When Grace Mugabe, wife of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean President recently declared that the corpse of her 92-year-old husband would contest the country’s next election and win even if he dies before the exercise takes place, local pundits blamed her audacious stance on near one-party characterisation of Zimbabwe’s politics.
Then, in a comment that unconsciously gave him away as a student of Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF), a party without strong rival in Zimbabwe, Abdulrahaman Kawu Sumaila, senior special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives) in March this year said that the President is ready to contest the 2019 Presidential elections, with unwritten conviction that his boss will win, too, despite his obvious health challenges.
In the All Progressive Congress (APC)’s two years so far as Nigeria’s ruling political party at the centre, big brands like the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a party that once tagged itself as the ‘largest in Africa’; the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA); Labour Party (LP); National Conscience Party (NCP); Fresh Democratic Party (FRESH) headed by Chris Okotie, a two-time presidential candidate, among others, for one reason or the other have not been able to provide viable opposition, leaving Nigerians to wonder if the APC-led Federal Government is driving the country towards a one party-state.
Repeatedly, the APC government has been accused of using the anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to harass, intimidate and coerce opposition leaders while shielding corrupt officials within its camp.
“From the look of things and the people being arrested in the last two years, it could be assumed that only the PDP stalwarts and those who criticised the President and his party are being haunted,” Sylvan Olisa Ebigwei, a founding member of the PDP told BDSUNDAY.
“Try to remember that majority of the leaders in APC came from the PDP. Are they now telling us that those people who defected from the PDP to the APC did not soil their hands during their time in leadership? Many of us believe in this anti-corruption crusade but it must be holistic. Let it not be seen that the current administration is using anti-corruption crusade to destroy a formidable opposition,” Ebigwei further said.
According to him, “if the ruling party destroys the opposition, there is no way the country can have a good democratic process, since opposition brings checks and balances to the affairs of the country.”
He also noted that Nigeria is in dire need of selfless federal lawmakers who could legislate to curtail cross-carpeting among Nigerian politicians, urging that since the current lawmakers are not interested in a decent political culture, Nigerians should give them new condition for service come 2019.
“Again, I keep on mentioning that our democracy is too primordial; too primitive for comfort. If we want to practise good democracy there must be guiding rules; and such rules will start from our constitution.
“First and foremost, there must be set rules that carpet crossing be stopped for now in this country; because carpet crossing is destroying our political values. People have lost their sense of political value in this country.
“Since they are looking for the financial gains, why not water down the huge emolument given to political office holders so that when they get there they will know they are there to work? Legislative act should be a part time affair in this country and pay them attendance fee; when they come for sitting give them allowance; pay their hotel bills; food and other necessities, after that they go back to their own businesses. After all, the law says they sit for 106 or so in a year, and how many days do we have in a year? This means they are still on part time basis. By then you will see that true Nigerians who are ready to serve will begin to come out,” he advised.
Mass exodus to APC at what cost?
Several PDP big names, including ex-governors, are now card-carrying members of the APC. One of such long time PDP faithful is Joshua Dariye, ex-governor of Plateau State, whose acts as governor attracted the EFCC. The defections and the APC pampering of defectors with huge economic and financial crime allegations hanging on their necks gave rise to the coinage “when I see the broom, I will pass over you.”
When Lukman Ajose, another chieftain of the PDP dumped the party for the APC last month, he claimed that he left the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for the PDP about 10 years ago because of some disagreements with Bola Tinubu, now a national leader of APC, but that all his political expectations were not met in the PDP and thus, sees the APC as the only progressive party in Nigeria, hence his defection.
Abdullahi Idris, a former minister of transport and ex-senatorand other chieftains of the PDP in Gombe State were among the first to defect to the APC in 2016; taking with them Lazerus Yoriyo, a former deputy governor, Saidu Alkali; ex-House of Representatives member, and Habu Mu’azu, a former PDP youth leader. They claimed that their decision was to bring about positive development to the state.
