Last week, the All Progressives Congress (APC) moved from kasuwa nama to Eagle Square: reaching deep into the heart of Nigeria’s dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and yanking unto itself several governors.
If you did not know, kasuwa nama is the fringe market where cows are slaughtered for sale. Eagle Square is the Abuja public square where Nigeria’s leaders, before they became scared of their own shadow, held public events.
At Eagle Square, everyone knows you are close to the seat of power. That was why, last week, you could hear the PDP’s tantrums and howls of pain all the way from the heart of Boko Haram territory into the troubled creeks of Bayelsa.
I have campaigned against the excesses of the PDP since I first identified it in 2004 as the Profoundly Decadent Party. Regrettably, the party has decayed so badly since then it is unrecognizable. Some of the sewage emptied into the APC last week.
Let us be clear as to what is at stake: the PDP is arrogant, corrupt and unproductive, and its current leadership, as its departing members have said, does not understand that a political party is not a social buffet.
As I wrote earlier this year, however, “Nigeria’s sinners are not only in the PDP. The PDP has become the symbol of Nigeria’s decay only because of its carnage in the center, but none of the parties that have held power in the states in the past 14 years are innocent.”
I repeat that the challenge is not the PDP: it is the Nigerian politician.
The APC aims to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP in 2015. This is a legitimate aspiration, but what does the APC propose to replace the PDP with, another PDP that is simply wearing a different face mask?
To be fair, APC has outlined such priorities as agricultural development, jobs, free education, adequate power supply, affordable health care, eradication of poverty and corruption, infrastructural development, and rapid technological advancement and industrialisation.
While that sounds quite attractive, it is meaningless. Nigerians have heard it all before. Even the military, when they seize power, deploy the same bribes.
The question is how the APC intends to pay for it, especially given the ethical, political and moral collapse of the PDP.
Character: this is the currency in which these things are paid for.
In other words, as much as I oppose the PDP, if the APC cannot demonstrate the superiority of its character, it is playing in the same league as the PDP. You cannot be mudwrestling with a mad man and proclaiming you are different.
So far, the APC is doing just that. Actually, it is doing two major things that are worse.
The first is that it is going around the country visiting the Olusegun Obasanjos and the Ibrahim Babangidas as it seeks to obtain their ‘blessing.’ The second: it is taking advantage of the divisions in the PDP to encourage its unhappy politicians to switch allegiances.
None of these is illegitimate, but none of them is inspiring, either. And certainly, they come from the PDP playbook, specifically from the manipulator’s memorandum.
The problem is that by concentrating on this approach, the APC suggests it seeks only to replace the PDP, not to rise above it. What Nigeria needs is not a politics that replaces a set of overlords with another self-sanctifying set of overlords, but one that is set up to place the country and its people over any kind of overlords.
We need a new politics which will inspire and rebuild Nigeria by deploying its resources into serving its people and protect that system y placing the law above everyone.
The current system is based on looting and exploitation. In the past 15 years, the PDP has made it work for itself and for its senior figures, which is why the Obasanjos and Babangidas and Tony Anenihs and Pius Anyims have grown richer while Nigeria has shriveled.
The challenge before patriots is not to replace them with another set of self-centred power-mongers: it is to overhaul our politics so that it is impossible for anyone to deflate the public purse into a private pocket, and impossible for any political party to overturn such a system for its own benefit.
My question is whether the APC is patriotic enough or motivated enough to champion this kind of mission.
The manipulative end of Nigerian politics has yielded a country that is so degenerate it is being led by its debris. It has yielded an armada of looters and diggers of graves rather than planters of food and disbursers of hope. It has yielded a shameful situation where fewer than 300 Nigerians, including recent heads of governments, have pocketed most of the nation’s wealth along with her access to achievement and self-respect.
The APC, if it is truly wishes to break Nigeria’s march to perdition, must end the fiction that all we have to do is end the PDP’s control of Nigeria; it must show that it is capable of making the hard choices, beginning with itself.
This is at the heart of our distress: is anyone willing to talk about the rule of law? Is anyone honest enough to speak about being a political party that has come to serve, not to be served?
I am not talking about the rhetoric of it; I know the APC has people capable of wielding words as though they were AK47s. I am talking about something that is bigger than our petty individual greed and appetites, such as establishing at party level ground rules that are superior to what is provided even in the constitution, and implementing those standards even before the party participates in its first general election.
That would challenge the country as well as other political parties; that would make it clear that the game has changed, and that the APC truly intends to play for the people.
It would be unfortunate for the APC to seek to do less, or to seek to be held to a standard that is the same as that of the PDP, because that would make it the same as the PDP.
It would be dangerous for the APC to be held to a standard such as the PDPs when that standard has failed so miserably the APC has shouted for months it is a superior force.
In calling the APC out, I offer five scenarios:
One, it is clear that higher standards are required of the governors, who now are gods unto themselves. The constitution protects them until they are out of office, which is understandable; APC should internally provide reporting rules and censure under its own rules.
Two, the APC should back a constitutional amendment that forbids a governor, once out of office, from running for legislative office for the next two election cycles.
Three, the current electoral law is a train wreck coming our way, and it can be exploited by any party, including the APC. The answer is for the APC to work at something no party can exploit, and the Uwais Report has answers for this ailment. There is no wisdom blaming the electoral commission after very election.
Four, the APC must publish a strong and unambiguous anti-corruption plan which provides for independent anti-corruption bodies and reviews, as well as a realistic judicial re-alignment.
Five, the APC must establish a nationwide grassroots voter-registration and education scheme. That is how you demonstrate a vibrant national presence.
The issue is not whether the PDP should go. It is whether a party which seeks to replace it thinks the citizen is a partner, or a fool.
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