By Muyiwa Adetiba
The APC Convention ran its course last week. For weeks, it looked as if it was not going to hold. There were opinions in its favour and opinions against it.
There were cases in court for and against it. There were enemies within and enemies without. The party’s fault lines became more glaring as ‘brother governors’ fought against ‘brother governors’ and party stalwarts fought against party stalwarts.
There were intrigues and counter intrigues. There were threats and counter-threats. Many threatened to decamp – if they could find somewhere to go. It was all about power play. It was all about power retention.
A high-wired poker game played itself out with very little thought given to the health of the party which they hoped to use as the vehicle to electoral glory.
Even less thought was given to the health of the country which they hoped to govern. And so, after several months of bitter fighting, of loose and unedifying comments, of postponements, the Convention final held.
It was, it seemed to me, an anti-climax; much ado about little. Or to adapt the words of a certain playwright, its advent was full of sound and fury but its end signified little. The minority had its say, the same minority had it way.
A consensus contraption was adopted which saved the face of some but did very little to patch the cracks which had surfaced within the party.
I always try to watch the democratic conventions in America, the country from where we copied the presidential system. While they do not always meet up to expectations, you can be sure to hear one or two pretty good speeches. The little I saw last Saturday bore very little semblance to the American democratic conventions. The arrangements were shoddy.
The speeches were tepid and boring. They even insulted the sensibilities of Nigerians in parts with their allusion to success when most of what we can see Is failure.
The ultimate insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians would probably be the selection of officers who were erstwhile senior members and actors in PDP, the same party APC had spent much of seven years vilifying as corrupt and inept.
Nigerians always knew there was little difference between the two parties. Saturday’s convention just emphasised that point. There was little to choose between the conventions of the two parties in personnel and style either. And if there is any doubt, the vaulting ambition that two of the people who helped to remove a sitting PDP President now have towards the Presidency under the same PDP umbrella should clear them.
Different thoughts must have gone through the minds of those who managed to watch the Convention last weekend -day time TV has become a luxury for many thanks to power failure and the astronomical cost of diesel; another ‘success’ of this administration.
The thoughts would range from anger, frustration, hurt, to bitterness, especially for those who placed their hopes on this administration in 2015 – and they were many who genuinely felt corruption would be curbed, public spending would be more transparent and the polity more disciplined among the many things which were promised by this administration.
There would no doubt be some who would have watched with relief that the convention eventually held and that the party survived it – at least on the surface. These are people who have a stake, for whatever reason, in the survival of APC – probably those whose lives took an upward swing in the last seven years.
The quality of life, unfortunately, slipped down the gradient for many Nigerians. One of those Nigerians is a ‘brother’ of mine whose present financial situation could not have allowed him to burn the diesel necessary to watch the Convention had he been favourably disposed to it.
He retired last year as a professor in one of the Federal Universities having reached the age of seventy. Those who attended secondary school with him attested to his academic brilliance.
He secured a scholarship to study in Europe. He was still in his twenties when he came back home with a PhD. He naturally gravitated towards the academia. He became a professor in his early forties and devoted his entire life to the ivory tower.
Like many in the academia, he is a simple man who loves the simple life. His only indulgence is his beer and even that is in moderation. He also loves the ambiance of the university environment and feels happiest in the classroom.
Early last year, just a few weeks before his retirement, he was traveling to attend to his postgraduate students when he had an accident. He survived but his car did not. It was his only car.
Today, at his 71st birthday, and one full year after retirement, he is without a car, and not a penny of his retirement benefits has been paid. When I spoke with him, his voice had lost his characteristic vibrancy.
It could be because of his failing health. It could be because of the way the system has treated him having devoted his brains and youthful energy to serving his motherland.
In the hall at the Convention were people who should have made sure that pensioners never have to suffer the indignity of begging for their benefits – many countries will pay your benefits on the dot whichever part of the world you choose to reside.
In the hall were people who sat on the pensions of deserving retirees and probably fed fat on them. On the podium were people who served their States for four or eight years as governors and are enjoying stupendous retirement benefits.
Some are said to collect benefits in two places. Some of them are vying for the Presidency. Yet people who have devoted their youths – some as much as three decades or more – to serving the State are remorselessly short-changed.
Like this retired professor with a failing health who now has to rely on providence. No retired person who has worked for the State has to find their old age darkened and made unpleasant by the same State, least of all, a retired university professor.
Old age, after years of toil and labour, should be laid back and idyllic. It should be one of the goals of the State that old age should not be laced with struggles and regrets. Some of the people who are supposed to make it happen were in the hall last week.
Their disposition towards the aged, the poor and the disadvantaged is eloquent from their utterances and actions. Their self-centredness obvious in the acrimony which played out before the convention.
The difference between the wealth in the hall and the poverty on the streets is obvious for all to see. The insecurity in the land is one of the results.