By Bisi Lawrence
The entire country —or almost the whole country— has been startled by the sudden decision— well, at least, it seemed unexpected —of a sizeable chunk of the pecking order of the Peoples Democratic Party to break away and form another—if not a different — political group.
The announcement of this move may have been anticipated in some quarters, with the heavy weather that the self-styled largest political party in Africa had been going through.
Indeed, it raised a sizeable dust, much of which still has to settle. But that is typical of a “tribe” of politicians who believe in playing politics with everything — even politics itself. And so we encounter that measure of uncertainty in the announcement of the split.
The sleek reportage vehicle of The Vanguard newspaper which carried a story akin to the essence of the announcement, would appear to have slipped up in no detail except the name of the splinter group. But the story was denied by all the protagonists like the politicians they are.
That took some of the edge away from the surprise element that was intended to have given the move a distinctive spice when it eventually came. All the same, it is doubtless that it must have landed in the laps of the core membership of the PDP like a hot potato.
Here was a party that had sadly spared no effort at stifling itself with a hubristic zeal that fed upon itself, thus increasing its superciliousness to agonizing dimensions.
The President, Goodluck Jonathan, seemed to have been seized by the passion of a second term in which his advisers and hangers-on had recognized a life-belt; they had latched on to that ambition without bothering to contemplate or recognize the rough waters ahead. The so-called “attack-dogs” among them bared their teeth at every perceived provocation, turning the presidency into a source of constant barking and baying. It seemed the requisite thing to do at the start, but it soon became discordant when they turned on their own.
But like those foot soldiers, some of whom actually knew very little about the formation of the party, there was the Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who was an old stager, but whose faith in the continued presidency of the incumbent had put his own aspirations in tandem with that of President Jonathan’s.
And then, some actors would appear to have cast themselves in a wrong role, like an opponent of a popular state governor who, all the same, hopes to succeed him. How could he conceive a scenario in which he would overwhelm the massive influence and support of the governor in the state?
But the PDP had continued to shoot itself in the foot by creating and losing control of diverse storms of wrangling in the party, presided over by the chairman. He had this penchant for suspending very important elements of his party for what he termed “indiscipline”. Some of the occasions which constituted the offence hardly seemed more serious than a refusal by the censured members to be subjected to an undignified submission to the avuncular and openly patronising chairmanship of Tukur.
Several of his victims were state governors, if you please; men who had been popularly elected to their positions by their constituencies and now are faced with the proposition of kowtowing to a party official —be he ever so high. Other identified offenders were state cabinet members and high functionaries.
But while on that downhill course in the erosion of party cohesion, the party’s fixation on its own virtues and staying power was in no way touched.
They declared that they would rule the country for the next sixty years. No one else but themselves knew how they arrived at that prediction or what warranted it in the first place, other than excessive over-confidence, or perhaps the absence of any seemingly effective opposition on the horizon, a horizon beclouded by their narcissism. If they had eyes for any other aspect of their existence they would perhaps have been cautioned by the crumbling structures of their unity and solidarity.
There was discontent on several sides. A parallel convention was on the way in a state, symptomatic of internal disorder, while they talked of their status as the paragons of “internal democracy”. A state governor was being hounded by the presidency, which is an outpost of the party, for his putative desire to participate in the next election on a ticket with another PDP governor, while the president avowed that he had no objection to anyone aspiring to a higher office.
A forum which was founded to bring governors together was being shredded into groups and sub-groups thus driving them apart. The practice of paying scant attention to the directives of the law was almost becoming routine as the party began to base its activities on a morass of open impunity. And yet the leader of the party, the president of the nation himself, breezily declared at a public function that it was the “opposition” who were confused, and were heading for more confusion in 2015, the year of the next election.
President Jonathan had proved that he was not above eyebrow-raising stratagems himself, when he met Governor Amaechi in Port Harcourt en route Abuja, in a display of camaraderie that was calculated to dispel the anxieties generated by his unconcealed confrontation with the governor. Then he hopped into his jet on the way to Addis Ababa, and chaos subsequently erupted in the Rivers State Assembly to the utter discomfiture of the governor. The manner of the split in the PDP seems to borrow from the subterfuge of the Port Harcourt encounter followed by the eruption in the Rivers legislature, which was redolent of the presidency’s involvement. In fact, in a sense, one might dub it “the second leg”.
As at the time of going to press, the plot was still thickening and the result could be that the PDP would turn into more than one party, if it goes the way of “humpty dumpty”, despite the frantic efforts of the “elders” of the party, some of whom really have little to recommend about the way they themselves had earlier been run over by the over-bearing disposition of the party officials. Perhaps a new party name and symbol—not necessarily “Voice of the People” as earlier envisioned — would emerge. But maybe a patchwork could still be effected to bring the party together in a form, but definitely not intact. The acrimonious words issuing out of the mouth of Chairman Tukur, and from the barks of those bulldogs in the presidency, have been too sharp to be swallowed now by their utterers.
Whichever way it plays out, like those bible-thumping preachers are wont to say, it is clear that our political terrain will never be the same again.
Mike Adenuga (Jnr), the business tycoon whose resourcefulness and sense of enterprise founded Globacom and built it to become the second largest mobile telecom company in Nigeria, has often been described as “reclusive”. He is indeed not given to being loud although he has much to be noisy about if that were his style.
But the son of a schoolmaster grew up with a disciplined sense of proportion and has succeeded admirably in containing himself on all sides.
Not everything has been too quiet about him, however; it is not easy to cast a blanket of silence on billion-dollar investments, now stretching across West Africa and still expanding. Even more to the point are his contributions to sports and other social activities out of sheer generosity, beyond a limpid discharge of social responsibility. The stream of his open-handedness, for instance, flows through the pages of several newspaper columns every day, in the offer of free telephone accounts worth several thousands of naira to the opinion makers of every shade and suasion. I happen to be one of them.
We can only show our gratitude through this kind of acknowledgment and wish Globacom and its proprietor many more years of useful service to land of his birth. In the early days, some wag used to engage in a quip about, Globacom, and Globago. But now we can definitely round it all up by saying, Globastay. Happy anniversary.