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Freightliner Laden with One-Party-State Cargo Headed Our Way

By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq.

 Published August  12th, 2010


The gale of defections currently rocking the opposition parties in Nigeria is explicable in terms not of the desire of the defectors to render service to their constituents but in terms of the essential mercenary character of the typical Nigerian politician. With few exceptions, the typical Nigerian politician is a mercenary to the core who sees politics as both systemic and systematic moneymaking business; a get rich quick adventure and an advanced form of 419 clothed with the veneer of legality and due process in officialdom.—Franklin Otorofani

In every nation may be found a clan of alarmists who seek to exploit the innermost fears of the citizens to further their political ends. This they do by misrepresenting and deliberately blowing out of proportions certain existing socio/political conditions that might be considered deleterious or have the potentials to negatively impact the lives of significant groups in the society. Nigeria is home to a burgeoning clan of alarmists whose members regularly harangue the nation with doomsday scenarios existing in their demented minds. They’re those who have already written off the 2011 elections as unmitigated disaster that would even be worse than Iwu’s 2007 elections.

This is to assure the wise and thoughtful reader who might chance upon this piece that I do not belong to Nigeria’s clan of alarmists. The caption of this piece, though screaming and somewhat foreboding, is not intended to scare or frighten the reader about an impending Armageddon in Nigeria, because, let’s admit it for once, Armageddon is there already in Nigeria.

To begin with, Nigerians are not known to be chicken hearted wimps and, therefore not easily scared or frightened. Those who have written off Nigerians as wimps for tolerating bad leaders might wonder which Nigerians I had in mind when I said that. I had in mind the activist nation that faced down and drove out of power, literarily with bare hands, a brutal, despotic and murderous military dictator in the early 90s. I was witness to that epochal triumph over dictatorship in my undergraduate days in Nigeria.

What else is out there to scare or frighten Nigerians, anyway? It’s got to be something scarier than just Armageddon to frighten Nigerians because if Armageddon is real as the Bible says it is, Nigerians have been living it and taking it regally in their strides every waking day of their lives with uncommon equanimity that amazes the rest of the world. What, with the deaths and destructions regularly visited on them by religious fanatics and arsonists who regularly torch public buildings to destroy records, crumbling buildings without earthquakes, and the daily carnage on our roads and highways; if these are not the features of Armageddon, I don’t know what is.

Yes, Nigeria may not have suffered tsunamis, mudslides, typhoons, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, storms and flooding disasters as happen regularly in other parts of the world.  She appears immune from these natural catastrophes that have decimated whole cities and populations in several parts of the world. After recent floodings that claimed several lives, China just got hit again with mudslides that have inflicted a death toll of more than 700 unfortunate souls and still counting with more than 1,100 missing as I pen these lines. May their gentle souls rest in peace.

Fortunately enough, Nigeria is spared such natural calamities that have become almost daily staple in China. But deaths and destructions she has suffered periodically, nonetheless, nearly all of which are man-made. However, it would appear that Nigeria has been spared these natural disasters for a reason. Nothing happens in the universe by chance. God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, is a God of justice and fair-play. He has spared Nigeria these natural catastrophes because Nigeria already has more than its fair share of human disasters in the persons of her leaders. It would amount to double whammy to add natural disasters to their burdens.

Therefore, whatever natural disasters that are headed Nigeria’s way are divinely deflected and rerouted to other lands that are blessed with good leaderships that are capable of handling such huge emergencies except of course, the disasters are purely punitive in nature in which case they could hit anywhere regardless of the quality of leadership available therein. 

Nigeria’s disasters are the human beings in positions of leadership whose collective actions and inactions have brought man-made disasters upon the nation. The yearly harvests of deaths and destructions unleashed on the nation by religious fanatics coupled with the graveyards in our highways and hospitals are testaments to the human disasters that have been ruling the nation. But Nigerians are a tough breed and that specially reinforced, gritty constitution of theirs, which has evolved over time has served them well to weather the storms of life in that part of the world that could sink other nationals at first contacts. Yes, the conditions in which Nigerians survive and thrive as human beings could sink vegetative citizens of other nations like rocks thrown into the ocean.

Is it Biblical purgatory following Armageddon that would frighten them?

That’s hell. Purgatory is hell in the hereafter for unrepentant sinners. But Nigerians have already been acclimatized to hell itself without knowing it. 

The essence of Armageddon is the meting out of endless punishment in the hereafter for our moral and ethical indiscretions whilst here on earth for unrepentant souls. And it is supposed to be just desserts for our sins. In other words, we deserve it as just punishment for our sins much like the just punishments meted out to wayward and unruly children by their parents. Forget for a moment that this right has been taken away from parents in some countries including the United States, thereby denying parents one of the most potent tools in parenthood. The net result, by the way, is the siring of incorrigible, uncorrectable and uncontrollable broods.

If Purgatory is deserved punishment, Nigerians have long been undeservingly living in hellish conditions that citizens of other nations cannot pass through and come out whole with their sanity intact. Many would flip, crash, and burn themselves and others to ashes as has just happened in the United States. A man who lost his job butchered his wife and murdered his own children before taking his life. A man fired from his job in Connecticut returned with a gun to murder seven of his former co-workers and was heard in his chilling 911 call lamenting his inability to take down more people. Such things are unthinkable in Nigeria with her hardened, created-for-Nigeria broods. For example, hot and humid weather conditions with temperatures of 95%F and above over a period of days is termed “heat wave” that had resulted in the deaths of several Americans, who have no access to air-conditioners forcing the government in affected cities to provide “cooling centers” for the vulnerable, including children, pregnant women, the sick and the elderly. It happened a few years back in the US and it happened again this year. It happened in France and other parts of Europe a few years back with similar reports of deaths from the heat waves.

