Ogbulafor: Democracy And Its Sworn Enemies

April 24, 2008
8 mins read

I will be 101% loyal to President Yar’adua””I don’t care if Nigeria becomes a one-party state… We said we are going to rule this country for the next 60 years and we mean it”. Vincent Ogbulafor, Chairman, PDP.


A schoolboy essay on Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, the national chairman of the ruling political party in our country, the PDP, will best summarizes the man’s political character in a few words that possibly will read this way: “a colourless character not known to stand for any ideals or principles (and therefore likely to stand for anything depending on who his puppeteer is), and unable to author any original thoughts that can edify society”! this neat summary came to my mind this week when I commenced thought on the first few sound bites that have so far emanated from the man that was imposed as the national chairman of the PDP a few months ago.


Vincent Ogbulafor is an expression of everything that is wrong with Nigerian politics: the manipulative propensity that has made politics the preserve of the most irresponsible elements of the nation’s elite; the crass opportunism which suffocates life out of political culture and the triumph of the worst elements of prebendalism. Ogbulafor was imposed as party chairman at a point when the PDP needed to make a renewed effort at responsiveness to the popular feeling and away from the authoritarian bear hug it has suffered under Obasanjo. Unfortunately for Nigeria’s political progress Ogbulafor’s imposition merely raised hope, but it was never really going to amount to much: a lot of motion without movement.


The problem with the types which come in the political shape of Vincent Ogbulafor is that they do not posses the breadth of political vision; the intellect and principle to lead change. Ogbulafor is not known for any grand political idea or any seriously instructive ideological conviction able to lead change. At best an apparatchik of the very colourless hue and at worst a mouthpiece for whatever his masters expect him to verbalize, Ogbulafor in the weeks since being enthroned at the PDP’s Wadata House headquarters has not disappointed in his philistine ordinariness and his benumbing lack of charisma. Maybe that is what his puppeteers wanted in the first place.


PDP members might pull through the colourless leadership which Ogbulafor provided for their party like a herd in a trance except for the tendency he has betrayed so early, to say the wrong things! Soon after his enthronement, Ogbulafor expressed his ‘gratitude’ by proclaiming that he would be 101%  loyal to President Umar Yar’adu! If one of the hopes that party members and the Nigerian public had was that the party was going to become the party of ideas able to provide political leadership for the executive and other elected members. Ogbulafor’s pledge of a groveling loyalty to the president inverts political wisdom like a camera obscura! The clown at the head of the party was not about to provide leadership; on the contrary, he is there is survive, lick the important boots and act the script of those who brought him to power in the first place!


We had not finished digesting the surprising declaration of groveling loyalty when Ogbulafor committed an even greater faux pas  or telling the Nigerian people that “I don’t care if Nigeria becomes a one-party state”; Ogbulafor doesn’t care and his reason was simple; “we said we (the PDP) are going to rule this country for the next 60 years”! and in case you the reader have any doubts, he emphatically added; ‘and we mean it’! Ogbulafor has shown with this statement that he is a sworn enemy of the Nigerian democratic process and our patriotic duty is to expose this spineless puppet, because the voice might be Esau’s, but the hand actually belongs elsewhere.


The dictatorial emasculation of the nation’s political space has always been the intention of all the different sworn enemies of democracy in Nigeria. No party has incubated this tendency towards authoritarian rule and the constriction of the political space as much as the PDP in the past nine years of our history. From Obasanjo through to the governors in the state, it became standard practice to ensure that we had all but a one-party state in a country which theoretically swore to uphold the tenets of multiparty democracy.


Of course, this was not an exclusively PDP malaise, as the other parties like the ANPP have not fared any better. By expressing the anti-democratic longing for a one party transmutation of the nation’s political process in the manner that Vincent Ogbulafor did, we have been put on notice by our political actors. Ogbulafor is not a free agent; he is the mouthpiece for a tendency which must be defeated because that tendency sees the vibrant dissent of the democratic process a “nuisance” they can do without. They want the silence of the graveyard in their determination to keep their destructive hold on the nation’s political space.


It is not a coincidence that Ogbulafor’s “I don’t care if Nigeria becomes a one-party state” statement came out almost at the same time that the inter-party committee on political reform constituted by Umar Yar[adul and headed by his vice, Goodluck Jonathan came out with a recommendation for the de-registration of political parties unable to secure at least 13 seats in the National Assembly in any election. Member parties of the “inter-party” committee include the ANPP, PDP, APGA and PPA. In real terms, it is a committee of the parties with the money and political machinery and able to rig elections to ensure that they can cross the threshold of 13 National Assembly seats that they have set for themselves and the small parties that they want to legislate out of existence!


