By Dele Sobowale
“Every great enterprise starts off with enthusiasm for an exalted aim; and ends bogged down in petty politics” – Charles Peguy, 1873-1914, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 49.
The late Dr Alex Ekweme, , Nigeria’s Vice President during the Second Republic, was the Founding Father of what would have been this country’s truly national political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, during General Abacha’s murderous regime. Since a tree has never made a forest in politics, Ekwueme needed some apostles, like-minded promoters of progress, defined as a party that was all-inclusive in many respects. I had an insider’s view, without being a card-carrying member, of the formation of the PDP through the late Chief Bola Ige.
At the risk of being accused of repeating myself, I knew Ige when he could be called a child himself because he was the classmate of my eldest brother, the late Chief Sanu Sobowale. The two started and finished at Ibadan Grammar School the same year and both ended in Grade 1. My family was then based in Zaria, while the Ige family was in Kaduna. Among their classmates, Bola was the ‘Kaduna boy’; while Sanu was the ‘Zaria boy’. I first heard Latin being spoken when Ige came to our house with my brother in their final year in school. They both read law and joined the Action Group Youth Movement on the same day. They were in the progressive movement until my brother died in 1990. I have no doubt that my brother would have joined the G-34 which parades the most courageous Nigerian politicians ever and which was the nucleus of what became the PDP.
INTRODUCING THE GALLANT G-34
“Courage is the rarest and most admirable of human attributes” – Ernest Hemingway, 1898-1961.
I have read loads of history; especially those demonstrating human courage by a few individuals, who risked everything (properties, limbs and lives) in order to save their fellow men from bondage. Nigeria’s G-34, led by Ekwueme, in 1998, exhibited bravery, bordering on suicide wish that should rank among any in history. They boldly asked General Abacha to leave and return the country to civil rule instead of attempting to perpetuate himself in office. Their petition was conveyed by the late Chief Solomon Lar who nobody expected would return from Aso Rock on that day. This is not the time to reproduce the letter written to Abacha. I have another fish to fry; and let me start by introducing the Courageous G-34. Here they are once again. I still tremble each time I see the list. I will glorify them all my life.
1. Alex Ekwueme 2. Alhaji Abubakar Rimi 3. Chief Bola Ige 4. Chief Ayo Adebanjo
5. Chief Sunday Awoniyi 6. Alhaji Sule Lamido 7. Chief Solomon Lar 8. Maam Adamu Ciroma 9. Dr. Tunji Otegbeye 10. Professor Jerry Gana 11. Alhaji Balarabe Musa
12. Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife 13. Dr Iyorchia Ayu 14. Alhaji Lawal Kaita 15. Col. Abubakar Umar(rtd) 16. Professor Ango Abdullahi 17. Alhaji Mohammed Arzika 18. Alhaji Suleiman Kumo 19. Alhaji Lawal Danbanzau 20. Malam Iro Dan Musa 21. Alhaji Farouk Abdulazeez 22. Alhaji Musa Yakubu 23. Mr Steve Achema 24. Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke 25. Chief Oyeabo Obi 26. Chief Francis Ellah 27. Chief Emeka Echeruo 28. Major-General Zamani Lekwot(rtd) 29. Mr. Basil Ukaegbu 30. Mr Issac Shaahu 31. Malam Muhmud Waziri 32. Mr. Dangana Nfayako 33. Dr Usman Bugaje 34. Obong Victor Attah.
Few of the Founding Fathers of the PDP are alive today, far fewer still are in any position to help uphold the principles for which they risked their lives and which formed the basis of the original PDP constitution. Chief Ige, who was one of the drafters of that document, gave me a copy; and then called it “the constitution which will restructure Nigeria when we get into government”. It is an all-inclusive constitution, with a lot of opportunities for resolving intra-party disputes.
The original PDP constitution made robust provisions for settlement and mediation of disputes before members could go public with their grievances. It was made for a situation such as the one in which the party finds itself. Pity.
Unfortunately, the military captured the PDP, imposed Obasanjo; discarded the party’s principles and paved the way for Jonathan who brought the rule of PDP to a close.
Truth is constant. Certainly, the reader should be able to spot the name Dr Iyorchia Ayu as number 13 among our saviors from Abacha. A glance up put reveal at number 6, Alhaji Sule Lamido. They laid their lives on the line; and, above all, they were among the Founding Fathers. At a time Ayu was already a strong man among politicians, his traducers were children indeed. None of them could talk.