To put in context in case the reader starts wondering how come many American citizens don’t have access to air-conditioners in God’s own country, (as if there are no poor, beggars and homeless people in the US), it’s not necessarily because they cannot afford air-conditioners per se in their homes some of which low cost units could be bought for less than $200.00 per unit at Wall-mart, but because many can’t afford the high monthly operating cost of the units in terms of electricity bills, forcing many to choose between putting dinner on their tables and installing and running air-conditioners in their homes. It’s reason why many in the urban cities with good public transportation do not own private cars due to the high running and maintenance costs, not necessarily the cost of the cars. The choice is an obvious one and they wind up enduring the oppressive heat or get help at cooling centers at the behest of their municipal governments.

Now from Moscow comes this report from the Associated Press regarding the multiple fire outbreaks that have created severe smog conditions in the city of Moscow, resulting difficulty in breathing—a serious health hazard:

“MOSCOW – Moscow authorities say they have opened more than 120 anti-smog centers as wildfires around the capital suffocate residents and ground dozens of flights.

Municipal official Vladimir Petrosyan said Sunday that exasperated Muscovites could "get their breath back" in 123 air-conditioned rooms that have opened to the public in government buildings and hospitals.

Most apartments in Moscow lack air conditioning…”

The reader would notice similarities in the weather conditions in Russia on the one hand, and in the United States and Europe described above, on the other, albeit in varying degrees with particular reference to absence of air-conditioners in most apartments and the government responses to their needs in times of emergencies. That’s evidence of caring and responsive governments that place high premiums on the welfare and wellbeing of their citizens that they’re elected to serve. People’s welfare is the reason for the existence of government in the first place and it’s taken quite seriously in all democratic nations, except of course, Nigeria. 

The same attitudinal orientation of governments in those countries informs their respective policies of public assistance to the needy in societies. These governments’ commitment to public welfare that even oil producing, third world nations like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, provide for their people, is scandalously and criminally wholly absent in Nigeria. Nigerians have always been on their own no matter what happens to them individually or collectively, as if there are no governments in the land at any level. 

Now, if people are temporarily dying of heat wave in the United States and parts of Europe, that is their Armageddon, right there. It’s their hell fire! But that is precisely what Nigerians have had to endure in permanence in the roiling, tropical cauldron for decades without end, with no electricity to power their fans or air-conditioners and no government “cooling centers” either to provide for the sick, pregnant women, children, and the elderly. They’re on their own and can’t even sleep at night under the sweltering heat wave because their own government, the very people they put in power to cater for their welfare, and who are meanwhile, enjoying air-conditioners in their homes, offices, and even in their chauffeur driven, posh automobiles procured with the people’s money, don’t give a damn about their conditions. Obviously and without a doubt, that is the attitude of a government that places zero premium on the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens. This is a general indictment of the Nigerian political class as a whole.

Please don’t tell me Nigeria is tropical and Nigerians are used to heat waves. No one deserves to suffer heat wave whether in the tropics or in the temperate world due to the absence of electricity to power their cooling gadgets for those who manage to have them, because it is brutal, unhealthy and dangerous to life. Heavens know how many Nigerians have died of heatstroke or from generator fumes innocently in their sleep. Whether it is the death zones or hospices called “hospitals” or more appropriately “mere consulting clinics” ala Mohammadu Buhari, or the graveyards that our gullied and cratered roads and highways have been converted into, or the perpetual darkness that Nigerians have been condemned to live in by their leaders, or the muddied, bacteria infested stream and well waters they have been forced to drink by their leaders, and the generally short, nasty, and brutish existence Nigerians have been condemned to, the DNA of hell shows she is unquestionably a Nigerian by birth and nationality.

Therefore, irredeemable and unrepentant sinners who wish to acclimatize themselves to the conditions in hell whilst still here on earth before crossing over to the other side to face the real deal, are hereby advised to relocate to Nigeria in their own interest for their hell-acclimatization training much like athletes do before major tournaments. It is also open to those who are not necessarily irredeemable sinners seeking to acclimatize but those who just want the taste of hell for the heck of it as part of their life experiences.

Call it “hell tourism” if you like and you would be right on the money. They will not be disappointed and satisfaction is guaranteed. The only condition attached to this is staying clear of the Government Reservation Areas (GRA)—the apartheid colonial relics that were originally designed to separate white colonial overlords from the local black populations, inherited and now used to separate the haves and the have-nots in society in urban areas. 

You think the idea of hell tourism is kind of wacky. Don’t you? Think again. Ever heard of death defying “extreme sports” where people dare death itself in the name of sports? Trust me, there’re many whackos out there particularly in the western world that would sign up for this new idea of “hell tourism” much like “space tourism” because there’s no telling what tickles the fancy of the unfathomable, restless human mind. People want to pay millions of dollars to go on tour to the red planet Mars with no guarantee of coming back to earth. It’s amazing what humans can do to themselves. Human beings have been known to starve themselves to death, blow themselves up in suicide bombings and willfully inflict extreme pains on themselves. Hell tourism in Nigeria would be no big deal for such people. And who knows, it could be the next big thing to oil in Nigeria when the whackos starts flying in with plane loads of Euros and Dollars to burn before they keep their appointments with the real hell, not its man-made equivalent in Nigeria.

