By Dan Agbese
I strolled down the boulevard of the ruling party, APC, recently. I wish to report, with a feeling of sadness, that the boulevard constructed in 2014 with shovels and diggers from national politics in deficit of a political ideology, has been turned into a footpath. It is overgrown with thorn bushes and weeds watered from the pool of political intolerance, incipient dictatorship and a cool detachment of its national leaders from the isolated problems that might eventually consume it.
It is not a prayer I would want the almighty to answer in the affirmative, but from what I saw of the overgrown footpath, it is easy to see that barring a miracle, the party might be limping towards a date with its destiny in 2023. This, I am sure, would make its main rival, PDP, happy but it should give no joy to the rest of us. What is happening to the party is beyond the party. It speaks of the immaturity of our political bulldozers and our political system defined, to borrow from Professor Humphrey Nwosu, by mago–mago and wuru–wuru in the management of our political parties, sansfairness and equity. The African big man still exerts an uncommon influence on how our political leaders manage the party system to their own detriment.
The crisis in the party in Edo State might hasten its haemorrhage and thus underline the fact that history has a bad habit of repeating itself. When the crisis began, as they say in Warri, like play play, many members of the party were not bothered that the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, chose to use their heads like rams to batter each other. After all, it happens all the time when a godfather decides to ditch a godson and father a new godson in a contest of wills between the two. If the godson shows remorse and kisses you-know-what of the godfather, he gets the baton back. If he is recalcitrant, the godfather reaches for the bazooka to swat the fly that dares to perch on his nose. Nothing to it.
Those who thought it was a minor matter might wish to think again – and seriously so. It has snowballed beyond what either the state branch of the party and the national leadership can handle. Obaseki was screened out of the contest because the screening committee rejected the authenticity of his qualifications. No, he did not present a new University of Toronto certificate. These were the same credentials that the party’s screening committee approved as authentic in 2015. Apparently, the committee could see clearly now that the blinkers have been removed from their eyes. Sweet infantile politics. Times change and the evaluation of academic certificates moves with the times. Yeye dey smell, obviously
Oshiomhole and Obaseki are both on the floor. The national chairman was floored by the court of appeal which upheld his suspension from the party; Obaseki was floored by the screening committee and he has since done the next best thing – he sought accommodation in PDP. The national chairman is suffering from the huge embarrassment of his suspension by floor members of the party. If it is any consolation to him, he can notch it up as being the first political leader in our country to fight for his political survival in the hands of those he was called upon to lead. The party itself is factionalised with one faction led by Senator Ladoja as acting national chairman and the other by Victor Giadom as acting national chairman.
Matters have become more complicated with President Buhari throwing his considerable weight behind the Giadom faction. Oshiomhole is left groaning on the floor, wondering, I am sure, how the storm of political katakata drove his ship unto this rock. Meanwhile, there is ominous silence from the national leader of the party, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu. It is either that he is lost for words over the crisis in the party or the bottom has fallen out at the top in the party. He and Buhari might be pulling in different directions with the president asserting his right to control the party. We may in for fun times or tragic times.
APC may or may not lose the forthcoming bye-election in Edo State but the crisis has created a huge mess for the party nationwide. None of us should be naïve enough to think that other state branches of the party are crisis-free. Discontent simmers barely beneath the surface in almost all the states. It will boil over as we approach the 2023 general elections. It may be too early to begin to compose the funeral dirge for APC but it is not likely to emerge from this contrived crisis in a shape that would inspire confidence in its longevity.
We may be looking at two possible developments in our political parties as leaders of the party struggle mightily to convert available dugout canoes into lifebuoys. The first is an APC implosion similar to what happened to PDP in 2014. This is what people easily see happening to the party. If it implodes, its members would scatter and seek accommodation where their interests and ambitions would best be served.
However, the second possible development might be a major surprise – and this is the possible emergence of a new political party from the ashes of APC and PDP. This scenario might be a little difficult to contemplate now but do not discount it. Politics is a game of surprises and possibilities. There was fatigue with PDP in 2014 after 15 years in power. That fatigue drove its leading members into forming a new political party – APC. But by 2015, after one only term in the driving seat of our political power, fatigue also set in in the party. Some of its leading foundation members deserted it and returned to PDP before the general elections that year. It managed to survived but its losses showed that it would be a mistake to assume that its eternal survival is assured. The party has so far failed build itself as a political party bound by common interests. It is merely held together by its capacity to throw crumbs to its members. I can hear the bell tolling.
All this gives me no pleasure. In my column, APC: waiting to implode (March 20, 2020), I wrote: “My interest in the survival of a major political party, APC or PDP, or any other political party is purely patriotic. I have a patriotic interest in our leaders growing our democracy through a stable ruling political party able to drive our national development through an honest execution of its manifesto. No modern nation, let alone one with pretensions to democratic ideals, can make meaningful progress in human and resource development if its political leaders continue to define their exalted positions purely in terms of what each person stands to gain from the system.
“I cannot be tired of preaching the gospel of stability in our political party system because without it, we are trying rather too hard to build and grow our democracy on shifting sand. Party desertion at convenient times in our kind of party politics is inevitable but that does not make it right. It weakens the party system, the pillar of democracy. It is not such a good idea for our country that in every election circle, the politicians trade places for a serving of amala and ewedu soup.”I am passionate about this. If we do not get the party system right our democracy would not be a work in progress but a strange form of democracy held in check by autocracy in the garb of democracy. It blows in the wind.
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