By Reuben Abati,
When we wrote much earlier that the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party was a coalition of strange bedfellows and a one-chance special purpose vehicle to get rid of President Goodluck Jonathan by all and any means possible, we were accused of sour grapes. When we argued even much earlier that Nigeria’s presidential seat of power was jinxed and that there was and there is a spiritual side to power and politics in Nigeria, we were asked to shut up. The new power brokers were so much at home with their taken authority they boasted that no demons could touch them and that they were so self-secure, they were even snoring inside the Villa. Al-hamdulillahi, they have been snoring since then.
They have allowed the demons to take charge and they have stubbornly refused to listen. When we wrote again that the APC was going to implode most certainly, and that the implosion was an accident waiting to happen, they turned round after the 2018 APC Convention to say that the analysis had been proven wrong. They got a new chairman whose stock-in-trade is propaganda and volubility, but now, a few weeks later, we have been proven right. The APC is imploding, it has in fact imploded, its sins have caught up with it, its nemesis is on grand display and some characters are learning very bitter lessons. It is not for me to gloat over this but to do my duty as a professional critic of the Nigerian condition.
This, then, is not a partisan piece; it is a subtle reminder of facts. But I don’t pity the APC and its members. Their hubris is self-made, self-inflicted and self-mismanaged. They over-promised, they have under-delivered. When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, the majority of Nigerians looked up to him as the miracle man, the messiah who would help to straighten Nigeria, and who with the force of his integrity will sort out Nigeria’s moral and governmental crises. It was some kind of mass hypnotism that brought him to power because as we have seen, Nigerian was not even facing any major social, political and economic crisis of today’s proportions.
The majorities – Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani – were just tired of having a president from a minority group in power and they ganged up, gave him a bad name and got rid of him. You can argue with me over this, but I think on the whole since then, Nigeria’s minority groups have been expected to admit that their man had his own issues and so lick their wounds and seek how they can be re-accommodated into the country’s power game, not on their own terms but on the terms of the majorities. This game plan would have worked perfectly except that Buhari, who was raised to the level of a moral and leadership icon, could not live up to the bill. Nigerians have been taught one bitter lesson, through him, about power and leadership: No man can give that which he does not have. President Buhari has not been able to give what he does not have. His government has thrown up more contradictions than ever. His party is disemboweling. And I don’t pity him. I don’t sympathise with him either. What a man sows, he shall reap.
The APC ship that he captains is sinking, and some of us are giggling, for we have been proven right. Very soon, we may have the captain himself, screaming SOS and Ahoy, calling for help. In the last week, 15 senators and 37 members of the House of Representatives jumped ship. They swam across the sea to join another political party, the same party that they abandoned in 2014, that is the PDP, in what is clearly a demonstration of should I say – contrition? I know – you don’t need to remind me, that our politicians of course don’t subscribe to any ideology other than the ideology of self and stomach, and that is why these politicians always behave strangely.
Unfortunately, President Buhari has also been behaving as if he does not know or he does not care about the utter cluelessness of his team. I suspect he knows, but his arrogance is perhaps his hubris. He doesn’t care because he does not think that Nigerians are important enough.
The new APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, for example, likes to talk, and he has been talking as if his chairmanship of the ruling party puts him in charge of Nigeria. He has dismissed the obvious implosion of the APC as a non-event and I think he is just playing the ostrich. Oshiomhole talks too much. He must be reminded that he is not in an Edo village anymore as a governor and he is no longer a labour leader. He is occupying centre stage, and he has to learn to talk like a man of the centre, not as someone who a return to the village has robbed of cosmopolitan values. He would have plenty of time to talk politics, as we move towards 2019, but the manner in which he has been chewing his fingers and feet and uttering drivel is part of the problem with the APC. His drivel alone is enough to sink the APC ship.
Unfortunately, President Buhari has also been behaving as if he does not know or he does not care about the utter cluelessness of his team. I suspect he knows, but his arrogance is perhaps his hubris. He doesn’t care because he does not think that Nigerians are important enough. He projects a vision, an image, and optics of power in contradistinction to the objectives of democratic governance. How on earth would a sitting and present-minded president allow the festering of the Saraki problem, to cite one obvious example? Senate President Bukola Saraki is the biggest problem Buhari has today.
As a No. 3 citizen who has been abused, harassed and intimidated by the executive arm of government, after he was taken to the Code of Conduct tribunal and other courts, and called a thief publicly and labeled a godfather of armed robbers, Saraki is now taking his pound of flesh and has proven that he is a master of the game. Foreign diplomats now meet with him regularly and those who believe that the Buhari myth is over and ended are clustering around him. He helped to create the APC; he is helping to destroying it and he will. One lesson here is that those who come to power on the wings of conspiracy must realise, early enough, that the same conspiracy can consume them. President Buhari is a victim of the same conspiracy that brought him to power. He is at this sorry point because he burnt the bridge that brought him to power.
