By Tonnie Iredia
Ahead of the next general elections holding in Nigeria in 2019, many citizens are already worried about the unsettling political tension in the country. Considering the volatility of some of the political activities of the last few months, we cannot blame those who are becoming apprehensive. This is perhaps a good junction to once again draw attention to the dangers of our zero-sum political system which often influences ‘a winner at all cost’ approach. We believe that the ‘winner-takes-all’ political system which we operate is what encourages many of our political actors to embrace an ‘all is well that ends well’ attitude that can easily dismember our country. But because we are still within redemption stage, we call once again on our compatriots to play our elections as a game and not as war. Although our political class continues to claim that there is no cause for alarm, it is not hard to see the danger ahead.
Apart from the Ekiti governorship contest which was marred by vote-buying, most of what accounts for the current tension has been more of internal democracy challenges. With the polity so heated already, how do we survive the onslaughts of inter-party feuds? Surprisingly, it is the ruling party at the federal level, the All Progressive Congress APC, which overwhelmingly won the 2015 Presidential elections to form the government of the day that has been at the receiving end. The problem which had to do with the running of the party climaxed into a group of its members regrouping to form the r-APC. Following the inability of the party to accept certain demands made by the splinter group, the latter cut off from the party into a separate unit that is now challenging the continued viability of the mother party. When the r-APC announced its departure, the party claimed that the group had no credibility and that APC can do without those in it.
This was followed by the departure of 14 Senators and 37 members of the House of Representatives. The nation saw frantic but unsuccessful efforts of the party to stop the move but the defectors probably had a well-articulated game plan. In other parts of the world, the movement of some politicians from one party to the other is usually handled with political maturity and sophistication but ours is never so. Accordingly, efforts to nullify the potency of the defectors as well as efforts by the defectors to consolidate have unleashed tension on the polity. To make matters worse, that a more volatile situation may be ahead was shown in the defection of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State who appeared to have had useful discussions with the party’s national leaders. In the midst of the entire episode, the APC national leadership has continued to confidently speak of no cause for alarm.
Indeed, the Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole gave assurances that he would lose no sleep over the subject because in his view, the defectors have little or no electoral value. Incidentally, it is this aspect that convinces the ordinary man that there is danger in the horizon. Oshiomhole no doubt exhibited ample dexterity in his strong desire to stop the defections, but he did not just fail, it appeared that some of them surprised if not deceived him. For him to turn around to belittle the team shows that a bitter battle is coming. As we heard, he held several meetings far into the nights, meaning that he lost substantial sleep. No one knows whether or not he would stop there, just as no one knows how much the other side has lost or is ready to lose. The only thing that is obvious is that the nation is losing more sleep by the day discussing controversies instead of governance.
Many citizens are dissatisfied with the roles being played by a number of societal institutions. For instance, the handling by the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) of the allegation of forged certificate against Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance has disgusting implications. First, the NYSC showed itself to be a worthless societal organization which cannot meet basic public information demands. How does the organization confirm fake certificates of several institutions that send prospective corpers to her if she cannot verify her own exemption certificate? More importantly, between now and when she eventually decides to speak on the subject (one comedian says the NYSC works in a sequence of 9months), she would have succeeded in making the public imagine that there is an official directive for her to shield the minister thereby denting the anti-corruption drive of the government and providing room for hate speech on the subject. Thus, what looks like a little matter could wrongly envelope the political environment.
In the case of the police and even the EFCC, many already believe even without sufficient proof that they are being used against political opponents. Both bodies have major and difficult tasks to handle and should be assisted by all to perform with ease, but the coincidence of the police inviting the Senate President to clear some criminal information about himself and the presence of the EFCC in the home of his Deputy on the same day and time which prevented the latter from attending the Senate meeting of the day lends itself to politicisation. The simultaneous events no doubt added to the political heat in the nation last week. The same is true of the open altercation between the APC national chairman and a minister in the APC government, Dr. Chris Ngige. Oshiomhole’s argument for party supremacy cannot be faulted but a shouting bout between him and the minister left much to be desired as it derogated substantially from the image of a ruling party.
If the case of the alleged abduction of Senator Dino Melaye did not create much apprehension because of some the senator’s past comical displays, the killing of Borishade Adeniyi, the chairman of the PDP Apapa in Lagos certainly created palpable fear and panic in the society. The same is true of the alarm raised by officials of the Ekiti State House of Assembly of an uninvited detachment of police personnel in their premises. But all these are avoidable and our people must learn to embrace the rule of law. For instance, those who think Senator Adeleke, Osun State PDP governorship candidate have no certificate should let justice take its course. Any other option can heat up the polity thereby disrupting Nigeria’s well deserved peace.