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Storm in a tea CUPP

By   /  July 30, 2018  /  No Comments

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As the day began, it looked like chaos. Men were scampering like rodents from one part of the senate chambers to another. Outside, the senate president was under police siege – a dunderhead of a move. The wave of defections had torpedoed APC majority. According to a report, the PDP had muscled enough numbers, some said 67 PDP to something like 44 APC. With that calculus, the legislative air was bleeding with Buhari’s impeachment.

The social media was on the boil. Some who hated Buhari began to yell halleluiah. Some might even have squealed “crucify him.” To others, it was not enough to edge out Buhari. They must make the sweep complete by flinging Osinbajo into the mighty gale. That would make Saraki the default leader. Eleyinmi would now become Kabiyesi. Remember it happened once in the teevee drama when the megalomaniac with invisible hands held forte when the king was away.

Suddenly, the scales began to fall. Reality jolted the apocalyptic optimists. So, APC still had its majority. It was all a counting error. The calculator had suffered a virus. One plus one was no longer two, apologies to Russian writer Dostoyevsky, who in his novel, The Man from the Underground, warned that science could destroy civilisation. Not only were the defectors not enough to tilt the balance, the coup plotters had suffered defections of their own. So, it was not the pandemonium that was first reported. It was no chaos. It was just a turmoil, a rollicking farce.

There were two kinds of defectors. One was of the mind. The other was on his feet. Some were both. So, the defectors of the feet ratted to the PDP. Even some of them ratted back, including Lanre Tejuosho, who grinned with remorse to Buhari in his unique mould of the prodigal son. This son did not err for too long before retracing his steps. He defected on his feet, not in his mind. The other was Shehu Sani, who had defected in his mind but decided to return also in his mind. His feet remained transfixed in APC. Wamako, Aliero, et al retreated in both mind and feet.

It shows that to jump boat is not an easy adventure. When it happened in the House of Commons in Britain with MPs ratting and re-ratting, Winston Churchill quipped: “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.”

But the real truth is that the ratting and re-ratting had begun about three years ago at the outset of the eighth National Assembly. Like the couples who cheated and pretended they didn’t know about it in Harold Pinter’s play, The Betrayal, the traitors to the APC family had moved over to the other side long ago. They had defected in spirit, in their minds. Everyone saw the crack on the mountain, so no one should be surprised at the leaks and eruption of the volcanoes. Although as poet Coleridge wrote, “anticipation is more potent than surprise.”

When Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki became senate president and Dogara speaker, they gave the president and other party mainstays a black eye. They made mincemeat of Buhari’s quote about being for everybody and for nobody. These lawmakers were for themselves. The president was not able to heal the moment. The crisis developed hooves and horns like the character in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Saraki and Dogara as well as their herdsmen had become in spirit and in mind the opposition. They were not even loyal opposition.

They hunkered down. The president and his men did same. The relations between the two arms metastasized into a stalemate, and sometimes reptilian standoffs, descending even into the caterwauling infamy over whether a customs man should or should not wear uniforms. That the splinter festered is, first and foremost, the fault of the president. He failed to bring the party together. The APC began as a hodgepodge of calculating egos held together only by the prospect of electoral victory. Having won, the spoils came but they were unevenly shared. Even then, the players became too spoiled to eat in harmony. It was the president’s job to cajole and reconcile. He hid in his high rampart, and allowed the contending forces to wrestle in the mud.

If Buhari could not hold the party together, it was because he had never been anointed with such skill. The same way he has not been able to hold the country together, with charges of inequity in distribution of offices and a lopsided vision of ethnic coexistence. He could not build one tent for APC in the same way he could not erect one canopy for Nigeria.

He could not bow when he should, smile when he should, backslap when it was necessary. If the House Republicans wanted Obama to fail, the first black president did not help his cause by is temperamental inflexibility. As Tolstoy wrote in War and Peace, “It is better to bow too low than not to bow low enough.”

But the defections tell us, too, that the lawmakers are carpetbaggers, not subservient to virtue but mammon and the exigency of political relevance. Curiously, no one accused any defector or remainer of ideological apostacy or diluting of a party programme. It was all about butter and bread. There was not even a pretension to virtue or the people’s wish. It was an intra-class war in which the pedestrians could only watch and wonder in impotence. Last week was a spectacle in the failure of the Nigerian state.

Rather than pretend, this is our autumn of politics when leaves change to the colour they have hid all year. With the weather adversarial, the leaves and flowers cannot hide their drab colours. They become what they are. The hypocrisy of our lawmakers are now shed. No longer what Senegalese writer Ousmane Sembene called “the perfidy of words and hypocrisy of rivals.”

The other issue as to whether “Eleyinmi” Saraki or dawdling Dogara should remain on their perches as senate president or speaker is a moot point. It is a convention in sane democracies that when your party has a majority, the senate president or speaker is chosen automatically by the majority party. Our constitution makers took that for granted hence they asked the members to elect their leaders. They also exaggerated the sense of honour of our lawmakers, which was naïve of them. They did not study our historical penchant to subvert laws and protocols. They prorogued the assembly as a rogue move to woo for more defectors. We shall see if it is a plot of woe.

If men like Saraki and Dogara had defected from their party in spirit early on, they are also parting ways with the spirit of the law by remaining as legislative leaders. They are aglow with opportunistic spirits. The law protects them, but honour does not. They are immune to such honour. With prehensile dexterity, both will remain leaders and show no shame that they belong to a minority party. Saraki will become like Eleyinmi in Village Headmaster who huffed and puffed while the real authority lay with Balogun, his feudal kryptonite. We shall see whether he will swagger emptily or be ill at ease. I predict the former.

In the larger calculus, the defections for Buhari is a storm in a tea CUPP. If it reflects the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) attempts to presage Buhari’s fortunes in 2019, they have to do more work. The defectors, apart from Rabiu Kwankwaso, were featherweights. A governor called them nonentities. As far as geopolitics goes, they have not even ruffled any of Buhari’s strongholds.

If this is what the opposition is made of, they need more imagination. If they want to beat Buhari, they must tweak with map and own it. Buhari is an open target. But CUPP does not seem to know where to pull the trigger, as yet.

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