By Dele Sobowale
“Beware! When Fortune would elect to trick a man, she plots his overthrow/By such a means as he would least expect.”—Geoffrey Chaucer, 1342-1400.
February 2018 was a busy month. I had spent days interacting with potential candidates for 2019 still reluctant to step forward or to start to prepare in earnest for their election which is now less than eleven months away. Challengers of incumbent office holders have been placed at a distinct disadvantage by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which had reduced campaign time to only three months. The professors who make up the bulk of INEC Commissioners and their Chairman might be intelligent; but they are certainly not wise. How on earth do they expect a challenger to Buhari to cover thirty-six states and 774 Local Governments in three months?
Already, the current office holders are campaigning in one form or another; while their less creative challengers are wringing their hands in doubt. Fortunately, some prospective candidates are finally listening to me and have started to make moves to reach the electorate through ingenious methods in some states of the North Central.
Ever restless and in search of information about trends in the polity, I headed for the South East and South South in late February and again in early March. It was while visiting communities in the three Senatorial Districts in one of the SS states that I observed the trend which can, for now, only be called a possible reversal of fortunes for the two major political parties – the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
As everybody knows all the states of the South South, except Edo, are PDP controlled states. Casual observers as well as analysts sitting in Lagos would assume that all the five states are still safe for the PDP. To be quite candid, I thought so too. But, after almost thirty years (it seems like just three!) writing general commentary and political analysis, it had become clear to me that assumptions are dangerous without going out and verifying the facts.
One election in particular purged me of all assumptions without factual basis. It was the Ekiti State Governor’s election in 2014. Reading the columns in the nation’s leading newspapers, nobody would have given Fayose a chance against Fayemi – a multiple award winner. I was not so sure. Instead, I went to Ekiti and discovered that Fayemi would lose. I wrote a letter to him four months to the election warning about the calamity to come. There was no reply to the letter. I can understand. When millions of praise-singers are hailing an individual, a lone voice saying “beware” is a distraction. I already have news for some of the APC contenders in Ekiti. But, that will not be disclosed here.
The shock to me came in the SS state controlled by the PDP. The Governor, a charming person and generally well-composed, had laid his claim for re-election on job creation and new industries sited in the state since 2015. Recently, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy in an interview with newsmen in his state repeated the government’s claim that the state (name withheld) has “attracted more industries than other states”. Youths in the state were even asked to start applying for jobs. On my two trips to the state – in December 2017 and February 2018, I visited one of the towns where a major industry was reportedly sited. There was none. The Commissioner, who had lied at first about the industries, later corrected himself by saying: “However, what is paramount for us is that the industries are coming”.
Unknown to the Commissioner and the Governor, the hundreds of thousands of jobless youths are already aware of the deceit about industrialization in the state and they are now drifting to the APC – as several of them said “just to punish the governor for lying to us”. Thus, any APC candidate emerging in that state already has hundreds of thousands of votes waiting to be collected free of charge. PDP runs a risk of losing that state.
If the APC had ever thought of giving Lagos State away to the PDP, it could not have done worse than getting the Lagos State government and the State’s House of Assembly to pass the Land Use Charge 2018. Nothing known to me since I first became aware of the political sentiments of Lagosians in the early 1950s has united the people, irrespective of party affiliation, against the government like this one.
Governor Ambode has surpassed all expectations with respect to his achievements on infrastructural development and the focus on the development of a Mega City. Appropriately, he had been assured of a secured second term. I recollect a meeting in late December 2017 during which one of the participants announced that “anyone contesting against you in 2019 will be wasting his money”. Everybody clapped. I did not; because I learnt as early as 1972 from late British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson that “a week is a long time in politics”. I was afraid for the Governor Ambode and for Lagos State.
The problem with praise-singers, especially when they multiply like viruses, is that they induce in political leaders a sense of infallibility.
But, again, I was cured of that disease – loud praise-singing of incumbents in office – very early in life. While compiling the BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, I had come across several instances in which the people by their cacophony of praises induce complacency in their leaders – a feeling that they can do no wrong. That hubris has almost always been fatal for all concerned. We might be living witnesses to another one.
Virtually every newspaper which had selected a Man of the Year among Governors had included Ambode among the list. But, it helps to build hubris. So, victory is assured; or is it?
The Land Use Charge law 2018 has become Ambode’s banana peel and he had stepped on it inadvertently. The “professional Surveyors and Valuers” who undertook the surveys which constituted the basis for the law and the consultants who must have made millions from the contract, as well as, lawyers and advisers have done a cynic’s job of the exercise. A cynic has been defined as a “man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”. Collectively and individually they have told the governor how much Lagos State would realize in 2018, 2019, 2020 ad infinitum from the imposition of the new law. They obviously have never heard of the law of unintended consequences. They must have foolishly assumed that the people of Lagos State will docilely grumble and pay the charges. They are wrong; absolutely wrong. Only God knows how much will eventually be collected. But, I can bet a lot of money that it will not be anything near what the governor was promised and any future financial plans based on those estimates is only for the dust bin. Mark my words.
On account of space constraints, and because I am also now intimately involved in the war that Ambode has started, I will not disclose too much. But, I was at home in Lagos Island when the person distributing the bills for this year’s Land Use Charge came around on Saturday, March 10, 2018. I was the first to open my bill. It went up by 340 per cent if I pay by April 14, 2018; by 400 per cent if paid by May 14, 2018; by 500 per cent if paid by June 13, 2018; by 800 per cent if not paid before July 14, 2018. The letter accompanying the demand notice signed by the Commissioner for Finance was dated February 12, 2018, expressing appreciation for my “support” – without asking me if I do or not. The demand note was dated March 30, 2018 – but delivered February 10, 2018.
Ambode should have been around to listen to what people – including die-hard APC members – said after opening their bills. If the election was held on Saturday, he would have lost by a landslide….
APC AS A METHAPHOR FOR NIGERIA
“A group without a leader is a mob”— Anonymous
On paper President Buhari is the leader of the APC. But, on many important matters on the national agenda and even within the party itself, there is no leader. Three examples will illustrate how totally bereft of leadership the ruling party is today.
Despite its numerical majority in the National Assembly, NASS, the 2018 Budget is going the way of previous budgets. With every passing day, Nigerians are getting poorer and APC is not addressing the matter.
After years of genocide with impunity, herdsmen with weapons are finally being arrested. Where were the ruling party and the President when Nigerians from Agatu to Adamawa were crying out for help?
The tenure elongation dispute, which threatens to tear the party apart, is the latest manifestation of a group without a leader. Eleven months to the next elections is not the time for such dispute. And, nobody can call them to order!!! Nobody.