by Alabi Williams
If Pres. Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had planned and executed very well since 2011, the task in 2015 would, perhaps, have been less stressful than the way it is appearing for the ruling party. Four years may appear a reasonably long period, but it is not interminable. It gets exhausted like a country’s poorly managed foreign reserves and if care is not taken, the things one failed to do in the first year, or what was done wrongly may come to reckoning.
Even as the PDP flags off its campaigns, signs of fatigue are very visible and a good example of it was at last Tuesday’s inauguration of the presidential campaign organisation. There was little excitement in the air as the mood was somber, until Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio attempted to shore it up, by reminding the gathering that the PDP has something to show for its years in power. He wondered why the PDP was keeping quiet and not speaking up. I felt his frustration, that the PDP had gone timid.
Party national chairman, Adamu Muazu confirmed the fears. At meetings where 419 members gather to share loot, the mood is usually tense. Each person would hide a dangerous instrument inside the cloak, in case someone wants to prove smart. That was a tale told by a friend. And that was my fear for the PDP; there is so much to share, but you have to keep watching over your shoulder to grab your share. Muazu looked the President in the eye and told him to ensure that the era of monkey de work baboon de chop no longer exists in the party.
Muazu said; “There is absence of justice, fairness and equity in the PDP. What we have in the PDP is the monkey dey work and baboon de chop. What we want after the general election is monkey working and monkey chopping, no more baboon eating alone. Most members of the APC and other opposition political parties are members of the PDP. They left because of the monkey dey work baboon dey chop politics of the PDP. This should stop.”
There is hardly a better way to summarise the ailment that has afflicted the PDP, than how the chairman put it. But there is no worst time and place to put across such damning truth than at a sensitive gathering, where the campaign committee was being inaugurated. It speaks volume of the mindset of party members, many of whom have lost verve, but had to just tag along.
It speaks volume about missing opportunities and frittered goodwill. The PDP had been blessed but the party was unable to manage its good luck. The PDP took advantage of Nigerian’s deep-seated crave for democratic governance, but did not work conscientiously for the people. The PDP worked for some members of the political class, who have become very rich and comfortable. The people who resisted the military and chased them out for politicians to take over had been duped, and now is time to pay back. The PDP is feeling guilty and unable to pound its chest.
1n 1999, Nigerians didn’t have many qualms with any of the three political parties gaining advantage over the others and forming government. It was a new experiment, over which many were not too critical. But when the PDP gained ascendancy, it commenced the process of subverting all known principles of democracy. The PDP depleted the other two parties, perfected the art of rigging and refused to transform a society that yearned for better life after the military had ruined its prospects from 1983 to 1999.
Despite a decade plus of economic boom, which good prices of oil bestowed, the PDP government did not seize the opportunity to transform. Instead, the political class luxuriated and Abuja was agog, with members of the executive and parliamentarians fixing outrageous pay packets for themselves at the expense of the people. Year in and year out, the budgets did not address the needs of the people, because what could have addressed the peculiar challenges of those outside government was lavished on politicians. Baboons have been eating voraciously, leaving monkeys to scavenge.
And Nigerians waited quietly for an opportunity to demand equity. Longsuffering and patience are virtues majority of Nigerians are known for. Even when the PDP cup was full of atrocities, Nigerians kept faith with Jonathan, a fresh man for whom the people did not want to credit the sins of his party. That was in 2010, when Umaru Yar’Adua passed on. Jonathan was meek, but his party was full of troubles. Some did not want him to become president, but ordinary Nigerians insisted and a Save Nigeria Group was born to fight for Jonathan. The circumstances of his emergence made it so, because he was simply an underdog, in spite of his incumbency powers. The gang up to deny him the presidency and the audacity of segments not to show him some recognition infuriated the people.
The 2011 election could have been an uphill task for GEJ, but Nigerians, lowly and compassionate united to queue behind a man who they thought shared a lot with them. In four years, how much did Jonathan connect with the people who gave him that effortless victory in 2011?
By January 2012, Pres. Jonathan was to demonstrate one attitude that is common to the average Nigerian politician, which is to change his phone numbers as soon as he wins election. That’s speaking figuratively, but it captures. The idea is to ensure that all those who struggled with him to procure his victory would be cut off. When the President announced by fiat the total removal of subsidy on petroleum products at a time many Nigerians were yet to return to base after the end of year celebration of that year, he simply cut them off. That was the beginning of his trouble with the ordinary people. They felt betrayed and have not recovered from the shock. If government had a superior argument on subsidy, there were better ways to convince taxpayers to buy into it. Besides, the argument has turned out to be dubious.
After that misadventure, Mr. President unfolded a road map to transform the power sector. It was a gargantuan project, one that would have drawn the government closer to the people, so that at times like this, you could pound your chest and call on the people. It is a long story of unbundling of the behemoth that was inherited and the selling of companies that emerged from it. Yes, there is now a privatized power sector, but it is the owners of the new companies that are benefiting more than the people. Many communities do not have sufficient supply of electricity, which is understandable, given our shameful history in that sector, but the government that is supposed to protect citizens from shylock and incompetent owners of DISCOs and GENCOs has failed to do so. After selling and pocketing the revenue from public enterprises, should it be the responsibility of ordinary Nigerians to provide meters for DISCOs and assist them to make more money? In case you don’t know Mr. President, these are some of the little things that annoy Nigerians, some of whom are going to be voting in February.
Infrastructure delivery is generally miserable, because you cannot achieve anything reasonable from a federation account that spends more than 70 percent on recurrent. When Jonathan unveiled his transformational agenda, Nigerians looked forward to a more revolutionary experience. If there had been a higher level of transparency than we had in previous years, even the little that was given for capital projects could have convinced the people that GEJ means well in spite of the faulty template he inherited. There were various probes in the last four years, trying to unravel the scams in the oil sector, but instead of suspects being comprehensively prosecuted, they are rewarded with transformational assignments.
Apart from negligible delivery, GEJ and the PDP are facing uphill task because they have poorly managed their party. As an election winning association, they needed to give it the necessary rituals and obeisance to keep it winning more. Even in a rogue state, there are rules. In 2011, it was clear that GEJ had breached the coven laws of his party. But he was forgiven. In 2015, they expected him to surrender, but he did not. That led to the exit of many strong party men.
Today’s PDP is not a different party from that which OBJ superintended. It has been the same unconventional and mysterious PDP, but it is incumbent on the leader to be on top of the game. If there are dissents, you do not look helpless and throw up your hands. You do not allow dissent to breed dissidents, especially when you have a date with history.
Like Muazu said, the teeming opposition crowd in Rivers, Kwara, Kano, and all over the place, including the ones now budding in the Southeast and Akwa Ibom all belong to the PDP. The task at hand looks uphill for GEJ because he did not do his homework. Same with some people in his government and party.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Alabi Williams/Guardian