Sometimes you just know it when something is not right. The uneasy feel, instinctive and intrinsic feelings are all tell-tale signs of an obvious anomaly and are sometimes needed to be relied on as clear pointers to outliers.
The recent election in the National Assembly is one of such times. When news broke that Dr Bukola Saraki had been elected senate president; my initial thought was that of surprise but content. I was content because just like the presidential statement, released shortly after the inauguration of the 8th Senate stated, it had been my view that a constitutional process had taken place, an election had been conducted and an outcome decided. I had thought that Dr Bukola Saraki had won a straight forward election. It was not to be.
As soon as more details emerged, my content soon turned to surprise, unease and to be honest disappointment. Dr Bukola Saraki had indeed won the election, but he had traded with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to emerge with a victory that made my stomach turn.
I was surprised because I had taken it for granted that Dr Bukola Saraki, a thorough bred politician and professional would in the end toe the party line, the line of the majority in the party that brought him to power and which he helped bring to power. I had thought that just as any politician would probably have done; all he would do was to grand stand till the last minute and wait for the party to flinch and in the face of an unflinching party, drop his ambition and toe the party’s line. My disappointment also stemmed from the fact that most of the APC senators were not in the senate chambers when the elections took place. There just seemed a lot of desperation in Dr Saraki’s play. Dr Saraki had secured his mandate through an unholy alliance with the once formidable PDP, an alliance that took most patriotic watchers by surprise and which I observed with intense astonishment and profound disbelief. That Senators Ike Ekweremadu and David Mark, two of the most prominent faces of what PDP meant to the Nigerian people, were promoted on the same ticket as that of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was an act as egregious as it was damning.
It was a stark reminder of the malady that has plagued Nigeria for many decades; a chronic malaise that has ensured that the country is looked at by friends, neighbours and the world at large as a glaring and blatant example and model of what it is to underachieve. How can it be that a politician, any politician worth his salt would collude so sinisterly with the same party he had campaigned strenuously to the electorate against; an election where lives were lost, properties burnt and billions of Naira spent? How can it be that any one, politician or not would find it acceptable to work in ways that portray unprofessionalism, indiscipline and disruptiveness? There are people who want politics to be portrayed like this. They would be the first to say: ‘oh this is Nigerian politics for you’… ‘In politics all is fair’… ‘No permanent friends or enemies’… ‘Politics is all about intrigues’… and other stomach churning narratives.
For the avoidance of doubt, politics and politicians do not have to be this way. Anyone can be traitorous, treacherous and perfidious. However, it takes men and women of character to do right not just in politics but in any profession. There can and there should be honour in politics and amongst politicians. When looked at in the appropriate perspective and in its intended form, politics should be seen as one of the noblest of professions.
Without mincing words, what transpired at the inauguration of the 8th Senate was a crude slap in the face of those Nigerians that worked incredibly hard to change the face of politics in Nigeria by pushing the PDP out of power. People forget how powerful the PDP was, transcending our lives in ways that no political party has ever done since independence. It was a devastating setback to Nigerian democracy.
With the election of Buhari and the ascension to power of APC with formidable characters like Chief Oyegun, Bisi Akande, Bola Tinubu, Kwakwanso, El-Rufai, Adams Oshiomole, Raji Fashola, Rauf Aregbesola, Ibikunle Amosun, Ogbonaya Onu, and others, most Nigerians – and with good reason – had begun to look patiently into the future; a future where a political party with an overriding moral conscience might slowly but steadily reverse the assured descent of the country into alarming anarchy, cataclysmic ruin and ominous deterioration. Make no mistake, the party APC must as an extreme priority and supreme obligation react in the strongest way possible to this clear attempt to undermine it. If the APC does not respond to this absurdly ridiculous and unashamedly wayward behaviour, then it may just be the beginning of the end. Maybe not quite the end but the end will surely come; it may be in two years, four years or even ten but these events or the lack of a harmonised, cogent and convincing response to it will lead to its implosion and ultimate demise.
