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Thursday, 1 August 2013

APC: Beyond “The Cradle Memos” By Uchenna Osigwe

By Uchenna Osigwe

I got rather confused after reading Pius’ latest piece. On the one hand, he’s telling APC not to bank on the fact that people are tired of the PDP, and on the other, he’s advising them to use “a groundswell of national disgruntlement with the PDP…as a door to mass appeal…” So where does he want them to begin? Wouldn’t it have been better to wait until they come to seek advice, then the Professor would decide either to give it free or charge them for it. In the meantime there’s something I think is more pressing.

Pius was right on target when, speaking of the PDP, he said that “Nothing about that party inheres in the people. She has never even needed the people to win elections. She “captures” power and political offices in a process driven by corruption and rigging. Nothing is explained to the people.” The question then becomes, how do we solve the problem of rigging elections in Nigeria? I think that is a bigger, more pressing problem than investigating how the new party is like the old one. If we’re able to entrench free and fair elections, then if the new party doesn’t convince people, they’ll be voted out in a transparent process. Otherwise the party may be all that Nigerians really want and still be rigged out by the formidable PDP rigging machine, using the law enforcement agents and the judiciary that have shown themselves again and again to be mere extensions of the ruling party! That’s the biggest problem to which we need to find a lasting solution if we want to be sincere with ourselves. This is because it seems that after 12 June 1993, the oligarchs from the east of the Niger to its west, from its south to its north decided that they’ll never again allow a free and fair election, especially at the federal level. For how long shall we allow them to get away with that? Finding all kinds of faults with ourselves isn’t going to solve that gargantuan problem!

Many Nigerians think that once they cite examples from America, their case is made, after all, isn’t America “God’s own country”? And so we’ve been lectured about how the ideological divides in the USA political scene, specifically between the Democrats and the Republicans, is set in stone. Really? In asserting that, the writer seems to be delving into an essentialism that exists only in his imagination. Well Professor, I hate to break it to you, but you seem to be living in a bubble when you said that. Ronald Reagan started his political career as a Democrat, yes he did! He was a Democrat for years! Democrats and Republicans change parties all the time, may be you’ve not been following events carefully. Recently a high profile Republican senator, namely Arlen Specter (1930-2012), became a Democrat. His story is quite interesting because he was a Democrat from 1951-1965, then a Republican from 1965 until 2009 when he switched over again to the Democratic Party! A state senator in Louisiana recently switched from Democrat to Republican.

Perhaps the most famous case is that of Joe Liebermann who was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000. He later chose to sit as an independent in the Senate, then endorsed John McCain over Obama, and actively campaigned for McCain, spoke eloquently at the Republican Convention, voted against Obama’s health care law at a point in the Senate, etc. He was McCain’s first choice as running mate but the Republican establishment successfully fought against that. Colin Powell, a card carrying Republican endorsed Obama for president twice! The immediate past Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist endorsed Obama in 2012, spoke at the Democratic convention, and announced a few weeks later that he’s now a Democrat.  Cross-party endorsements are as common as the switching of parties in the USA!

In Canada where Pius lives, politicians change parties all the time, in fact some even cross floors at crucial moments to prop up a (ruling) party they had opposed all their political lives! And in so doing they sometimes manage to change the political course of the country. The current opposition leader in the Canadian House of Commons was even a minister in another party, namely the Liberal Party, albeit in the Quebec wing of the party, before he switched to the New Democratic Party. It’s not a Nigerian phenomenon, it happens all over the world. In the run up to the last general elections in Britain, who would have thought that Nick Craig would pitch tent with David Cameron given their seemingly irreconcilable ideological divides? But that was exactly what happened, and the two of them are now ruling in a coalition that would last for five years, after which they’re expected to go their separate ways. Political party ideologies are made for human beings and not the other way round!

Most politicians all over the world have permanent interests, not permanent ideologies. President Obama has put many republicans in top posts since ascending the presidency. His current Defence Secretary is a republican. In fact, Obama has implemented many republican policies during his presidency. His signature Affordable Health Care Act is lifted almost directly from Republican policy think tanks.

We shouldn’t let our manifest discontent with the way things are going in the Nigeria degenerate into a contemptuous condemnation of everything about Nigerian politics, even if some of those things obtain in other well established polities. We shouldn’t demonize Nigerians for changing parties. After all, there is nothing in the Constitution of the country that says that one could not change parties. Indeed sometimes it could be a heroic service to the father/mother land. Instead of excoriating them, we should rather look into the content of their characters and not the color of their party affiliations. Ours is still a democracy at its gestation, with all the problems associated with that stage of life. So we shouldn’t be quick to compare ourselves to others for the wrong reasons. If we want to compare, for goodness sake, let that comparison be balanced, based on facts, and not merely used to score some cheap points. I think Sahareporters readers deserve a more balanced approach.

Beyond that, it’s disappointing that Pius hasn’t deemed it fit to see anything good he could credit these guys who came together despite all seemingly insurmountable odds to form a formidable opposition. Let me add, for the curious, that I am not a party man and don’t aspire to be one. But Pius’ piece is really not a criticism but a condemnation which I reckon is unwarranted. As I already said in a similar rejoinder to the good professor, criticism is constructive when it is positive. This criticism smacks one as being in bad faith because it’s a wholesale condemnation of everything the APC has done so far, in total disregard of all the empirical facts. As such, it is a criticism that does neither the critic nor the criticized any good. He announced that his ‘memo’ comes “with loads of good intentions.” However, one was left still looking for those ‘good intentions’ at the end of the lengthy piece.

We want to build not destroy. But if we want to destroy, let it be, as Nietzsche would say, a prelude to building something more magnificent. Pius’s piece, centred as it is on a phantom ideological purity, seems to be waltzing one way in the direction of destruction. As an Igbo proverb says, when you ask an old woman to help you take care of a new born and she complains that she has no teeth, you cannot but wonder what her intentions are…


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