By Femi Aribisala
In every material particular, the PDP is today the party that is best positioned to secure Nigeria’s future, while the APC is inclined to jeopardize it.
What is the forthcoming 2015 presidential election about? Let us first identify what it is not about. It is not about improving the economy of Nigeria. If you insist it is, then you will need to tell me what either the PDP or the APC has told Nigerians it will do with regard to the economy. As a matter of fact, the only party whose economic programme we know is the PDP. At least, we can see what it has been able to achieve in the last 16 years. However, the APC is barely one year old. I need someone to tell me the economic policy of the APC. It is non-existent.
Let us see if we can get some indications by focusing on those currently in the running for the APC’s presidential ticket. In the first place, we have Muhammadu Buhari. I must confess that I don’t have a clue as to what Buhari’s economic policy is because he has not told us about it. In spite of the fact that he is running for president for a marathon fourth time, the truth is that Buhari does not have an economic policy.
Worse still; Buhari is a retired military officer. He has no economic background or training. Buhari knows little or nothing about the Nigerian economy; how much more how to transform and improve it. A man who claims he had to borrow 27.5 million naira from a bank in order to pay for the presidential nomination papers of his party is not likely to have the resources to put together a serious economic think tank.
We also have competing for the APC ticket, men like Atiku Abubakar and Rabiu Kwankwaso. Quite apart from the fact that these men have also been economical as to what precisely they would do with regard to the Nigerian economy, they were until just yesterday, members of the ruling PDP. Atiku was even the vice-president of Nigeria under the PDP for 8 years. Kwankwaso was a PDP governor. Therefore, we cannot expect anything different from either of them than what we have been getting under the PDP.
Let us face the facts, Atiku and Kwankwaso defected to the APC, not because of any policy or ideological differences they had with the PDP, but because they realised that they could not run for the presidency under the PDP, which has a sitting president. These men are in the APC for reasons of expediency and not of policy. When the APC loses the election in 2015 and, with Jonathan out of the way, they can be expected to make their way back to the PDP with their tails between their legs.
There are those who insist the election is about dealing with endemic corruption. If so, the only political party in Nigeria that has addressed in any way shape or form the issue of corruption in Nigeria has been the PDP. If we have anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria today, they were instituted by the PDP. If we have jailed corrupt politicians, after taking them through due process, it has only happened under the PDP. If we have recovered monies stolen from abroad, it has only taken place under the PDP. The PDP has even on occasion prosecuted some of its own members who were corrupt.
There is nothing anti-corruption about the APC. The party welcomes thieves, robbers and saints into its ranks with equal enthusiasm. If you are a thief or in a position to provide stolen public funds for the use of the APC, the party’s political machinery in your state will be handed over to you. The APC cannot claim to be anti-corruption when the fee for procuring the nomination papers for its presidential primaries is even more extortionate than that of the PDP. In short, as far as corruption is concerned, there is no difference between the PDP and the APC. They are Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
I have never heard anybody accuse Atiku Abubakar or Bola Tinubu of being anti-corruption. The person who brings the illusion of an anti-corruption debate into the 2015 presidential election is Muhammadu Buhari. But if Buhari is so anti-corruption, what is he doing in the APC? In any case, Buhari has not for one minute told us what he would do about corruption in Nigeria.
What we have is just a lot of grandstanding. How does he propose to contend with a legislature which will surely comprise the usual staple of corrupt politicians? How does Buhari hope to address the issue of corruption in the judiciary? Not a word on any of these issues. All we are told is that he is anti-corruption. Unfortunately for the APC, it is only the PDP that has an anti-corruption policy, even if this policy is currently implemented imperfectly.
If the 2015 presidential election is not about the Nigerian economy and not about corruption what then is it about? The election is first and foremost about building the nation of Nigeria. Do we vote to go forward as a viable and united nation, or do we vote for the eventual disintegration of Nigeria? There can be no question that, to date, these have been the most pressing questions concerning the forthcoming presidential election.
The question then is this: which political party is best able to move forward the Nigeria project. Which political party will be best able to promote the unity of Nigeria: is it the PDP or is it the APC? As far as I am concerned, this question is a no-brainer. In every material particular, the PDP is today the party that is best positioned to secure Nigeria’s future, while the APC is inclined to jeopardize it.
As a matter of fact, the people who have been threatening the internal cohesion of Nigeria over the last six years by the insistence that a South-South man should not rule the country are mainly to be found in the APC. For this very reason, someone like me will continue to support the PDP over the APC for the duration of this election cycle.
Nigeria cannot be a country for the majority tribes alone, especially in a situation where oil, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, comes from the minority South-South states. My faith teaches me to always support the weak. In a situation where the North-West has produced the leadership of this country for 14 years, the North-Central for 18 years and the South-West for 11, no one should begrudge the South-South if one of its sons were to occupy the presidency for 10 years; according to the dictates of divine providence.
The truth is that, in spite of its many shortcomings, the PDP is the only truly national party we have in Nigeria. The APC is a coalition of ethnically chauvinistic parties. ACN was primarily a Yoruba party of the South-West. CPC was a one-man Northern party formed principally to advance the political ambitions of Buhari. In the 2011 presidential elections, ACN barely got votes from the North, while CPC barely got votes from the South.
In coalition as the APC, these South-West and North-West parties remain ethnically chauvinistic. APC cannot get 25% of the votes in two-thirds of the states in the federation. All its presidential candidates are from the North. The overwhelming majority of its governors are Muslims. Such a party is not in the interest of the growth and development of a united Nigeria. The PDP, on the other hand, is a North-West, North-Central, North-East, South-West, South-South and South-East party. It has roots in all parts of the federation.
At different points in the history of Nigeria, we have been able to step back from the brink and recalibrate our trajectory towards a united nation. That was the reason why, in 1999, it was generally agreed that the next president of Nigeria should be a South-West Yoruba man. Accordingly, the major contenders for the presidency were Yorubas. That decision was taken in the interest of national unity. Such a sober and enlightened consideration needs to be taken again in the political climate of the 2015 election.
Nigerians must be careful not to give the people of the South-South the impression that while we continue to exploit their oil, we refuse to recognize them as equal partners in Nigeria. It can be argued that we have already accommodated them since Goodluck Jonathan has been president for six years. But I beg to disagree.
In the last six years, the “born to rule” elements in the North have not allowed Goodluck Jonathan to rule. All sorts of schemes have been used to frustrate his administration. Even the prerogative for a party with a majority in the House of Representatives to have its own speaker was betrayed on the altar of ethnic chauvinism. We also had the unedifying situation where the Governor of the Central Bank went rogue, gave government funds to the opposition and cast aspersions publically against the government. That is not done.
The 2015 presidential elections are about the continued existence of Nigeria as a nation. The only party that can guarantee that now is the PDP. If Goodluck Jonathan loses the presidential election, even in a free and fair poll, I am convinced the future of Nigeria would become even more problematic. The South-South would not take his rejection kindly. We cannot continue to drink their oil and then reject their rule. They would either demand secession, or they would sabotage the oil wells.
With Boko Haram insurgency, Nigeria limps on because the economic jugular of the country is safely tucked away in the South. But with South-South insurgency, the Nigerian economy would grind to a halt. If the North would not allow Jonathan to rule, don’t expect the South-South to allow Buhari or Atiku to rule. As far as I am concerned, the economic disaster that would follow the rejection of the PDP in favour of the sectarian APC is too high a price to pay; just because some people feel the Nigerian presidency is their birthright.