The PDP, Governors’ Forum and Democracy
LAST week’s return of Rivers state governor, Chibuike Amaechi, as chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), despite the desperate effort by the Jonathan presidency to stop him, represented a major kick in the groin for President Jonathan Goodluck.
A significant plank of the maneuver for the presidential battle in 2015 suffered an embarrassing reverse, despite the concerted effort put into the venture to stop Amaechi’s return. But in the bad-tempered response of the pro-Jonathan governors, as represented by Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state, we caught a whiff of the danger which the hawks of the PDP represent to democracy consolidation in Nigeria.
If 35 governors took part in an election and the votes were split 19 to 16; an election which was recorded and has now become available on many news sites on the internet, it is clear that these individuals who would not manage their response to a vote by 35 individuals, would certainly do anything to subvert a national election which does not go their way.
And that is what we have lived with since 1999: a systematic theft of elections which have enthroned, arguably the most irresponsible ruling elite, on the African continent today.
The PDP and its denizens are desperate to clear every hurdle on the path of Goodluck Jonathan’s candidacy in 2015, and they are managing the effort so incompetently and crudely, largely because their potential candidate still has his work cut out for him in the lead to the electioneering process to come.
On the one hand, the records of governance have been pitiably poor; the president has alienated most of the country and he has been frighteningly divisive, with a propensity to exploit the fault lines of Nigeria. Take the NGF election, for instance.
It was first rumoured that his preferred candidate was Governor Shehu Shema of Katsina; then a few days to the election, the newly anointed candidate became Isa Yuguda of Bauchi and finally, on the day of the election, Jonah Jang of Plateau, who is an emblematic expression of divisiveness, all of a sudden, became Jonathan’s preferred choice to lead the NGF. It came as no surprise when Amaechi defeated Jonah Jang!
Monopoly of power
It was the much-lamented Chief Sunday Awoniyi, who provided the best description of what the PDP evolved into, in its years of monopoly of power in Nigeria. Under the stifling control of Obasanjo, with its unresolved assassinations of political operatives, he said the party had become a basket of scorpions, all stinging themselves to death. In the period since that apt description, things have evolved beyond the wildest imagination.
The PDP is suffering the fatigue and degeneracy associated with a long residence in power. What unite its members are not grand ideas, but naked, irresponsible and unaccountable power in order to facilitate grand larceny against the Nigerian people.
They know that they have a whole lot to lose if they are kicked off their perch. But the vicious rivalry within the conclave has become so destructive, largely because so many of the members are genuinely worried that President Jonathan is just not up to scratch as a candidate. On the other hand, the power of incumbency is so enormous, that there is no reason why it should not be wielded.
Those who do the president’s biddings from Tony Anenih, the party leadership through to the governors, like Akpabio, believe that is where they can find cover for their own ambitions too. Not to talk of protection from the anti-graft agencies!
When people like Atiku Abubakar called on founding fathers of the party to rally, in order to save the PDP from itself, he probably believed that the party can still somehow, re-discover the basis for some dubious idealism. But the PDP is far too lost in its new ways.
It will do only what suits the president and for as long as the route can be cleared for Jonathan’s 2015 ambition, no loss along the way, will be seen as too much. The intention is for Jonathan to run in 2015, and that alone will justify whatever damage might have been inflicted upon the party, the state structure, the democratic process and Nigeria.
When Tony Anenih boasted that when the time comes, the PDP will do what it knows best, maybe a lot of people did not take note of the implications of the statement. Those who were defeated at the NGF elections were acting their part of an elaborate script; they could not be bothered about the niceties of democracy and decency. They displayed a doctored piece of paper, as evidence of ‘endorsement’ of the defeated Jonah Jang.
And in the days since, the diminutive man has added a new line of blasphemy to Nigeria’s anti-democracy lexicon. God, he said, backs a successfully rigged election, such as the brazen effort to enthrone him chairman of the NGF.
