By Dele Sobowale
From the sublime to the ridiculous there is only one step.”Thomas Paine, 1737-1809. (VANGUARD BOOK OG QUOTES, p236).
This time last year, he was the toast of Nigerian politics; the man who had stitched together the contraption called the All Progressives Congress, APC, almost single handedly, to score the first major upset of a sitting African President. No exaggeration of his political sagacity and his brilliance and strategist was regarded as excessive. He was the all-conquering hero and Buhari was just the tool for the realisation of his ambition to rule Aso Rock.
Even the questions raised by some of us regarding the sustainability of the political machine he helped to put together was largely ignored. “In times of victory, prophets are unnecessary distractions”, according to Professor Trevor Roper (VBQ p 204). Still, as far back as August 2013, writing on these pages, long before the choice of presidential candidate was made under the title “IS APC THE ANSWER?” the point had been made then that Nigerians might be going to the polls to vote for an alliance based on fear rather than love. Below are excerpts from that article which is proving prophetic in many respects.
Is APC, as presently constituted, the answer? My answer for now is: perhaps not. We may need another political party.
That answer will probably shock a lot of people who had assumed that as a long-term critic of the PDP, I would naturally embrace any political association, especially one that has arrogated to itself the word “PROGRESSIVE”. The reason my enthusiasm for APC is less than expected lies in the fact that my readings in semantics had taught me to disregard the words people use to describe themselves and to focus on what they have done, or causes they have been known to support and their utterances on important matters. Lastly, I am more interested in character, or its synonym, integrity. Looking closely at the leaders of the APC, it is doubtful if all of them will pass the test of integrity. Few, if deeply probed, will fail to change their designer suits for prison attire. But, my biggest worry lies in the fact that APC, even so early in the day, is like a structure resting on two major pillars; each deeply flawed.
APC remains ACN and CPC or, more candidly, Bola Tinubu and Buhari – with a lot of political appendages or even jesters attached. Character flaws in some of the leaders are so deep as to frighten me at the prospect that power might shift to them. Few of them believe in and practice democracy within their own organisations or in the areas they control and with the exception of two, there has been little really “progressive” about the governance in their domains. The question that bothers my mind can be summarized this way: will I be happy if Nigeria is delivered to a political party led by con-men? The answer is: I doubt it….”
It has been necessary to go so far back into the short history of this political machine and what I thought about them right from the start in order to reach the present and observe how soon the political contraption carefully engineered with expediency, but devoid of principles or shared values, is breaking down right in front of our eyes. Meanwhile, any sympathizer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who thinks the self-destruction of the APC will pave the way for the return of the PDP is living with self-delusion. APC and PDP have broken down irreparably and the politicians in the two will find it almost impossible to unite after this.
All what had gone before leads us inexorably to the Leader of the APC – who had once again become the centre of attraction in the drama playing out within the APC. Two years ago, nobody would have whispered in his bedroom that Asiwaju should leave the APC because he was totally indispensable then. Today, some people are shouting from the roof tops what nobody would dare suggest in 2014. When the late English Prime Minister, Harold Wilson said in the 1970s that “A week is a long time in politics”, he raised eyebrows but not anymore. Today, especially in Nigeria, two years would appear to be like eternity. It is bad enough they no longer tremble when he talks; some are now talking back – directly or through surrogates. They have decamped.
Knowing Bola Tinubu, he will fight back. But, before he starts rebuilding his siege engine, he would need to know one thing he missed which brought about his present predicament. Sam Rayburn, 1882-1961, the Texan, longest and most powerful Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, once made the observation that in politics “there are some people who it is better to keep on the inside pissing out, than on the outside pissing in.” To reach this stage, Asiwaju had allowed several individuals formerly pissing out to get out and to start pissing in – names withheld for now.
Secondly, he had fielded the same “team” for too long. Most were picked from obscurity and made prominent and they remained loyal until they became “stinkingly” rich and developed their own political bases. They were no longer the willing “errand boys” he started with. And, they will not follow him into the trenches for the next battle. He needs new soldiers for that one. Meanwhile, he should not forget that “the only battle that counts is the last one.”
That he has been badly treated is not in doubt. But, also not in doubt is the growing resentment against his imposition of candidates and his contemptuous disregard for the feelings of the indigenes of Lagos State – presumably his own state. Two examples will illustrate the point about contempt. No other Governor of any state since 1999 had ever appointed a non-indigene to the position of Chief of Staff – the second most important in the state. Bola Tinubu not only appointed Lai Mohammed, from Kwara State, to that position, but proceeded to appoint at least four other non-indigenes as Commissioners. He had followed that with other selections which could only have been made by someone assured of absolute power – and we all know what that means. His attempt to “export” that impunity to other states is major reason he is in the present predicament. And, he runs the risk of more embarrassments.
Lastly, at least for now, Asiwaju ignores the fact of current political life in Nigeria. Before, those seeking appointments and contracts, in the South-West, headed for Ikoyi. Today those in pursuit of Federal appointments have a choice of Vice President, Ministers, Special Advisers from the zone to run after. Not only has he lost the monopoly of power of patronage, an increasing number of people seeking favours from Abuja now consider him a liability. The more the perception grows that he is at loggerheads with Buhari the more isolated and an outcast he will become within the house he laboured so hard to build.
MADE IN USA BIOGRAPHY FOR NIGERIAN PRESIDENT.
“The word should be a cousin to the deed.” Plato, 428-347BC.(VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ P 36).
One great benefit derived from researching and compiling the VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATION, VBQ, was the fact that it forced me to live among men who lived several centuries ago; to learn from their thoughts and to share their views about human beings – even in the present age. Homer, c 700 BC, had a similar idea but applied to leaders. He enjoined every leader “To be both a speaker and a doer of deeds.” President Muhammadu Buhari is, by the grace of God, and voters, the leader of Nigeria today. Nobody knows tomorrow. So, more than any other Nigerian, I expect him at all times not only to talk but to show by example that he means what he says. We all look up to him.
Three weeks ago, in a tail-piece added to my tribute to Sunmi Smart-Cole, the genius with the camera, I made a passionate plea for great Nigerians in all walks of life to write or have written for them their biographies – so that others can learn from their experience. The reader can only imagine my joy when somebody told me that a biography of Buhari would soon be launched. My joy was short-lived.
Last week, the biography was launched quite all right – but the author was an American!!! For a President who had been promoting consumption of “Made In Nigeria” products, this was a betrayal. As a Marketing professional, I can authoritatively state that consumption of all products – meat, dresses, cars, android phones and books – all aim at need satisfaction. You cannot be promoting consumption of shoes made in Aba and be patronizing writers in the USA. Is there no single writer in Nigeria who can do the job?
In actual fact, the American writer can only write based on documents carefully selected and given to him. Nigerian writers, especially those as old as myself, lived with Buhari. No American can know him better. Was John Paden here when people were tied to stakes and shot at Bar Beach? Or when soldiers horse-whipped fellow citizens mercilessly? Was his wife whipped by a corporal young enough to be her son?
We need another book – one that will tell the whole truth; not whitewash the past. That is propaganda; not biography.