By Owei Lakemfa
FOLLOWING a codeine-propelled high drug addiction problem, the Federal Government in a swift reaction, banned the production and importation of codeine-containing cough syrup. The syrup usually taken by millions of youths who mix it with soft drinks, alcohol or illegal drugs, leads to physical and mental reliance on the drug and can be fatal.
Five days after the welcome ban, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, on May 5, held its Ward congresses across the country. In most of the 36 states, they were characterised by thuggery, manipulation, imposition, and in at least two cases, murder. In Rivers State, a member was shot dead right in the party secretariat while in Ughelli, Delta State, a party chairmanship aspirant, Mr. Jeremiah Oghoveta was stabbed to death. In Oyo State, supporters of Governor Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi and those of Communication Minister, Adebayo Shittu, were engaged in a mini civil war with the Governor accusing the Honourable Minister and some members of the House of Representatives of perpetrating the violence and threatening arson.
The Minister was luckier than his Labour and Employment colleague, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige whom security agents had to spirit out from the venue as APC members loyal to the party’s 2017 gubernatorial candidate in the Anambra State elections, Mr. Tony Okechukwu Nwoye, allegedly tried to lynch him. The party violence spread to Imo State where State Governor and Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha declared the congresses as fictional. In Bauchi State during the resultant violence, party members burnt down a local government secretariat while congresses in states like Taraba, Ondo, Ebonyi and Adamawa were consumed in an orgy of violence. Rather than completely condemn the congresses in Enugu State as a sham, the country’s chief diplomat, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama said: “The processes were totally flawed.”
In a number of instances, there was no level playing field. In Kaduna State, the two Distinguished APC Senators, Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi, already had a Fatwa pronounced on them by Governor Ahmed el-Rufai who days before, had told a mammoth crowd that the senators are enemies of the state and when found, should be seized and their heads and beards forcefully shaven. The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun did not bother to show up at his Ward congress as weeks before, leaders of the party in his Edo State constituency, had shown him as a spent force who should not recontest for his post. In a number of states such as Ebonyi and Adamawa, parallel congresses were held.
This certainly is a bad report card for a party that promised to rescue the country from the shameful past of the former ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP. What happened at the congresses were bad for our national psyche, bad for our politics and bad for our reputation as a country. I expected the APC to be sober and reflective; why so much violence and thuggery? Why should people be murdered for Ward congresses? How can the party ensure that their future congresses and the inevitable inter-party elections, are democratic and violence-free especially in a country that has been subjected to so much violence and massacres?
I thought a party that wants to discourage these anti-democratic tendencies, should cause an investigation or at least, invite the police to investigate the homicide cases, name, shame and conscientiously prosecute the perpetrators. I expected the party to apologise to the country and promise to avoid a repeat, but like a man high on a combination of codeine and the aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine (apc) pill for whom reality is blurred and thinking, impaired, the APC, rather, congratulated itself!
The party said in a statement: “The All Progressives Congress, APC, wishes to congratulate all its members for the generally peaceful conduct of the party’s ward congresses which took place across the country… where there are issues, they (aggrieved members) should seek redress through the appeal committees in their respective states.” To the party, the orgy of violence that trailed its Ward congresses were “generally peaceful.” Were it not so, the party might have set the country on fire. The APC is exhibiting the same symptoms the PDP exhibited when it was high on the harmful substances of unrestrained power. That led the PDP to become disdainful, self-conceited and power drunk to the extent that when people complained about its poor conduct, the party boasted that it would be in power for at least half a century.
A primary cause of the problems at the APC Ward congresses, is the desperation of politicians to hang on to power, to displace their rivals from office by all means necessary and possible including resort to murder. The financially-induced political culture in the country, is such that many party delegates are not just traders calculating how much their vote can fetch them, but also turn themselves into temporary slaves selling themselves to contestants and party big wigs. In some cases, the ‘buyers’ temporarily deprive the delegates of their liberty; bussing them to places, sometimes outside their states, camping them for days before driving them to contest venues to cast their votes.
For many of the politicians, politics is the most lucrative investment in the country. So a man can pay N200,000 to each of 2,000 delegates, which comes to a princely N400 million. This is outside the cost of actual campaigns, publicity, endorsement and logistics. So, what kind of war-chest is required to run elections and how else does the winner recoup such huge sums except by raiding the public treasury?
Like the PDP, the APC is packed full of politicians who think holding public office is their professional calling. So you find a man who has ‘served’ at the Local Government level, being a ‘two-term’ commissioner in the state and two-term governor, desperate to go into the Senate where he hopes to remain until death do them part or he gets an higher offer, perhaps to become the President or Vice-President. To them, the country owes them a living for life. So politics in the country has become a do-or-die affair in which it is ‘everyman for himself, and God for us all’. So Help Us God.