By Williams Adeleye
These are interesting times in Nigeria’s political landscape. And it is not surprising. The 2015 general elections are around the corner and politicians are at liberty to dig into their bag of tricks to sway potential voters to their side even if some of them have to demonize their opponents.
What is however worrisome is the activities of some so-called commentators and political analysts whose comments and write-ups are nothing but outright partisanship. Indeed, it will not be out of place to describe such commentators favour-seeking cronies of the government in power.
The interest being expressed by all shades of opinion and groups since the formation of APC is confirmation of the discomfort of the ruling party on the one hand and the expectation of deliverance from poverty and want by the long-suffering people of Nigeria.
However, there are those who have resolved that the only way to slow down the growth of the APC is by demonizing its leaders through outright lies and falsehood in the hope that lies repeatedly told can become truth.
The recent article by Femi Aribisala in Vanguard of Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at page 17 is a classic example of a political hatchet job carried too far. In his article entitled, ‘There is nothing progressive about the APC’, Femi Aribisala tried in vain to confuse his readers and create doubts in their minds about the credentials of the APC as government-in-waiting.
He engaged on a rehash of the well-worn (to use his own words) and ineffective tactics of the PDP – referring to the APC as a Muslim party and demonizing its national leaders. In all, Aribisala listed some grounds which he thinks will justify his deep-seated hatred for General Muhamadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu – two personalities he has chosen to vilify for reasons best known to him.
He alleged that the APC is a regressive party.
The only reason he gave for such a conclusion is that Buhari ‘truncated’ a democratic government – an apparent reference to the 1983 coup that ousted the Shagari civilian administration of the Second Republic. What he failed to add in his jaundiced allegation is that the 1983 coup of Buhari and his colleagues in the military was a popular movement which did not come as a surprise to many at that time.
Indeed, Nigerians today still relish the 20 months of Buhari/Idiagbon administration as 20 months of order and probity in public life. Of course, there would be certain decisions and actions taken during that period that he (Buhari) would not take today with benefit of hind-sight. But that was 31 years ago as a 40-year old!
It was also convenient for Aribisala to overlook the fact that President Shagari was a northern-Muslim whose questionable election victory of 1983 over Chief sbafemi Awolowo, a Southern-Christian, was one of the grounds for the military putsch of December1983. Which ethnic or religious chauvinist will overthrow a President who shares the same ethnicity and religious persuasion with him?
Were Buhari to be a religious bigot, would he not have used military fiat to make Nigeria a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, O.I.C. during his reign as military Head of State especially when his deputy was also a Muslim? Was it not Buhari as Head of State that routed the Maitatsine sect from Nigeria in 1984? I have it on good authority that Buhari himself as Head of State led the operation against Maitatsine from Yola.
As a corollary to above, Aribisala referred to Buhari and Tinubu as dictators – Buhari for overthrowing a government (that was lacking in legitimacy) and Tinubu for foisting candidates (including his wife) for election on his party, and for making his daughter the Iyaloja of Lagos State. He also accused Buhari of calling on his supporters to go on the rampage if he lost an election.
I think it is libelous for some people to continue to peddle the lie that Buhari asked his supporters to protest violently if he lost the 2011 election. The truth is that Buhari warned of possible dire consequences if the elections were rigged.
On the allegation that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu imposes candidates including his wife on party members, I want to ask, ‘Does he also impose the candidates on the electorate?’ If indeed, the electorate had any problems with the candidates of Tinubu’s party, they would have used their votes to express that.
This allegation smacks of jealousy. He was also accused by Aribisala of imposing his daughter as the Iyaloja of Lagos. Market women and men are a very vibrant and organised set of people. I am not sure that you can impose a leader on that kind of group without a fight. I am not aware that the market men and women registered any protest on the emergence of the new Iyaloja.
Asiwaju’s detractors would wish they had the kind of ardent followership that God has given him the grace to enjoy. Those who understand what leadership means know that the major task of a leader is to set direction for his team and convince them to buy into it.
Obviously, reaching a consensus on candidature for election may not be possible at all times but the majority view will always prevail. What political opponents of Asiwaju call imposition is actually consensus building which is an acceptable mechanism for decision-making.
On the emergence of his wife as a senator, when has it become a sin for the spouse of a successful man to also become a success in the same vocation? The question should be whether or not Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu has the credentials to become a senator.
The people of her senatorial district have already answered that question with their votes. I think Aribisala should go and read the stories of family political dynasties to understand that there is nothing essentially negative about this.
The Clinton, Bush, Kennedy, Cuomo, Rockefeller, Roosevelt, Daley, Adams, and Harrison families in the United States of America, the Aquino family in Philippines, and the Gandhi family in India are relevant examples here.
