It is odd that, at a time when the nation’s economy has lost consciousness and experts cannot feel its pulse, two leading political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) – are locked in a mind-boggling debate over which party raided the national treasury more than the other. Mercifully, the parties are agreed on one point. They are both blameworthy for plundering our national assets. What they are yet to agree on is the amount of money each of them stole from public funds.
No matter what they say, the two political parties are complicit in extensive destruction of the nation’s economy, the nation’s political system, and our social values. There is perhaps some truth in the proposition that Nigeria is a country afflicted with too many internal contradictions. Some people have gone so far as to suggest that Nigeria is a failed state. Perhaps these two conceptualisations are not far from the true situation on the ground. Here we have two leading political parties admitting openly their culpability in mismanaging the country’s resources. On what moral basis would the parties be justified to ask for our votes in 2019?
Ahead of the 2019 national elections, the APC and the PDP offer voters no meaningful alternative. Voting for the PDP or the APC would signal a continuation of corruption, an endorsement of the sleaze that has held the country back for years. Voting for either party would suggest that we have run out of ideas or that we want to remain in a perpetual state of slavery. Overall, the greatest challenge that faces voters is how to interpret the messages and promises the parties would throw at them in 2019.
Prior to the 2015 general election, the APC campaign rode on the solid platform that it would transform everyone’s life. The party promised us change. Change became the key concept on which the APC successfully persuaded voters to dump the PDP. The strategy worked. Everyone embraced the APC slogan without interrogating the party and its concept of change. After three years of pathetic performance by the APC government, no one has experienced positive change in the way the APC propagated three years ago. Those promises of change now sound like a huge scam.
Unfortunately, the PDP offers no salvation. The party is in a deeper hole than its founders imagined. After 16 years of economic mismanagement, rampant corruption, cronyism, and indiscriminate dishing out of oil prospecting licences to party apparatchiks, it would be difficult to see how the PDP would renew itself quickly, cleanse itself of the choking odour of corruption, stimulate public interest, and earn the respect and support of voters ahead of the 2019 elections.
Last week, the PDP offered a public apology to Nigerians. I am not persuaded the apology was genuine and heart-felt. Did anyone listen when the PDP admitted awkwardly that it ransacked the nation’s economy and drove the citizens into a ditch? How do you forgive a political party that lived a profligate lifestyle for 16 years informed by the Epicurean philosophy that says we should eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we shall be no more? How do you forgive a party that crushed your spirit and sapped you emotionally, physically, and psychologically for 16 years? How do you pardon a party that appropriated and abused our national wealth for 16 years?
The Federal Government released last Thursday the names of PDP officials whom it accused of corrupt enrichment. For many months, Muhammadu Buhari and his senior ministers had been threatening to release the names of “corrupt” officials who served in Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
By releasing the names of PDP officials accused of corruption, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, self-righteously portrayed himself as the prosecutor and the judge in the battle to win the sainthood title. It is preposterous for Lai Mohammed, a man officially tagged as the Federal Government’s Alsatian, to identify people who have not been convicted of corruption and paint them with the tar brush of infamy in a society in which people believe anything. Surely, Mohammed has crossed the boundary. He must be prepared to face defamation lawsuits that could arise following his comical release of names of people he accused of corruption.
In his eagerness to denigrate PDP officials, Mohammed provided to those he accused of corruption evidence they could use to sue him for defamation. Mohammed said: “This list is just a tip of the iceberg, and the PDP is aware of this. We did not make these cases up. Many of these cases are in court and the records are available.”
What an extraordinary claim. For clarity, cases can be in court but Mohammed must not presume that people accused of corruption have already been convicted. That is not how our legal system operates. People being tried in law courts on allegations of corruption are not regarded as corrupt until they have been convicted. In our legal system, accused persons are deemed innocent until a competent court of jurisdiction has pronounced them guilty. It is troubling that Mohammed is ignorant of this basic rule of law. There is a difference between unfounded chatter circulating in a marketplace and official information derived from court proceedings.
Mohammed continued: “We insist that Nigeria was looted blind under the watch of the PDP, and that the starting point in tendering an apology is for them to return the loot … It’s like a robber admitting to stealing your car and apologizing, but then saying he will keep the car anyway. It doesn’t work that way. The PDP is a hypocrite. And that reminds me of what English writer William Hazlitt said: ‘The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.’”
Let me take Lai Mohammed on his own hypocritical position and argument. Who is a hypocrite? A hypocrite is not only someone who steals your money. A hypocrite is also a duplicitous person or political party that makes grand promises but fails to fulfil them. In this context, Mohammed’s reference to the PDP as a hypocrite reflects badly also on the APC, the party that promised three years ago to transform Nigeria but now manufactures weird and far-fetched excuses to explain why it has failed the nation.
Over the past three years, voters have seen the APC-led Federal Government in close view. It is a government that sends out strong messages of anti-corruption but protects officials of the government that are accused of corrupt practices. It is a government that values the welfare of cattle more than human lives. It is a government that advocates economic development but does nothing when herdsmen and their cattle destroy lives and large farmlands across the country.
To the APC and the PDP, I have one message: Nigerian voters will not be fooled again in 2019 as they were duped during the 2015 election campaigns.