Fellow Nigerians, where and how does one begin? Whenever you think you have seen it all in our dear beloved country Nigeria, something bigger, bizarre and sometimes even more dastardly occurs. Let me be honest, I have no problem with those decamping in droves from the opposition party PDP to the ruling party APC. As far as I’m concerned, they are merely exercising their inalienable rights of freedom of association, speech and movement.
However, I have serious issues with only one man, President Muhammadu Buhari who seems to be the Talisman that they all credit with their defection. It is because of him they all turn into turncoat, notwithstanding their previously avowed aversion and derision of this same personage that has been the butt of their ridicule or denigration.
Before you begin to ask me why this is my position, I shall hasten to elucidate.
Prior to the 2015 Presidential election, Major General Muhammadu Buhari had contested on three occasions. And what was his claim to fame and entitlement to the throne? INTEGRITY. Others added courage, frugality and simplicity. To his acolytes he was nothing short of a saint or angel. The Chosen one, the Messiah. That description was a perfect fit. He had this childlike innocence written all over his soft, delicately hewn face. His cool mien and natural taciturnity complemented his persona. He was unreachable, yet touchable. An ethereal being, a Spirit!
Anyway. The Buhari I was introduced to by Dr Lanre Tejuoso in 2010 was totally calm and appeared serious and determined about changing Nigeria. Despite my reservations about his age and dictatorial past even at that time, he managed to present an image of a truly repentant, penitent and reformed born again democrat. It was hard to imagine the level of implacable and intractable obstinacy disguised, concealed and buried inside that seemingly frail figure. I later went ahead to contest against him and President Goodluck Jonathan and others. We both lost. The retired army General was devastated and blighted. I even read somewhere that he wept and vowed never to contest again.
But something would happen to change his trajectory forever. By 2015, the PDP had held power for 16 solid years. And it was normal for the principle of diminishing return to set in.
Apart from the assumed and acknowledged recklessness and profligacy ascribed to the party, President Jonathan faced his toughest challenge in the total collapse of security in some parts of the North East of Nigeria. The mass kidnap of young school girls at Chibok, in Borno State, further exacerbated the tense situation.
The next party to consider realistically was APC. And Buhari was its candidate. It wasn’t easy to keep PDP in power given all its negative vibes and woes. On the other hand, it was obviously very risky to exchange this wobbly party which was an amalgamation of strange bed fellows. The decision to embrace the Change which APC promised to deliver through its enigmatic flagbearer would haunt us for a long time to come.
I cannot in good conscience say Buhari has not done anything good in over six years since he returned to power but his lack of attention to uniting Nigeria has obliterated whatever good he might have recorded and achieved so far. It seems that the President and his men became arrogant and power drunk and could not be bothered about leaving a legacy of dynamism, development and progress. Now, as the President and his men and women inch closer and closer to the finishing line, I can see a palpable sense of desperation. It is obvious they would love to rewrite the history and narrative of this terrible season and reverse the clock if possible. I believe, this is the main reason for the manner APC has been on a poaching spree of recent.
To some Nigerians and other friends of our country, it may appear strange and bizarre that so many people are rushing and running to a party that deserves to be shredded, trashed and disposed off into the dustbin of history for setting Nigeria back by decades if not centuries. But to keen observers and participants like me, such is standard practice here. The rationale for the wholesale desire to forsake and renounce any remaining iota or modicum of decency and morality has been the perception that the odds of winning an election in this country doubles when you participate as a member of the ruling party. Shame and propriety are absent in our lexicon. Worse still, we lack a sense of history. Once upon a time, some politicians worshipped General Sani Abacha and plotted to make him a life President. Where are they today? Where are those who tried to stop then Vice President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, from acting as President during the incapacitation of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua? Gone with the winds!
The giddiness that has taken over the bodies and souls of the APC apparatchiks is neither justifiable nor sustainable in reality and in the long run. Many leaders had tried in the past to enslave Nigerians and convert our system to a one party but they failed spectacularly. I have no doubts in my mind that this latest experiment and exploration too will fail. Someone should tell President Buhari to stop the bad habit of using state resources to play politics. I believe the APC has a party office. The next time they want to receive their decampees, they should head to the party secretariat. The seat of power in Aso Rock is too sacred and not an adjunct or appurtenance of the APC. It is an abuse of office and privilege to abandon extremely volatile matters of state and waste resources and time on frivolities. It is most unfair and unfortunate. It is even worse that the President seems not bothered about the implication of welcoming all comers on the so-called war against corruption.
The President made certain promises before he was appointed or elected. Those promises are too important and sacrosanct to be discarded on the altar of political or other expediency. There are too many problems demanding and requiring the President’s immediate, focused and undiluted attention. The President should worry less about who succeeds him and more about making a success of his tenure. The attempt to turn the Nigerian political space into one gigantic political behemoth is alarming and worrisome. However, the history of Nigerian politics has shown clearly that a one party state is virtually impossible to achieve here. Nearly every government attempted it in the past but failed.
Buhari should not think that he is any different from his lofty predecessors in this regard. He should just do his job and leave in peace. He will be applauded for this gesture. Any attempt to force any candidate on Nigeria will only bring gloom and doom upon the nation.
No matter how weak PDP may appear today, the party will bounce back in the next few months unless its leadership fails to think outside the box. This is because the roles have been reversed and things have turned full circle! The nadir and abyss the PDP reached after 16 years of governance in Nigeria has been reached and attained by APC in a record half of the time that it had taken the PDP.
The party must therefore take advantage of the opportunity presented by APC’s terminal malaise and find means of rebranding by bringing in fresh people, faces and truly fresher ideas. If the party allows its old and ageing politicians to hijack it as usual, and force or impose its ill-fated candidates on the nation, it means they are willing to remain in opposition ad infinitum. The party can defeat APC only if and when it reflects the mood of the nation and do the needful by seeking young, vibrant, accomplished, cosmopolitan leaders who can galvanize the youths into the party and motivate them into ensuring the party’s success at the polls.
I was very excited when I got a call from Senator Shehu Sani earlier in the week intimating me of his recent move to PDP. He confirmed that he had been partly swayed by my kind of admonition that success at the national level cannot come from a small political outfit with meagre resources and bereft of national outlook. Finally, serious people are beginning to heed my advice. I’m a firm believer in the efficacy of a two party system for national government even if there are smaller parties for the local and regional governments. He said every aspiring candidate should see, read and digest my last week’s column as a veritable blueprint and key into its genuine propositions and proposals.
The leading opposition party needs to free itself of unnecessary encumbrances. It should start attacking vigorously and stop the defensive game it’s been playing for some time now. It must be proactive and not reactive. It must say what it can do better and not just criticise for the sake of doing so. More importantly its ideas, pledges and promise must be well conceptualised and realistic and firmly rooted in objectivity and actualisation. It can be done and it must be done. Buhari and his cohorts must not be encouraged to think a one party state is still possible in a democracy. It is anathema to democracy, particularly a presidential system of government, no matter what else you may hear. PDP represents our only chance for a real difference and the unity and survival of a fractionalised, factionalised and fractious country. Its leaders and members must be encouraged to rise to the challenge and pick up the gauntlet. The time is now otherwise if we let the Buhari led APC and their co-conspirators continue with their onslaught, we will have no country left in a couple of years! I shudder at the thought…