His failure to manage and sustain that conspiracy has resulted in the defection of Saraki and his supporters, (of course Saraki would soon defect), members of the National Assembly and the likes of Buba Galadima, who boasts confidently that they and others brought Buhari into politics. Let it be remembered that in 2014/15, Buhari was indeed a strong force in his own constituency and in the South-West. The combined force of his successful marketing in those two strongholds made his ascendancy unstoppable. But today, those who voted for him in Kano are burning the broom, the symbol of the party; and in the South-West, the main man who carried him on his back, that is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has lost significant advantages. Across Nigeria, the ordinary man is no longer impressed by the Buhari persona. In the arena of politics, at least three governors have more or less deserted the APC, namely the governors of Kwara, Sokoto and Benue and the dubious attempt to impeach the latter, that is the governor of Benue State can only strengthen his resolve and the anger of his people. Playing the ostrich would not make the problem lighter. Please tell Oshionhole and co. There are probably more fifth columnists in the APC today than there were at any other time in the displaced PDP. History, in a sense, is repeating itself.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in case anyone has forgotten, is the second military leader to return to power under a civilian dispensation; before him was General Olusegun Obasanjo. The symbolism and meaning of military exit and re-entry in Nigerian politics is that in spite of democracy, we are reminded of the continuing place of, or the intrusion of the military in Nigerian politics. Obasanjo may have kept that story alive, but Buhari has ruined whatever is left of it. The mood today is that no retired soldier is good enough for the biggest job in the land. The moral high ground that the officers claimed, the high horse that they climbed, their sanctimonious claims of being more disciplined, patriotic, and honest, in or out of uniform, has been exploded. President Buhari, for example, came to power on the wings of the claim that he will fight and end corruption, and punish corrupt persons.
The APC may be sinking with Buhari as captain but the opposition will need a strong alternative candidate and better ideas to change the game. For now, Nigerians are still where they have been in the last three years… in the valley of uncertainty.
Barely three years later, some of the worst scams ever in Nigerian history have been witnessed under his watch: His minister of finance, the equivalent of a chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK, and secretary of the treasury in the United States has been implicated in an unexplained case of forgery, misrepresentation and perjury. His minister of state for petroleum and the group managing director of the country’s oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) got into an ego-driven argument about NNPC finances and made some disturbing revelations – nobody is looking into those disclosures. A former secretary to the government of the federation was caught in a state of compromise and abuse; he got a mere slap on the wrist, he lost his position and appointed his own successor – and he has since returned to the corridors of favour; and so on and so forth. Now, even a special adviser to the president on prosecutions has been accused of forging his secondary school level certificate.
And these are all APC men, the party that promised paradise and delivered hell, even within its own quarters. Some members of the party have been boasting that whether Nigerians like it or not, the APC will win the 2019 general elections and President Buhari will be re-elected. It is most strange that members of a party leading the most populous country in the Black World in an age of democracy would step forward to make such a statement. So, why are we all obtaining, keeping and securing our voters’ cards if the APC elite is so sure that our votes mean nothing? The only explanation can only be that they are politicians and not democrats. They want Buhari back, because they are using him to serve their own interests and they are ready to commit any atrocity in his name.
As I have argued before now, President Buhari’s biggest protection lies in the legacy that he leaves behind. The people he listens to, those who claim to be his managers or handlers, those who speak for or claim to speak for him, have done incalculable damage to the minimum legacy that he can lay claim to – being the second former military head of state to serve as Nigeria’s civilian president. They insist after a fashion that he will be back in 2019 and that his legacy can be reconstructed. But here is what I think: If Buhari wins in 2019, he may have the big challenge of legitimacy to deal with. This is my point, given the tragedy of the APC ship that has capsized.
But I also think that the PDP or whatever other opposition groups that may emerge can only displace Buhari or take advantage of the failure of the APC, if they come up with a credible and acceptable presidential candidate. The APC may be sinking with Buhari as captain but the opposition will need a strong alternative candidate and better ideas to change the game. For now, Nigerians are still where they have been in the last three years… in the valley of uncertainty.
II. Governor Ortom and the Herdsmen
…the attempt to impeach him by eight out of the 30 members of the Benue State House of Assembly is yet an indication of the sinking ship of the ruling APC. What Ortom faces is the assault of political herdsmen! These guys are so desperate and frustrated they don’t seem to give a damn. Constitutionally, eight members of a House cannot impeach a sitting governor.
Samuel Ortom, the governor of Benue State, former motor-park tout, former motor-park chairman and driver, and former minister of the Federal Republic, a self-made man by all accounts, has since defected back to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This was his original party before he joined the Buhari bandwagon and became an APC man. Now he is back to the PDP, on the grounds that he can no longer condone the killing of his people by Fulani herdsmen, the biggest problem he has had to deal with as governor of Benue State.
Of course, he also has very powerful Abuja-based political adversaries like the former governor of the state, George Akume, now a senator, and others who want him out of office. Samuel Ortom is thus caught between a moral dilemma and the reality of political survival. To protect himself, with – I believe – the latter weighing more heavily on his scale of choice, he has chosen to abandon the APC. Good for him as he dances up and down.
However, the attempt to impeach him by eight out of the 30 members of the Benue State House of Assembly is yet an indication of the sinking ship of the ruling APC. What Ortom faces is the assault of political herdsmen! These guys are so desperate and frustrated they don’t seem to give a damn. Constitutionally, eight members of a House cannot impeach a sitting governor. Section 68 (1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution talks about the fate of legislators who defect from their political parties, but the entire Constitution is silent on what can be done to governors who defect from their political parties while still in office. And yet, eight members of the Benue State House of Assembly, purportedly enjoying police protection, stormed the House in Makurdi yesterday, got policemen to lock out the other 22 members and served a notice of impeachment on Ortom. Ortom does not deserve to be so shabbily treated. The so-called impeachment notice is null and void. It is worthless and stupid.
If the APC is aggrieved that Ortom has jumped their ship, the only option available to them is to go to court. Which is fine because at least one party chieftain has threatened that Ortom and any other defecting governor who refuses to drown with the APC, will be sued. But to turn the law on its head and deploy state instruments of coercion to achieve illegal ends is unacceptable in the circumstance. Oshiomhole should talk less and pay attention to matters such as this, which project him as a willing undertaker of the APC.
Reuben Abati, a former presidential spokesperson, writes from Lagos.
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