What needs to be done? Those who have chosen to go into this dubious alliance that has tainted the party, perhaps irreparably, should first be given a chance to submit themselves before a high level disciplinary committee set up by the highest organs of the party to defend themselves. Those that have gone against the party’s collective decisions must be made to pay. They must be made to pay with the same positions they usurped. Anything less than this will only nurture a rebellious ethos and philosophy as well as a culture of non-compliance within the party which will fester and spread with negatively portentous consequences. I had written an article a long time ago about the principle of collective responsibility and binding decisions. APC as a party will only be able to move to the next level when individuals are de-emphasized and the party is institutionalised and potent enough to make and enforce collective decisions.
For those who love the party, now is the time to act. Strong leadership is also needed at this point. President Buhari needs to understand that the position he holds necessitates that he wields his influence. I’m sure we would have all wished that the president’s intervention would not be necessary but it is. It would be most ideal for the president not to get involved, like in more developed democracies. The glaring reality is that we are not there yet but the president can gradually set us on the path to practising our politics like in the more developed countries. For now, the system is still too weak and our politics too vulnerable for the best candidates to emerge without a little push.
President Buhari of all people should understand this. He was considered the best candidate for the APC ticket not because he was the most eloquent of persons or the most cerebral or modern but because his qualities of honesty and sincerity of purpose and strong will were the most important qualities needed at this time in Nigeria. Had Buhari been left to the elements of politics and politicians in Nigeria or had the field been made level, he would never have emerged the APC candidate. Just like the brilliant Fashola would never have emerged Governor of Lagos, a professor of law would never have emerged vice president; people like Fayemi, Amosun etc. would not have emerged. They all emerged through what I will call an ‘affective influence to promote the natural order’ with the natural order should being that the rest of us should be governed by the best of us. It was a failure of this affective influence that produced a crank as governor of one of the most cerebral states in Nigeria. This affective influence to promote the natural order made patriotic characters feel the need and galvanised Nigerians to see the need to vote for and bring back a retired army officer who had been very easily, I must say and unceremoniously pushed aside by his colleagues. In a clime where the electorate sell their votes, card readers are openly sabotaged, where ballot boxes are snatched, where INEC officials are compromised, where there are more law enforcement officers that would accept a bribe than not, where judges are negotiated and where the leadership of the foremost law-making body in the country can be hijacked and traded, there is the need affective influence. Indeed there is the need to nurture, praise and acknowledge those who apply this affective influence for the good of what should be the natural order.
APC ran on the platform of change. For the Nigerian, APC propagated the sort of mantra that they could relate and buy into. The senate election which saw Saraki team up with PDP was a vexing departure from that mantra. It has left many hollow after a hopeful period. However, it must be said that these are still early days. APC sure deserves a chance to sort its teething problems. With President Buhari maintaining a calm disposition and a natural aversion to shadiness, he will begin to give the real politicians in the APC fold the much needed backing to enforce the party’s lofty ideals on its members and the country.
For the PDP, it needs to search its souls and purge itself of the sorts of scheming, conniving, egotistical and self-absorbed manners that saw it lose favour in the eyes of Nigerians while reinventing itself to carry out the colossal task of representing a strong and virile opposition to the APC. PDP must be ready to earn its stripes as an opposition party. They must shelve the easy-way-out ideology (which teaming up with Saraki suggested) and be ready to put APC on its toes while working hard to win back the trust of Nigerians. But they must be ready to build slowly, painstakingly and conscientiously.
Sometimes one might just think that it is better to give up; that a case is a basket case and not worth wasting one’s time about. The Nigeria case is like that sometimes; a country that we all love very much. The recent happenings in the 8th Senate bring to mind an old maxim: The more things change the more they remain the same. The leadership of the APC has a herculean task to make a lie of this aphorism.
Dr Ameyan, MIPH wrote through [email protected]