to influence certain decisions in its favor or shift public attention towards something that would advance its position.

What they release sometimes maybe correct, probably distorted or out rightly fabricated, but irrespective of what it is, the aim is to use the public reaction generated as a leverage to advance certain interest within government.

As citizens, our duty therefore is to pay attention to these issues and determine for ourselves, if we want to be the tool or loud speakers of either progressive or regressive forces, or better still, join the forces of the anywhere belle face.

As I have earlier noted, in every ruling government, 3 categories of people are always trying to pull government to its direction.

These 3 forces include, the regressive, the progressive and the anywhere belle face.

The first and fiercest of all three (3) are the regressive forces, which are often very powerful, strategic and desperate.

Their tactics are often very subtle, deliberate, but brutal, because they often utilize high level instrument of blackmail to neutralize any perceived opposing voices of reason close to the decision maker.

These groups may be the first to call for change in unfavorable government, but when the change arrives, they are the first to resist it, if its reforms and policies are seen to be capable of threatening their political hold and personal leverage.

In reality, they want to influence government to their advantage and if they could not, they will blackmail it to secure some concessions, but if that didn’t work, then they want to de-market and change it.

However, the change they seek is not one that would be fundamentally different, but that which will still retain the status quo and old ways of doing things.

They will maintain that, this is how it is done or this is how we used to do it as if they have made anything worked before, arguing that doing it differently will make the people unhappy.

To them, every policy must be viewed from the prism of electorate, not people.

However, what they will forget to tell you is that, doing it their way has never made life any better; neither does it holds any prospect of making it better.

Because this group will claim to be fighting for people’s interest, considerable percentage of the populace will queue behind them, bullying, threatening and attempting to forcefully suppress other more reasonable voices.

The progressive forces on the other hand are often not so conscious of political intrigues.

They are often relatively individualistic, strongly willed and principled and most importantly, have penchant for pushing difficult reforms with possibility of high long term impact.

To be a progressive force within a government is to risk losing goodwill and being at the receiving end of constant blackmail, not only from the opposition to government, but by the regressive forces within government.

Every leader understands that reforms are often very difficult, because they affect people’s way of life and seek to take them away from their comfort zone.

But still, reforms are inevitable, if we have to move the society forward.

Upon assuming the position of authority, a leader will therefore be torn between associates, who will encourage him to take the important, but difficult direction, and those who will convince him to sustain the status quo and continue on the path of cosmetic improvements.

The point to note here is that, nobody is an island and as human being, no matter the good intention, capacity for transformation and preparedness of a leader, he or she will at one time or the other, listens to the voices of people around him and the more progressive voices he hears, the greater the tendency of his government tilting towards progressive direction, and the more the regressive voices, the greater the chance of the government moving towards regressive direction.

Ofcourse, there are leaders who will take their own direction irrespective of what their associates are saying, but in reality, how many issues can the leader individually handle?

Therefore, people who understand this reality and want the society to progress, through the delivery of good governance, will develop thick skin to blackmail, device strategic means to limit its effect and make it impossible for regressive forces to dominate and determine the direction of government.

Abdulrazaq Hamzat is a Peacebuilding Professional and can be reached at


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