What has all of this got to do with PDP run-away one party train? The reader might want to know how it all fits in. What is the nexus in the foregoing with the PDP and political parties generally in Nigeria? Everything, because these are the very conditions that these parties, especially the PDP, were contracted to fix 12 years ago but they’re in breach of performance, particularly the PDP for obvious reasons.

This is indicated in the worsening state of insecurity to lives and properties, epileptic power supply, endemic corruption, dilapidated infrastructure, poor healthcare delivery services, ineffective law enforcement, and host of other severe shortcomings. But for the progress in GSM telecommunication, it would have been an unmitigated disaster. But for a few bright spots in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Enugu, and a handful of states, it would have been a totally blighted firmament enveloping the nation. But for a few business players who are making a difference, all hopes would have been lost in Nigeria. But Nigerians should tarry a while longer because help is on the way.

While Nigeria has been spared natural disasters that have reduced whole nations to rubbles as indicated earlier, Nigeria has been visited with its own disaster in the form of the PDP and the other clueless political parties that don’t even know how to spell their own names to begin with, and always aping and mimicking the monstrous PDP all the same. They don’t hold their conventions until the PDP does. They don’t nominate candidates until the PDP does. They don’t adopt zoning until the PDP does. They don’t do internal democracy either until the PDP does. They don’t give accountability until the PDP does. In short, they don’t provide leadership in any shape or form in any area of our public life until the PDP does. And if the PDP fails to do it as is often the case, that’s it. Isn’t that pathetic?

Has anyone heard of any of the opposition parties referring its governor or party leader to the EFCC for prosecution for fraud? PDP leaders did just that in Delta state with ex-Governor Ibori now languishing in Dubai jail awaiting extradition to Britain to face trial over there. And there are many Iboris in the PDP who have been referred to the EFCC for prosecution by their own party or government. What about the opposition parties? Or, are they telling us corrupt governors and party leaders only exist in the PDP? Whenever a PDP governor or party chieftain is referred to or nabbed by the EFCC, opposition loud mouths are quick to dub the PDP corrupt while they look the other way about corruption in their own party led governments in the states they control, as if they’re all saints. Such an attitude shows their abject lack of commitment to the anti-graft war which cannot be fought only by the party at the center, but by all parties and governments from top down.

Therefore, if opposition parties in the states are presently exhibiting ambivalent and lukewarm attitudes to the anti-graft war in their own little domains only to scream their heads off from the roof tops when a PDP chieftain is nabbed, they have no moral right to castigate the PDP after shielding their own from public scrutiny. And they equally stand condemned for cuddling corruption in the land. To prove their mettle, they have to show that they are better than and not like the PDP. This they have failed to demonstrate in the past 12 years of the present democratic dispensation.

They also stand condemned just like the PDP for indulging in god-father politics at the expense of internal democracy. Again, has anyone heard of internal democracy in any of the opposition parties? It’s unheard of, and I would venture to add that imposition of candidates is the norm rather than the exception in the opposition parties. Witness how General Muhammadu Buhari emerged ANPP candidate in the two previous elections, and how Abubakar Atiku emerged in the AC in the last election! There wasn’t any pretension for party primaries. At least the PDP put up a façade of party primaries where Yar’Adua emerged. Chief Okorocha even came second to Yar’Adua in the primaries. There wasn’t anything of the sort with Buhari and Atiku. Both were merely adopted, end of story. In other words, these parties are very poor imitations of the PDP. They copy the PDP and make their copies looking worse than the original images they copied. They’ve become the flotsam and jetsam of the new political order that need to be skimmed out to make way for more vibrant, energetic, and resourceful entities to do the people’s business even in opposition, because as Chief Awolowo had demonstrated, there’s honor and service even in opposition.

At a point, you’ve got ask yourself: Seriously, are these the parties wanting to take over power from the PDP or we are expecting something else to emerge from the woodworks? It’s extremely disappointing, and indeed scary. A highly resourced nation is denuded of sound leadership materials both in the ruling party and in the opposition. Look at what Donald Etiebet has made of the once promising ANPP reduced from 9 states to an empty shell today and fast becoming a regional Sharia party. No wonder Buhari abandoned it like a sinking ship. And look at what Bisi Akande has made of the AC formerly AD, reduced from 5 states to a regional hollow drum today, obsessed with politics of personality rather than of ideas. No wonder Atiku bailed out of it like a sinking ship. Both have become shrunken old dresses. And look at what Orji Kalu had made of the PPA today, turned into a family estate before it imploded and evaporated into thin air. And I ask again: Are these the Messaiahs Nigerians have been waiting for or some other beings will drop down from heaven to salvage the nation from the current PDP?

To be fair Tunde Fashola of the AC is a performer in Lagos but I don’t know about Adams Oshiomohle of Edo state. However, a tree does not a forest make and even the much despised PDP too has star performers at the state level as in Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Cross River states, for example. But party evaluation goes beyond the performance of individual governors alone but the totality of the entire party package. How is it that a performer like Fashola is being threatened by Almighty Tinubu in Lagos state and might not make it back for a second term if Tinubu is not called to order? And no one will call him to order because he is the Alpha and Omega of the party. The Nigerian opposition deserves better image and better leaders. 

