By Ochereome Nnanna
ALHAJI Atiku Abubakar and Chief Tony Anenih are one of a kind. They were launched onto the centre stage of Nigeria’s politics by, arguably, the most undesirable political machine ever to be formed in the history of this nation – the late Major General Yar’ Adua’s People’s Front of Nigeria, PFN, which later renamed itself the People’s Democratic Movement, PDM.
There are certain traits common to most PDM “graduates” irrespective of the platforms they find themselves today. They are highly manipulative. They are adept at staging scientifically-concocted elections or primaries to fit into the preconceived outcomes.
That was how they won to lead the Social Democratic Party, SDP, even though they were the minority faction to the Babangida decreed amalgam in November 1990. They brought the tradition into the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the Obasanjo presidency successfully used it to last eight years.
They also know how to desert their principals at the drop of a hat. Though the PFN faction of the SDP helped win the 1993 presidential election which Chief Moshood Abiola won and General Ibrahim Babangida annulled, they abandoned Abiola and went for the rescheduled election of April 1994 under Professor Okon Uya’s National Electoral Commission, NEC.
Anenih, who was the PFN/SDP/PDM National Chairman, deserted Abiola. Then he also abandoned General Yar’Adua when the latter was detained by General Sani Abacha in March 1995. In fact, he sponsored a motion at the Constitutional Conference reversing the October 1, 1995 terminal date that the PDM leader had sponsored. It was Yar’Adua’s motion that led to his arrest and eventual demise in prison.
Anenih deserted Atiku and became Obasanjo’s Mr Fix-it. Later he deserted Obasanjo for the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. Today, he is President Goodluck Jonathan’s Man Friday for 2015 politics. Anenih is the original Any Government in Power, AGIP, of Nigerian politics.
PDM graduates are also very desperate politicians. Atiku, as Vice President, threatened to slap Justice Kashim Zanna, who presided over an electoral matter that ruled former Governor Boni Haruna (Atiku’s lackey) as loser of the 2003 Adamawa governorship election. He accused the judge of lacking “respect” for his person and office as Vice President of Nigeria.
Also in 2011, Atiku, along with his loud-mouthed political hangers-on, Professor Ango Abdullahi and Alhaji Lawal Kaita, boasted that they would rally the North to force President Jonathan out of power with their so-called “majority” votes. To actualise that, they formed the Northern Leaders Political Forum, NPLF, headed by Mallam Adamu Ciroma to snatch the PDP ticket from Jonathan. When they saw their scheme failing, Atiku made his remarkable “those who make peaceful change impossible will make violent change inevitable” speech. His hangers-on followed up with threats to make Nigeria ungovernable if Jonathan won the presidency.
In spite of their desperate antics, Jonathan won. Since then, as if their “prediction” was coming true, Boko Haram resurged and the rest of it is history.
With this track record, I have always been at odds with these chaps. I do not believe they are democrats, and I have said so many times in the past. Atiku embraced a struggle many times when his former colleagues in the PDM now working for incumbent presidents used their old weapons against him. He often went to court and won historic cases. He started dubbing himself a quintessential democrat. I take that with a pinch of salt. But in contrast, Anenih, being an operative for incumbent presidents does not pretend to be anything of the sort.
Over the past week, at the “family dinner” of the PDP where President Jonathan was “endorsed” for 2015, Anenih, true to type, called for “automatic tickets” for the president and first term PDP governors seeking re-election. In a swift retort, Atiku issued a disclaimer, saying that such a move will be undemocratic. He said every aspirant in the party must be given equal opportunity to prove himself even against incumbents.
For the first time on record, I am on the same page with the Turaki of Adamawa, the chief proponent of Northern hegemony in Nigerian politics.
Automatic ticket is not only undemocratic, it is a sign of fear that in four years the incumbents know they have not done enough to stand before their party men and ask for another term, since one good term deserves another, as they say. They want party leaders to impose them on the membership and carry the moral liability to the larger Nigerian electorate. The danger is that the electorate could punitively vote the incumbent out of power (as in ImoState in 2011) and the bubble will burst.
By saying incumbents should be given automatic tickets, it means Anenih is afraid there has been a general poor performance by the PDP elected executives. That may not be true, but the perception can be to the advantage of the opposition. A good performer will always be the first to ask for free, open contest because he knows it will favour him. For the same reason that I oppose Atiku’s regional sabre-rattling and born-to-rule mentality, I say no to Anenih’s anti-democratic call for automatic tickets.
Anenih led the PDP to a woeful failure in Edo governorship polls in 2012, thus signalling his lack of ability to win free and fair elections. Anenih’s “automatic ticket” runs counter to President Jonathan’s “one man one vote, one woman vote, one youth one vote” mantra of 2011.
It is a booby trap.