Yes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the timetable for the long-awaited (and dreaded) 2015 general elections. On the day the world celebrates love next year, February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, Nigerians will be filing out to declare their love for a new president, and members of the National Assembly. And two weeks later, they will be on the march again to choose new governors, and lawmakers into the state assemblies.
Since we returned to democratic ways in 1999, this is perhaps going to be the most keenly contested, the most pulsating election in the country. The rampaging Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has won every election at the centre, and in majority of the states, now has to contend with a rainbow coalition, an amalgam of opposition parties that has formed a confederacy to wrest power in 2015. I tell you, this may be our keenest election ever.
John the Divine, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, was banished to the island called Patmos, “for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” From there, he received revelations that are still unravelling about 2,000 years later today.
Well, ‘Prophet’ Adesina was also in the spirit earlier this week, and he received messages for the All Progressives Congress (APC), which if they heed properly, they will have cause to smile after the elections next year.
Destabilisation, sabotage, subversion and treachery are legitimate weapons in politics. The APC will have plenty of it from people already planted in the fold by the PDP. The party has been fishing in all kinds of waters, landing big fishes, small fishes, all disgruntled members of the PDP, who have joined the ranks of the APC. Because “there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face,” agents of destabilisation are also already in the fold. Their duty is simple: rock the party to its foundations, sow discord, and set the members in disarray. How the APC copes with these fifth columnists will determine how far it goes in next year’s elections.
Again, wrangling by founders and joiners may be a mighty centrifugal force. See the scenario in many states. Attahiru Bafarawa was a key figure in the merger process from the Action Congress of Nigeria end. He also had influence in All Nigeria Peoples Party and Democratic Peoples Party. He was even a presidential aspirant in the 2011 elections on the platform of the ACN. Now Gov Aliyu Magatakarda Wamako of Sokoto State, a sworn political enemy of Bafarawa, has joined the APC. Like a wild horse, the latter kicked, saying over his dead body would his former deputy governor, whom he forced to resign, become the party leader of which he (Bafarawa) was a co-founder. The matter had festered for months, and now, Bafarawa has gone into the PDP.
Here is the message from Patmos: let Bafarawa go. He is now a lightweight, mere feather in the politics of Sokoto State. If he remains bilious and grouchy against his former subordinate who upstaged him in the political game, then he has not much to bring to the table in APC. Politics is about permanent interests, not about permanent friends or enemies. If Bafarawa refuses to see the larger picture, and holds on to deep-seated animus and antipathy, then let him go. An aching tooth is better out than in.
But even as Bafarawa left in Sokoto, I wouldn’t have canvassed the same in Kano. Whatever it would have taken, APC should have held Ibrahim Shekarau tight. The man is a positive influence, added value to any political party. Shekarau is one of the brains behind the formation of APC, just like Mohammed Buba Marwa from the Adamawa end.
True, there’s been no love lost between Shekarau and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in Kano. The former had upstaged the latter from the governor’s seat in 2003, and spent two terms in office. But in 2011, like a typhoon, Kwankwaso swept back into office. Since then, Kano has been polarized politically into pro-Shekarau and pro-Kwankwaso camps. But you need the influence (and possibly the funding) that incumbent governors can bring to bear on the process. So, APC embraced Kwankwaso with open arms when he defected. But what do you do with Shekarau in terms of who leads the party in Kano? Dilemma. Quandary. Puzzle. There should have been rapprochement between Shekarau and Kwankwaso, despite the long years of political bitterness. The leadership of APC should have facilitated it. Kano is a big political pool, and wrong splashes cannot be afforded from that direction. Now Shekarau has gone into PDP. Tufiakwa! It should never have happened. I have the sneaky feeling that the former Kano State governor, a man I respect so much, has made a mistake, and an egregious one at that. Shekarau is too much principled to join a party he had always excoriated for its bad practices. What Bafarawa lacks in political influence, Shekarau sure has aplenty. APC should have held tight to him.
