Romanus Ugwu, Abuja It was lamentations galore at the Extraordinary Summit of Leaders and Elders of Nigeria in Abuja yesterday. Several elder statesmen decried what they called wanton killings and the deplorable situation in the country. Speaker after speaker from the major and minor ethnic nationalities in Nigeria agreed that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government…
Amnesia or dementia? For today’s purpose, it is more of amnesia. That is the national plague on current matters, which politicians and even government exploit on most opportunities to distract or even silence the critical public, in the firm belief that within days or at most weeks, Nigerians would go about their business as usual.
Only this can explain the blatant hypocrisy of politicians in all parties, but especially the People Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), accusing each of destabilising the other through some agent provocateur known or suspected to have been sponsored to either participate or lay claim to victory in each party’s internal elections. Such elections are either to pick officers of the party or the party’s nominees for important public offices, such as in the National Assembly.
The opposition PDP, still struggling to recover from its shock defeat in the 2015 presidential election, went through that ritual of a seeming do or die exercise for new national officers. In view of the keen rivalry, only short of bitterness which marked the elections and with the return match of the 2015 presidential elections only 18 months away, the PDP pointedly accused the ruling APC of subverting it (PDP). There should be nothing strange in a rival party exploiting the other party’s internal problems for cheap advantage. Such rascality dates back to colonial era when the two strongest enemies, Action Group and NCNC, exploited, on different occasions, each other’s internal crisis.
In 1953, there was the sit-tight ministers’ rumble in NCNC, as they defied their national executive’s directive to quit their federal posts in protest against British government’s proposed constitution for Nigeria. The rival Action Group openly supported the ministers in defying their party’s directive. Again in 1958, during the “Zik Must Go” crisis in the NCNC, rival Action Group, for obvious reasons, publicly supported the rebels.
Four years later, during the crisis that rocked the ruling Action Group for the control of west regional government, the NCNC seized the opportunity to revenge by supporting the rebels against party leadership. During Shehu Shagari’s presidency (1979-1983), the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) weakened the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) by supporting the one-man faction of Senator Anah’s claim as the “authentic” NPP against his party’s leadership. The same NPN also supported Ondo State ex-deputy governor Akin Omoboriowo’s disagreement with his party, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).
The difference in those days was that subversion of one party by a rival party was never surreptitious. Today, parties on the receiving end of subversion always source their (sometimes) near violence to external forces. In any case, does the PDP have a moral right to blame the APC for allegedly sponsoring a faction in the battle for its leadership? If, however, it was true that the ruling APC sponsored a faction in PDP’s recent elections for national chairman, the party (PDP) must have forgotten its record in office. Hence, the amnesia.
Under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the same PDP openly factionalised the leadership of the rival opposition party, the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The AD, after 1999 elections, had elected Yusuf Mamman as its national chairman. But Obasanjo’s PDP sponsored a certain Abdulkadir as its preferred national chairman of AD, something unprecedented. Worse still, Obasanjo iced the poisonous unsolicited political case with obscene patronage by appointing Abdulkadir as a special adviser in his cabinet.
By 2011, four years after Obasanjo’s tenure, the AD had metamorphosed into Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
In brilliant calculation of its electoral potential, the ACN conspired with a faction of PDP in the House of Representatives to elect a member, Aminu Tambuwal, as the new Speaker, to subvert PDP’s female nominee from Oyo State for that post. For the subversion of one political party or another, the determining factor oscillates a party’s interests and personal ambition of key party members.
If, as the PDP claimed, the APC disrupted the PDP election of a new national chairman, that could only be with 2019 in mind. The truth, however, was that in the run-up to the elections for a national chairman, the PDP rendered itself vulnerable by ever contemplating a new member for the vital post of national chairman. Former Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, unsuccessfully contested for the post of national chairman of APC. He then resigned and joined the PDP for the first time. Could the APC have sponsored its rejected member to go and vie for the leadership of PDP? Most unlikely. Who voted for him instantly as acting national chairman? Long standing member of PDP.
Even if APC were responsible for disruptive aspects of the recent PDP’s election of its national chairman, such could only serve as another return match for both parties. After the 2015 elections, PDP members in National Assembly conspired with dissident APC members to distribute National Assembly post among the gang of conspirators. It was a reenactment of a similar gang-up in 2011 when ACN, as APC’s progenitor, employed its numerical strength to frustrate PDP’s nominee for House of Representatives speakership.
However, it will be politically suicidal of APC to anticipate having its way all the time. Indeed, the party’s bitter experience in the 2015 exercise of electing National Assembly officers should serve as a lesson for APC. The PDP, with or without presidential elections victory, can always conspire with hungry, ambitious and veracious APC members to unsettle the party.
In refined terms, whenever such happened, it would be retributive justice for the party on the receiving end. The crude alternative down South in jungle city (Ajegunle in Lagos) is “you do me, I do you, God no go vex.”
Next week: “A soul of goodness in Donald Trump.”
What a sorry figure!
As tragic as the bloodletting in Benue State might be, it at least helped in alarming Nigerians of the gradual spread of the violence along the Middle Belt. Before the latest episode in Benue, the neighbouring Plateau State had experienced more violent assaults, even if intermittently, than Benue.
The result today is more murders committed in Plateau State by the cattle rearers. It was, therefore, to be expected that when Benue governor, Samuel Ortom, was burying the unusually large number of his people, the least he could expect from his neighbouring colleague was clear understanding. Instead, Plateau State governor did not help matters when he discredited the wailings of the Benue State governor.
As Simon Lalong put it, his Benue State colleague rejected his advice on how to handle the cattle rearers’ criminal menace. Ordinarily, the timing of such revelation was wrong and tactless, as it could only serve as rationalising mass murder of fellow Nigerians.
Worse still, Simon Lalong, in fact, was untruthful in his down. Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, countered within hours that there was never such a discussion (advice?) between him and Simeon Lalong. A day later, Plateau governor had to apologise shamefully for all his claims, which, he admitted could only worsen the tension and violence in Benue.
Governor Lalong might not have wished it but the impression he created was that he was unnecessarily exploiting human tragedy for personal distinction. Lalong, with his recant and apology, necessarily redeemed his image? Surely, not now or in the immediate future. How long has Plateau State been under siege by the cattle-rearers? Weeks? Months? Or years? Either lately or since years past, was that because Plateau State was operating any anti-grazing law?
By the way, Governor Lalong merely apologise for undermining neighbouring Benue State Governor Ortom. That seemed a subterfuge to dodge the serious allegation made against him by Ortom that there was NEVER a time Lalong warned him against implementing the anti-grazing law.
This sorry figure is not fitting for a state governor. And there will be no need to raise a local army in the present circumstances. Understandable anger and emotion should be restrained.