Friday, 6 December 2013
2015: The Naked Dancers And The Two-Year Marathon By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
In a functional democracy, the arguments and divisions currently wracking the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would be seen as a sign of the healthy debates and disagreements that are critical to democratic progression and the constant alignments and re-alignments that are permanent features of the electoral process.
But Nigerians now know better because the people currently in control of the PDP have no altruistic guiding principles and ideology to shape the party and promote good governance. The PDP’s top brass: President - Goodluck Jonathan, former president and BoT chairman - Olusegun Obasanjo, National Chairman - Bamanga Tukur, former and new BoT Chairman - Tony Anenih, Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum - Rotimi Amaechi and a number of Governors have been engaged in a naked dance that amounts to exhibition of little more than raw and unbridled ambition.
At the root of the argument is not about which approach to adopt to tackle the enormous challenges confronting Nigeria. No one is talking about how to address the problem of our 20 million youth who have no jobs and are losing hope, or how to improve our collective security. None of the naked dancers is interested in seeking solutions to the problems of growing poverty, de-industrialization, deteriorating infrastructure, rising inequality, falling standards of education or decaying healthcare. None of the combatants in the PDP’s disagreements is concerned with tackling Nigeria’s mind-boggling corruption, impunity or even how to prepare for the day when our oil revenues will dry up. The one and only thing on the minds of these PDP apparatchiks is personal ambition, the pursuit of power and the senseless looting and primitive accumulation associated therewith.
In essence, what should be a public debate between and among the ruling party members to chart the path of progress for the country it has ruled since 1999 and has promised to govern for at least 60 years has been reduced to a voluble public fight about who gets what, where, how, and knowing the PDP for what it has become, how much! Eventually, because the fight is not predicated on any ideological or principled stand, whether by the instrument of the EFCC or the sheer need to remain in the corridors of power, all the gladiators will fall back in line at the right moment in order for the party to continue its nuclear war on the Nigerian people.
A year or two ago, it would have gotten away with it, too. Except that things are beginning to change, and a two-year marathon that would determine the future of Nigeria’s 170 million people is beginning to take shape and form: From mysterious campaign posters appearing overnight, PDP governors that have gone missing for months, trillions of stolen fuel subsidy and pension funds, unneeded and unsolicited 10 million cell phones for farmers, the first lady’s death and resurrection, endless political intrigues, revelations and long knives within the PDP – up to the emergence of a new opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the tone for the 2015 elections seem to be taking shape.
Now, the issue is: what does the current situation and evolving developments entail, and what are their possible implications for the 2015 general elections, if we ever get there? Does the current discord within the ruling party signal the beginning of the end of its existence? Will the formation of the APC which is the merger of the four major opposition parties – ACN, CPC, ANPP and parts of APGA, signify the emergence of a ‘new’ and better Nigeria for the over 125 million Nigerians below the age of 35? Will the new party, APC survive its teething challenges and emerge with a manifesto and truly representative yet formidable candidates that will sweep away majority votes at the poles?
As all parties gear up towards 2015, we need to ask: Is President Jonathan capable of participating in the election without deliberately dividing the country along ethnic and religious lines for his short-term political gain? Is INEC willing, able and capable of delivering free, fair and credible elections in 2015? Can we trust INEC not to be what the opposition perceives it to be – a mere tool and toothless subsidiary of the PDP? How do we as individuals and stakeholders contribute our quota to ensure that we do not remain pawns in the hands of selfish politicians? Can we see through the antics of the false prophets who promised fresh air and transformation, only to lead us to the path of division and destitution?
There is no gainsaying that the PDP is in turmoil and chaos at the moment. On the surface, it began in January with the call by PDP governors for the sack of the party chairman - Bamanga Tukur due to the latter’s interference in the Adamawa PDP politics. This was followed by the move against Obasanjo’s henchmen in the party which led to the sack of its National Auditor Chief Bode Mustapha and his replacement by Alhaji Fatai Adewole Adeyanju while National Vice Chairman, South West, Segun Oni and National Secretary Oyinlola, were somehow also removed.
