Wanted: A new national political party (1)
By Dele Sobowale
“All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.”
Dr John Arbuthnot, 1667-1735. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 191).
You may be young and infantile” was the title of an article in the PUNCH, on Monday, January 4, 2016, by Solaade Ayo-Aderele on page 16. Thanks to Ayo-Aderele, it suddenly occurred to me that you might also be old and infantile. Many politicians in Nigeria today, almost all over forty, are behaving, talking and acting like kids. Incredible as it might appear to thinking people, some adults are actually talking seriously about reviving the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP – which is already at the graveyard waiting to be buried. Wait for the explanation.
At the same time, some other set of adults are still operating under the illusion that there is a party called the All Progressives Congress, APC. That contraption, stitched together just to get rid of Jonathan and the PDP collapsed the day the Presidential Election results were announced. Today, even the village idiot knows that there are as many APCs as there are politicians interested in any constituency. There is Presidency APC, Senate APC, House APC, Kogi APC, Imo APC ad nauseum.
Whereas the PDP, or what remains of it, is essentially in one dreadful piece, and rapidly falling apart, the APC was a marriage of the strangest bed-fellows ever assembled together as a political party. What is so amusing, if it is not tragic for Nigeria, is the fact that at various points in our recent history, Nigerians had been warned about the political parties which were about to start ruling them. First, it was the PDP which started like a great enterprise. As Charles Peguy, 1873-1914, had told us, “Every great enterprise starts off with enthusiasm for an exalted aim and ends up bogged down in petty politics.” The PDP which started with Dr Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President of Nigeria, and thirty-three respected politicians aimed to create an all-embracing political party. The symbol – an umbrella – which was designed by Obong Victor Attah, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State said all there was to say about the ambitions of the founding fathers of the PDP.
To back up their vision of a just political party they drafted a constitution which was a model for fairness to all concerned. Had they stuck to it, there might be no APC government today.
The first test of their sincerity came on a day of donations. In one day, a man who had just been released from prison, who was almost destitute, attended the PDP’s fund raising function. Until he spoke, the highest donation was for twenty million naira (N20m) by Dr Ekwueme, who was also a presidential candidate. Then, the “destitute” got up and declared that he was donating “N100,000 to each local government [774 of them] and N50 million to party national, zonal, and state headquarters” (see my book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED pages 93-112). Grown up men, some already grand fathers, accepted N130 million from Olusegun Obasanjo, a man on the verge of bankruptcy, in 1998, without asking where the money came from. They eventually sold the presidency to the man who was going to destroy it later. With that one step they embarked on the journey taking them from the sublime to the ridiculous. Bribery and corruption became the norm within that party and bribery and corruption had wrecked it beyond remedy today.
Anyone who thinks that after starting on the murky terrain of corruption, and getting inured in it, those in charge of the PDP can now evolve a clean organization must have rocks where brains are supposed to be. For now, one reason will be sufficient. The APC government will probe so many disbursements made by the Jonathan administration and jail as many as possible and discredit the rest, such that by 2019 hardly anyone will want to be identified with the party. Political death had never been surer.
Finally, the fools who were boasting that PDP would last for 60-70 years can now be seen for what they were. Like the amateur farmer who thought a fruit was getting ripe when it was already rotting, PDP reached its climax under Yar’Adua and the jesters didn’t know it. From then on, it was downhill. GEJ just hastened the process of demolition. Now, it is complete.
“A political party deserves the approbation of [the people] only as it represents the ideals, the aspirations, and the hopes of [the people]. If it is anything less, it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.” US President Dwight Eisenhower, 1890-1969, November 7, 1956 (modified).
While PDP had taken all of sixteen years before Dr Ekwueme’s “baby” (as he called the PDP in 1998) died of swallowing its own lies, the APC developed cracks right from the day the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were elected by members of the National Assembly. Everything which had followed and other events, just developing will tear the “party” apart more and more. The palaver in Kogi, more than anything else, had exposed the illusions of a united and honest political party called APC. APC presented late Audu who still had a pending case with the EFCC. Then, they chose as his Deputy someone representing Lagos State in the National Assembly. Is Faleke from Lagos State or from Kogi? The duplicity regarding Faleke’s state of origin is obvious to all but the APC leader who imposed him on Lagosians…