By Shaka Momodu
The political stakes as the 2023 general election draw near are almost unimaginable – all the more so because of the overlapping and complementary vulnerabilities of the two leading political parties – accentuated by the public perception of them as essentially Siamese twins. But one is gaining ground, the other is losing.
The umbrella of Prince Uche Secondus, chairman of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is leaking and badly. Buffeted mercilessly on all sides by disloyal and defecting members whose politics lack principle, endurance, moral direction, and sacrifice, the holes in the umbrella are getting bigger and bigger.
The beneficiary of PDP’s many troubles is the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which ordinarily should be in its death throes by now on account of its unimaginable mismanagement of our diversity, colossal failure of governance, unprecedented insecurity across the country, corruption on a scale never before seen in our lifetime. A party with an imprudent disdain for criticism, whose governance model is based on incompetence, economic mismanagement and nepotism, the elevation of one religion/ethnicity over others, clannishness and crony capitalism, as well as lies and propaganda. It is unfortunate that such a party is being made to feel that failure is a virtue to be emulated and rewarded.
Many well-meaning Nigerians would naturally be pleased to see the back of the APC for its many sins against the Nigerian people but is now being given some oxygen to live a day longer than necessary and pummel us further. It even boasts about its exploits with haunting arrogance. I have asked the question repeatedly, what’s the reason for the sudden desire to defect to such a party? I can’t find any rational explanation for the mad rush other than to conclude that it is pure bread-and-butter politics that is at play – aided by the APC itself whose take-no-prisoners approach to ‘winning’ any seat is legendary. And I dare say that that is what is pulling in the crowds.
It is sad that state governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, party chieftains are jumping ship and ditching the umbrella because they know that our votes don’t count. Nigeria is on the ropes because a motley assortment of shady characters has taken up leadership positions at all levels and is now a moral hazard to the health of the body politic. Nigerian politics is heavily driven by what is in it for one, not what is in it for the country.
Reasons for the mass defections are as hazy and confounding as they come. Their explanations make no sense. They ranged from the palpably selfish, disguised as altruistic, to the pitifully ridiculous. Interestingly, none of the governors or lawmakers that defected pointed to any crisis in the PDP as a reason for jumping ship.
Now, let’s interrogate their reasons for leaving the PDP: On November 17, 2020, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State dumped the PDP for the APC. According to him, he moved to the APC because of “injustice” meted out to the southeast by the party. This was how he put it: “It is absurd that since 1999, going to 2023, the southeast will never be considered to run for the presidency under the PDP. And this is my position and will continue to be my position,”
If Umahi left the PDP in protest against the “injustice” done to his people, the question to ask him is, was the southeast being treated justly under the APC-led federal government before he crossed over to the party? Has the situation improved since President Muhammadu Buhari shook his hand in the Presidential Villa to welcome him to their fold? Immediately he came to power, Buhari made it clear that he would govern on the basis of 97 percent and 5 percent and proceeded to implement every policy decision and all appointments on that basis. The southeast has got 5 percent or less of all federal appointments and projects location.
Just recently, to underscore his contempt for the southeast, he described the region as dot in a circle. Yet, Umahi left the party that he had been a member for 25 years just to associate with Buhari who clearly is not enomoured of him or his ethnicity. At every opportunity, he praises Buhari to the skies and even calls him his friend and father. But a man he calls father doesn’t see him as a son but just a dot in a circle! What further evidence does anyone want to get the message?
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, another deplorable, had this to say: “Having seen and known President Buhari and his commitment to this country, his nationalistic disposition and all the efforts he has made to bring Nigeria to where we are today, it is obvious that, at this point, we need to join hands with him to build a Nigeria that we can be proud of.”
Can anything be more ridiculous and insensitive to our feelings? Why would Ayade rub salt into the wound? Why did he decide to traumatise us with claims he himself knows are false? Watching him make that statement was gut-wrenching and pathetic. To think he is a professor, who once taught in a university, was even more disturbing. What commitment to Nigeria was he really talking about? To bring Nigeria to where we are today? Nigerians should ask this verbose professor whether where Buhari has brought this country to is enviable. With the level of mismanagement of our diversity and the national economy, the insecurity pervading the entire length and breadth of the country, the governor was trying to teach us a lesson in revisionism. The world can see how well Buhari is building our national economy. In the 2020 budget implementation released by the finance ministry and BudgIT, debt servicing alone gulped 97% (N3.34 trillion) of the government’s total revenue (N3.42 trillion). Total expenditure stood at N10.01 trillion. This means nearly all federal government’s salaries, overhead and CAPEX were financed with loans and Central Bank’s support. What does this say about the government?
If Ayade was emboldened by his success in teaching his students such nonsense in the university, then he should have realised by now that he is dealing with a more informed and resilient public who will not clap for him while spewing out nonsense grammar to cover his emptiness. Is it any wonder students are turning out the way they are these days? With dishonest claims from men like Ayade, we can only pray that our nightmare ends in a miracle. I often ask myself what cause do I believe in strongly enough that I am willing to lose for it. And I believe some Nigerians have laid down a marker as boundaries they will not cross no matter what. A man should be able to stand for something in life.
Now let’s look at the case of the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, the latest on the list of the deplorable. He had this to say: “I decided to change (political party) so that I can bring peace to my state. Now that we all belong to the ruling party, I now have the full backing of the federal government to fight insecurity.” Is this man really serious at all? Is there anything more absurd than this claim?
Reading that statement, two things immediately jumped out at me. Either the federal government is not taking the insecurity in Zamfafa State, nay, the entire country seriously, or it is using it as a tool of coercion of opposition-controlled states and their lawmakers to jump ship and join its fold. Whichever it is, it does not tell well of both Matawalle and the APC-controlled federal government which up till now has not rebuffed the impression created by Matawalle. Nevertheless, it is important we interrogate the claim and see whether Matawalle’s reason holds water.
