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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Scruples in politics? Forget it

Scruples in politics? Forget it
It was not completely an anti-climax but the long-expected earthquake the exit of the powerful governors from the PDP should have caused did not materialize after all. First, five of the expected seven governors attended the meeting at which the final decision to cross the carpet from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) was taken.
That might not necessarily cause much concern because as a former military governor of Oyo State, the late General Abdulkareem Adisa, would have put it, any venture, especially an examination performance in which a student attained seventy percent should be regarded as near excellent performance. The only problem with the G7 governors’ seeming seventy percent performance on their declaration for APC is that even the seventy percent performance shrank to less than forty-five percent as two of the five governors at the declaration meeting impliedly distanced themselves.
From seven of the original governors initially threatening hell and brimstone on PDP’s future to only three who eventually stood their ground. That was not good enough. Neither should that offer any comfort to the PDP and its leaders on their political fortunes in 2015. In fact, privately, the PDP should be worried about its latest political discomfort towards 2015, an inevitable fall-out of the showdown with the protesting governors.
There are wide-ranging implications for the latest development among feuding members of the PDP. This political show is hardly a surprise. All along, any talk of reconciliation was more of playing for time to land the killer punch by any of the two sides. Towards that end, the PDP leadership (especially President Jonathan and national chairman Bamanga Tukur) kept on humiliating and persecuting the arrowhead of the revolt, Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi through an unofficial (?) alternate governor Police Commissioner Mbu James Mbu. Naturally, it occurred to other governors in the showdown that should such go unquestioned, another governor among them would be next.
The more the other governors appeared to show solidarity with their colleague Rotimi Amaechi, the other members of the protesting governors were scandalized for the financial crimes of their offspring. To be fair, that was in return for the known plans of the protesting governors to take their destiny into their hands by clandestinely perfecting future political prospects on the platform of another party.
Whether to enhance reconciliation prospects or to make clear to him (that) they had had enough of what PDP could offer, one man the protesting governors seemed to rely on through consultations was the party’s former chairman of Board of Trustees, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. At a stage, unconfirmed media reports were that Obasanjo advised the protesting governors not to quit the PDP. That might be true or could be merely for public consumption.
If Obasanjo sincerely prevailed on the governors not to quit the PDP and yet, they proceeded to join the APC in total defiance, the only implication is that Obasanjo’s influence (if any) in PDP today is that a loyal military officer like (retired Brigadier-General) Olagunsoye Oyinlola would defy his Commander-in-Chief? Impossible.
On the other hand, Obasanjo is one of those who may be disenchanted with how PDP is run today. The former president has been humiliated at the party’s national level, South-West zonal level and indeed Ogun State level. Forced to resign as the party’s Chairman of Board of Trustees, but in truth only to pre-empt an impending voting out of office, the same Obasanjo was later to see himself rendered almost irrelevant with the scheming out of his nominees as national, zonal and Ogun State party officers and only recently, his appointees as Federal Ministers.
Goodluck Jonathan would be miscalculating to assume Obasanjo would take such lying low. There should therefore be no surprise if Obasanjo endorsed the APC for the protesting governors. Even then, the picture that emerges is the degree of scruples in Nigerian politics. Not the least because Obasanjo’s potential friends in APC are the same Nigerians he maligned and disgraced out of office in his days of almighty rule in Aso Rock.
The then AD (mainly Yoruba) South-West governors who supported him (Obasanjo) for a second term in 2003 only to be disappointed out at office much to their regret? Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar  he (Obasanjo) tried to discredit out of office after the man endorsed him for a second term?
There was also the mutual embrace of former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu and former Osun State governor Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. For political harmony, that might be alright but others might not be amused especially victims of collateral damage of the struggle for power by both men. There was a top lawyer whose career remains uncertain for allegedly making phone calls to judges during election petition trials and another trial judge similarly faulted for receiving phone calls from litigants.
The allegations were made in both cases by supporters of these politicians, who must have hacked into the private phone conversations of the victims of the collateral damage while bitter political rivalry was considered legitimate. Today, that rivalry has dissolved into joint effort against a common political enemy.
So far, there are speculations that the carpet crossing may soon alter the strength of political parties in the National Assembly in particular. Further speculations are that state governors and such members of the National Assembly involved in such change of party platforms may lose their seats.
What are the prospects? One of the early warning shots at the outbreak of hostilities within the PDP was fired by national chairman, Bamanga Tukur, who, obviously aiming at containing the spread of the revolt, threatened to write the National Assembly leadership to declare vacant, seats of his party assemblymen who might cross to another party.
Nigerian constitution does not support Bamanga Tukur’s threat and in fact is rendered impossible by section 68(1) (2) of Nigerian constitution which asserts that seats will only be lost “…provided that membership of the latter (new) party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored…”
Consequently, the PDP had been the major beneficiary of carpet crossers from other factionalized political parties. Since 1999, the first senators Seye Ogunlewe and the late Wahab Dosunmu took advantage of the division within Alliance for Democracy and joined the PDP and never lost their seats.
Equally, following division within Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), former governor Ikedim Ohakim of Imo State crossed to the PDP without losing office. He was later followed by PPA governor Theodore Orji of Abia State who similarly joined the PDP without necessarily resigning.
The new PDP warriors (now in APC) were careful enough to first ensure a division within the PDP, which they sustained before joining the APC. With these precedents set by PDP and the well-worded stipulation of factions within a party provided in the constitution, PDP members in national and state assemblies willing to join any other party will be safe to do so without losing their seats.
What is more, when the new PDP leaders (now APC members) visited National Assembly, Senate President, David Mark, obviously guided by section 68(1) (g) of Nigerian constitution quoted above, publicly assured that he (Senate President) would not declare any member’s seat vacant.
The magnitude of its political problems should now be dawning on the PDP leadership as indicated by latest developments. For example, the initial cynicism raised by the seeming opting out by some governors from joining the APC turned out to be premature. While Kwara governor Abdulfatah Ahmed did not join in announcing the APC as their new party, a day later, the new PDP in Kwara formally declared for the APC. In effect, short of formal announcement, Kwara emerged as the first PDP government-controlled state to be taken over by the APC.
PDP’s imminent loss of majority in the National Assembly should not necessarily pose a threat to the tenure of President Jonathan provided (repeat provided) the party does not volunteer for suicide. Currently, America’s President Barrack Obama’s Democratic Party does not control the House of Representatives. The Republicans in charge are not necessarily flexing their muscle.
In the latest political development in Nigeria, even if the APC, as expected, commands two-thirds majority, such should compel mutual respect towards the 2015 elections. If, however, as being widely speculated, the PDP or indeed President Jonathan instigates impeachment proceedings in state assemblies to remove governors considered to be offending, the logical consequence will be counter-impeachment proceedings in the National Assembly against President Jonathan.
No side can or should dare the other without repercussions. Whatever Jonathan’s fate in 2015, he henceforth faces the urgent and uneasy task of containing the hawks around him.


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