Therefore, when disaffected Nigerians are bellyaching about the PDP, the AC, ANPP, APGA, PPA, or whatever contraption that is out there donning the garb of opposition should not join the PDP bashing bandwagon because Nigerians’ dissatisfaction with the PDP does not and cannot automatically translate to their affection for the opposition parties that are in worse shape than the PDP itself. Therefore, they should shut up when we bash the PDP and quietly take away appropriate lessons to get their acts together and make amends.  Dr. Usman Bugaje of the AC, (now ACN) put his finger right on it when he was quoted as saying at its party’s convention “as we modify our name, we must also modify our ways and improve on our ways of doing politics.”

Good talk, Mr. ACN Secretary. That’s a breath of fresh air and some home truth that your party chieftains need to be told in blunt terms. But words alone do not cut it. It takes action and I don’t see the Tinubus and the Akandes who own the AC or ACN changing their colors anytime soon. Until that is done and demonstrably seen to have been done, please do not join us in bashing the PDP because your party is worse than the PDP as it is at the present with one man, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, calling the shots and all else groveling before him. The AC is one-man dictatorship that needs to shed its old clothes.

PDP—Failed Organization

Nigerians have every reason to bash the PDP for lack of performance. But opposition parties are not welcome to join me as I take the party to the cleaners for its failure of leadership as the ruling party at the center. So much was riding on the performance of the party upon the departure of the military in 1999. That the PDP has failed to live up to its billing is a gross understatement. It’s almost a total disaster and that is being charitable to it in due recognition of its little achievements in certain areas including telecommunication and EFCC which I would not deny it because fair is square.

But in spite of that the party is about seeking a renewal of its unfulfilled contract with Nigerians all because it’s the only viable national political contractor available to Nigerians at the moment to do business with, the opposition having gone under into bankruptcy and self-liquidation. For want of viable alternatives therefore Nigeria is now stuck with a party that’s behaving and acting like a performance-challenged husband who is unable to perform his conjugal obligations to his wife but yet refuses to let go off her and continually pleading for understanding and cooperation, and asking for more time to perform. And the poor wife has no choice but to remain in the unproductive marriage relationship all because there are no better suitors out there in the drained out field of institutional impotence. Nigeria is in such unproductive marriage with the political institution called the PDP that needs to be reviewed. 

A political party must exist for a purpose that transcends itself. Even ordinary social clubs and organizations exist for purposes that transcend themselves and their memberships.  And they do their very best to actualize their aims and objectives not only for the benefits of their members but of the larger communities in which they operate. You name a social club or organization that is not fulfilling or at least working to fulfill its aims and objectives and I’ll show you a dead social club or organization. And this so whether we are talking about the People’s Club of Nigeria, Rotary Club or the Red Cross or Red Crescent. It makes no difference. They’re all committed to certain social goals and work their butts off to actualize them. And we see the results of their activities which justify their existence in the first place.

However, a political party is more than just a social club or organization. It is a socio-political organization that recruits and provides leadership for the nation at various levels of governance. It’s the nation’s clearing house for political leadership recruitment. As such, the nation relies on the good faith efforts and sound, professional judgment of political parties to present competent and credible individuals for leadership positions as a corporation would expect from its Human Resources department or hiring managers when hiring to fill vacant positions, which is what elections are all about.

But even more than the above function, a political party is not just an assembly of human beings but an assembly of ideas; an aggregation of developmental ideas, philosophies, visions and the very embodiment of the goals and aspirations of the nation/state it wishes to provide leadership for. Those ideas, philosophies, visions and aspirations are properly and rigorously fine tuned, conceptualized and articulated in a party manifesto and presented to the nation for endorsement by the people at regular intervals by way of periodic elections.

When a party is voted into power like the PDP in Nigeria, the Democratic Party in the United States, or the Conservative Party in Britain, for instance, it means the majority of the peoples in these countries have vetted, endorsed and adopted the ideas, philosophies, visions and policies of these parties, and justifiably look forward to their implementation without fail. And that is the basis of the contract with the people that is sacrosanct and ought to be treated with the seriousness it deserves as it is in fact done in established democracies. Election promises are not mere verbal diarrhea or empty promises of convenience but binding, politically enforceable contractual commitments undertaken by those who voluntarily made them. How is it then that regular contractors are held to their contractual obligations and political parties are left off the hook with blatant contractual breaches? Why is it that contractual standards are not equally applied to parties in breach of performance in both cases in Nigeria, because I know they are in other democracies? How could PDP governors like Ibori, Igbinedion and Kalu, just to name but a few, who left their respective states poorer than they met them ever get a second term in the face of their woeful performances in their first terms? The usual culprit is election rigging but that’s only part of the answers. The full answers may be found in lack of political education and enlightenment on the part of the Nigerian electorate. The Nigerian electorate is still willing to sell its votes to the highest bidders. 

Now, how much do Nigerians know of the ruling party or other party’s manifesto? I would venture to say, next to nothing. How much do PDP members themselves know about their party’s manifesto? I would also venture to say, next to nothing and would even go to the extent of saying many of them haven’t even seen a copy of it, for crying out loud! What is in the PDP manifesto and how much premium does the party itself place on its own manifesto? Here again, I would say, next to nothing, which is a shame.

