By Dele Sobowale
“A group without a leader is a mob.” Anonymous.
NOTE: Most of the readers of this column would have expected an article on the Lagos State primary elections and the humiliation of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. They should wait a while. The nomination of Mr Sanwo-Olu as the flag-bearer of the APC is only the first battle in what promises to be a war. In my opinion, too many people have assumed that the matter is settled. I don’t think so. For that reason, I prefer to wait a while as events develop, before making a categorical statement. It will certainly be made at the right time.
One statement can now be made regarding the turn of events. Ambode not being a life-long politician was too complacent after his victory in 2015. He failed to keep together the coalition of groups outside the APC which made his emergence possible. He has paid a heavy price for hubris. More on that later,
Now that most of the primaries for elective offices by Nigeria’s ruling party – All Progressives Congress, APC – had been concluded nationwide it should be obvious to any objective observer that what we have is not a national political party with discernible ideology or operational constitution, but one in which rules are decided according to which set of gangs are in control of each state. At first, the “party” announced that all the primaries would be conducted by direct voting of all the party members. Governors or power blocs in states fearing direct voting rose up and forced the leadership to reverse itself and accept indirect nomination in states which don’t want free and fair primary elections. As if that was not bad enough, even with the adoption of any of the two methods, powerful stakeholders in some states still went ahead and declared results favourable to their candidates. Nationwide confusion is the result. Obviously, more defections from the party will follow. Granted, disgruntled elements from other political parties might also decamp to the APC. But, the outflow will most likely exceed the inflow.
Incidentally, the outcome of the Osun State governor’s election is teaching several lessons while at the same time revealing some harsh truths which the APC must find disturbing. First, whether the courts finally decide that the APC candidate won or not, one fact is indisputable. After eight years of lies and propaganda, the majority of the people of Osun State have demonstrated their disapproval of the out-going APC government led by Ogbeni Aregbesola. Furthermore, the presence of the President and Vice President of Nigeria, as well as virtually all APC party leaders failed to deliver victory. A deal with a former competitor was required to procure a very narrow victory which might soon be overturned. Clearly, even Buhari is not popular in the state. He delivered next to nothing.
Second, a last minute payment of arrears of salaries also helped. The APC President had ensured that Osun State’s Paris Club loan refund was paid before the voting took place. If not, the result might not even be close. But, now that the windfall had been mostly exhausted, the state might return to the former position before the other elections in March next year.
Meanwhile, print and electronic media reports paint a picture of a group which does not meet the minimum of being defined as a political party. Once again, permit me to offer a description of a party as rendered by late US President Dwight Eisenhower, 1890-1969, who said, “A political party deserves the approbation of the…..people only as it represents the ideals, the aspirations and the hopes of [the people]. If it is anything else, it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.” Without doubt, among the ideals, aspirations and hopes of most Nigerians are security of lives and properties, gainful employment, food security, shelter, good education for the young, health services and infrastructure. None of these is now being adequately addressed by the Federal government under the APC.
Take security of lives and properties as an example. The herdsmen menace can serve proxy for the rest of the faces of insecurity countrywide. Since the nation finally woke up to the threat of the group led by Mayetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, the FG has offered no solution. Instead, the excuses for failure to act decisively have changed since the attacks in Benue woke all of us up to the assault on our aspirations and hopes. Buhari, the Inspector General of Police and the Minister of Defence first advanced the totally untenable theory that the communities were to blame for not welcoming strangers into their midst. That brainless idea fell flat once it was pointed out that the criminals had been living with their hosts for ages.
Still undaunted in their determination to blame the victims, the three again suggested that No Grazing laws passed by some states provoked the assaults. That was despite the fact that the sack of Agatu in Benue state and Nemo in Enugu occurred two years before Benue State passed its law. Till today, Enugu has no such law on its books. That nonsense stopped only when Plateau State, whose ill-informed Governor joined Buhari to ask for repeal of No Grazing laws, was over-run by herdsmen. Even today, with no law Plateau state is still a killing filed for herdsmen.
