By Rotimi Fasan
FIRST a quick clarification, one that I have variously restated in this space in the last few months: I do not see a Peoples Democratic Party-led government being radically different from the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress government. That is in the event of that party winning this Saturday’s election as some pundits have predicted in what looks like a very tall order. Which is to say that our way out of the crippling corruption, the singular disease that has misbegotten the countless others by which Nigeria is plagued and has destroyed the future prospects of Nigeria, will not be charted by the same people that brought us where we are now.
Yes, there may be some changes here and there but such would be so cosmetic that they would be the medical equivalent of administering iodine to a gangrenous wound. Hardly better than the vacuous words of a President Buhari who declared “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.” Nigerians now know better. We know that while Buhari does not belong to everybody, he does belong to somebody, or better put, he does belong to some people: the Hausa-Fulani or the geographic north, the predominantly Islamic section of it, that is.
The return of the PDP would amount to nothing significantly different from its past incarnation. It is a non-starter and would, in one word, be worse than scratching the surface of a chronic problem. While on the stumps the PDP candidates in the presidential elections have made very attractive promises that many would find irresistible- promises to fight corruption, improve the economy, end insurgency and above all restructure the country. The APC and, indeed, President Muhammadu Buhari made more mouth-watering promises. Promises the president has since walked back where his associates have not simply denied he ever made them with spins that are as foolish as their proponents.
In the face of the lackluster performance of the APC in the last four years, I have no confidence in a PDP whose moving spirit are renegade members of the APC, people who in the main helped prop the APC to victory. Nothing spectacular can come from such a body of disgruntled men and women. Disagreement over pork sharing is never a good reason or sufficient basis to bring together people who promise to make real change in a country whose social and political fabrics have been torn apart. What holds the PDP together today is the personal interest of its members.
There is neither altruism nor national goodwill in their desire to oust the APC from power. I have no hope in them and a victory for the party on Saturday will only be a reminder that Nigeria is yet perambulating in circles and that we have only passed the fate of the country from the hands of one group of looters to another that is, going by past record, probably worse. I should think that my indifference to the situation is clear enough. But not to those Nigerians who I now realise conclude that rejection of APC translates automatically to support for the PDP. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
My desire is for a new direction, for a Nigeria that will move in a direction that is completely different from where we are headed with and are being led by either the APC or the PDP. But the system has been so severely corrupted and rigged against those political parties that are led by Nigerians that are new to the terrain, those far younger than either candidates of the APC and the PDP. It would have been very good for the world to see us try something truly new for once, not this shameful exchange of batons between one class of looters and another that has blighted our political landscape in the last six decades. Nigerians should not be reduced to the level of having to choose the less execrable of two abominations.
But except the political equivalent of something seismic happens to upend the current calculus of our political system, except a miracle of yet unimaginable proportions happens, Nigeria will remain firmly in the hands of either of the two parties, the APC or the PDP, that have respectively grounded us all in the last four or sixteen years. I desperately wish to be proven wrong. But should the scenario I just painted come to pass, let us spend the following four years to empower a new class of politicians that can effectively challenge and defeat the monstrosity that both the APC and PDP have become.
That being said, which of either the APC or the PDP would I rather see return to power on Saturday? I see the APC holding on to power. I say this based on intuition and knowledge of our electoral experience, without totally disregarding the various permutations that have been advanced by political pundits, observers, party stalwarts and other interested persons and groups. But to answer my question directly: I say once more that neither party deserves our votes but in terms of their mealy-mouthed commitment to combating corruption, which is the primary criterion by which I’m assessing them, I imagine things look a little better under the APC. Would I have the APC returned to power on that basis?
I would say no, particularly as I can still see Buhari and his cabal conducting themselves in the same manner they have conducted themselves in the last four years. Things could, indeed, probably get worse as the president has no need or reason to come again before Nigerians to ask for their votes. This should be cautionary warning to the likes of Bola Tinubu and company that may have been blindsided by personal ambition to see clearly what is in store for them. Buhari had all but abandoned them until he realised he needed them for his re-election bid.
But if only to tell him that the voice of ALL and NOT some Nigerians count, Buhari deserves to lose Saturday’s election. That a leader that came to power on a pan-Nigerian mandate, one in whom almost all Nigerians from all parts of the country invested so much faith in spite of past personal failures and apparent shortcomings- that such a leader would not only express distrust for Nigerians and retreat into a tribal enclave by surrounding himself only with a few people from among his own kit and kin while filling nearly every available national position of influence with Nigerians from his parts of the country- that he would do this while being totally deaf to the complaints and demands of Nigerians to change his ways- for all this and more, including his generally middling performance, Buhari deserves to lose the February 16 election.