In Nigeria, democracy is in turmoil.
Although it has been long in coming, the exodus of governors from the main opposition party, PDP to the ruling party, APC which has been steering the ship of state at a time that a vast majority of the population is experiencing crushing poverty, unprecedented insecurity of lives and properties as well as the deepest ethnic and religious divisions: the gale of defections by opposition party stalwarts into the ruling party tends to suggest that the fortunes of the APC are growing in leaps and bounds.
And it is a phenomenon that is stranger than fiction, simply because, if a ruling party’s scorecard is nothing more than a misery index of colossal misfortune that has befallen the electorate as opposed to a celebration of positive dividends of democracy which the masses should be enjoying, what qualifies the party to be attracting members like butterflies to nectar? By this time during the 2015 election circle, opposition parties were busy combining forces with a view to ousting the ruling party. But the opposite is the case today as the ruling party seems to have a magnetic force pulling opposition politicians into its orbit.
Presently, the reason for the strange phenomenon of PDP party members cross carpeting in droves into the APC has been difficult to phantom by not only ordinary Nigerians but even by pundits. And my goal is to figure out the piece of the missing puzzle in this intervention by scrutinizing the cause and effect of such phenomenon in the past, if it ever occurred, with the hope of unraveling the political development that seems as complex as famous Bermuda or the Devil’s Triangle.
While the PDP chairman, Uche Secondus has boiled it down to intimidation by the APC which controls the instruments of coercion-DSS, EFCC, NIA, Police force, armed forces, etc that are allegedly being used to clobber opponents in the head, president Mohammadu Buhari, in a recent whimsical comment, apparently believes that the exodus of opposition politicians into the party that he leads is a reflection of the love that Nigerians have for him.
That allusion was made in his speech while receiving the report from the summit on security conducted by the House of Representatives and presented by the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila. And the narrative about the great love that Nigerians have for president Buhari which is responsible for the good fortune of the APC has been reiterated by Garba Shehu, the presidential spokesman who made a comment to that effect during Sallah celebrations in Daura, Mr president’s homestead in Katsina state.
In my view, the conclusions reached by both the PDP chairman, Secondus, and APC leader, President Buhari as well as his image-maker, Shehu are ephemeral and only skin deep.
The real reasons for the strange political developments in Nigeria are yet to be phantom.
And l would like to argue that the shifting of the political tide in the opposite direction or against the run of play in Nigeria is simply a symptom of the fact that democracy as we are practicing it today, has lost its values, fervor, and bearing. In other words, like a meal without salt and pepper which is usually tasteless, politics in Nigeria is now clearly bereft of philosophies or principles hence the traditional or natural lines between the conservatives and the progressives no longer exist.
And it is the underpinning reason that a majority of Nigerians have the mindset that the former ruling party, PDP (1999-2015) is fundamentally the same as the current ruling party, APC(2015-2021 and counting).
In fact, whenever APC leaders call out their PDP counterparts by labeling them as corrupt or inept, l instinctively wince or grimace. That is because it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black since Nigerian masses generally believe that politicians of both the ruling and opposition hues and persuasions are the architects of their misfortune since nothing differentiates them.
The controller general of customs, Hamid Ali, who is the leader of the vociferous Buhari support group had in the past lamented loudly that the former members of the PDP have taken over the APC. And apart from the splinter group of the PDP led by a former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, and a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki that merged with the APC during its formation stages, the continued exodus may be linked to the exhortation by the immediate past chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole and the presumed unwritten code of the ruling party, to the effect that those who join the APC would have their ‘sins forgiven.”
In plain language, the ruling party dangled a carrot to politicians from the former ruling party that if they join the current ruling party, the probes/ investigations into their period of stewardship, would be dropped. Since it is a claim that has not been denied by the ruling party, and in fact, for those who have taken advantage of the offer, the promise has been kept, it goes without saying that the third arm of government, is most likely being complicit in killing democracy via sleight of hand.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing scenario, it is not difficult to see why the ranks of the APC would swell and reflect more of the identity of the former ruling party PDP, which triggered Hamid Ali’s lamentation about the apparent blending of
the APC and PDP.
Invariably, most Nigerians are struggling to come to terms with the reality that the APC and PDP are fingers of the same leprosy infected hands -apologies to Bola lge, the assassinated former attorney general of Nigeria and one-time governor of Oyo state, who coined the phrase after a former military head of state, army general, SANNI Abacha formed political parties to advance his intended transmutation from a khaki uniformed soldier to an agbada wearing politician, which never materialized due to his sudden death.
