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Revisiting the gospel according to ‘Prophet Ogbulafor’

June 18, 2009

“PDP will Rule Nigeria, whether they like it or not upward; and not more than sixty year---Prince Vincent Ogbulafor( The Guardian, 19th December, 2008)

It was Odo Awukam; a Laboratory scientist based in Calabar, and a keen follower of Nigeria’s brand of (as he calls it) ‘Comical Democracy’, who drew my attention to the last scenes of the soap opera that was playing itself out on National Television in Ekiti, South West Nigeria, in the name of a re-run election result announcement. The timing wasn’t great: It was a few minutes before my Team’s involvement in a European Champions’ League game.

However, I was forced to flip channels to the NTA sooner rather than later as my team shipped in two goals in ten minutes. At the time, the only thing I wanted to watch was the mild drama that was reaching a crescendo as Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, the septuagenarian who was handed the arduous role of overseeing the elections in Ekiti, braced up to declare a winner. I suppressed a chuckle much later as Olusegun Oni of the PDP was declared the winner of the polls.

So much for electoral reforms and the presidency’s avowed stance not to meddle in the Ekiti re-run, I told Odo the next day, the eventual capitulation of my football Club the night before still playing heavily on my mind. I dug up the quote preceding this write up from my archives and for the first time, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor’s words seemed to jump out of the paper right into my face. The PDP Chairman must have said those words in a somber mood as he paid his last respects alongside a delegation of few party members to Mallam Yahaya Gusau in Kaduna late last year, but now more than ever before, they appear to be taking a form of their own. If we thought the self acclaimed largest political party in West Africa (or is it Africa?) was going to allow the wishes of the Ekiti People prevail in an election whose outcome was tilting favourably in the direction of the opposition according to media reports; if we thought the PDP had finally lost its tendency to pull its weight around in the most sinister of fashions; if we ever imagined that the days of rigged elections were gone with Obasanjo; maybe, just maybe, we may have a rethink. If anything, the shenanigans and chicanery; the violence and ballot stuffing that was in full display in Ekiti resulting in Oni’s victory is an attestation to the cliché that a leopard would not change its spots overnight and provides an insight into what to expect in future polls nationwide.

The events leading to the announcement of the results was the stuff that Nollywood blockbusters were made of. Few days to the polls, the local media inundated its reading public with stories that ammunitions were making their way into Ekiti by the truck load. As if this was not bad enough, a sitting PDP governor was caught on tape informing an acquaintance that a battalion of soldiers would be deployed to the ‘Ekiti war zone’. As the government tried to pour cold water on these “rumours”, the speaker of the House of Representatives who was campaigning beside the president was doing all to ‘assure’ the people of Ekiti at a  rally that soldiers would be streaming into the state to keep an eye on events.

Roll the tape if you may.  With voting well underway, Mrs. Adebayo would resign her position as Resident electoral commissioner citing undue pressure on her and the fact that she would not want to smear her Christian conscience.  The letter of resignation was addressed to the president, not Professor Maurice Iwu. And then she simply vanished into thin air! Before you could say ‘Ogbulafor’, the Police Authorities had declared her wanted the next day with Aso Rock seemingly running out of ideas and the PDP hierarchy contemplating the next move. The Resident Electoral Commissioner would re-appear at the offices of Iwu the following day with the two electoral umpires grinning in front of the cameras. “The prodigal daughter”, Odo announced with a grin of his own, as Adebayo declared she was more than happy to be back to the “INEC Family”. With a gun pointed literally to her head, she was flown to the Ekiti battle ground to complete the job she had started.

Rewind tape. Were we told there was going to be no military presence in Ekiti by Aso Rock? Maybe we read or heard wrongly. According to The Nation newspapers of April 24, 2009, residents had been shaken to their marrows as they witnessed three Military trucks make their way into Oye Ekiti. The presidency still declared no troops was being sent into Ekiti. Army spokesman, Gen Chris Olokulade was quoted as saying “no soldier has been deployed to Ekiti state”. They may have been alien soldiers from outer space, Odo mused, his idea of ‘Comical Democracy’ now been given a shot in the arm.

