The tenure elongation crisis in the APC is not a crisis of democracy. It is a crisis of identity. We claim to be democrats, but we act like soldiers. The crux, though, is that we do not accept that we are acting like soldiers because we wear agbadas, gavels thump in parliaments, presidents wave at crowds, governors succumb to term limits like other lawmakers, and political parties, not military cabals, determine who runs for office, everybody canonises a book called the constitution.
This façade makes us think we run a republic. But the APC decision, which was upstaged by the president’s announcement to run for a second term, has revealed again that we run our parties as a chain of command. But first let us look at the decision of the Odigie-Oyegun National Working Committee that says that the members cannot have tenure elongation but would not resign. Is that not a farce? If they are to remain in office, it means they will choose who organises the congresses and convention, and eventually decide who will become the electoral umpires in the election to party offices in the centre. Oyegun would now pick the sort of person who cannot compromise his ambition to prolong his stay as party chairman.
In law, it is described as being a judge in your own cause. You pick the referee and then you decide to be a player. It is the very nature of political corruption. If Oyegun and his fellow travellers follow that pattern, it would imply that the APC has a caretaker committee by other means. Oyegun and co would have choreographed their return to office by undermining a fundamental principle of law. How can that stand in the court of law if it is challenged?
If the same people preside over the nomination of Muhammadu Buhari as presidential candidate, how can it be different from the case in Kano where APC picked a candidate that did not stand the test of law. It was sired by a caretaker committee. The PDP reaped where it did not sow. The court saw to that. The PDP played hyena and picked up the carcass that the leopard just killed?
Some governors, spearheaded by Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, want it this way because it guarantees their stay in office for a second term. They are in calm waters with the perfect stooge Oyegun because they believe if a crisis erupts in their state primaries, Oyegun and his bleating disciples will play ball to the governors. After all, he has shown himself a lamb. He did it in Kogi and Ondo, and he has a proud trail of obedience.
This sort of impunity in the APC is not an APC epidemic. It goes to the heart of the military-style politics we run. Nothing explains that more than the powers granted to the National Working Committee. We saw same in the PDP when it held sway in the centre. When Rotimi Amaechi won the governor primaries in Rivers State, Obj crippled it because his candidacy had “K-leg.” His party’s NWC, always beholden to a party master, was swept in line. Amaechi challenged it in court and the Supreme Court ruled in his favour and Omeiha was evicted from the house another built. The more storied one happened in Imo State when Ifeanyi Araraume won the party primaries but Obj, working with the NWC, rejected his candidacy for a third-term maven Charles Ugwu. The court reversed the NWC action, so Obj and the NWC knew the game was up for the PDP.
He played harlot and struck a bargain with Ikedi Ohakim of the PPA. Ohakim would benefit from the party structure and win the election on the condition that he would jump ship to the party of supremacy, the PDP. Obj’s wish prevailed.
The PDP also had the sorry tale when Timipre Sylva was governor of Bayelsa State, and when it was time for the primaries, he had to contend with Goodluck Jonathan. President Jonathan was a foe of the tall and gangling chief executive of his home state. It was a circus after the primaries that took place and a few wise men had to decide. Eventually, the NWC had its way, and Governor Sylva watched helpless as his sway was dismantled in Bayelsa.
Most politicians hail the concept of federalism. Even the APC that advocates federalism for the larger political infrastructure in the country has failed to see the beam in its own eyes. It cannot see that it does not have a federal party. It is because our political elite is still under the throes of the soldier. Just as governors crawl like beggars for monthly allowances, so the states look up to the NWC for matters that should be settled in their units.
The governors would not bake a stooge like Oyegun if primaries need the assent of a few men in the centre who know nothing about the sentiment, will or aspirations of the locals. It is so this time because some governors are not sure to win their party primaries. States like Kaduna and Kogi fear backlash. Even if they win, they want guarantees because even victories will throw up tempests.
But the way out should not be an overarching diktat from the NWC but decision of a court of law. If the primaries are disputed, the court, not a few partial men, should weigh in. In the last gubernatorial primaries in Anambra, a certain gentleman who did not win the primaries wanted to exploit money with the NWC in the centre. Reports show that they did not yield to him but he had unloaded a whole lot of money into the coffers of individuals of the NWC.
The real tragedy is that our politicians do not see the evil of the NWC because we think it normal for a few people to dictate to the states. It is military hangover. We are under a mistaken identity that we run a civilian democracy whereas our politicians are soldiers who cannot shoot a gun but can shoot down a candidate at will. It is the sort of mistaken identity Shakespeare mocked in his Twelfth Night when a boy is mistaken for a girl and a Malvolio thinks he is Olivia’s lover. It is a blissful illusion we suffer, and the Olympian impunity of the NWC is the great example that our politics might have left the barracks but the barracks has not left our politics.
Adebanjo: Not my progressive
Ayo Adebanjo has drawn quite some attention over his 90th birthday. Some columnists, including the folksy Reuben Abati and Segun Adeniyi, have gushed over the man’s progressive credentials. I congratulate him on his nonagenarian lamppost. I am also ready to congratulate him for his battles in time past, duelling the British, standing beside Awo over the western region imbroglio, suffering the claustrophobia of jail terms in the turbulent 1960’s, being a warrior, however muted, during the June 12 maelstrom.
What some, including many political stalwarts, have left out is that a man should spend decades pursuing one goal and then turncoat in a later year. People see such birthdays as moments to slobber and flatter, especially for a man in his hoary years. Not this writer. That is what I cannot congratulate Adebanjo for. He was part of the unblushing train of Goodluck Jonathan. He was in bed with the Otuoke chieftain who embarked on a dollar junket in the southwest to buy the Yourbas, including some of its royal fathers and its Pentecostal deviants. Adebanjo stood by this man who played out a drama of permissive morality. The Yorubas, ever discerning in such matters, buried Jonathan in a ‘no’ vote at the polls. Adebanjo should not have become part of Jonathan’s amen choir at an age when his wisdom should have served as a lamp of experience for a misguided generation.