APPARENTLY, the conscience of this nation lies with our moral angels, the newspaper columnists, TV anchors and hosts of talk-show orgies that provide viewers with a daily dose of political pornography. Only in this country does one see these impatient anchors jumping out from the restraints of journalism and physically flanking their disagreements with political positions simply because they do not conform with their innermost convictions.
They have assumed the roles of political puritans. Only in Nigeria are the views of political puritans and their followers, more powerful than those of political players and the democratically elected, public representatives. Only here can we expect, in the aftermath of a decade-long conflict, displaced peoples, devastating economic disasters, a region isolated and its disappeared children unaccounted for, kidnapped children unrecovered and those at home still contracting and dying of measles. In Nigeria political revolution is neither about people nor freedoms. It’s about settling scores.
I am recounting these as a corollary to the Ribadu argument, of which there seem to be only two important features. These are the spectacle, Nuhu Ribadu himself and the lessons of a politics that is without an identifiable cause. Since Ribadu moved from the APC to the PDP only the skies have remained where they are but the roofs have all but fallen. Nobody seems to find the nexus between theory and practice.
When a man is full of decent theory, he would also require a platform to implement them and that is where the need for certain structural adjustments become very necessary.
But many have described Nuhu as having committed class suicide. But Nuhu is in the PDP for the love of his people and not for the love of lucre. This much a lot of people can attest to but many simply just ignore.
The performance factor is obvious. Nuhu has the lead role in the plot of the play where ethnicity is calculatedly mixed with politics. His defection may not be legitimate in the eyes of electoral democracy or serious political scientists, but this is the occupational hazard of grandstanding for political purposes – you become a spoiler for both disciplines.
Ask the northern politicians, to them, the only thing worth defecting to is APC.
Anyone who knows Ribadu knows that he wants the Millennium Development Goals back in Adamawa – shelter for all, education for all, employment for all, with some sprinkling of gender equality and minority rights. Ribadu is also a proponent of peace and religious harmony. But Nuhu’s investment in representative national politics has not paid off. He had no constituency and suffered from ethno-religious identity-based politics. His political relevance depends only on a performance of promissory and not on delivery.
The PDP’s performance, on the other hand, has simply been one of a cringe-worthy lack of political intuition. Worse, the PDP leadership is not just prone to being counter-intuitive but, since several of them and their advisers have been identified with garrison politics, they tend to revert to a do-or-die-style of it. Their thinking, vocabulary, attitude and methodology seem to be taken straight out of some militant manual.
Outside of their exclusive board rooms, they often seem enamoured by their own power and destiny but are having a hard time convincing others of their wisdom and deliverability. It doesn’t help to have Nuhu Ribadu explaining the nutritional importance of his defection to the people. They should know that his intentions are altruistic and far from selflish. His clinching power will spell the end of power breakfast for the states cruel stakeholders.
The economic disobedience of the elite to the people of Adamawa state (it’s not civil) after deep introspection, has just made every tax-evading member of the upper and trading classes a rebel – now with a cause. Such a complex PDP economic plan must be inspiring to all progressive economists who have for years advocated for restructuring the economy by doing exactly the opposite.
Most would agree that there are flaws in our electoral system. Our voting citizens hang admirable hope on representative politics. However, fighting for its reform doesn’t make it to the top of the list of their poverty-stricken, disease-ridden, insecure and brutalised lives. The majority’s is a politics of localised deals and negotiations with The System – whether of the state or local community/tribal structures. What will they get from upgrading Big Politics if it doesn’t change the small politics of their daily lives? Nothing trickles down except floodwater, and we all know it.
Historically, there have been no local revolts to institute the most important feature of an egalitarian political system (i.e local government). So, why would any party imagine that the nation will rise and topple governments for the cause of big, centralised political reforms?
It also makes for the most unlikely revolutionary slogan ever. Compare the promise of stomach infrastructure to ‘electoral reform so a party may just win and deliver a clean government’. The people of Adamawa state are right to be insulted since they successfully elected the PDP through this defective system. Now they must suffer that choice and join the revolution that asks for more sacrifice, not expect delivery.
Mobilising people for causes is not easy. This is not to suggest ‘people’ are not discontent or, that they are ‘lazy’, ‘uneducated’ or ‘ungrateful’ but that their gripes are not with any vague ‘system’. Instead, depending on who these ‘people’ are, they have very specific, localised, identifiable issues with equally distinguishable systems, codes and power-centres.
The People, unlike The System are not a faceless, identical bloc. So, unless a party can tap into different people’s immediate needs and prove its commitment to delivering these in a targeted manner, it may as well forget success. PDP knows this and has poached Ribadu to redeem it in Adamawa. Shouldn’t the people be happy?
Nuhu is performing a protest politics that has no direct personal interest or impact. In the absence of a people’s cause, one cannot take seriously his disobedience. But Adamawa is in an emergency.
Preachers, TV anchors and columnists need to climb out of their intellectual fog from which they insist that we need a new Nigeria where Nuhu cannot defect even if to save the situation. The PDP leadership brokers no revolutionary hate for the religious militants in Yobe who have murdered thousands of soldiers and citizens of Nigeria. They advocate peaceful negotiations with these internal enemies of the state. Their street power that we see in action today has managed to stop food supplies in the past but not once have we seen it directed towards a policing of funding or arms supplies to these militants.
Abusing the ruling party, the opposition, the judiciary, INEC and media houses but not the militants, the interventionist army, the religious bigots, the laws that enable persecution of minorities, the capitalist elite that crush labour, the men who rape women and children – all makes for a boiled-egg revolution that is anti-state, but not pro-people.
Nuhu has even, perhaps, squandered away the opportunity for a genuine pressure for electoral reforms in Nigeria but he has done it for his people and he should be supported to bring those same people out of the doldrums and not crucified.
Maikano Ubandoma, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Abuja.