What of Marwa in Adamawa? Same scenario. The urbane former Borno and Lagos State military governor brought verve and panache into public service. If Nigeria was not such a self-destructive country, a land that consumes its best people, people like Marwa should be giving quality leadership at the centre now. Should APC then let him go? Remember that song by King Yellowman, the reggae artist: “If you should lose me, oh yea, you lose a good thing…” APC should not lose Marwa. Whatever it takes to reconcile him and Gov Murtala Nyako, the party should do. And this is straight from Patmos.
The same with Dele Belgore and Bukola Saraki in Kwara State! Belgore ran for governor in 2011, but Saraki succeeded in installing his own protégé in Abdulfatah Ahmed. Belgore had been in the vanguard of opposition as symbolized then by the ACN, which became a major part of APC, and then suddenly, Saraki and his people joined APC. About 20 lawmakers in the Kwara State House of Assembly have also defected from the PDP to APC. Who then leads the party, the founders or joiners? The joiners have plenty to bring to the table in terms of influence and resources. So who does the party hand the baton of leadership to? Another puzzle. Dilemma. But the party leadership must resolve it amicably, making concessions here and there.
In Bayelsa State, the same scenario exists between the old members, and supporters of former governor, Timipre Sylva. In Ondo State, Ogun State, and many others, the party is equally being rocked by leadership tussles. What the APC leadership at the national level does with these pockets of discontent will go a long way in determining its fortunes (or misfortune) at the polls next year.
Another message from the island: APC, watch the processes by which your candidates emerge. Your adversaries are waiting for that time, and they are already predicting that it is the time the alliance would crumble and scatter. Can you afford to have a carryover of the tendency in ACN, in which candidates are handpicked by the powers that be? Never! Or the disorder in the old Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), in which you never knew who the candidate was, even on voting day? Never again! Who will be the presidential candidate of APC? Muhammadu Buhari? He has not thrown his hat into the ring yet. Nuhu Ribadu? Marwa? Kwankwaso? Rochas Okorocha? Or even the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who still has one leg in PDP? Whoever it is must emerge through a free and fair process, transparent for all to see. The same with gubernatorial candidates, National Assembly, state assemblies, indeed, at every level. APC must be a true analgesic to all the headaches and body pains of the past, caused by undemocratic tendencies in the previous parties.
Continue to fish in all waters. I know the APC has come under severe criticism for this. The new chairman of PDP, Adamu Muazu, says they are poachers. But I ask: if you don’t fish in PDP waters, poach in PDP game park, where then do you do it? Mars? Wresting power from an incumbent is never a picnic, nor tea party. The APC needs all the hands it can get, despite the strident criticisms. There are talks about lack of ideology, but let somebody show me that single party that has held stubbornly to clear-cut ideology in Nigeria, and ever got into power. Such parties only produced “the best president we never had.” And for how long should that happen? A child gets circumcised with pains and peppery sensations. So is the power game too. Let the APC continue to poach, but only be careful to sift the grain for the chaff. In the process of ingathering, moles and saboteurs will be brought in. The onus is on the party to be able to separate the wheat from the tares later.
Sell your programs to Nigerians. Yes, a lot of people are tired of the PDP, they believe the party could have served the country better in the 15 years it has held power at the centre, but they are also in the valley of decision. A good number are sceptical, even cynical. They say all parties, all politicians are the same, and then conclude that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t know. So, APC, sell yourself, and your programs to Nigerians. Time for campaigns will come, be ready. Showcase things your governors have done, and tell us what you will do better at the centre. Nigerians are yearning for change, but they also want to look before they leap. They don’t want change for change sake, they want the change that will give them a better country, where the resources available are utilized to make life better for the vast majority.
And then this! APC, don’t think the PDP is dead. I wrote on this last week. When a snake is scorched, and not killed, it becomes more venomous. That is the state of the PDP. The party has been weakened by the crises of the past year, but it still has ample time to rally back, with a new leadership. Don’t think PDP is dead. It is not. To underrate the party is to be in for a big surprise. In the states, at the federal level, it will take a big fight to dislodge the PDP. Be ready for it.
On Saint Valentine’s Day next year, it will be a battle of love. An old suitor and a new one will seek our hands in marriage. Who do we go with? Of course, the one that courts us best, making us lofty promises, and singing sweet songs into our ears, even if those songs are really sweet nothings. But one thing is sure: we will not allow anybody to marry us on credit again.