If morning shows the day, then, the penultimate week’s congresses of the two leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), leaves a foreboding that all may not be well in 2023. The screaming headlines in most of the leading newspapers painted a frightening picture of what to expect from our political gladiators from now down the line to Election Day in 2023 – that is, if apocalypse postpones and Doom’s Day tarries!
The headlines, which were ominous, include: “ Violence, protests rock APC congresses, factions battle in states – Abiodun, Amosun supporters clash in Ogun, congress postponed in Oyo; gunshots in Osun as two excos emerge in Abia, Kwara, Niger, Akwa Ibom; in Oyo state “Hoodlums attack Oyo PDP leaders, cars vandalised as two chairmen emerge” “Gunshots rock APC, PDP state congresses – PDP: Many injured as thugs run riot, damage vehicles in Oyo, members flee in Lagos. APC: Shootings in Bauchi, Kogi, parallel excos in Niger, Ebonyi, Kwara, others. No congress in Oyo”.
The bad news continued throughout last week into this week with headlines such as “APC parallel congresses: Amosun, Aregbesola, Lai may lose out …Illegal congresses won’t be recognised; APC: Mass defection looms, says Muiz Banire” “APC convention under threat, aggrieved party members cite ruling against Buni: Buni’s panel not recognised by law, activities will be illegal – Ekiti group; Keyamo’s group heads for Appeal Court against Omo-Agege’s faction” The congresses however went well in many other states. Meanwhile the PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus, is in court battling for his political life.
He has been removed, reinstated and suspended again and again. Politics is no longer the sport it was said to be, where what is important is participation and not winning at all costs. Politics, especially the jostling for political office, is war continued by other means (apologies, Carl von Clausewitz). Elections have become battle royal and every weapon at one’s disposal must be thrown into the fray. There are no sportsmen and women in politics anymore but only winners and losers. Ibrahim Waziri, the apostle of “politics without bitterness”, is long dead and forgotten.
The stakes are high because return on investment is also very high. Politics is, perhaps, the only thriving business in Nigeria of today where little or no qualification or expertise is needed before you find yourself in lucrative positions and offices. In the Nigeria of today, politics has transmuted from being a vocation into a profession whose goal better approximates Hans Morgenthau’s political realism of the concept of power defined in terms of power relations for self interest as against Angadipuram Appadorai’s thesis of the State existing for the benefit of the individual and not the individual for the state.
The goal of politics, according to Appadorai, is selfless, public service and not the promotion of private, personal, and selfish interests. Thus, public office is sought – and held – to bring about the greatest happiness of the greatest number (Jeremy Bentham).
If politics is for public service why, then, is the competition cut-throat and the contest do-or-die? In today’s Nigeria, politics has become the shortest and surest route to wealth even for upstarts. Local government councillors earn wages many times fatter than those of university professors and greenhorn office holders in no time relocate from the slums of Ajegunle to the plush areas on VGC and Banana Island. That is why the struggle for political office is vicious.
The stakes are high because the expectations are equally high. In all of these, the interest of the common man takes the back seat if at all it gets a mention. Yet, they are the canon fodders employed by the political gladiators as political thugs and enforcers; they are the lumpen elements that the politicians deploy into the fray.
But of all the justconcluded state congresses of confusionbreak- bone (Fela), the one that caught my fancy the most was that of Ogun state for three important reasons. One: It again confirms the truism in the late Nnamdi Azikiwe’s statement to the then East Central State administrator, Ukpabi Asika, that no condition is permanent.
Readers will recall that I once commented on the alleged frosty relationship between the incumbent Ogun Governor, Dapo Abiodun, and his immediate predecessor, Ibikunle Amosun, the incumbent senator representing Ogun Central; how Amosun allegedly deployed his connections and contacts at the Presidential Villa, Abuja to the chagrin of Abiodun. Now the tide has turned. Nothing lasts forever! If you wield power or influence, use it wisely and responsibly. Some Yoruba leaders are adept at selling their own people to outsiders for peanuts simply to receive a mess of pottage. When, in September, I read that the APC leadership recognised the ward congresses conducted by the Abiodun faction and not Amosun’s, I suspected the ground might have shifted under the exgovernor’s feet.
The congress of Saturday, 16th October, 2021 confirmed that. Two: While the Abiodun faction’s congress held at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Kuto; that of the Amosun faction reportedly held at the Ake Palace ground. According to one report, “trouble started around 10:34 a.m.at the Ake venue when some gunmen stormed the venue located within the palace of the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, and opened fire… Hundreds of people, including security agents… scampered for safety as gunshots rang out in the area…”
To begin with, one must condemn political thugs firing at any assembly of people, even if it is that of political opponents, and destroying people’s property, especially in these austere times. To prevent a recurrence, the miscreants must be fished out and brought to book. But having said that, why take a political activity as volatile as a factionalised congress to the hallowed precinct of a palace? I accompanied Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd) to Alake’s palace while he (Marwa) campaigned in 2006/2007 for the PDP presidential flag. Our traditional institutions must be insulated from partisan politics so that our revered Obas can be better placed to perform their onerous role as father of all without fear or favour and without let or hindrance. Three: The way student union leaders freely lend themselves to be used by politicians these days baffles me. I was a student leader but it was not like that in our own days.
We kept a safe distance from politicians and treated them with well-deserved suspicion. No more! These days, student leaders shamelessly advertise their liaison with politicians without sparing a thought for how it compromises, even kills, virile student unionism.
The same shenanigan reared its ugly head in Ogun. According to a report, the National Association of Nigerian Students, South-West Zone, was said to have given the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Lanre Bankole, a 12-hour ultimatum to release a former NANS leader, Olawale Balogun, or risk “a mass protest…that will shut down the state” Reports stated that Balogun was arrested at the venue of the APC Congress organised allegedly by Amosun loyalists alongside five others for alleged thuggery and for being in possession of prohibited firearms.
But the student body, at a press conference addressed by the Deputy Coordinator, NANS South-West Zone, Oladimeji Uthman, insisted that Balogun was neither “a politician nor a thug”, adding that he was arrested while crossing the road at Ake. The police have said they would not be intimidated by the threat of the students but would carry out a diligent investigation.
They should! But if found that Balogun’s arrest is a case of mistaken identity, he should be promptly released and cleared; otherwise, no criminal should be let off the hook, regardless whose ox is gored. As an “aluta” person myself, I find worrisome the way student leaders nowadays lend themselves to be used by politicians.
In the 2018 Ekiti governorship election, I witnessed some so-called NANS officials in NANS branded cars lay siege to the Ikere residence of Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, the then deputy governor and PDP governorship candidate in that election. Such nonsense has got to stop! “The road (to Golgotha) was hilly. Exhausted by beating and lashing, worn out by spiritual suffering, Jesus Christ could hardly walk and several times fell from the weight of the cross.
When they went out of the city gate where the road began to go uphill, Jesus Christ was unable to continue carrying the cross. The soldiers came upon a man who was compassionately watching Christ. It was Simon, a Cyrenian, returning from work in the country. The soldiers seized him and compelled him to carry the cross of Christ” (Source: Orthodox Church of the Mother of God).
As we inch closer to 2023, some have said Nigeria may be on the road to its own Golgotha! What with its multi-faceted security concerns, worsening economic crisis, mushrooming separatist groups and, now, a ruling class mindlessly divided, indifferent to the country’s many challenges but fixated only on cornering power? Who shall our own Simon of Cyrene be? When dogs eat dogs and birds gnaw at each other’s intestines, the prognosis can be anything but cheery.