If anyone was looking for a context in which to interpret what is going on in Nigeria, Governor Godwin Obaseki provided it last week.
Demonstrating insight and humility that are unusual for a Nigerian politician, he confessed on television that Nigerians are looking beyond the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress, Nigeria’s so-called leading parties, for political relevance.
The governor was reflecting on last weekend’s Ekiti governorship election, which APC won. He drew attention to the nationwide disenchantment with his party, and the excitement over an alternative to the big parties.
That excitementis about Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State and now presidential flagbearer of the Labour Party, who has electrified the electorate ahead of next year’s election by advocating principle and the public interest.
“I don’t know whether you have them in your house. Just ask them, ‘which party are you?’, they say ‘Obidients’; you understand. They do not want us; they are not talking about PDP or APC. They are looking for alternatives and they are many. You see all of them queuing for their PVCs now. They are not looking at the direction of PDP or APC now. They are looking for alternatives.”
Governor Obaseki, remember, was already on that seat as a member of the APC before he was forced to switch sides to the PDP to be able to run for re-election.
“They do not want us.”
Who are “us”?
“Us” is the political conglomerate I called “APDPC” in 2018 and 2019, arguing that PDP and APC are not different at all, and that they have an interwoven membership base, share the same philosophy, and consistently exchanging personnel with each other.
Thus, when Obaseki says “us,” he does not really separate one from the other.
For the 2023 presidential election, APC’s Bola Tinubu will contest against PDP’s Atiku Abubakar. The alarm that is going off in Nigeria and elsewhere is that there are simply no two other Nigerians who travel with heavier or darker perception problems than these. Next year’s contest therefore makes them appear more like running mates than opponents.
Trying to characterise the race somewhat diplomatically last week, William Clowes wrote of Tinubu in Bloomberg News that as recently as last June, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies were investigating him.
“Three decades ago he fought a lawsuit in which the US government accused him of laundering the proceeds of heroin trafficking and eventually reached a settlement.”
Abubakar, on the other hand, “brought tens of millions of dollars of “suspect funds” into the US when he was Nigeria’s vice president in the 2000s, according to a US Senate report, and was implicated in a bribery case that resulted in the imprisonment of an American congressman. Neither episode resulted in charges against Abubakar.”
Clowes concluded that this history of graft allegations surrounding the two men means neither is likely to make fighting corruption an issue in their campaigns.
This spectre, where a vote for Atiku would be a vote for Tinubu and vice-versa, and what is seen as the surrender of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to rampaging corruption, is why many Nigerians are becoming increasingly “Obi-dient,” to borrow Obaseki’s language.
“If we do not curb this, if we do not make our party attractive, I do not know what will happen in the next elections.”
What is “this”?
Somewhere at the headquarters of the Atiku and Tinubu campaigns, people considered to be wordsmiths and political masterminds are frantically defining “this”: how to manipulate the very clouds and fine-tune clever adjectives to convince Nigerian voters victimised for decades into poverty and shame by kleptocrats that they can vote for their candidates and yet retain some self-respect; that they are not “mugus,” (idiots or fools, for the uninitiated), by simply exchanging their voter’s card for the equivalent of a dollar.
Or better still, that they can accept bribes of food and clothes to hand Nigeria over to men who are too complicated or compromised to rule from the heart.
What is “this?”
“This” is how—in a nation overrun by greed and graft but not shame and in which “APDPC” candidates are seen at home and abroad as veritable examples of what and who is wrong with Nigeria—a serious presidential campaign may be prosecuted in which our debilitating corruption is not a subject.
Because if elected, Tinubu or Atiku—finally reaping the full reach of constitutional immunity—would neither be able to offer an answer nor phrase the question, permit a serious ethical enquiry or advance the law.
That spectre then, a nightmare in which the last miles are being traversed of the road to hell, is what drives this moment. One in which ordinary Nigerians are rising and looking beyond powerful political parties which use their power never to advance the people but to impoverish them.
Is “Obi-dient” the answer? It has the potential to be. Nigerians have now had over two decades in which to confirm that routine Nigerian politicians do routine Nigerian politician things, particularly if he has behind him a large political party.
That routine Nigerian politician thing is to lie, cheat, steal, and deny for the sole benefit of self, party, and politician-colleagues. There is no better example of this than “APDPC.” Children born in 1999, when the first wing of this conglomerate took power, are currently at home unable to continue their university education because their teachers are on strike courtesy of the government’s irresponsibility. They cannot find hope, nor their fathers, electricity, nor their mothers, petrol. There are no jobs and no prospects. In APDPC’s two decades, Nigeria has been run into worthlessness and the failed state it has now become under General Buhari.
Finally, ordinary—especially, younger—Nigerians understand that there is no future in APC or PDP and perhaps any other party. A party is only meaningful if its leading lights have a human philosophy: a quality Nigeria’s current parties seem to resent.
Hopefully, the “Obi-dients” will deploy their outrage and considerable self-confidence into nationwide networking, away and beyond the vicious organs of state that the government will put into the hands of “APDPC.” There is infinite power in the presumptuousness of government, my friends, but there is even more in your heart, and in the technology in your hands, including its video and audio capacity.
Think about this: if each of you were to commit to reaching, persuading and working with at least five new voters around the country in the next seven months, by the afternoon of February 25, 2023, you would already have routed “APDPC” and on your way to writing your own story.
Remember: “If…we do not make our party attractive, I do not know what will happen in the next elections.”
It is obviously too late for the “APDPC” of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari to “make our party attractive” so they can continue their carnage.
Next week, I will tell the story of how this conglomerate, in the past eight years, has failed various lie-detector tests. There are no long tales left. Nigerians can now retake their country and rewrite its story.