Lai Mohammed described the APC defectors as the “removal of stones from rice and the sieving of sand from cassava (garri)”.
For some months now, and counting, events in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are looking pretty much like a tragicomedy that people go to watch at a movie theatre. It’s partly because Nigerian politics tolerates drama well. Each episode has a flavour for fun, the bad and the downright ugly. What about the politicians? They are ‘sincere deceivers’. They live in denial, always. When things go wrong, they play fast and loose with the facts. They are more like comedians. Comedians make people laugh; they don’t make people happy. For them, personal interests supersede national interests.
That’s why it troubles the mind watching the dizzing gale of defections in the APC. It is not as if we have not had this kind of season of defections before. Exactly five years ago, the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was rocked by the same crisis. It was at the party’s national convention in September 2013 that no fewer than seven governors elected on the platform of the party, including former vice president, Atiku Abubukar, staged a walkout and formed a “New PDP”. Many other party chieftains and legislators of the party in the National Assembly followed suit. With this in mind, and despite the briefcase of lessons that the PDP left behind, one may ask: why is history on the rebound? Why didn’t APC learn useful lessons from what caused PDP’s defeat in many states, and the most painful of all, the 2015 presidential election.
The answer is not farfetched: In politics, when you learn nothing and forget nothing, the likely outcome is crisis/division. Note this: history may repeat itself because APC is treading the ugly past that swept away PDP from power. Any careful observer of the goings on in the ruling APC will have noticed the prescient ‘red flags’ that often lead to a downfall. Let’s capture few of the foreboding signs from some leaders of the party. A week ago, the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said he would never lose his sleep over those who had defected. He said some of the “big masquerades” had no electoral value and cannot even win their polling units. One of the big masquerades was former governor of Kano state, and current senator representing Kano Central, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso. Kwankwaso, it must be recalled, was elected senator in 2015 on APC platform with the most votes cast in any senatorial race in the country. Before last week, Oshiomhole had extolled the virtues of the senator, saying he (Kwankwaso) “made APC, APC didn’t make him”. In the same week, after describing the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom as one of the best performers of the party, he made a sudden volte face when Ortom defected last week to the PDP, saying “APC would have lost the state in 2019” if Ortom didn’t leave the party.
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And you may ask: Is this the same Oshiomhole who used to impress by his quick mind and ability to articulate? This man now strikes me as arrogant. He has touched many nerves and now plays fast and loose with facts since he became the party national chairman just last month. A few days ago, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi came with his own braggadacio, saying that President Buhari will win Bauchi, Kano and Sokoto states in 2019 even on a “sickbed”. He said these three states are the president’s “comfort zones”. Also, the Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, you can bet won’t want to be beaten in his own turf of propaganda. He described the APC defectors as the “removal of stones from rice and the sieving of sand from cassava (garri)”. He cursed the defectors, saying God has “exposed the faces of traitors”. Interesting times, indeed for Lai Mohammed.
When a politician talks like this, it’s a false sense of self-confidence that comes before a fall. It’s a sign of fret that blinds many a politician. Such bragging is out of balance with reality. It’s the equivalent of when you are behind in a football match and time is fast running out and there seems to be only one thing you can do: “Throw the bomb”. That was how a former US President, Gerald Ford, described such desperation when a crucial election is fast approaching and a party in power finds its back behind the wall. It often backfires.
The best approach is not to unleash verbal swipes as Oshiomhole and Lai Mohammed are doing now. The President is at liberty to assume, as he was reported to have said in Lome, Togo, two days ago while responding to questions during an interactive session with the Nigerian community there. He was reported to have said that he was not bothered by the defections from the party. The truth is that, and the President knows it, that, right now, his party is split down the middle. His aides and cabinet members must stop oversimplifying complex issues, reducing them to online quips as some of them are doing now. It may look effective temporarily, politically, but it will not win votes in a free and transparent election.
Again, this arrogance and false sense of overconfidence was what Bamanga Tukur, as national Chairman of PDP exhibited in the face of crisis. Tukur, had boasted during the PDP implosion in 2013 that there was no need for panic, neither was there “room nor reason whatsoever for such a claim” that the party could lose the 2015 presidential election. Anyone who has followed how APC has come to this sorry state, knows it didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t a normal happenstance. The trajectory was clear that the outcome will lead to splinter groups within the party, which from the beginning, was a fusion of strange bedfellows, a marriage of political convenience, with a common objective: chase Jonathan out of power.
With that mission accomplished, APC lost the vision, the commitment and the agenda to better the accomplishments of the party it replaced. The crises that led to the present gale of defections have roots in the recent state Congresses that handed the governors the power of small gods. Nothing concrete was done to assuage the anger of aggrieved party members. That’s one of the problems of party administration in our current democratic system.
Beyond that, a ruling party in a democracy cannot escape its responsibility to the nation and to her citizens. This is the primary reason why a government exists .If we must be forthright, APC has lost a hefty good fortune that brought it to power. I would not like PDP to come back to power at the federal level so soon, but I have only one vote to cast in the presidential election next year. By its own errors and deliberate political insensitivity, APC is widening the chances of PDP to come back, four years on, after 16 unbroken years in power at the centre.
But, if that happens next year, that will be one of the outcomes when the leadership and some chieftains of a ruling party behaved as if the normal rules of politics did not apply to them. It’s time for the president to look into his own soul, (though time is running out) to get rid of lap dogs and lackeys in his government. These are people who will do or say anything to defend and praise him, even when the reality on ground tells otherwise.
We are not in Donald Trump’s America where only loyalty to the man in power is more important, to paraphrase James Comey (former FBI Director) than a ‘higher loyalty’. Altogether, APC should not underestimate or see the defectors as storms in a tea cup.
They are, to use the words of Batcha, the great warrior portrayed in Robert Greene’s “48 Laws of Power”. These are ‘rebels’ with a cause. They have stormed out like mouse, but they have jaws like lions.