We have seen what the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, called “demonstration of craze,” in one of his celebrated tracks about the brand of democracy in Nigeria.
It is roughly seven months to the 2019 elections, but the drama, intrigues and shenanigans have started in earnest. Some of these are mundane. Others are ridiculous. Yet others are dangerous and constitute a threat to democracy.
In the last few days, we have seen daring confrontations of political opponents. We have seen defections from one political party to another. We have seen subterfuge. We have seen brigandage. We have seen illegal use of force. We have seen abuse and misuse of power and authority. We have seen what the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, called “demonstration of craze,” in one of his celebrated tracks about the brand of democracy in Nigeria. Some of these incidents were foretold and, therefore, did not come as a surprise. Others just happened and left Nigerians bemused.
One of the incidents foretold was the defection of All Progressives Congress (APC) senators to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). When members of the “New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) in the APC declared that they had metamorphosed into Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC), as a demonstration of their grievances over the goings-on in the ruling political party, Nigerians knew that a mass defection was imminent. It happened before in PDP. In 2015, nobody was left in doubt that the nPDP/APC alliance was a contraption, which was bound to scatter. It was obvious that the arrangement was a marriage of “inconvenience.” The PDP members, some of who are now back in the party after the romance with APC, made a bad political calculation. They went into an unholy alliance with those who did not have respect for them and who looked at them with disdain. Now their eyes are open. And the chicken has come home to roost.
For those who want a change in the polity, owing to their dissatisfaction with the conduct and performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari government, which the nPDP helped install, the defection of some senators from APC is a welcome development. Such people believe that there should be a convergence of forces to fight the government in the power. They do not care those who constitute the forces. However, the senators’ return to the PDP is an atonement of sin. They have to undo what they did in 2015 when they teamed up with the APC to remove their original party man from office. In their return, however, one thing they must do is to apologise to Nigerians for taking an action that has brought about disappointment across the land. Put simply, this means the Bukola Sarakis, Ahmed Abdulfatahs and Aminu Tambuwals, if they eventually return to the PDP; the Rabiu Kwankwasos and the rest should apologise for helping APC take power and now realising it was a mistake. That will complete their repentance.
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However, I must say that it is the prerogative and democratic right of those who left the PDP in the past to return to the party whenever they feel like, if the political party agrees. They are exercising their freedom of choice and association. One may not like it, but that is the reality. That is why the attempt by security agencies, whether acting on their own or deployed by some forces, to stop Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, from attending plenary on Tuesday, with the view to frustrating the defection of some senators, is most objectionable, condemnable and unacceptable. The barricade of the residences of Saraki and Ekweremadu by security agencies that day, under whatever guise, was a mark of desperation by those in government. It was one of the most unintelligent political moves I have ever seen. It was brash, crude and silly.
It is strange that security agents have allowed themselves to be dragged into politics. It is funny, indeed, that security agents took over the street leading to Saraki’s house in Abuja, cordoning it off, to prevent him from leaving. This came at a time the police invited the Senate President to report at the Force Headquarters for an interview with a panel investigating the Offa, Kwara State, robbery. It is also amusing that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chose no other day than the Tuesday some senators defected from the APC to first block Ekweremadu’s house, prevent him from attending Senate plenary, and then inviting him for questioning over alleged money laundering. These were dumb moves.
One is not against the police and the EFCC doing their jobs. However, it is important that the two institutions discharge their duties with some level of professionalism. Behaving the way they did on Tuesday gives them away as political tools in the hands of those in government. Such idiosyncrasy has made many not to take the police and other security agencies seriously. It is a vote of no confidence in these government institutions, which should, ordinarily, command respect and be seen to be above board.
With the 2019 elections drawing near, the country is gradually sliding into authoritarian rule, going by the conduct of those in power. A situation where agencies of the state hunt down political enemies cannot be democracy. The overzealousness of elements around the President, which has pushed them to do what they should not, is fast drawing the country to the precipice. They are fouling up the polity and putting everybody on edge. Attempting to make everybody support one person will not work. This is wrong in a democracy, where the majority should have their way while the minority should also have their say.
At present, it is not only in government that belligerent attitudes are being exhibited. Curiously, it is also pervading the APC, where the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, not only queried a minister appointed by President Buhari but also threatened to expel him from the party. The question is: Why should the chairman of a political party ask a government official to explain his actions in government when he is not his employer? When has the APC become a component of the Federal Government?
There is the need for the Buhari government to draw the line between things of government and politics. It may be true that government officials are not superior to the political party that brings them to power, but there is no justification for Oshiomhole to ask Senator Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, to explain to him why he had not constituted the board of a government agency.
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I do not blame Oshiomhole, however. I do blame Ngige for responding to a letter, which should have, ordinarily, been consigned to the dustbin. This is so because Ngige owes only Buhari, the President’s agents or privies an explanation on what he has done or failed to do as a minister. Nobody has told us that Oshiomhole, as APC chairman, is a Federal Government staff, agent or privy. I am still waiting to see how Ngige will constitute the board of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) just because Oshiomhole said so. Oshiomhole could go ahead to expel Ngige, if he can, but he should not take over the duties of President Buhari as it relates to minister’s conduct. This rascality and arrogance must stop. We are in democracy and all the tenets of democracy should be adhered to. Authoritarian behaviours must stop.