THE PARTY IS DEAD, LONG MAY BABA REIGN

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A buildup of emotions can sometimes shift us away from the surety of cold rational analysis; little wonder people often admonish that we should not allow our hearts to rule our heads. It is an age old recognition of the weaknesses in emotional attachments and longings. I found myself, over the past two weeks, becoming emotional, about the possibilities of the so-called democrats in the PDP being able to stem the slide into a total conquest of their contraption, which pretends to be a political party! If ever there was a doubt about the totally useless character of the PDP, as a potential vehicle to convey the democratic aspirations of the Nigerian society, then any such doubt must have evaporated as a result of the nearly complete overthrow of its democratic pretensions and take over by the anti-democratic, authoritarian tendency that is represented by President Olusegun Obasanjo and his team of fixers, jobbers, et.al. But did I say, a party of a “totally useless character”? May be we must still allow it a margin of error for transformation? We shall see. The build-up to the last National Executive Council meeting of the PDP had literally taken a life of its own, given the backdrop of the deep chasm that had opened between the two most dominant tendencies in the party. Each represented by President Obasanjo on the one hand, and Vice President Atiku Abubakar, on the other. The open nature of the difference between the two gladiators, and the propensity of President Obasanjo to exact revenge or to humiliate his adversaries had prepared Nigerians for a potentially salacious feasting on the coming spectacle. By his most recent posturing, Atiku Abubakar seemed to have decided to take the side of constitutional order and became a voice that speaks for the respect of the basic internal norms of healthy party life that the Obasanjo team has systematically emasculated. The authoritarian pall imposed by our old military dictator, and being supervised by a retired colonel with a notorious past of callous disregard for human life (at least Nigerian student life), has increasingly asphyxiated inner party life, which has become a threat to Atiku Abubakar, and the tendency he represents in the PDP behemoth. It was therefore in his interest for Atiku Abubakar to at least fight back, to save himself and his tendency from complete annihilation. It was this fight back, which had excited those who craved for a genuine democratic development of both the political party system and the nation’s political process in general. It was in fact this particular reading of Atiku Abubakar’s intervention that OBJECTIVELY enlisted him on the side of the patriotic movement to defeat the effort by the Obasanjo group to subvert our constitutional order. But after all was said and done, Obasanjo’s team won an easy victory for their unconstitutional position to impose a non-elective convention in the run up to 2007. The opposition was unable to provide a sustained defence for their platform, while the much-vaunted cohesiveness of the PDM faction dissolved into thin air, faced with the ‘battering ram’ efficiency of the authoritarian Obasanjo clique. So what went wrong? Why was a sustained opposition not mounted against the clearly subversive agenda of Obasanjo? To find answers to these questions, we must interrogate the recent political history of our country; attempt a deconstructive assessment of the nation’s political elite and the socio-economic conditions within which the political process that engulfs the nation today, is being played out. One of the more tragic outcomes of the military period in Nigeria, was the systematic erosion of our organic political party process, through the deliberate disconnect built into our politics by the military regimes of Generals Babangida and Abacha. There was a continuum between the parties of the First and Second Republics, and therefore an organic spirit was fostered in the attitudes, core beliefs and the commensurate discipline which attended the political process in the country. Tensions were creatively managed, there was a vision of development and commitments were genuinely adhered to by the political elite. There was a relationship between the people, as an electorate who had the power to vote in or out the government and party in power, and the political parties themselves had a significant amount of inner party democratic life. It was therefore not a surprise, that the most meaningful developments in the nation’s history were recorded in those two periods (1960-1966 and 1979- 1983.) Party leaders and elected representatives saw service at the heart of their endeavours, and there were often lively debates within and between parties; while the parties lived amongst the Nigerian people, like fish in water. The Babangida regime started the systematic assault on the political traditions that had led us to independence which were responsible for the remarkable growth of the 1960s and was translated into the equally very interesting national development of the Second Republic. The banning and humiliation of the old political elite, was a systematic assault on memory, discipline and organic relationships, which had to be done to pave the way for a new, rootless, individualistic, opportunistic and ‘419’ political stratum which would dominate the political transition programs of the Babangida and Abacha regimes. This ‘419’ political elite has its roots in the economic process of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) of Babangida. While the nation was laid to waste in practically every sphere, these characters became stupendously enriched, through connections to the military regime. They have no systematic beliefs, have no known ideological orientation and were not in anyway connected to the disciplined political traditions and tendencies of our nation’s history. They were not new Awolowos or Ahmadu Bellos. Their stock-in-trade was loyalty to their bellies; they have no concept of community feeling; were not modest in their attitude to power and because they really don’t hold any principles dearly in their political praxis, they were like cheap whores living in rundown, ghetto brothels available to part their legs for any paymaster! Some of them even have criminal records!!! This in short is what constitutes the core of Nigeria’s modern military dictatorship nurtured political elite. Take a cursory look at some of the most visible members of the Obasanjo team today, and their antecedents tell a story of the sorry state of Nigeria’s politics. Chief Tony Anenih, the President’s Fixer-in-Chief, was the chairman of the SDP who traded away the June 12 mandate won by his party; he would be a leading choirmaster of the Abacha dictatorship. Prof. Jerry