Among the nine states worst hit by insecurity in the country, namely, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Borno, Adamawa Yobe, Benue, Niger and Plateau States, only Zamfara, Adamawa and Benue were opposition-controlled states. Kaduna State, which is fast becoming the capital of kidnappings, is under the control of the APC. What has the federal government done to stop terrorists from invading schools, hospitals and private residences to kidnap scores of students, patients in hospitals, including babies as young as four months old, and individuals? Several schools have been closed down indefinitely because of the insecurity in the state.
Banditry, kidnapping of schoolchildren and killings are rife in Buhari’s home state of Katsina. So desperate is the situation that the state chapter of the PDP had to resort to stone-age tactics of buying catapults for members to fight the bandits. The situation in the APC-controlled Niger State is just as bad. The state governor, Abubakar Bello in April cried out that the state was not getting federal help to curtail the terrorists who are targeting schools for kidnappings. Just a few weeks ago, he again raised the alarm that Boko Haram terrorists had infiltrated the state and had not only hoisted their flags in captured villages, including Kaure village in the Shiroro Local Government of the state, they had also forcefully allocated displaced women to themselves as wives. The governor contended that the Sambisa Forest is several kilometres from Abuja, but Kaure is just two kilometres from the Federal Capital Territary, FCT, insisting that nobody is safe anymore, not even residents of Abuja.
So what was Matawalle talking about that joining the APC would bring more federal muscle to fight insecurity in his troubled Zamfara State? Let’s not even talk of Borno State, the epicentre of terrorist groups. Clearly, the governor’s defection was not about getting more federal help to bring the security situation under control as he claimed. The fact is that he has always wanted to join Buhari’s APC since the Supreme Court disqualified all the APC candidates who had won the election and handed PDP candidates victory in the state. From the outset, his admiration for the president was clear for the discerning. He largely shares Buhari’s ethno/religious views and has defended him on several occasions, even more than the APC governors before finally showing his true colours.
This same governor, instead of dealing with bandits frontally and decisively has been appeasing them and paying them not to kidnap. Matawalle gives out Toyota Hilux vehicles, motorcycles, money, etc, to bandits as incentives to stop their nefarious and heinous criminal activities. What has been the result? A spectacular, criminal enterprise has been berthed in his state through his incompetence and collusion. His appeasement has only served to embolden the terrorists to continue to ply their trade of killing, maiming and kidnapping people. Some of the Hilux vehicles and motorcycles he gave the bandits are actually used to ferry more kidnapped victims into the forest until ransom is paid. His poor leadership style and policy of appeasement are fuelling the security challenges facing the state.
While Matawalle has been soft on those committing mass murder and kidnappings in his state, he is ready to go to war with southerners over killings in Sasha in Ibadan and Imo. He boasts of the destructive capacity of the north to unleash violence on southerners and their businesses in the north. For those who might have missed it, here are excerpts from what Matawalle said in April: “Despite what northerners are experiencing today in many parts of the southwest and southeast in particular, all we hear is the conspiracy of silence from northern leaders and elites who are supposed to stand firm, in the manner in which other leaders of the south are doing even when they know that their people are at fault. This must not continue.
“As northern leaders, our dignified silence in the face of constant provocation and assault, because of our desire for peace, must not be taken as a sign of weakness. Indeed no community or region has the monopoly of violence. If northerners and their means of livelihood will not be protected, accommodated and be dignified anywhere they choose to stay in any part of the south, southerners should not expect protection from the north as the north has more than what it takes to respond to any kind of aggression and hatred.
“We have seen the destruction, the killings and the devastation recently at Sasha market against northerners and their economic interests. Properties worth billions of Naira were lost in addition to human lives, yet some leaders in the southwest are downplaying the atrocities committed or, worse still, justifying it. Some of them have shamefully gone to the extent of apportioning blame on the victims and casualties of their aggression. We will not take that any longer, as no human life is worthier than another. No business interest is better than another. In fact, in a crisis situation, the south has more to lose in terms of its business interests in the north and the strategic nature they established themselves in the north than northerners living in the south.
“The north is very much aware of such weaknesses and disadvantages the south is exposed to whenever there is such a crisis, but we always choose the path of peace and cherish peace beyond any act of lawlessness and hatred.” This outburst was clearly in consonance with the divisive ethno/religious views expressed by Buhari in the years preceding his ascension to the presidency. So his defection to the party of his soul mate was in furtherance of a much-desired association.
Be that as it may, you can see his foolery from his statements. Matawalle recognises that many businesses in the north are owned by southerners – businesses that by no small measure have brought development and created jobs in the north, but in the same breath, he threatened to unleash his urchins of violence on southerners and their businesses. He doesn’t care if the north remains a barren land of underdevelopment.
You see, people like Matawalle are not designed for progress. He and his terror bandit brothers are the antitheses of progress. They have held Nigeria down and aborted its dreams.
The gold deposits in Zamfara, which would have brought more development to the state and given a boost to the Federation Account, is mined and ferried away by bandits and the untouchables as he looks the other way. As such, the state contributes next to nothing to the Federation Account.
Here is a governor presiding over a state with one of the lowest school enrollments in the country. A governor that appeases terrorists, one that cannot protect his own people but is threatening the south that generates the money he gets from the Federation Account to run the affairs of his state? Now that he has joined Buhari, his alter ego in the APC, one hopes that he can lend him a helping hand in his desperate search for the grazing routes’ gazette.
Pliant governors Umahi, Ayade, Matawalle and the like belong to the basket of deplorables.
•Momodu writes from Lagos