Along the way, we were told that the loss of a large portion of Lake Chad forced the herdsmen into lawlessness. Apparently, if cattle cannot find water to drink in the lake the next best thing is human blood. But, the village idiot knows that herdsmen are not the only victims of shrinking Lake Chad. Fishermen and fish sellers, boat builders and repairers, investors in tourism and hospitality among others also lost out when the waters receded. None of those had used their losses as excuses for genocide everywhere in Nigeria.
Recently, the President of Nigeria has discovered another reason. Fighters from Islamic group in Syria and Gadaffi’s Libya are responsible for the massacre. The late Libyan dictator died more than ten years ago. Yet, his ghost still haunts the fertile imaginations of Nigeria’s President till today.
We have heard the excuses, but not one statement about solving the problem which is creating other problems among which are food insecurity, imminent famine and deepening poverty. Since we are on poverty, we might as well discuss the issue which will be the major cause of insecurity in the future. Several global reports, arising from independent research efforts, have reached the same conclusion. Nigeria is now home to the largest number of poor people on Earth. We just recently overtook India. Unlike the Asian country which is steadily reducing its population of persons living in abject poverty, Nigeria is adding six or seven every minute. A serious government, if ever we have one, would by now have established a body to find solutions to the calamity. Buhari and his government are never serious. They heaped abuses on the writers of the first report and only stopped insulting their betters when more publications announced the same findings. Till today there are no plans to avert the detonation of the time-bomb which rising numbers of people with nothing to lose will bring about.
On October 1, 2018, the President of Nigeria addressed his “Fellow Nigerians”. The address reminds one of the joke by Oscar Wilde, 1856-1900, “How many fools make up My Fellow Countrymen?” Good leaders everywhere use the occasion of their national day to deliver thought-provoking speeches and to outline new departures. Buhari’s was remarkable for its blandness and lack of direction. Interviewing over thirty adults who sat through it, none could recollect a single major initiative or policy thrust. It was the same salad bowl of illusions packed full with empty promises –“government is committed to”, “we are determined to” etc – without providing the road map that will take the nation to its destination. I stayed awake only out of habit. Otherwise, it was a poor bed-time narrative. Nothing in it focussed on the hopes of the people of Nigeria.
“If a man takes no thought about what is at hand, he will soon find sorrow near at hand.” Confucius, 551-497 BC. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 70.
For instance, the population of Nigeria which is growing at over three percent per annum is expected to reach 400 million in 2050. Two hundred million more Nigerians than we have now will need everything from food to water, to shelter and education facilities transport and recreation. A more committed President in 2018 would be outlining for his people the long range plans to provide for those who will be alive long after he is gone. But, Buhari does not even think deeply about those here today. How can he be expected to think about 30 years from now?
At 77, it is easy to think that one will not be around in thirty year’s time. But, only a myopic grandfather fails to understand that his kids and grandchildren will be very much around then. That alone should induce him to want to plan for their future.
“Liars ought to have good memories.”Algernon Sidney, 1622-1683, VBQ p 127.
Of all the bad habits characterising this mob ruling Nigeria at the moment, none is more annoying than their individual and collective proclivity for lying with a straight face. There is a disease called Aso Rock Diseases, ARD. A few days ago, Buhari claimed that in sixteen years, the PDP built no roads. That statement brought tears to my eyes – for his eminent position and for his age. As a matter of fact, the PDP built the Benin Bye Pass, expanded the Benin-Sapele-Warri-Patani roads; expanded the Onitsha-Owerri road, expanded the Lokoja-Abuja road, expanded Abuja Airport to Central Business District as well as several roads in the Federal Capital Territory, started re-building Lagos-Ibadan express road, built and expanded the Ife-Ilesha road etc.
I always feel sorry when lies are told just to win a point.