Following the above, the PDP set up its own Governor’s Forum with Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom emerging as chairman in an attempt to polarize the already existing Nigeria Governor’s Forum which has the ‘stubborn’ Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state as chair. As stated, the whole saga is indicative of PDP’s desperation to hang on to power and not allow democracy to take its course. It has been alleged that this new forum was set-up to trim down the influence of Amaechi who is seen as too independent and non-conformist for the current PDP leadership. Those who know the PDP well will tell you that the quarrels can easily be resolved as soon as some of the excess crude, the looted fuel subsidy and pension funds are released and redistributed – and the gravy train that is the PDP will begin to roll again. But that is another matter for another day.
For now, the newly formed APC seems to have a grasp of what they are doing. Just a week ago, the opposition governors in the APC made a bold statement by holding the party’s third meeting in Maiduguri – the capital and base of the Boko-Haram insurgency. They also donated N200m to victims of the crisis. So far, the current government has neither been able to curb the insurgency nor has it set up a relief fund for victims of the menace. It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan, once said he could not visit Maiduguri because the ‘airport was not in good shape’ and just about a month before was ‘too busy’ to visit and sent his deputy, Namadi Sambo. The APC governors have now shamed Jonathan to visit Maiduguri and recognize Borno as one of the 36 states of Nigeria!
The emergence of the APC, apparent crumbling of the ruling PDP alongside the deregistering of political parties by INEC appears to be gradually paving way for a pan-Nigerian opposition platform capable of ending the PDP’s hegemony. Although the two-party system may have its disadvantages, it would be advantageous for Nigeria by providing a sturdy check and balance as well as choice for Nigerians. It will also reduce the clutter and confusion created by numerous existing ‘briefcase’ parties who possess no clout. In fact, some political economists believe that the two party system leads to political stability and in turn, economic growth.
In spite of the positive direction we are headed with the merger of the major opposition parties, the APC on its part has its work cut out for it to stand as a stronghold in the 2015 elections. It has to ensure that we do not eventually become another failed merger bereft of individuals who truly have the interest of the nation at heart. Individual ambitions have so far been shelved in favor of truly democratic ideals, and this is encouraging. As APC, we must reach out to the populace at the grassroots and earn their confidence rather than appease the ‘godfathers’ to ensure political advantage. It is gratifying that the inter-party merger teams led by Chief Tom Ikimi have focused on these true democratic principles in shaping the APC’s birth.
As everything is being set in place for the elections in 2015, the only way more bloodshed would be averted is by ensuring free and fair elections. This is the only way to save our nation and its democracy. Looting in advance of 2015 to buy up votes, militarization and deployment of coercive instruments will not work but only lead to open confrontation and violence. The electorate must be encouraged to vote by providing a safe and serene atmosphere devoid of any intimidation for voting to take place. If neighboring Ghana has been able to conduct several successive peaceful, free and fair elections, then we have no reason not to better that record, given our vast human and material resources.
It is time for our elites to rise to the challenge and actively engage in the political activities, and encourage the involvement of all citizens in the electoral process, knowing that sovereignty lies with them. It is time for our professionals and Diaspora to move from being armchair or online critics to work towards informing the broader electorate that it is only when we elect people with proven track records of excellence, hard work and integrity that we can truly move forward as a nation. Nigerians must understand that voting on the basis of tribe or religion has never, and will not lead to the emergence of the Nigeria of our dreams. Those that voted for Jonathan for these reasons can see the unintended consequences of their decision.
As we watch the PDP’s naked dancers strut their raw ambitions in public, Nigerians need to appreciate the power of their vote and do all they can to guard it jealously. Knowing that the PDP will do everything under the sun to remain in power at all costs despite deteriorating infrastructure, growing insecurity, poverty and unemployment in Nigeria. It is clear that we must all play active roles in what may be a tough two-year marathon towards 2015. Eventually, it is the power of our vote – how wisely we use it – and the deterrent structures to ensure PDP and its partners do not write and declare fictitious election results, that will free us from the current regime of corruption, impunity and incompetence.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters