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Between The Umbrella And The Broom By SOC Okenwa

December 8, 2017

This weekend opens the Peoples Democratic Party's national (elective) convention in Abuja. For weeks and months now following the victory of the Ahmed Markafi-led faction in the Supreme Court, there has been high-wire politics and political intrigues trailing the convention.

This weekend opens the Peoples Democratic Party's national (elective) convention in Abuja. For weeks and months now following the victory of the Ahmed Markafi-led faction in the Supreme Court, there has been high-wire politics and political intrigues trailing the convention. The stakes are as high as expectations for a new course to be charted by the foremost opposition party in the country. Positions are up for grabs including the National Chairmanship zoned to the South -- the presidency having been zoned to the North. Concerted efforts are afoot by the founding fathers and godfathers of the party to 'impose' a consensus candidate on the delegates. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, former military [resident, Ibrahim Babangida and former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, are all pulling the strings pushing for a favored candidate from the South-West to emerge as National Chairman.

General Ibrahim Babangida recently released a statement from Minna signed by Kassim Afegbua, his spokesman, denouncing the apparent "monetization" of the electoral process. IBB is not known for garrulity, but whenever he decided to speak on any issue of national importance attention was always paid to such rare sortie. Babangida could be described as an elder statesman (no matter the degree of loathsomeness towards him by a section of Nigerians). He is getting older and older at 76 and with radiculopathy still 'ravaging' him he tries to remain relevant to the system even when his opinion is never sought on any issue. IBB belongs to the opposition PDP even though one never knew if he is still a card-carrying member of the party.

The aging non-soccer-playing 'Maradona' was quoted as saying that the elective system in the PDP was open for corrupt influence making his 'fears' known about 'moneybags' hijacking the party structure through the selling of the party's national chairmanship position to the highest bidder. The Babangida argument could be understood in the context of a genuine expression of concern as to the money politics being played by vested interests in the PDP. The PDP is a corrupt political party so nothing is surprising here.

But the problem remains that IBB is not in any moral position to give any lesson on fiscal morality or political correctness to anyone. Here was a detested dictator who swindled an entire nation in a bogus transition programme that ran for years only to be terminated with the inexplicable annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election won by his late friend and business mogul, Bashorun MKO Abiola. The "Hope 93" exponent died in the process of resisting the military electoral banditry. Here was a professional coup-plotter who used "settlement" as an instrument of state policy! He used the money to intimidate or cow opponents into submission. So for the same undemocratic element to be talking about imaginary "fears" over money playing a decisive role in the convention is like a fake prophet pontificating about miracles or promises of paradise here on earth!

Babangida, in his prime at Dodan Barracks and Aso Rock, corrupted good manners and embezzled millions, nay billions of dollars for himself, his boys, and other elements. Today he lives in obscene opulence in Minna in a nation he abused and raped. IBB failed Nigeria and Nigerians and made the nation worse than he ever met it. So he should save us the troubles of remembering his wayward stewardship.

Recently, too, the political landscape was shaken up as the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, left the ruling APC party for the opposition PDP. The Wazirin Adamawa gave cogent reasons for his departure. Atiku's desperation to be President of the most populous black nation in the world dated back many years ago. He is a sophisticated politician with high and low connections. Atiku left the PDP because he believed the umbrella could not guarantee his political aspiration with the incumbent President hoping to go for another second term of four years. So he quit when the ovation was loudest and he was welcomed with pomp and pageantry.

The 2019 presidential election could present an interesting electoral battle between the umbrella and the broom, two northerners representing the two political formations. Buhari's health, his economic failings and the generalized confusion in his presidency could be a minus for the ruling party. The PDP has nothing to lose, so presenting a formidable candidate like Atiku could make her dream of bouncing back to power a possibility.

Today following the widely-publicized exit of the Wazirin Adamawa from the ruling party people like the embattled Deputy Publicity Secretary of the APC, Comrade Timi Frank, are talking openly of the "lack of internal democracy, disregard for the party’s constitution, irregular schedule of meetings, inability to conduct a convention, the absence of a Board of Trustees and arrogance of the party leadership" which could spell doom for the party in the 2019 general elections.

Ever since his celebrated defection Alhaji Abubakar has been campaigning hard for an opportunity to be given him to realize his legendary desire of presiding over the affairs of our nation. He has been speaking truth to power fearlessly. Recently he claimed President Buhari was once barred from entering the US because of his hardline positions on Islamic doctrines -- including shaira law. Atiku equally declared without mincing words that in the event of Buhai/Atiku confrontation come 2019 he would conveniently defeat the incumbent given the fact that the goodwill that brought him to power has since waned if not evaporated. He alleged that there was a lack of internal democracy in the APC. And accused the ruling party of failing the youths and making life harder fior Nigerians.

Atiku may be saying the right things but his political antecedents call for greater scrutiny. He has been accused times without number of corruption even though he has maintained that anyone with any incriminating evidence against him should come forward and present same. So far no one has taken up that challenge, so we must give him the benefit of doubt even though doubts still persist in some quarters of his involvement in shady deals. Atiku is smart enough to know that stealing the public funds is one thing and concealing same is yet another, a greater challenge indeed. But we recognize that if given the chance to govern Nigeria he could make a good President given his political pedigree and ability to pull forces together for a united national purpose.

The presidency has joined issues with Atiku on more than one occasion. The media team of the presidency had cause to debunk the Atiku claim that President Buhari was once barred from visiting Uncle Sam. President Buhari himself, during the recent state visit to Kano, had intensified direct and indirect attacks against his opposition opponents. His body language is telling us that, despite his fragile health, he could not resist the temptation to seek another term in power. But we would reluctantly support this desire because of what we already know about his health profile. Nigeria deserves a younger, stronger President, one who would hit the ground running from day one of his inauguration.

Between the umbrella (PDP) and the broom (APC), therefore, Nigerians must make a choice come 2019, a hard choice for better or for worse. Both the umbrella and the broom are useful but could be useless if torn (umbrella) or scattered (broom). While the umbrella is most useful during the sunny and rainy seasons the broom is used daily to sweep clean our homes and offices. Yet the umbrella could be useless if torn or beaten by age thus unable to protect one during the sunny or rainy days. And the broom whose sticks could no longer stick together due to neglect or over-utilization or one whose long sticks had been eaten up or chopped by age could be useless in any domestic task.

If one uses a torn umbrella during the rain the risk is there that he could have his clothes drenched or soaked by the cascading rainfall. And if one uses a rickety or shredded broom to conduct an environmental sanitation the risk is there as well that it would be a poor job which no one would appreciate. While the umbrella had proven in the past to be worn out the broom is too weak to offer the sanitary 'change' promised.

But there is still a problem here. The problem stems from the fact that the umbrella is torn and the broomsticks scattered. While the umbrella is claiming that it could protect better the interest of Nigerians (even during the dry season when it is not in high demand) the broom is saying that it has swept Boko Haram away and beaten the corruption scourge. 2019 may well present Nigerians with the powerful chance of deciding which of these two entities should be entrusted with the task of making the nation better.

SOC Okenwa

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