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Election 2011: The shape of things to come

By Dele Sobowale
“Politicians are their own grave diggers”.Will Rogers, 1879-1935, American Humorist.“Politicians neither love nor hate”.Babylonian Talmud (The Babylonian Holy Book).

The race to Aso Rock, as everybody knows, is on. The last two weeks have produced a series of events, tragic-comical in some respects, pregnant with possibilities in some other respects, but ultimately destined to leave the country exactly where we have been  in the last 50 years. The main centre of attraction is still the People’s Democratic Party, PDP; coming a distant second is ANPP and then the AC.

But, in reality, this is actually a one-horse race in which the other participants wish the one horse, PDP, will break its leg. That is the tragedy of Nigeria in 2011; the opposition is so much in disarray and bereft of ideas and will power as to constitute no obstacle at all.

Meanwhile, the PDP itself has ceased to be a political party in any real sense of the word, as recognized in more civilized countries (including Ghana, Botswana and South Africa); it is now just a political machine existing for the benefit of a few thousand people out of the 150 million Nigerians “mostly fools” (apologies to Carlyle).

Back in 1999, on February 21, 1999, in this column entitled “TO MY BROTHER, DR EKWUEME”.  I told the former Vice President, that “the PDP which you call my baby would be snatched from you” as a result of this strategic mistake and lack of political courage.

Dr. Ekwueme was then the acknowledged leader of the PDP, and its leading presidential candidate, had allowed the military, using Obasanjo as front, to literally buy the PDP when Obasanjo, fresh out of jail and almost destitute, donated N130 million to the party.

Today, Dr Ekwueme, has lost clout within the PDP and even within his own state. Nothing proves this better than the sound defeat of Professor Soludo in the governor’s election in Anambra. The name Ekwueme has politically become almost totally devalued. Unfortunately, as the money politicians seek for support nationwide, they will continue to drag the poor man out only to use and discard.

The truth is, the PDP Ekwueme and the G-34 formed in 1998 is totally dead. It has been replaced by a machine populated by politicians who neither love nor hate Nigeria; they only see the nation and its abundant resources, as a pride of lions regards a herd of antelopes – food for lunch.

Furthermore, the new owners of the PDP are not as tolerant as those Ekwueme and Co envisaged, in 1998, would form a political party under whose umbrella everybody will find shelter. The current transient holders of political power, at the federal and state levels, are political predators of the deadliest kind. To them, the end justifies the means – any means (assassination – physical and character; kidnapping and election malpractices among others).

The last thing to be expected in this contest is fair game – when “winning is not everything; it is the only thing” (Vince Lombardi, Coach of the Green Bay Packers in the 1970s. So Nigerians should expect the worst.

Some of the declared candidates, already should make thinking people tremble. When General Babangida used the occasion of the chieftaincy title conferred on him by his in-laws in Asaba to break his silence and announced his ambition for 2011, I knew that the event was carefully orchestrated to achieve maximum impact and to drive home the fact that, he after all, against the wishes of the people of Delta State, made Asaba the state capital instead of Warri.

How that will translate into votes is hard to determine at the moment. However, since IBB is the first candidate to declare his intention publicly, we can start with him in this series concerning the shape of things to come in 2011; and perhaps beyond.

Babangida, as everybody knows played a major role in the emergence of Obasanjo as the presidential candidate of the PDP in 1999 and as the president that year. Let me take us back memory lane in that respect. Until Babangida came dangling the “carrot” of the presidency before Obasanjo, freshly released from jail in 1998, Obasanjo’s impressions about IBB on record are partly reproduced below.

“As it turned out after successfully undoing his military colleagues with the acquiescence of the non-military, General Babangida came out in his true colours, demonstrating again and again that he is a master of intrigues, mismanagement, corruption, manipulation, deceit, settlement, cover-up and self-promoting at the expense of almost everybody else and everything else….

I need to only to add at this juncture that General Babangida is the main architect of the state in which the nation finds itself today, and that General Abacha was his eminent disciple, faithful supporter and beneficiary”.

That was in 1994. But, Obasanjo’s attack on IBB continued until exactly a week before Babangida came calling on June 27, 1998.

According to the report in Vanguard of June 28, 1998 by Kolade Lanrewaju: “Former President, General Ibrahim Babangida, yesterday visited recently freed former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo at his Ita- Iyalode Abeokuta residence to felicitate with him on his release……

News men who besieged the house were barred from gaining entrance while the two former heads of state conferred for about three hours.

Later in the report, IBB described Obasanjo as an “elder statesman and my big brother” perhaps meaning all was forgiven; if not totally forgotten and they could proceed to business as usual.

However, the media and the entire country missed a hint that was inadvertently dropped by Babangida when he said: “I am very grateful that General Obasanjo is now very much with us. He is one of the men that this country really needs”.

It is difficult to determine if Babangida was motivated by magnanimity or shrewdness. But, it is not out of place to imagine that IBB must have reasoned that if he could help return a former military Head of State as elected president, then there was nothing stopping one who “stepped aside” from returning again to the same office.

Today, Obasanjo is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, BOT, of the PDP, and he still commands a great deal of following especially in the Southwest. One of the most important aspects of the unfolding drama for which Nigerian should be watching out is how Obasanjo will react to the presidential bid of IBB.

As if that does not portend great political theatre, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, former Vice President and friend of Obasanjo is also back in PDP and the race…..


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.