This party has been in power for twelve years and it is well past time to present its report card to the nation for evaluation and that evaluation is drawing nigh. To what extent can the party tell that it has left Nigeria better than it met it at the beginning? Sure, it could point to a few achievements here and there, but what radical difference has it been able to bring to bear on the material and spiritual conditions of the citizens? It is not enough to point to a few road projects; a few hospitals projects; a few educational projects, or a few water or electricity projects, for that matter. The nation should see beyond concrete and mortar projects, important as they are. What is the overarching, driving force, developmentally speaking, that is propelling the PDP as a ruling party at par with similar parties in the rest of the world? What is the governing philosophy or the ideological construct underpinning the PDP phenomenon as a ruling party? What is its contract with Nigeria?  What are its value propositions on the lives of Nigerians? What are the minimum standards of living the party would prescribe and guarantee to all Nigerians? Are Nigerians worth anything at all to the party in the first place, or it is only out to look out for its members? If not so, how is it that the PDP is growing fatter and fatter while Nigerians are growing leaner and leaner? Shouldn’t a serious party be bothered about that, that the people it leads are getting poorer and poorer while its own members are getting richer and richer at the expense of the people? And shouldn’t such a party, faced with such grim realities look itself in the mirror and have a serious conversation with itself? How is it that the shortest road to sudden, unearned wealth passes through the PDP, and not through legitimate means?  How is it that the PDP, which prides itself as the biggest party in Africa and the hope of Africa would allow itself to become a fraudulent organization? How is it that the party is not boasting of being the best, most democratic, focused, and principled party in Africa, but simply pounding its hairy chest like a chimp as the biggest party in Africa?

It’s got to ask itself, biggest in what? Biggest or largest has to be put in a meaningful context. The party has to be the biggest in something meaningful, not just its population size because size alone without value added is meaningless achievement. Is it biggest in fraud and embezzlement of public funds or biggest in ideas and development resources? Is it biggest in electoral rigging or biggest in delivering dividends of democracy to the nation? What are the metrics the PDP uses to evaluate and score itself? Is it just winning elections to corner state resources for itself and its cronies or delivering on its promises to the electorate? Is the party actually committed to moving Nigeria forward or only committed to moving its members forward and leaving Nigeria behind?

These are some of the nagging questions that must dog the path of the new PDP leadership that call for serious soul searching on the part of the PDP. After 12 years in power doing nothing but “chop, chop”, it is time for the party to redefine and chart a new course for itself in alignment with the wishes and aspirations of the nation.

Road to Self-Discovery

And I’m cautiously encouraged that its new chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo appears to have seen the light and sounding rather philosophical since he assumed office as to the new direction he is taking the party. Hear him, reproduced verbatim as reported by “The Sun” newspaper, August 3, 2010 online edition:

“In spite of my directives on my inaugural day that people should not bring “Ghana-must-go” bags to our office, they are still doing that. Anyone, who tries it again, I’ll disgrace him publicly.

“I have told our governors not to come to my house. If they want to see me, let them come to the office. Aspirants should not come again to the secretariat. Let them go and campaign, win the people’s hearts. Our primary elections’ll be transparent. You don’t need to see anybody, and nobody will change your result.”

“We now want to win their hearts– no more a winning machine, and running civilian dictatorship.”

“We want people to know the meaning of the colours of the party, its manifestos, and the umbrella symbol.
“We chose the colour white because this country has seen blood through colonialism and civil war. We want peace. We chose red because of the sacrifice of our leaders past, who fought and died for its unity.”
“This is the covenant we have with the people. Time has gone when all those things happened. All they had was a mandate to line their pockets, to remain in office at whatever cost, and to settle their godfathers.
“We are working with experts to reform and update our manifestos, to make it workable. We have to make a change. There’s nothing absolutely impossible to do in this country. PDP has resolved to call upon courageous men and women, who can do it.”
“because elections were no longer competitive, attention was focused on how to get into the cabal and share the resources of our nation.
“No one can run this party anymore as a personal property, choosing, who to belong to the party and who will not.”

This man has had an epiphany of sort like the Biblical Saul on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, which is an apt comparison because Nwodo had been part and parcel of the PDP mal-administration before he left and came back to the fold. He surely knows what he’s talking about in the PDP having been its national secretary in the past. He has, in effect, placed Nigeria’s problems, whether it is corruption, electoral woes, and ineffective governance, at the doorsteps of his own party. This is clearly a party that has totally lost its bearings now seeking to rediscover itself.

I’m not privy to the reasons Nwodo left the PDP in the first place and why he came back in the second. I do not recall him fighting for any cause in the party as say, Nnamani and his reformist group has been doing in the PDP recently. But this much I would say. It takes an uncommon courage to publicly disclose these things in a partisan atmosphere a few months to the general elections. The man is publicly admitting his party’s failure and that takes candor and honesty. It’s like the PDP is having some catharsis or an ablution of sorts. I mean this man has exposed the putrefying innards of his own party for the world to see—no cover ups, no sweet talking Nigerians, no buck passing, but a blunt, unvarnished, no holds barred assessment, and a damning verdict on his own party. What more could one have asked for from a party that got so much but delivered little in return?