Bearing in mind that multiple political platforms with very distinct and diametrically opposed ideologies, philosophies, and orientations had been present in the Nigerian political
environment since the formative years of the country from as far back as 1923 when the NNDP was founded and subsequently, NCNC, NPC, PRP, AG, as well as the time GNPP, UPN, and NPN sprang up, the current fusion of APC and PDP has been so seamless that the long-suffering Nigerian voters are still trying to figure out how to distinguish between conservative and progressive politicians. That is likely why the recent defections by three governors and a host of legislators from the opposition to the ruling party have not been greeted with outrage and indignation by the electorate that should feel disgusted and betrayed by their unprincipled political leaders that are engaging in the musical chairs now playing out.
What this implies is that while the five legacy political parties-CPC, ACN, ANPP, splinters of APGA, and PDP that merged to form the APC in 2013/14 with the sole purpose of snatching power from the PDP happened in the full glare of Nigerians, it would appear that after accomplishing the mission of taking over the reins of power at the presidency level in 2015, the APC seems hell-bent on making Nigeria a one-party-state without the consent of most of the electorate. That is because the mission of attracting opposition politicians into its fold has been conducted in subterfuge as Nigerians were never invited to debate whether or not, one-party-state is their preferred political system. In my reckoning the process of reducing our beloved country to what is looking like a one-party-state was consciously or otherwise triggered by the Independent Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, (currently subject to the dictates of the presidency and National Assembly if the amended electoral law is assented to by president Mohammadu Buhari) when it pruned down the number of political parties in Nigeria from 93 to 18 in 2020.
With that drastic reduction, the political space became constricted.
And combined with the ‘if you join the APC your ‘sins’ will be forgiven ‘sermon’ by then presiding high priest of the APC, Adams Oshiomole, and buoyed by the invitation to treat by ruling party offered by mallam lsa Funtua (of blessed memory) via his preachment on Arise tv on January 3, 2019, that the Igbos have to ‘belong’ if they want a member of their ethnic group to be the next president of Nigeria in 2023, the ruling party which is increasingly looking like a cult, is now bestriding the political environment like a colossus. Incidentally, the tantalizing invitation that Isa Funtua extended to the Igbos has recently been re-issued by president Buhari in the course of his recent earth-shaking interview with AriseTv when, in response to a question posed by his interviewer, Rueben Abati, he made a statement to the effect that if the Igbos want to produce the next president, let them join the APC.
Given how irresistible the offer by Mr president is, Nigerians need no soothsayer to prophesy to them how the APC’s grand design to maintain her vice grip on the levers of political power in the foreseeable future is about to come to a full circle.
Be that as it may, it is gutting that the suspected intentions of the ruling party to hold tightly onto the reins of power far beyond 2023 may not be a reward for their good stewardship.
Rather, it is increasingly looking like it would be via subterfuge or perfidy as signposted by the strange political phenomenon that has evolved in the past six (6) years of the APC calling the shots in Aso Rock Villa.
Let me be clear.
The APC goal of remaining the ruling party for as long as it can keep winning the votes of the majority of Nigerians fairly and squarely is not the problem if it was planning to accomplish the goal through her good work as a ruling party. But going by the prevailing circumstances in the polity: (1) no evidence of the abundance of dividends of democracy such as peace through ethnic harmony and unity amongst the federating nationalities(2) no progress and prosperity of the citizens owing to the high level of insecurity of lives and properties all over the country (3) no equitable distribution of political
power via inclusiveness of all ethnic groups irrespective of their creed resulting in the agitation for the break up of Nigerian (4) no tolerance by the federal authorities for dissent as reflected by the clampdown on protesters and arrest of protest organizers.
Given the political atmosphere described above, the chances of the APC being re-elected fair and square in 2023 is very doubtful.
Realistically, a political party that has midwives the present atmosphere of anomie and anarchy that has taken hold everywhere in Nigeria, from Kaura-named in Zamfara to Zango Kataf in Kaduna state; and from Nembe in Bayelsa and Bakassi in Cross rivers to Idiroko in Ogun states, can not expect to be voted back to Aso Rock Villa in 2023.
Without being unmindful of the fact that in politics anything can happen within a short space of time, it would appear that the mission of the APC to self perpetuate through its presumed plan to remain the ruling party after the exit of President Buhari in 2023 is likely to be executed through a perverted process.
And that presumption or perception by a cross-section of the Nigerian public is validated by the action of APC legislators that before proceeding on Sallah break voted against electronic transmission of results of elections in the course of amending the Electoral Act 2010.
Without any doubt, that action clearly puts democracy in Nigeria on a slippery slope.
And little by more, the ruling party would be softly killing democracy.