In a Goebbelian twist of language, that assembly of election rigging contraptions calling themselves “political parties” now say that the power of INEC to so de-register parties would facilitate free and fair election in the country”. How ingenious we might add! It was the gerontocratic Edwin Ume Ezeoke who expressed the reason why their committee did not want the small parties and their “nuisance”. “we have agreed, “said Chief Ume Ezeoke, “to reduce the number of parties and we have also agreed that the parties that will participate in government must have seats in the National Assembly”. Ezeoke went further that “appointments into the executive arm of government should be based on number of seats a party has in the National Assembly”.


Stripped of any mystification, the four parties – PDP, ANPP, APGA and PPA are preparing the division of the spoils of an electoral process that they alone have the resources to rig!


For the biggest rigging contraption of them all, the PDP, it has readily agreed to this proposal, because at least it can then shut the mouths of its partners with a few seats in the executive arm after the elections have been stolen! The noise will be manageable if they have the power to “de-register” the small parties which Chief Chekwas Okorie of APGA described as ‘just NGOs standing as political parties”.


But the gentlemen of the so-called “inter-party committee” deceive themselves if they thing the Nigerian people will hand over to them the power to emasculate the political space. The Nigerian people fought for and won as open political space at a time when most of these gentlemen now hoping to “de-register” political parties were having an incestuous political relationship with a succession of the nation’s military dictators. The idea of “de-registration of parties” has no constitutional backing and the Nigerian courts have also spoken emphatically in support of the open political space. That is why these sworn enemies of democracy are laboring in vain, because the idea to “de-register” so that only few the rigging mandarins of the PDP, ANPP, APGA and PPA can divide the spoils of office will never be allowed to see the light of day in Nigeria.


It is quite a sad thing to have to say, but even the colonial period is becoming a much better point of reference in politicking than what the post-colonial elite tries to ram down our throats. At least, the colonialists did not insist on a regime of registration and de-registration. As a matter of fact, the politics of registration of parties came as part of the baggage of military dictatorship. That those who are supposed to be at the helm of affairs in a democratic dispensation still hack back to the authoritarian control of military dictatorship reflects the depth of deformity of our nation’s political process. The duty of genuine democrats and patriots is not only to stop these enemies of democracy in their track, but also help to defend an open, competitive democratic space which allows the big and small parties to co-exist and contest.


What Nigeria deserves is the evolution of genuinely democratic political parties which exist on the basis of the ideas that they canvass; parties that survive on the basis of the free subscriptions paid by its members in a political process built on genuine adherence to the highest standards of ethics in political organisation and contestation. What is available now are parastatal organisations masquerading as political parties. The access to state funding does not allow the parties to canvass ideas that members can freely subscribe to with the conviction to regularly pay membership dues and to finance the election projects of these parties. Since 1999 what has evolved are vote rigging contraptions oiled with the money coming from the Nigerian state and the huge donations of very corrupt private sector groups who hoped to enthrone political parties that will provide the ambience for equally corrupt influences in policies of the regime: from dubious privatizations to import waivers regime!


It is also true to remind ourselves that the twentieth century was the century of the great political parties; the communist parties; socialist or social democratic parties; the national liberation parties and even the fascist parties! The process of imperialist globalization does not favour parties of great ideas anymore and politics has become razzmatazz and show business. It is now about “how presidential is the candidate”? does he maintain eye contact with the interviewer”? any useful sound bites to quote, etc? it is the poverty in terms of great ideas that has continued to alienate millions of people from the political process in the advanced capitalist countries. But it is a luxury we cannot afford in the setting of Nigeria, an underdeveloped country.


Unfortunately, the mandarins ganging up in the so-called inter-party committee are not expounding serious and progressive ideas that can strengthen the political process. Their interest is mainly the sharing of the spoils of office which follows rigged election. There jokers will not see evil in rigged elections once they are sure that they will partake in the sharing of the loot. To achieve their intention, they propose to “de-register” the small parties that provide the platform to canvass alternative ideas to the ruling orthodoxies of theft and irresponsibility which the “inter-party” people represent. The Nigerian people must not allow these anti-democratic ideas to be smuggled in at a time when we should be consolidating the nation’s democratic process.


It it not the presence of small political parties which led the PDP and INEC to massively rig the elections of 2003 and 2007. It is the conspiracy to institute rigged elections by a highly compromised INEC working in cohorts with the PDP in a preponderant number of states in Nigeria that must be interrogated, not to float hare-brained ideas to constrict the political space. Where there is a fidelity to the democratic principles, the political process can accommodate a surfeit of political parties. But where we are saddled with liabilities like Chief Vincent Ogbulafor and his irresponsible outbursts about the desirability of a one-party state or the jokers of an “inter-party committed” asking for the de-registration of political parties, the nation won’t make progress. The duty of genuine democrats and patriots is to ensure the defeat of these sworn enemies of democracy.

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