Now, not only that he is doggedly charting a new direction for the party that focuses on the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry rather than those of the party chieftains, but a party where all belong on equal footing rather than governors and moneybags hijacking the party to feather their own nests to the chagrin of the generality of the people. In short, it is a party that appears poised to reinvent itself otherwise there would be no point disclosing these things if it was going to be business as usual and changes were not in the air. I don’t hear the ANPP or AC mouthing such rhetoric.

Yet as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Nwodo and Jonathan must move beyond mere declarations and statements of intent to actions by actually delivering on promises to the very best of their abilities. And I know they can do it if the will is there. As Nwodo himself has pointed out, “There is nothing absolutely impossible to do in this country!” And that is so true but the will must be there and the commitment must follow the will.

I am indeed encouraged by the courage of the Chairman in telling moneybags who come to his house with Ghana-must-go bags obviously to buy favors from him to go to hell with their obscene cargo else they would be publicly exposed and shamed. That to me is matching words with action. Was he just blowing hot to get cheap popularity or he is for real. It’s hard to tell. But I have no reason to doubt the veracity of his expose. He didn’t have to say it if he didn’t mean it. And he didn’t have to reveal it if he didn’t do it. Besides, he’s not contesting for any elective position. He has got the position already so there’s no incentive or need to for him wax popular. I want to believe therefore Nwodo appears to be a man with a mission to cleanse and rebrand the PDP going forward. Time will tell if he is just a pretender. However, there’s more evidence yet that telegraphs Dr. Nwodo’s commitment to remaking the PDP in the image of its founding fathers by supporting only performing state chief executives of the party who are actually delivering the goods in their states to their peoples as promised.

Here again is the PDP chairman: “Such governors are asset to the party and must be given all the necessary support as they fit into the PDP’s re-engineering aimed at restoring its old glory.” (Tribune 080810)

For the PDP leadership to do this, however, it must have had some kind of machinery on the ground to monitor and evaluate the performance of its governors rather than just anecdotal evidence. Such machinery if it exists and its findings must be made public to inform the citizens of the performance of their governors as part of the “re-engineering” process.

I would therefore doff my hat for the new PDP helmsman if he’s able to follow through with his agenda, no doubt with the active support and concurrence of the presidency. Fortunately, the president was the first to sound this note of change and reforms and Nwodo seems to have taken his cue from the president’s message, which is all well and good. However, the reformist promise held out by Nwodo’s leadership could be vitiated by emerging disclosures that he had held secret meetings with Abubakar Atiku, his longstanding friend, with a view to helping him secure total control of the Adamawa chapter of the PDP in aid of his presidential ambition—a development that’s reported to have caused some disquiet both in the presidency and in the camp of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida for different reasons. If there is any truth to these reports, Nwodo’s reformist agenda sounds like a hollow drum and should not be taken seriously. But I would defer judgment for now since all that could be part of political smear campaign again him. We should watch for further revelations on this issue.

Regardless, Wadata House and Aso Rock must get together and clearly spell out their contract with Nigeria. After 12 years on the saddle the PDP needs to show results not plans in all the departments of life that are troublous to Nigerians otherwise it would be courting a bloody revolution against itself, because Nigerians have no one else to blame but the PDP.

This is because for better or for worse, the party has managed to transform itself into a potential or veritable target of a potentially bloody mass revolt. History has shown that a people cannot bear their hardships indefinitely no matter how pliable and suppliant they might be, more so in this day and age where communication and information travel at the speed of light and Nigerians are daily exposed to what’s happening in other parts of the world particularly in countries that are less endowed than Nigeria.

This then is a wakeup call to the PDP to get its acts together before it winds up on the wrong side of history. Its membership success must be positively translated into dividends of democracy not for its members as its presently the case but for ordinary Nigerians in the streets. If the party cannot manage its success, it’s a sign of failure itself. Yet failure is not even an option anymore at this point in time. Either the PDP performs or face the consequences of mass revolt with all that it entails. To put in legal terms, specific performance is what is being demanded of the party now else something might give. Nigerians have invested too much of their hopes and aspirations on the party that it cannot afford to fail again if given yet another chance to deliver.    

Withering Opposition

But where does that leave the other political parties? When I posed this question to myself, I found myself wondering which political parties we’re talking about in the first place. There are no political parties in Nigeria besides the PDP. PDP is the only game in town and that’s a terrible indictment on the Nigerian opposition. The much touted, much hyped mega party to challenge the PDP couldn’t fly as predicted by this writer due to personal ambitions of Atiku and Buhari as it indeed happened in the follow up to the 2007 elections. History is about to repeat itself in 2011. They will all be confronting the PDP beast fragmented and yet expect to win. It is sheer daydreaming and they will all be back to square one whining about rigging. 

And this begs the question: how in the world did Nigeria end up with one party in a country with one of the most liberal constitutions and electoral laws that permit virtually free for all party formation and registration? How in the world did a nation supposedly with over 50 registered political parties become a de-facto one party state? Here is the answer:

Ø      Atiku Returns to PDP

Ø    Kalu Returns to PDP

Ø      PDP woos ANPP with 3 ministerial slots •As FG plans new unity govt

Ø      Chukwumerije, supporters return to PDP

Ø      Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)---to defect to the PDP

Ø      Ohakim Returns to PDP

Ø      PDP woos Abia State Governor

Ø      Senator Igbokwe of ANPP set to defect to the PDP

And the list goes on and on ad infinitum. Everyday heralds the defection of notable opposition chieftains to the PDP. And whole parties are dissolving into the PDP as did the PPA. The gale of defections currently rocking the opposition parties in Nigeria is explicable in terms not of the desire of the defectors to render service to their constituents but in terms of the essential mercenary character of the typical Nigerian politician. With few exceptions, the typical Nigerian politician is a mercenary to the core who sees politics as both systemic and systematic moneymaking business; a get rich quick adventure and an advanced form of 419 clothed with the veneer of legality and due process in officialdom.

