Prof. Udenta O. Udenta was the founding National Secretary of Alliance for Democracy (AD), one of the three legally registered political parties in 1998 that ushered in the fourth Republic. A Professor of Cultural Studies and a Distinguished Fellow at the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought, Udenta who suffered detention six times during the dictatorship era of Gen Sani Abacha, was the Director of Media and Strategy of the Eastern Mandate Union( EMU) and a member of NADECO’s Central Executive and Diplomatic Contacts Committees. He says that Bola Tinubu and Nasir El-Rufai are embarrassing themselves with their attack on President Muhammadu Buhari over the Naira redesign policy which he said is an APC policy.
As a consistent voice on the development of democracy in Nigeria, how do you analyse the progress Nigeria has made thus far towards the next general election? Are you satisfied with the preparations?
Thank you all for this opportunity to weigh in with my views on Nigeria’s political process and democratic consolidation. Democracy is a complex phenomenon and has its ups and down. Nigeria has recorded very many highs in her march towards democratic self- sustenance and so many lows too. The biggest lows may well be the past eight years during which the APC government has sorely divided the nation, inflicted multidimensional poverty on over 70 percent of the population, turned the entire country into killing fields, expanded ungoverned spaces, destroyed the national currency, visited misery on Nigerians daily searching for fuel and is leaving a legacy of chaotic currency redesign project that is embarrassing even President Buhari, to say the least. To reward APC with victory in the 2023 presidential election is to reward failure with success. Sen Bola Tinubu is running as President’s Third Term. The APC cannot deny this and Nigerians know this to their bones. INEC seems to be making spirited efforts in getting the electoral process well organized. The introduction of BVAS and the electronic transmission of results are progressive provisions in the electoral act and may well be impactful in demonetizing the upcoming elections as well as rendering valueless the content of Bullion vans that repeatedly miss their way only to end up in the wrong address.
The APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu and the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, have raised allegations against the Presidency on plots to sabotage the election using the Naira redesign and petrol scarcity. Some have also said their allegations point to a broken APC wall. What do you make of these allegations and the response from presidential quarters? Do you think Nigeria will see an election free of federal might influence?
Both Sen Bola Tinubu and Gov El Rufai are embarrassing themselves and Nigerians with the persistent and mind boggling illogic of their audacious declarations. The currency redesign project and the tragic unavailability of petroleum products are official policies of the APC government of which Tinubu is the party’s National Leader and El Rufai, the party’s Chief Policy Strategist. It’s plainly irrational to hoodwink Nigerians by casting blame on the legacies of their party on the PDP and Atiku Abubakar; irrational and pertinently absurd. This stems from the sense of unbridled entitlement that is driving the APC presidential campaign, and the warped logic of pseudo-intellectuals that dominate its ranks. APC has become a society of the spectacle, the hotbed of intemperate anger and double speak. President Buhari has virtually governed to the best of his ability and has proudly raised the hand of Sen Tinubu as his worthy successor with many lips smacking with joy at such a spectacle. Nigerians will decide if the economy is better today; if the Naira is stronger today; if poverty is lower today; if bandits and terrorists have been wiped out; and if our children are all in school. Tinubu will be rewarded handsomely by the records of the current administration; records that are part of his political inheritance, and legacies he has embraced and will implement to their logical conclusion. I hope that the upcoming elections will be free from the intrusive influence of the executive branch and its wide range of coercive state apparatuses- the military, police, DSS and others. As strong as INEC’s institutional mechanisms are now in delivering elections free from this manner of executive contamination, it still behoves the political parties, their Election Day agents and mandate protectors, civil society organizations and local and international election observers and monitors to be ever vigilant and watchful.
The presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar, had promised to uphold the decision of the court of appeal on Nnamdi Kanu. Do you think this is a sincere offer given that Kanu’s matter is still being handled judicially?
