PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fellow Nigerians, kindly accept my sincere apologies for disappearing from this page abruptly last week. It was due to circumstances beyond my control. I had really over-flogged my body through marathon trips that left me totally knackered and brain-drained. I truly appreciate your concern and prayers. Many of you must have angered my perpetual cynics who used to complain weekly and endlessly about my column. Your messages, especially on Twitter, were eloquent endorsements of my modest efforts at writing Pendulum under stringent conditions most times.
Let me disabuse the minds of those who panicked about my column being rested by the Management of Thisday newspapers. No one can imagine the kind of freedom I have enjoyed since I took up this assignment. The Publisher of Thisday has never attempted to gag me in anyway and I’m mightily proud of our cordial relationship. Mr Nduka Obaigbena recognises the fact that a column is the personal opinion of the columnist and does not necessarily represent the editorial view of the newspaper. Those hoping and dreaming and preaching that my column should be scrapped should consider the interests of the majority who have come to accept Pendulum as their weekend tonic.
In my last piece of penultimate week, I had written copiously about my encounter with Dr Rilwan Lukman in Vienna about 15 years ago. I was shocked when news of his death reached me two days after that he has passed on. I doubt if he ever had time or enough consciousness to read what I wrote about him but that Pendulum has become my fitting tribute to the great man. May his soul Rest in Peace.
The title for this week was suggested or mandated by a reader, Favour Afolabi, on social media. He had tweeted after reading my piece, WHY I’M NOT A FAN OF PDP, that he expects me to write about my fascination for APC, perhaps, at a time many have chosen to write the obituary of that potentially great party. Let me state categorically that I’m not a member of APC but only a sympathiser and admirer for several reasons. I’m a proud member of opposition. It is unhealthy for a country with our myriad of intractable problems to operate a one party system.
I love the Yoruba proverb that says “we cannot all sleep and lie down facing the same direction.” As a member of opposition, it is my responsibility to work for the rescue of Nigeria from the ultra-conservative elements that have been in power almost forever in our country. Our types of conservatives have failed to yield positive results. They pretend to practise capitalism but without the commensurate capital. We love the American Presidential system of Government but lack the strength and might of America. We have spent too long a time and wasted so much of our resources on living senselessly and needlessly in denial. The rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. Most of our institutional structures have collapsed and the country is virtually on auto-pilot. Those who can’t see the imminent danger ahead are the politicians and the toads of power. They never fought for the democracy we enjoy today and so can never seem to appreciate what we are bound to lose if this present experiment collapses again.
My sympathy for APC is not without a caveat. I’ve not issued them a blank cheque. I’m aware they have their own issues, plenty for that matter. I know many Nigerians claim they can’t see any difference between APC and PDP. I don’t exactly agree as I shall explain shortly. There are also the ethnic jingoists who don’t know the dictionary meaning of democracy. They are those who argue that the current President must govern the country for two terms WHICH IS OK BY ME. But I do not subscribe to the idea that it has to be done by force. What is the essence of holding the next Presidential election, if no one else would be able or allowed to win? Those who insist they won’t agree if the President is defeated in the election are only inviting anarchy. They are inflaming the polity and attracting public odium to the President by making the gentleman look like a man hell-bent on destroying his country on the altar of selfishness and avarice. For all you care, there are many Nigerians who may ordinarily wish to support the President but are now sufficiently nauseated by all the noise or threats of mayhem if opposition wins the election. I’m one of those who believe it is within the rights of the President to re-contest but there is nothing to suggest in our Constitution an automatic win for him. And the position is not hereditary. As a member of opposition, it is my belief that opposition groups must join forces to dislodge the PDP in a clean contest.
Let me now go to why I admire APC warts and all. One, by next year, PDP would have spent a total of 16 years in power. In those years, Nigeria would have moved effectively from a hopeful state to an almost hopeless nation. There is no citizen of Nigeria, except the few in the corridor of power, who’s not alarmed at the speed of our cataclysmic fall from grace to grass. In every sector, we have witnessed a downturn in the fortune of our dear beloved country. The very powerful leaders at the Federal level have squandered the vast resources of this great nation on frivolities to say the least. They have blatantly refused to declare an emergency rule on grinding poverty, infrastructural decay, mass ignorance, occasioned by the collapse of education, gross insecurity, atrocious corruption and extraordinary indiscipline, and so on.
Two, in any sane and sensible democracy, the PDP would have been sacked long before now. Governments are not sacked because there is a guarantee that the incoming would perform much better but because the mood of the people is such that they are totally tired and they want change or temporary reprieve from their slave masters. It does not matter if the next leader fails again, he would be changed for another.