That is assuming that president Buhari signs the bill as it is.
But I’m optimistic that in light of the public outrage against it, the ideal and honorable thing for Mr president to do is send it back for review by a conference of the legislators of both the upper and lower houses of parliament in the full glare of all Nigerians via a live television broadcast of voice vote by all the 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
It is one way that transparency and legitimacy can be conferred on the system and president Buhari can sustain his ‘Mai Gaskiya’ persona that has become so sullied by the actions and inactions of his henchmen that are being attributed to him and which owing to his reticence are hardly debunked, as such they are sticking to him like a badge of dishonor which is avoidable, more so because he had a burnished image before dabbling into the very dirty world of party politics.
It may be recalled that in order to confer credibility on its election process in 2013, members of the powerful governor’s forum resorted to an open voting system in the full glare of Nigerians via a live television broadcast of the event when the battle for the chairmanship of the politically strategic forum was fought between then-incumbent Rotimi Amaechi, then Rivers state governor and the arrowhead of the dissident governors that fell out with then-president Jonathan, preparatory to the exit of the PDP stalwarts and their joining of the main opposition party, APC.
Since the National Assembly, NASS is currently in a similar space as the credibility of its process of canceling re-transmission of election results is being called to question, the least that the lawmakers have to do now is strive to win back the confidence of citizens. It can do that by showcasing its sensitivity to the interests of its constituents in order to prove the efficacy of democracy as a veritable vehicle for progress and prosperity through a revisit of its position on the re-transmission of election results.
Evidently, most Nigerians are now accustomed to the reality that the majority of our politicians are only pursuing their personal interests driven by self-survival or the quest for the next job/ public office to occupy after the current one. That attitude is antithetical to the pursuit of the broader agendas of instituting policies and programs that would be in the best interest of the majority of Nigerians for the greater good of society which is the mandate that they swore an oath to uphold. While l have no doubt that President Buhari is intent on ensuring that APC remains the ruling party, (at least that was implicit in his Arisetv interview)l am not convinced that he is privy to the suspected plots to make it happen by hook or crook. So l am optimistic that he would align with the feelings of the majority of Nigerians who would like him to weigh in with a view to building on the improvement of the integrity of elections in Nigeria that president Umaru Yar’adua of blessed memory started by instituting the justice Lawal Uwais committee that was charged with the responsibility of strengthening our electoral laws after he admitted that the elections that ushered him into Aso Rock Villa in 2007 were flawed.
It may be recalled that it is based on the work of the Uwais committee, that the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan also introduced the concept of electronic accreditation of voters using the Permanent Voters Card, PVC, and the Electronic Card Reader Device which was used in the 2015 election that ushered Buhari into office as president. Obviously, there were instances whereby the card readers failed to function effectively, (even in Otuoke, Jonathan’s voting unit) yet the election was deemed to have been successful and credible. It is even alleged in some quarters that over half of the results that were relied upon for the declaration of Buhari as the winner in the presidential polls in 2015 were obtained after substituting or overriding the card reader machine with manual accreditation. And the process was prevalent in the northern part of the country which is then-candidate Buhari’s political base.
According to a report citing one of the democracy monitoring civil society organs, the incongruity was enough to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election of President Buhari back in 2015. But rather than do that, one of the five concepts of democracy “Acceptance of The Necessity of Compromise” was allowed to take precedence.
As such, despite the glitches from the card readers, the election was adjudged to have been successfully conducted and therefore acceptable. So what accounts for the current determination of the APC and her lawmakers to renounce the confidence that they had reposed in the use of technology-PVC card readers machines- which the party leveraged for a ride into Aso Rock Villa in 2015?
Is it not sheer hypocrisy that the same pattern of protests via rallies and the use of social media which the APC as an opposition party leveraged to hound the PDP out of office are now being outlawed with anti-hate speech law in the making, even as a yet to be ascertained number of #Endsars youth protesters were allegedly killed by the military at Lekki toll gate and around the country in October last year?
Why is it that peaceful protest organizers like Omoyele Sowore are being arrested, brutalized, and arraigned just as the organizers and attendees of the recent Oduduwa nation campaign were teargassed with one person reportedly shot dead in the manner that thousands of Igbo agitators for the creation of a nation of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB are reportedly being hunted down like animals and killed in cold blood? Do the highlighted instances not amount to trying to kill democracy by the denigration of its values by the ruling party? Are these acts of perfidy against democracy isolated or a coordinated effort, (including the disregard for the principle of federal character enshrined in the 1999 constitution in the appointments into public office) to convert Nigeria into a one-party state or an Aristocracy or even a monarchy like Morocco or Saudi Arabia?
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