When I read the comment made by Prof Obiora Okonkwo, the Director General of the Atiku-Okowa Campaign in Anambra State, on this matter, my thought moved in two directions. For a start, that will be a courageous move on the part of president Atiku Abubakar when he is sworn into office; as courageous as his insistence that Nigeria can be restructured within six months of his being in office. The two directions my mind went are the political and judicial implications of such a decision. A complex judicial matter of this nature can be articulated within the domain of politics and the prerogatives of executive branch intervention via the Attorney General’s office. It also has to work within the rubric of a wider canvass of peace building , national reconciliation and conflict reduction. The Niger Delta amnesty and post amnesty template is a platform to learn from both in the search for the amelioration of historical injustices and restitution of wrongs and also in the salutary impact of such a consequential decision on peace and security, political stability and economic progress of not only the South East but Nigeria as a whole.
Let’s analyse the chances of APC vis-a-vis those of PDP, LP and NNPP in the presidential election. What are your unbiased projections?
I have deposited my views on this matter in several media engagements. Let me summarize my views thus: Atiku Abubakar of the PDP will win the election on three parameters- the convergence of national forces building around him; the abject and bitterly horrible performance of the APC government; and the politics of geography and democracy as drivers of electoral behavior. Peter Obi of Labour Party will do very well because of the disruptive energy of the youth which he has so powerfully harnessed and the need for restitution of historic wrongs done to the South East but his populist movement will be an incomplete revolution that will make a February landfall whose elements will not be possessive of the reach, breadth and depth to get him over the line. It will be an unqualified national embarrassment if Tinubu of the APC does well; an unmitigated national disaster for the simple reason that you never reward abject failure with electoral success.
Many Igbo youths would expect you to back the candidature of Peter Obi being Igbo too. Do you think it is healthy politics when an ethnic nationality fails to expand its options?
Such an expectation is not far flung or irrational. Intellectuals feel with their heart but also think with their head. My heart feels this intimation, this whisper but I have elected to go with my head. In the search for the Igbo political soul, the heart should yield to the head. If the heart will make an incomplete statement, if it will fall short, I encourage Igbo people to go with their head because it has more certitude built into its core.
What, in your sincere advice, what do you think the Igbo people must do to get the opportunity to lead Nigeria should they fail to make it this time?
The Igbo must reanimate the politics of neo-Zikism which Gov Soludo has recently called for. The Igbo head should always rule the politically tempestuous Igbo heart. There should be politics of convergences- convergence of the spirit and the soul; heart and head; town and country; elite and the masses; of high finance, cultural recovery through ontological coherence and the building of sophisticated political infrastructure. These tripodal forces were unleashed between 1930 and 1960 that ended up producing the Igbo progressive moment and the coming of age of a people in search of their civilizational path. Having dealt with the domestic front, the Igbo must embrace the politics of dialogue, consensus building, compromises and strategic deal making with both friends and adversaries. If you top all this with an objective assessment of the past, especially the traumatic 1966-1970 period with fidelity and empathy to both the Self and the Other, the Igbo will master their destiny and affirm their rich and multi form possibilities in Nigeria.
Southeast is under siege of non-state actors as the elections and national census approach. Do you see south easterners coming out to vote, and also, participate in the census under an atmosphere offear?
This situation is the unknown of the unknown. It’s a situation that is up in the air given the incoherent nature of the social fabric at the moment and the numerous state and non-state franchises muddying the South East landscape. I do hope that reason prevails and a mass turnout occurs during the elections. The lesson is up in the air for the wise, only the wise to grasp. Do we have to keep on cutting our nose to spite our face? I hope I have not butchered this epistemic logic in the least.
So much has been said about the restructuring of Nigeria as well as privatising national businesses to make them serve purpose. These are also kernels of the Atiku promise. Do you see these twin factors as enough to open up Nigeria and make the economy robust again?
I sure do but I am not a policy wonk; have never pretended to be one. Marx said it well; the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle but all class struggles are political struggles. In the calculus of initiation and origination with regard to the element of causality, the lineage of politics and policy is not as complex as that between the chicken and the egg. Politics is the master of policy. President Atiku Abubakar will first develop a powerful national consensus framework and build a compelling, all embracing national consensus infrastructure on which he will graft the genius of policy articulation and governance.