Such a change favoured the ascension of Barack Obama. The people of Great Britain also kicked out their wiz kid Tony Blair because they were just tired of his many stunts and unholy romance with George Bush. Also, the ability to change a leader through the ballot box is the beauty of democracy. While no one can say with absolute certainty how APC would perform at the centre, I would rather risk trying them before knowing what they can do. At any rate, even if the argument that they won’t do better is valid, Nigeria practices Federal Character, so I ask why can’t we “quotalise” incompetence and corruption! Why must PDP be the sole beneficiary?
Three, on a serious note, I’m reasonably convinced that a lot of APC states have given us much to cheer and a semblance of hope than most of the PDP states and certainly better than the government at the centre. I find most of the APC states to be potentially great despite not having the kind of resources available to the Federal and their states. Anyone who cannot see or acknowledge the modest efforts of APC Governors is not being honest about it. While people may say APC leaders have been enmeshed in their own mess, I still believe they have made better use of the resources available to them. I’ve always loved to say that nations are not run by saints but by performers. None of us is a saint and none is likely to be in our lifetimes but it behoves us to leave a legacy behind despite our imperfections as human beings.
Four, it is necessary to send a powerful message to those who think Nigeria can never change by first re-jiggling the principal actors. I believe it would most probably force the incoming government to know it is possible to be sacked like its predecessor if it fails to deliver on its promises. To keep PDP permanently in power is to keep Nigerians in perennial servitude. Every attempt to change democracy to monarchy should therefore be discouraged.
Five, the argument that the APC has become polluted because some PDP members crossed over is a spurious fallacy. How come PDP can welcome APC but APC can’t poach from PDP. At the end of the day, we are all human beings from the same country and what matters is to find more of sensible and forward-looking ones in one party than the irredeemable characters in the other. Let all those who oppose the PDP style come together and uplift our nation. PDP can no longer give what it has not possessed in nearly 16 years.
Six, it must be noted that both PDP and APC combined have fewer members than the floaters who don’t belong to either of them. I’m surprised at the seeming helplessness of the floaters who can’t see the sense and possibility of joining the opposition en masse so as to influence some of their decisions unlike PDP that has already become too big and incorrigibly set in its ways. Rather than regularly bemoan the many afflictions of our nation, I plead with those on the side-lines to engage in the torturous task of restoration. It will be more rewarding to all of us collectively. To voluntarily give up and say it is impossible is tantamount to committing mass suicide.
Seven, my definition of change is to move away from an existing disorder. PDP has been in the saddle since the return to our half-cooked, if not raw, democracy. The party has continued to wield the power of heaven and earth with nothing tangible to show for it. The only change possible is to move away from them and try something different and potentially refreshing. This would require the determination and courage of most Nigerians to accomplish, however.
Let me say categorically that I’m happy APC is facing critical challenges at this type. If its operatives are wise, it would give them enough time to put their house in order. What is needed on their part is not insurmountable. APC must stop playing Brazilian style of soccer in Brazil. Let them show us an original game many admirers like us know they are capable of playing. Let them bury their differences and bitter acrimonies urgently or perish together. Let them tap and recruit from the largest army in Africa, the unemployed masses of Nigeria and give them hope of a brighter future. It is too late for PDP to make such promises or offer such hopes but APC can still be given the benefit of the doubt.
I can’t see PDP doing as well as it did last time in the North West and North East the way those zones have become ravaged by terrorism. Most people from those parts may want to blame the President rightly or wrongly for their terrible woes and seek their pounds of flesh. PDP might sweep the South East and South South naturally and even do reasonably well in the North Central, especially the traditional Middle-Belt. But the battle ground remains the South West where APC needs to stand firm. It should be obvious to APC that PDP would do everything possible to control the South West ahead of the general elections. But what I like about the South West is the sophistication of its electorates who are already seeing through the smokescreen of “Operation Capture the West by all means.” The strategy is not new. It was tried in 1983 when NPN went on a binge and captured Oyo State but found Ondo State too hot to handle. The people of the South West naturally detest any form of intimidation or oppression. If the PDP continues to harass them, it would eventually backfire.
It is up to the APC to remain strong and steadfast in its quest for power. Its leaders would have to reach urgent consensus on who and who to field for what and prune their Presidential aspirants to barest minimum. I expect them to field a Northern candidate against the Southern incumbent President. Fortunately for APC, the President is generally believed to have marginalised the South West that gave him victory over Buhari the last time.
I don’t see more than three powerful contenders right now from the North but Buhari, like him or hate him, is one candidate PDP would hate to face despite the bravado that he can be easily defeated by them. He enjoys a cult-followership that seems to have increased in the last few weeks. In the South, APC would have to decide on a Christian to pick as Vice Presidential candidate between Governors Adams Oshiomhole, Rochas Okorocha and Rotimi Amaechi, if none of them defects to PDP before D-Day; or risk a Muslim-Muslim ticket through a choice of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu or Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. Some of these leaders would have to bury personal ambitions for the sake of Nigeria. If they refuse and go ahead to kill the dreams of millions of Nigerians, the shrieking cries of suffering citizens will keep them awake till kingdom come…