We always knew that the president’s much touted ‘rule of law’ which had been the mantra of this regime was going to fall flat on its belly someday. The PDP was losing more states than it bargained for as one state after another had election results upturned by the law. When the PDP lost Edo state yet again to the courts, party officials decided this was practically one loss too many. At the rate this was going, a few officials were reported to have warned the presidency, the 2011 race was going to be for the PDP a steep mountain to climb. The last hope of the party in the South West, especially with Osun and Ogun States still with a few court dates to keep and Lagos Practically a no-go area, was to ensure Ekiti State remained a PDP controlled territory. Enter ‘Prophet’ Ogbulafor, who had declared that the party was going to hold onto power for another century with ten years out of the sixty well in the bag. Yar’ Adua was told to toughen up by his party or risk losing the 2011 ticket. The party’s well oiled rigging machinery was not about to falter because the president wanted the Law to take its course.

The result was the mayhem and the macabre dance we witnessed in Ekiti. Founded in 1998 by a collection of strange bedfellows, the People’s Democratic Party is the party Nigerians have loved to hate. Shorn of any known ideology, the PDP has risen in ten years to become something of an octopus and the party that calls the shots at the centre and in parliament. In the legislative elections held on 12 April 2003, the party won 54.3 % of the popular votes cast and 223 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives and 76 out of 109 seats in the senate. Its candidate in the presidential election of 19 April 2003, Olusegun Obasanjo, was re-elected with 61.9% of total votes cast. In April 2007, Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua Would rise to power on the back of what was widely adjudged (even by the ultimate beneficiary himself) to be a flawed electoral process with an unprecedented wave of electoral malpractices. In that year, the PDP swept the polls at parliamentary level with 260 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives and 85 out of 109 seats in the senate.

At the party’s national Convention of March 8, 2008, chubby Prince Vincent Ogbulafor was elected national Chairman, with a mandate to consolidate the gains the party was making and stem the internal strife that was at the time rearing its ugly head. So far, Ogbulafor has hardly put a foot wrong, as the party faithful would tell you. Ekiti provided his first major electoral test as the 2011 elections draw close. And he has passed in flying colours. We are in for another high handed electioneering season as the party attempts to re-capture those states it had lost in the courts. For another fifty years or more, as the Prince has glibly announced, we would have to make do with the PDP still calling the shots at National Level and in most states. This prophecy carries the burden of sharp electoral practices with it. But who cares? Definitely not the Prince who chose to deliver his ‘Sermon’ in the home of the bereaved, as if pointing in the direction the Nigerian State may be headed if the party had its way. The Ekiti re-run may just provide an inkling of what to expect in 2011: elections marred by violence, ballot stuffing and gerrymanders; the trademark of the party with the umbrella symbol.

The scorecard of the PDP since it has held the state by the jugular leaves much to be desired. Its present promise of implementing a seven point agenda is only full in its emptiness. For eight years of the Obasanjo regime, the Nigerian state was practically run aground. GDP nosedived as did the Naira. Infrastructure was left to fall apart and looters had a field day. Till this day no one is quite sure what has become of the vast sums of looted funds allegedly recovered from the late Military despot, General Sanni Abacha. Meanwhile, right under the noses of the presidency, $16 billion suddenly developed wings and left the treasury as sum that was meant to fix the power sector. At all levels of a PDP controlled government, what is evident is the absence of governance. Two years into a four year term, the president has described the Millennium Development Goals as unattainable by 2015, thus clearly underlining the incompetence of his administration. The slow pace of governance has come to define the regime.

But ‘prophet’ Ogbulafor has warned us that his party would not loosen its stranglehold on power just yet. Not in fifty years. We are supposed to watch helplessly as the party that has brought us to this sorry pass continues with its visionless stride in a nation of 150 million people, well into the half century mark. In other climes where democracy is worth the name, a party called the PDP would have been sacked for non- performance at the next polls. Not in Nigeria where voting counts for nothing and where ‘Comical Democracy’ holds sway.

I asked Odo what he thought of the President’s Electoral Reform in the light of the ‘joke’ that was the Ekiti Re-run. Without looking up from his laptop, he let visible a wry smile and said, “You mean the Electoral Deform?” I just gave up. With Odo, you never win!

                                                                      Egbas is a company Executive based in Lagos

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