Seen from the prism of money making, the idea of a development blueprint is an unnecessary chore and in-cumbrance to be tolerated only in so far as it is used to further the main objective of moneymaking. Thus the Nigerian politician finds in the very process of producing a development blueprint an outlet for moneymaking. He finds in the process of approving it an avenue for moneymaking. He finds in the process of executing it a chance for moneymaking. He finds in the process of reviewing the contract sum a golden opportunity to further line his pocket. He finds in the process of inspecting and monitoring its execution an avenue for moneymaking. And finally, he finds in the process of its certification of completion, a grand opportunity for a haul.

And at the end of it all, the poor man has become a multi-millionaire overnight from a single development project. After making his first tranche of millions he promotes himself to the billionaire class simply by replicating the process over and over again for as long as he remains in office, even refusing to take his annual vacation for fear of missing out on some deals or otherwise getting his underbelly exposed by those he had denied their shares of the official loot. This is the culture that has gripped the nation and it is by no means limited or peculiar to the PDP although it harbors the mega players owing to its control of the center. And that explains why the opposition is dead or dying in Nigeria. That explains the shameless defections to the PDP by those who told us only a few months ago that the PDP was dead and would be buried soon. That explains why ex-Governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu’s defection to the PDP. That explains why former VP Abubakar Atiku is back to the PDP. The lure of lucre and power is that the heart of their defections and their hearts are far from rendering service to the peoples.

 

One-Party-State

The PDP has now become a run-away freight locomotive that is threatening to impose one-party rule on Nigeria and this constitute a serious threat to democracy. Hardly a day passes without news of one opposition politician or the other decamping to the PDP. Nearly all the governors of opposition parties have fled or are considering decamping to the PDP. Opposition politicians are now jumping on board the PDP’s one party freight liner like mad men who had been lost in the political wilderness for a long time and have now suddenly found the vehicle to take them to the Promise Land. This is the greatest tragedy that has befallen the nation’s young democracy. It’s the Nigerian opposition itself that is killing the Nigerian opposition. Imbued with suicidal instincts the Nigerian opposition is self-destructing which is a far cry from what opposition was like in the First and Second Republics when the titans of the Nigerian political class were still on the stage—principled men like Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the AG and later UPN, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, of the NCNC and later NPP, Mallam Aminu Kano of the NEPU and later, PRP and, of course, Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri of the GNPP, the apostle of “Politics without bitterness”.

These men never wavered and never gave in to the lure and dictates of political survival in their principled opposition to the policies and ideological orientation of the ruling parties at the center in both the First and Second Republics. The closest one of them got to that was Dr. Azikiwe’s NCNC in the First Republic and his NPP in the Second Republic that entered into an alliance with the NPC and NPN respectively in the First and Second Republics. But even so, that wasn’t decamping to the ruling party but mere political alliance for the purpose of forming a government that’s common in multi-party set ups especially in parliamentary systems. Thus neither the NCNC nor the NPP ended up in the belly of the NPC or the NPN.

These parties had their own structures intact on the ground and went to elections on their own terms determined to wrest control of the center from the ruling party, not jumping ship. And that’s because they were, for the most part, ideologically different from the ruling party at the center. Therefore the most Zik could do was to get into an alliance, which is just a temporary, working, power sharing arrangement, not merger with an ideologically incompatible party as has suddenly become the norm in Nigeria. And the nation was better for it because it was able to tap alternative developmental ideas from the opposition parties, for example, during the Shehu Shagari’s austerity debates in the Second Republic and the Anlo-Nigerian proposed Defense Pact in the previous era that provoked serious student protests across the land that was vehemently opposed by the opposition.

The wholly mercenary, suicidal instincts of the present opposition in Nigeria cannot be blamed on the PDP no matter how much and by what means it seeks to recruit new members from the opposition to swell its ranks. It’s the prerogative of all political parties everywhere in the world to seek to expand their memberships by poaching on one another and the PDP is certainly no exception in that regard. It’s something like religious membership drive through crusades and personal contacts. It’s not different with political parties. That said, political conversion much like religious conversion must be based on something more enduring and ennobling other than just monetary and power gains as Nigerian politicians have pathetically reduced themselves to commodities rather than ideas.

Defecting to the PDP is the clearest indication yet that these erstwhile opposition party members who were most vociferous in attacking the PDP are absolute pretenders to the throne and have nothing better to offer either outside or inside the PDP than the PDP itself other than helping to turn Nigeria into a one party state. And helping to turn Nigeria into a one-party state is gross disservice to the nation. It would appear that no one is thinking about the general good but engrossed in the pursuit of individual interests. Their selfish actions have deprived the nation of robust opposition that helps to moderate democracy and prevent dictatorship. If they couldn’t make a positive difference in opposition they cannot be counted upon to make a positive difference in the PDP either. They’re simply deadwoods floating down the stream of politics ending up wherever the currents take them. 

