By Bisi Lawrence
It tasted sweet on some lips while it lasted, that dish of defection. There were two parties in the main, and so there was only one other to defect to. It was, of course, bitter to the side on which the defection took place. And so, the loss of the Peoples Democratic Party was the gain of the All Progressives Congress. The applause rose from one side to the other.
One side clung to the prevailing rule of “Power!”, while the other proclaimed the new order of “Change!” The two-way traffic continued in drips and drops until a big one happened: four State Governors defected in quest of “change” in one fell swoop. There was joy in the house of the APC. Politics, they say, is a game of numbers. Well, but see who has got the number now!
It happened in Minna. Those who were going to be adversely affected should have seen it coming. But the PDP by then had acquired the haughtiness that could measure only to the British Empire’s arrogance as one “on which the sun never sets”. Well, actually, the PDP gave themselves a ruling period of 60 years, and hardly spent 16.
There were seven governors lined up to decamp on that hazy afternoon, but only five took the leap—or plunge, as you may call it. One of the defaulters was already acknowledged as the leader of the group, but he stepped back at the last moment. Babangida Aliyu, erstwhile governor of Niger State, failed to recognize the call of history. It is possible, probable even, that he would have retained his leadership of that “seven” group into the next phase which opened the door to” change”. But then, there was no dearth of leaders.
Be that as it maybe, when the criss-crossing was over and done with, the cause of defection had been upheld. Prior to the election, the APC controlled 13 states, the PDP 22, and the APGA 1. After the election, the APC controlled 22 states, the PDP 13 and the APGA 1. The “change” had come in a uniform manner numerically. But in what other ways has it substantiated itself? Or perhaps we should first ask: in what ways did we wish to see the “change”?
Nigerians were truly in a state of disconnect with the PDP administration. There were vivid demonstrations of a type of governance that was focused more on the goodwill of a particular area of the country than on a mission to improve the general fortunes of the commonwealth. There was little in the way of commitment to standards and values that recognized the peoples’ aspirations for a better way of life. Most of all, the question of trust; we needed open trust between the rulers and the ruled, the workers and their boss, among the various ethnic groups that share this space in which we cohabit—natural, human trust which had dwindled almost irrecoverably. These inadequacies were spawned across the board in different shapes and forms in our way of life. We wearily stockpiled them together under the generic heading of “corruption”, which had become so rampant that even the leaders who were soaked in it were failing to discern its odious ramifications.
We wanted change in the tone of our lives as a people, in the image of our people as a nation, in the well-being of our future as a country. The outgoing president gave us a measure of it by the spontaneous manner in which he accepted the result of a country-wide election which he lost.
But we want all the change in a hurry. The popular phrase is that we should “hit the ground running”. We complain: President Muhammadu Buhari has not announced the names of his ministers in four weeks— all of four weeks. Well, his term of office is for a four-year period, could we not allow him four weeks , at least? It is alright to talk about hitting the ground running, but one ought to take other situations into account. For instance, one has to hit the ground looking, or else one is liable to hit the ground on one’s head. “More haste, less speed” is not the kind of change we are looking for. But with the excess of the ground we have to traverse, we would need to hasten alright, but slowly.
President Buhari is known to most of us, especially the younger elements, by reputation. But he has shown that he will not be hurried to any precipitate action. He has a lot on his plate, as we all know, and most of it stinks. Those who appear to wish the country well by complaining about what they consider to be a slow pace in squaring up to the problems in front of him , are the very people who created the problems in the first place. They cannot, they do not, wish him and the nation any success in tackling the issues they have created, for it is sure to affect them when they are called into account. And their ilk is spread across the political divide. While those who painfully find themselves in the opposition are more vocal than the others, they all speak the same language. That is how they have been addressing one another in the hallowed halls of our National Assembly which they have no qualms in desecrating in season and out of season. What, in the main, has changed?
Chief Obafemi Awolowo said it for all time when he rejected his nomination into the panel of the “wise men” to write the 1999 Constitution. He was opposed to the entire exercise and he declared that what needed to be changed was not the written document, which he found quite adequate, but the hearts of men and women who were around to submit to its provisions. Hence the disgraceful broil which has now become a serial occurrence in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, among citizens who were supposed to be distinguished and honourable. But then, they were mostly defectors.
They had given their word to remain loyal to the party of which they were “honourable” and “distinguished” members, and on whose platform they were elected into legislative assemblies on behalf of their supporters. But they betrayed their cause. They reneged on their vows. In fact, they never articulated their cause beyond some fatuous statements that translated into hollow intentions. And as it was on the right, so it was on the left. Nigeria is in trouble.
In the mean time, most of us, poor souls, believe that we are in a democracy. We spout the time-worn definition without giving thought to how we can very well apply it to our plight. Then we try to hide under words like “federalism” and blame non-compliance with the structure of its doctrine for the failure of our system. But the fault is not in our system but in ourselves. That is why the traffic of defection flowed in its two-way pattern without any hitch; they were all “like-minded”, and they have been so from the very beginning— not just when Bukola Saraki supplied the name. They were all in the game, self-seeking all the way.
Why do you think Bukola really jumped camp to the APC? Was it so that he might not become the president of the Senate? Do you think he aspired to that position suddenly at the prick of a whim? And why do you think Dogara found it so easy to upstage Gbajabiamila who had managed the affairs of the APC as the leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives for no less than two terms? He was never a part of that opposition.
When the PDP members began to troop in one accord to the APC, the APC loved it. It signified a change from the opposition to the ruling party. But the PDP members were incensed by the limited political options they saw in their party, compared with a virgin soil of opportunities they espied on the other side of the hill. That was why they went over. There was one action with two different connotations. The number of the PDP members was enough to swamp their hosts as has been amply displayed. It has turned out to be a veritable colonization where the settlers have overwhelmed the indigenes. It is of no great consequence, unless those who used to smile now allow the President, who is their real leader, to gently guide them into a sense of reality. The change is here alright. And it can be fully appreciated in the dividends of defection, which may not be so sweet, after all.