In contemporary times, the Bush family has produced two Presidents and two state governors. Mrs. Hillary Clinton may well be on her way to becoming America’s first female President.
I do not think it is a sin to aspire to public office just because a relation has made a success of public office. Perhaps, we should be asking successful men and women in business and politics why their off-springs do not follow in their foot-steps.
It could be a case of leadership failure at the home front. Like a Harvard Review article puts it, ‘Democracy does not eliminate political dynasties; even the most enfranchised nations in the world have them. Voters tend to give political scions one free election before evaluating them on their own merits.’
On corruption, Aribisala questioned the anti-corruption posture of Buhari and Tinubu. According to him, Buhari built a palatial guest house in Daura as a Head of State. If this is all he can come up with against Buhari, then Aribisala deserves pity.
If after a meritorious military career during which he was Petroleum Minister, military governor, and then, military head of state, not to talk of various command positions, all that Buhari can be accused of is building a palatial guest house in Daura and not series of choice properties in Abuja, Lagos, New York, Dubai, Paris, or London, then Buhari should be hailed as Mr. Clean.
Let me remind Aribisala that Buhari was the only military head of state who did not promote himself while in office. He became head of state as a major general and remained so until he was overthrown 20 months later.
The facts on ground suggest that Buhari is the most exemplary head of state (military or civilian) that Nigeria has had. Aribisala also accused Buhari of serving a corrupt Abacha government.
The question for Aribisala to answer is whether any Abacha loot has been traced to Buhari or his relations. Should we then conclude that President Goodluck Jonathan is corrupt for honoring Abacha during Nigeria’s centenary celebration?
Rule of law
As to the alleged discharge and acquittal of Tinubu on technical grounds by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I hope Aribisala is not suggesting that the Code of Conduct Tribunal was compromised.
Whatever corruption allegations anyone has against Tinubu should be proven in a law court and not on the pages of newspapers. It does appear that Aribisala does not believe in the rule of law as he would want us to believe. He would rather that people be sent to jail on mere allegations of operating foreign bank accounts.
Interestingly, even he could not conjure up any allegation of corruption against Tinubu in his article.
Aribisala was also uncomfortable with the decision of APC to allow defecting members of the PDP to join the party. This is gibberish.
People like Aribisala were the ones who accused the late Awolowo of being a political puritan who did not relate with some politicians that could have helped his political cause because they were not ‘clean’.
Does anyone need to be reminded that this same Awolowo predicted some decades ago that a time of political alignment and realignment was coming in Nigeria, when progressive forces everywhere will come together under the same canopy?
Why should a political party be afraid of allowing people to willingly join it? What is important is for the party to have clear code of ethics which will guide the conduct and behaviour of members.
Perhaps, what gave Mr. Aribisala away as engaging in political jobbery is his decision to join the PDP in painting the APC as a Muslim party. He concluded that the APC is a Muslim party just because some members of its Interim Executive Committee bear Muslim names.
He conveniently listed all those he considered to be Muslim and left out those who are not. Let us for the purpose of argument agree that majority of the interim officers of the party are Muslim, how does that make the party a Muslim party?
Is there a written or unwritten code that precludes non-Muslims from occupying leadership positions in the party? Does the fact that majority of delegates at the on-going National Conference are Christians make it a ‘Christian’ Conference? Has the APC declared any ideology or principle in its manifesto that gives the impression that the party is pro-Islam and anti-Christian?
Indeed, it is people like Aribisala that should be accused of religious bigotry and ethnic chauvinism by reading religion and ethnicity into every issue. Are Kayode Fayemi, Rochas Okorocha, Rotimi Amaechi, Adams Oshiomole, George Akume, Tom Ikimi, Timipre Sylva, etc Muslims?
Even some of the recognisable leaders of the party who are Muslim have proved to be religiously moderate and tolerant Nigerians who are married to Christian spouses and have allowed them free rein to practice their faith. In Lagos, Asiwaju Tinubu, as governor returned Christian mission schools to the owners.
The same man instituted an Annual Thanksgiving Service every January with a well-known Christian clergy presiding. That tradition subsists till today under another Muslim governor without the Muslims in Lagos complaining! People like Aribisala should recognise and promote this in their writings.
As if by some divine arrangement, all the South-west governors of APC with the exception of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola are married to practising Christians. In all the APC – controlled states, no one, including Aribisala has heard of any form of discrimination against any religious or ethnic grouping.
APC does not and will not elevate any religion above others. The party is not built on any religious philosophy but on the principles of fairness, equity, and justice for all. No attempt to give it religious coloration by any one or group will succeed.
•Adeleye, a political analyst, lives in Lagos.