 

Implications for the PDP

However, while the PDP might be happy with the fast withering opposition, it should not be unmindful of the implications of remaining the only real political player in the land. It’s not in the interest of the PDP to gobble up all major opposition elements in the country whether they come to it willingly on their own volition, wooed or otherwise poached by the party.

This is counter-intuitive but a necessary sacrifice that while the PDP cannot be expected to reject anyone who seeks to become its member as there’s freedom of association guaranteed in the constitution, it must nevertheless exercise utmost discretion in assisting the suicidal predilection of the opposition parties in the land by not actively going out of its way to depopulate and decapitate the opposition parties just because it has the means and the baits to throw at their disaffected members to lure them out.

This might be a tall order for a party that seeks to remain in power for as long as it takes, which is a legitimate desire on the part of any political party in the world, but the PDP must exercise self-restraint in order for our young democracy to survive and thrive since the Nigerian opposition has chosen the ignoble path of self-destruction. The PDP should not be involved in assisted suicide. If they must, let them crash and burn on their own internal fire and not assisted by the PDP to commit suicide. 

One of the immediate implications of a one party state is denying the nation alternative viewpoint, which is necessary and important ingredient of a functioning democracy.  This is in recognition of the fact that a one-party state as existed in the former USSR and currently exists in the People’s Republic of China is not a democracy and it does not pretend to be one. It’s an authoritarian system out and out that has nothing to do with democracy. The essence of democracy is political competition not monopoly. And competition must not only be intra-party, but more importantly inter party. When competition is stifled or snuffed out whether by default or by design, at either or both levels indicated above, it signals the death of democracy.

And as pointed out in my previous blog, this is one of the reasons why the odious zoning proposition of the party must be smashed into smithereens with sledge hammer for its monopolistic and constrictive bearings and bringing the party’s constitution in line with the nation’s constitution that guarantees equal rights to the citizens to vie for any elective position in the land including the presidency. That’s the irreducible minimum. There’s no if, when, or maybe, in this matter. We may choose to dance around it like some kindergartens, but as far as the constitution goes, it’s cut and dry.   

The PDP would be degrading the nation’s promising democracy if it were to emerge as the sole dictator in the land whether by design or by default. Nigeria’s claim to leadership in Africa would be severely called to question if all it has to offer to the rest of Africa is a one party dictatorship. The days of one-party states in Nigeria as was in Tanzania, Ghana, and Zambia under the late Presidents Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, and Kenneth Kaunda, respectively, are over in Africa and over for good. It’s perhaps fair to state that Africa has opened a new chapter of multi-party democracy since the last decade and going forward. And Nigeria which prides herself as Africa’s leader shouldn’t be the one to turn back the hand of the clock.   

Secondly, being the only party will make the PDP the sole target of anti-government protests and demonstration and will therefore have to bear the brunt of the people’s anger when things go wrong because the buck stops at its desk, such that even the failures of others will be blamed on it due to its monopoly of power.

Thirdly, the PDP will have to bear the burdens of development all by itself rather than sharing it with other parties as it is at the present.  Presently, the PDP has neither the organizational structure nor the administrative and intellectual or even ideological capacity to effectively handle these burdens. This is not to suggest that there are no intellectuals or ideologues in the PDP as individuals.  But the PDP  as a party is not ideologically and intellectually equipped to match the achievements of the Communist Parties in China and the former Soviet Union and that’s why it is unfocused and changing policies like the flowing Agbadas (flowing robes) of its chieftains. For instance, OBJ came with NEEDS only for Yar’Adua start dismantling his policies and replacing them with his so-called seven-point program. There’s no policy fidelity, continuity, and discipline focus on existing policy implementations by the PDP like the Communist parties in China and the former Soviet Union. And that’s largely due to its lack of ideological foundations like those which define the Communist parties. PDP is operating in an ideological vacuum or the ill-defined, amorphous ideological potpourri inherited from the military, which neither here nor there. 

Yet it will be expected to deliver just like the Communist parties nevertheless. It will be recalled that the Soviet Communist Party turned the USSR into a superpower within a few decades after being the first to go to the moon after the 2nd WW. And the Communist Party in China is now well on its way to replicating the Soviet experience in China. China is posing serious military and economic challenge to the West far greater than the former USSR, which challenge was basically military not economic, for the most part. Unlike the PDP these parties and their outstanding achievements are rooted on sound and clear ideological philosophies that are clearly absent in the PDP. The PDP is totally bereft of any ideology except for the primordial ideology of the stomach which it shares with lower animals. The PDP could do the same without going communist and repressive. All that is possible with a multi-party democracy as the Asian Tigers have clearly demonstrated. But clear vision and mission are called for. 

The ability and capacity of the PDP to set its sights higher up and look beyond narrow self into the national horizon to behold a land of endless opportunities, justice, and equal rights for its citizens, and unfettered commitment to public good as opposed to individual or group interests therefore, presents a daunting challenge to the PDP as the ruling party going forward. It is best to capture its vision in an ideological capsule.

President Goodluck Jonathan and Chairman Okwesilieze Nwodo must seize this historical moment with both hands not only to remaking the PDP in the image of its founding fathers, but to the remaking Nigeria in the image of her founding fathers—an egalitarian society and a land of boundless opportunities, freedom and justice for all. And this is wishing the duo God’s speed.

Franklin Otorofani, Esq. contact: mudiagaone@yahoo.com




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