Anyone outside of G-34 parading themselves as PDP leaders now is, metaphorically speaking, children of the Fathers. Those making a mountain out of a few grains of sand concerning the use of the word, children, forget that the critical steps which brought about the PDP actually started in 1984, 38 years ago when Buhari jailed Ekwueme, Rimi, Lar, Ige etc after staging a coup.
The associations formed while in prison developed into the political movement of 1998 called G-34. Those taking exception to the word were actually children when events were set in motion; they were brought in as young followers and were too glad to be called ‘boys’ by the leading actors at the time. It is just a political expression which is never intended to be taken at face value.
Meanwhile, none of the pretenders to leadership now has demonstrated the will, the sagacity, sense of equity and compromise required to lead a national party in a heterogeneous society like Nigeria. And, if ever PDP would have a chance to return to its original principles, it can only do so by re-discovering some of the earliest members. Granted, most of those still alive are now in retirement.
They can be brought back to contribute insights, as Elder Statesmen and women, in a bid to dust up and update the original PDP constitution inspired by Ekwueme. As it is, no other political party in existence now has a constitution or mandate which can serve as a template for moving Nigeria away from the brink of disintegration where Buhari/APC government has driven us.
BE CAREFUL ABOUT MOTIVES
“A truth that’s told with bad intent/Beats all the lies you can invent” – William Blake, 1757-1827, VBQ p 254
We were all witnesses to the fact that the PDP had a southern Chairman after Alhaji Makarfi, a northerner, promoted by the same members who insisted on rotation. Poor Secondus was humiliated out of office and Ayu supported to succeed the southerner. We now know that all the strategic moves were made in anticipation of winning the ticket for an aspirant. Well, man proposes; and God disposes. Now, Ayu must go as a punishment for not delivering the ticket. Again, permit me to remind all of us of PDP history.
Ekwueme was well on his way to clinching the party’s presidential ticket in 1998 when the military intervened. The real founder of the party did not petulantly take steps to destroy the party which had been snatched from him. Because Ekwueme realised that the PDP is bigger than anybody, and Nigeria is bigger still, he sacrificed his ambition for his country. He campaigned for PDP and ensured its success.
That is what selfless leadership, statesmanship and patriotism are all about. This episode has induced me to state something which has been in my mind for over 20 years. In my own opinion, Dr Alex Ekwueme was the most truly patriotic Nigerian who ever lived. His virtues should be emulated by others.
Finally, Ayu might step down, for a lot of reasons, and as a compromise. But, it will amount to self-suicide for a national party to be reduced to a one-man enterprise in which every decision is made by one person. That is the way to dictatorship. I will always resist that irrespective of who is involved.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2023 SHOULD BE A REFERENDUM ON BUHARI/APC GOVT 2
“In this scenario, the budget deficit is projected to be N11.3Otn in 2023, up from N7.35tn in 2022. This represents 5.01 per cent of the estimated GDP (Gross Domestic Product), above 3 per cent threshold stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007” – Minister of Finance, August 29, 2022.
In the first part of this series, last week, the attention of Nigerian Christians was drawn to the atrocious lopsided appointments by the Buhari/APC government along religious, regional and ethnic lines. One of my uncles in Sapele asked me, on Monday, if nobody from the Federal Government or APC has called me to raise objections to the indictment for the deliberate inequities against Christians by Buhari. My answer was: Who can send a rejoinder against a blatant truth? APC is an anti-Christian party under Buhari. It will require faith stronger than that which will remove mountains to believe that Christians will get a better deal than now under a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Vice President Osinbajo and I have a lot in common. We are both Yoruba, from Ijebu Remo area; we are Christians; we attended Igbobi College Yaba for secondary school and he assisted the Christian Conscience, CC, the group formed by others and me to fight for Christian Governor against the wishes of the owner of Lagos State. I would have voted against Osinbajo if he is APC presidential candidate for two cardinal reasons.
One, the VP, APC Christian Governors, Ministers and other top level appointees of the Buhari government have kept quiet in the face of the unjust allocation of offices. Personally, I have nothing but contempt for all of them. There is nothing more agreeable in this life than to make peace with the Establishment; nothing more corrupt (A. J P. Taylor, New Statesman).
The APC Establishment was Buhari and the Daura caucus and they determined who got appointed to what. Osinbajo, Fayemi, Ngige, Amaechi, Umahi etc were aware Christians were being cheated. They raised no objections. I am waiting to see who among them will campaign for Muslim-Muslim ticket among their church members. Osinbajo already knows the door has been slammed in his face in his own church.
To be continued