Gana, also known as Any Government in Power (AGIP). He sang the praises of Babangida; served in Abacha’s cabinet, and is one of the brains behind Obasanjo’s third term agenda. The same goes for the PDP national secretary, Ojo Maduekwe, another Abacha loyalist. This is just a representative sample of the politics of no principles, opportunism and crass prebendalism, that has held our country hostage over the past twenty years, but which has become especially a hallmark of the six years of the Obasanjo administration. Unfortunately, these twenty years have been the years of locust for the Nigerian people. The level of the poverty in the land has been deepened by a combination of the imposition of IMF/World Bank neo-liberal economic policies, and the massive corruption at the heart of the Nigeria state. Access to the state, ensures that members of this bandit political elite, would not know the pains that most of the Nigerian people are going through. This is why the Ojo Maduekwes and Jerry Ganas are the most loyal to their principal, whether Abacha or Obasanjo. They have no core belief, and so would believe anything; they have no known loyalty, except to their stomachs. Life outside of the purview of the state is life that they cannot contemplate; so if the campaign to keep the ‘great leader’ in power, would guarantee their own lives, then so be it. As it was with Abacha, so it is with Obasanjo. This is why Obasanjo’s tendency was able to ride roughshod on all and sundry during the NEC meeting, even when Atiku Abubakar could only make a rather tepid observation about the impropriety of not respecting the party’s constitution. The Atiku faction was no where to be found, on the day that mattered. As Sam Nda[1]Issaiah rightly noted, Atiku could not guarantee them a third term, while Obasanjo could. Obasanjo is in control of the gravy train, and nobody wants to be left stranded on the platform of despair. Given its antecedents, as we have narrated here, it is no surprise that the political elite has been singularly unable to husband the political process in a manner that was in tune with the idealism that was at the back of the minds of the founding fathers of the PDP. The founding fathers had spoken for an all-inclusive political process, a living political organisation tempered by a lively pattern of inner-party debate and democracy. However, their party was hijacked by an authoritarian, anti-democratic group headed by President Obasanjo. The task masters of this tendency are the people we have analysed herein. So as presently constituted today, the PDP has become a danger to Nigeria’s democracy. It is really no longer a political party, but an authoritarian contraption, dedicated to being the vehicle of the ambitions of President Obasanjo. The President has been able to mould in his image a party that originally came into being, with the most lofty ideals. This he has achieved by a force of ruthless personality, the single mindedness of a military dictator, control of access to patronage, the presence of a ‘419’ political stratum that previous military regimes had carefully nurtured and ever willing to serve the highest bidder, and the shallow democratic content of the civilian regime that he leads. The failure of the political elite has a root in the failure of the Nigerian state to nurture a national bourgeoisie; a national productive class, that is dedicated to the independent development of national capitalism. The presence of such a class, which will be dedicated to the development of our national productive forces, often helps the stabilisation of the political process in a country. Unfortunately, the implementation of the neo-liberal policies of imperialism by Obasanjo hinders the process of the consolidation of a patriotic bourgeoisie and it also underdevelops the political culture of the country. Nigeria has also been unlucky that the classes and political forces which really led the struggle against the military dictatorship, with their visions of national liberation and radical restructuring of the Nigerian society as catharsis for the pains that came from the military dictatorship, did not eventually earn in the democratic transition a position which reflects the contributions they had made to earn Nigeria civil rule. With a combination of stealth, cunning, political manipulation and a huge economic war chest, the ‘419’ politicians, in cahoots with the military elite, seized the Nigerian political terrain and the largest political party, the PDP. The truth today is that unless the pro-democracy patriots in what remains of the PDP can be part of a new national alliance, that will include the rump of their party, other political parties and the radical social forces of Nigerian society, what can be said with certainty, is that they would completely lose out in the high stake political game for the soul of Nigeria’s political process. The PDP is dead as we used to know it; it has been taken over by the Obasanjo cabal, who are transforming it into a conformist, authoritarian bureaucratic machinery, with the hallmarks of a neo-fascist assemblage of politicians dedicated to the preservation and elongation of Obasanjo’s dictatorship. The party has transmuted to ensure the perpetual reign of Baba, as they call Obasanjo! The most hopeful hints that can be salvaged from the unfolding scenario, is that Nigerian people outside of the stuffy, intrigue[1]filled and conspirational redoubts of the political parties, are determined to stalemate the slide towards the elongation of Obasanjo’s dictatorship beyond 2007. Obasanjo’s rule has been a harvest of woes for our nation: the systematic erosion of our sovereignty; the sale of our national patrimony; the loss of thousands of jobs; the cynical manipulation of ethno-religious contradictions to serve political ends; the massive corruption in governance including enrichment of cronies and members of his family; all of these, despite record earnings in oil revenue in the six years of the Obasanjo government! We have never had it so good and yet, so bad, thanks to Obasanjo’s terribly incompetent, yet very arrogant regime. Civil society organisations are building a coalition and are beginning to talk of the need for regime change. Nigeria deserves better than it has been given by the Obasanjo dictatorship. If the political elite does not want to end up in the dustbin of history, it should at least discover the patriotism that goes beyond safeguarding their own bellies, to work for the enlightened self-interest of democratic renewal of Nigeria, and organising with the broad social forces of the people whose interest it is to have a genuinely functional democratic society. This is the basic task that faces the political elite in Nigeria today, as we move closer to 2007.

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