Ken Nnamani, who was the chairman of the National Assembly as PDP Senate president between 2005 and 2007, is now with the APC, after he was given a job as chairman of an electoral reform committee. He decamped to the Buhari’s side of politics in January this year at his Amaechi ward in Enugu South Council Area of Enugu State. He claimed that he defected because impunity and undemocratic practices had killed PDP and that the party was now “dead, unproductive and unprofitable”.
Nnamani was elected to the Senate from Enugu South in 2003 and served until 2007. Recall that Nnamani had over a year ago denounced his membership of the PDP.
A former chieftain of the PDP and ex-governor of the old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, who was accused of stealing a huge sum of money under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, quickly made a dash into the APC and has since has his peace as it were.
A former governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime also recently jumped ship. The list is endless.
Early signs of a lopsided war
Several Nigerians had also expressed dismay at the beginning of the life of the administration that while the regime was probing ex-PDP governors and receiving applause from some Nigerians, their counterparts in the APC whose names were prominently mentioned among those who may have corruptly enriched themselves got ministerial appointments rather than prosecution.
Osadolor Ochei, multiple awards winning human right rights activist, told BDSUNDAY that there are countless indicators showing that the Buhari administration has used and still using the EFCC to silence opposition.
“We want a clean country. As Buhari said, ‘if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us’. However, it must not look like a vendetta. This was how Obasanjo did during his time. He went after only those that were against his political ambition. Things like this could rubbish any anti-corruption campaign,” Ochei said.
Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister of aviation, is one of such vocal opposition figures whose voice is barely heard these days from political wilderness where the EFCC has thrown him over his alleged role in the ‘mismanagement’ of $2.1 billion arms funds relating to Col. Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser (NSA).
At a time during his trial, Jude Ndukwe, an aide to Femi Fani-Kayode, accused the EFCC in a statement that the arrest and re-arrest of his boss, after he had been granted bail, was in furtherance of the purpose of silencing the opposition under the guise of fighting corruption, a position held by many Nigerians.
“We are therefore, aghast but not surprised that this latest action of the EFCC is in sync with the script writers of this whole episode to silence Fani-Kayode by hook or by crook. Words have filtered to us from credible sources within the presidency and the security agencies that the ultimate aim of those who are behind the former minister’s travails is to apply ‘extreme measures’ on him,” Ndukwe had claimed.
The trouble with the PDP
Since Ali Modu Sheriff was sacked by a nullified convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on May 21, 2016, and was replaced with Ahmed Makarfi from Kaduna State and a former presidential adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan as caretaker chairman, alongside Ben Obi, who was elected secretary of the caretaker committee, with the mandate to manage the affairs of the party for three months, the PDP has been riddled with legal tussles which have rendered it directionless as main opposition party.
There have also been theories and speculations that the APC is backing Sheriff in order to create unending crisis in what some PDP chieftains, including Ebenezer Babatope, a former transport minister, say is a desperate manner of politics to silence the opposition ahead of 2019 elections, since the APC has failed to impress Nigerians.
“With the PDP dying gradually and civil society groups in the pocket of APC, it means opposition to government is dead in Nigeria,” Yinka Odumakin, publicity secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, told BDSUNDAY in an interview.
“With the extreme level of no opposition to government and Nigerians’ passive nature, it’s a sign that this Republic has come to an end. The civil society groups who were all on the streets against Jonathan are now in the pocket of APC. The fight in the PDP has not helped matters, either,” Odumakin said.
“What this game shows is that Nigeria is not an organised state where someone who is not available to do his or her job can be fired. The state (Nigeria) is a funny one. You can see why things are not working. Nigerians don’t know what is happening to their President and yet, civil societies are not on the streets,” he further said.
Fayose, Wike: Surviving voices in the wilderness
Observers say, with Femi Fani-Kayode growing quiet as the EFCC drags him between courts and prison; Olisa Metuh, a former sharp-shooter when he was the spokesperson of the PDP, who had been arraigned in the same matter losing his voice after he reportedly agreed to return a huge sum of money traced to his accounts, the only voices of opposition in the country are those of Ayodele Fayose, Ekiti State governor who also doubles as chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum, and River State Governor Nyesom Wike’s, both of whom may have taken it upon themselves to hide under the immunity clause to throw some verbal tackles against the APC government and the Buhari administration.