To further the charade, President Goodluck Jonathan’s Man Friday in Bayelsa, Henry Seriake Dickson, bought pages in Nigerian newspapers, to congratulate Jonah on his “emergence” (not election!), as Chairman of the NGF. The suspension, early this week of Governor Amaechi, just underscores how vicious is the bite that the Jonathan camp is willing to inflict on perceived opponents of the man’s ambition.
They will not take any prisoners. In this type of politics, the most useful opponent is the one that is completely routed. The incredulity of the action led even the normally pro-PDP THISDAY newspaper to lead its Tuesday, May 28, 20103 edition, in a most pithy manner: “For PDP”, it said of Amaechi’s suspension, “it is punishment before investigation”!
What we have witnessed in the past week is merely a peek into the next two years of political life in Nigeria. Unfortunately for the Nigerian people, in all these naked expressions of power politics, not for once, will the political gladiators give themselves the pause to think about our best interests. The people just do no matter in all the calculations to acquire power and hold it firmly, any which ways.
Kwankwaso and Bola Tinubu: Timely gesture
LAST weekend, the former governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu, was given an honorary degree by the Kano State University of Technology in Wudil. The university was established during Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso’s first tenure, between 1999 and 2003.
The occasion brought to Wudil many politicians from the southern part of Nigeria, who probably were visiting that part of Northern Nigeria for the first time! I have always had a very ambiguous view of Bola Tinubu’s politics.
But in recent times, I have come to view more favourably, the work he has done together with other politicians from around the country, in trying to build a new platform for politics in our country. I do have reservations about the APC contraption being cobbled together, but there is no gainsaying the fact that Nigerians want a new platform that can challenge the hegemony of the PDP. In APC, an effort has been made to bring together political tendencies that one would have argued in the past, can never come together.
But the imperative of the day in Nigeria is to think outside of divisive prejudices which have kept us divided for a very long time. In that effort at building new alliances across regions; across political traditions and tendencies, Bola Tinubu has played a very central role.
Although wedded to the regionalism that had strong secessionist proclivities for a long time, I believe that Tinubu’s politics now has a more pan-Nigerian, content today and is more in tune, with the needs of contemporary Nigeria. It is this backdrop, which made Governor Kwankwaso to host Bola Tinubu’s honorary degree.
It was a timely gesture that speaks to the yearnings of Nigerians to defeat the divisive politics that was embedded in the exploitation of the ethno-religious fault lines of Nigeria.
The frustrations of the years since 1999, have not left out the mass of the Nigerian people, North or South, Muslim or Christian; it is this background which is driving people towards a new definition of politics. Politicians like Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Bola Tinubu are now responding to the challenges of the times in Nigeria. But they will do well to stay the course!
Jigawa’s green shoots of growth
THIS morning, the First Jigawa Economic and Investment Summit opens here in Dutse, the state capital. The planning for this elaborate summit has been on, for the better part of the last three months, and it brings together intellectuals, technocrats, investors and politicians from all over Nigeria.
I have been invited to participate as a rapporteur at the three-day gathering, along with other colleagues from around Nigeria.
The government of Sule Lamido has very grand hopes to make this state one of the leading investment destinations in Nigeria; and already, Jigawa is ranked as about the best place to do business in the country. Here they want to do even more! I have been travelling back and forth to Dutse in the past two months, working in a Technical Committee to help establish a state-owned television service and each time that I have been back here, I get the impression that there is admirable commitment to the public good on the part of a government which sees itself as organically connected to the wishes of the people and is also sworn to upholding the best interests of the people of this state.
It is this background which has also informed the amount of work done to arrive at the summit which opens today. The possibilities are enormous for the economic development of this state, with its rich agricultural potentials; the diverse mineral deposits and the increasingly attractive opportunities for commerce with the incentive environment.
The old saying that if we all do a little, we can achieve a lot still applies; all over Nigeria, there is a yearning need for initiatives like this, that concentrate the best minds and capacities for the creation of economic opportunities.
Ours is a very young country, in terms of the demography and it is very vital to open up opportunities for rapid economic development that create jobs and opportunities. In Jigawa, there are significant shoots of growth which give hope and the economic and investment summit opening up today, represents something very creative and useful.