Ofeimun: The 2015 election and after (3)
Continued from yesterday
THE history also covers the hand-picking of Olusegun Obasanjo to become a President in 1999 after he purportedly signed an agreement to function as decreed by his Arewa minders. Goodluck Jonathan, who has said, like Obasanjo, that he did not sign such an agreement has been pilloried for not relinquishing his chance to an Arewa candidate as required by the exclusivists.
But what kind of country is that in which the northern bride’s chamber must produce or dictate how a President functions? Why couldn’t the APC, if it had to get a northerner, go for one who was less mired in this politics of giving back the Presidency to the North on such an egregious basis? I mean: get a decided Nigerian, with credentials for promoting inter-communal harmony, supporting educational development, advancing democratic rather than dictatorial reflexes in the public space; without a misuse of the sharia overhang, and whose credential for being an anti-corruption crusader is based on an understanding of the phenomenon which includes but goes beyond the simplistic notion of jailing those who steal, a mere case of letting the police do their work?
What rankles above all is that former ACN champions of restructuring of the Federation who used to make big noises, if not act, in favour of social welfare programmes and policies, simply abandoned their advocacies. Once they discovered the need to capture power by chumming up with the five decamping Governors of the People’s Democratic Party, they lost their ideological front. Why should such a laudable coalition between a Northern bracket and a Southern agency lead to abandonment of serious issues of social engineering! It beats the imagination. Although they may be giving the impression that nothing of value is happening, it is provable that they have been too tethered to their insufficient attention to national survival to see where the wind is blowing. Otherwise, finding themselves in the highly incongruous position of opposing the national conference that was called to correct the mish-mash that the country had become under the constitution imposed by the Nigerian militariat in 1999, they have simply allowed a poor finishing to mangle the three brilliant master strokes that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu deftly put on the road in the annals of the Fourth Republic. It is good to look at them.
The first brilliant master-stroke was in causing Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, PDP member for Sokoto, to be made Speaker of the House of Representatives against the wishes of the PDP. This laid the basis for future cooperation between factions of the PDP and the ACN. The second brilliant master-stroke was in firming a fusion between Buhari’s CPC and the ACN. The third brilliant master-stroke was in wheedling, cajoling and suborning the five decampee Northern Governors of the PDP, plus Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, to fuse into the APC. This would have been the truly unimpeachable master-stroke because it succeeded in breaking the jinx that had always spoilt common cause between North and South of Nigeria. Unfortunately, it was flawed by taking tactics so much more seriously than strategy. It became a mis-triumph. First, because in bending over backwards to achieve a mega-party status, the ACN literally lost its soul to the devil by abandoning restructuring and pursuit of social welfare, which had made it a party to watch. Yes, new friends were being made comfortable but it amounted to throwing away what had galvanized South-western politicians to claim to be followers of Awolowo, even when they reneged on too many of the old man’s ideals and principles. What was left were individualistic ploys by die-hards like Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State who held the ideological front to heart to await another day. If Governor Amosun of Ogun State, Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State, and Okorocha of Imo State, easy to acknowledge as hard-working executives, were now to be acknowledged outside the ideological context of their pursuit of restructuring and social welfare, what was the basis for differentiating them from the PDP? It reduced everything to a matter of merely wanting to capture power at the centre. A shocking way to turn mainstreaming into the virtual staple of the new progressives.
In the end, some strategic question: if a party cannot capture power, how can it implement restructuring and social welfare? But this happens to be the wrong question to ask or to try to answer. If the purpose is merely to become like the PDP which, since Obasanjo, has been no more than a party of loot-sharers, privatizing national property in the name of the masses for whom there are only laughable job creation strategies and no viable incomes policies or labour laws to match them, what are we talking about? What is worse is for people who pay attention to serious matters to be made to accost the spectacle of former ACN stalwarts in the APC; who stand upright, but silent, on the same side with jingoists of the Arewa Forum like Professor Ango Abdulahi, who simply cannot define the North but must go demanding power back for the North while opposing restructuring, the creation of new states and boundary adjustments, among the sound outcomes of the national conference! Nothing could have been more predictable than for the APC to shop for a northern candidate as a matter of course. It simply had to be Muhammadu Buhari because he had a more determined national constituency. But which Buhari? The one who has been unable to offer a nationalistic and modern solution to the problems that herdsmen constitute in communities across so much of Nigeria? Or the one who opposed the National Identity Card scheme since it could be used to prove malfeasance in census counts that northern governments had always been allegedly involved in? The Buhari whom I personally recall was the one who sent security men to seize files at my old office in Awolowo’s house at Park Lane, Apapa thus putting me in trouble with an Egba princess who said she was told by an operative that I had opened a file on her. Or was it the Muhammadu Buhari who, as a military dictator, supervised the confiscation of the free education books that LK Jakande had bought for the schools in Lagos State and caused them to be sold off in the open market? Or the Buhari who literally wasted 80 million dollars of Lagos state money by refusing to guarantee 100 million dollar loan for a metroline and thus ensured that traffic lockjaws remained the staple across our city by the lagoon. Or was it the Buhari who had given draconian jail terms to several politicians of the Second Republic for giving ten percent to their political parties but has had no contribution to the discussion of proper party finance and how to organize parties of subvention instead of the corruption-laden approaches to political money that all parties of the Fourth Republic, including the APC, have to be ritually seduced by? I am simply unable to imagine which Buhari, born again or not, who would support restructuring and social welfare programmes except as a mere vote catcher. Even if it is true that Saul can become Paul, why should one not see that, like Obasanjo who became a formidable part of an Arewa strategy only in order to knock it sideways? Muhammadu Buhari is merely employing a hoodwinking strategy to return the baton to those who said they gave power to Obasanjo and wanted it back? It is a game between Generals. After all, and it is arguable, the Arewa Governors who joined the APC from the PDP never renounced the claim that they were representing an Arewa geo-political wicket whose agenda could be just as antithetic to restructuring and the politics of social welfare as the sharia-oriented politics that Buhari had been too much a part of.
On the face of it, it has to be asked: why can’t those withdrawing enthusiasm from restructuring be made to see that there is life outside the hunt for Federal Power? Particularly, why can’t they see that it creates bad vibes for people who used to like identifying with stalwarts of the ACN in the hope that Nigerians outside the Southwest could be made to see that a party does not have to control the Federal Government at the centre for the masses to be given their due. Sadly, the lukewarm attitude to serious economic planning, and lack of enthusiasm for economic thinking of a non-profit kind, have caused even minimal policy integration of contiguous APC states to be down-played. It has become a case of using the search for Federal Power to excuse not doing the right things. To cap it, the party has consummated its abandonment of the ‘ideological front’ by the manner of its rejection of the national conference and the effort it has made, ever since, to demean the startling achievements of that conference. Now, beginning to look more PDP than the PDP, it is not surprising that in the current electioneering campaigns, the APC has not made a serious bid to differentiate its policies and programmes by unfolding rationales and implementation strategies but engages in a fish-wife’s haggle over who will make ‘NEPA’ work, end Boko Haram, and fight corruption, without realizing that what counts is to convince the electorate about how they intend to do what they are saying they want to do. It all rankles because even corruption which has had something of a peeping chance of being a proper issue in this election is haggled along lines of sheer obfuscation which suggests that, irrespective of who wins the election, the country is bound to be all mucked up in sheer fun-fooling and shadow-boxing while the proverbial cankerworm called corruption goes nuclear.
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Ofeimun, a renowned poet, is former president of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).