November 27, 2022

Happier days are beckoning – The Nation Newspaper

  • November 3, 2021
  • 8 min read
Happier days are beckoning – The Nation Newspaper

Nigeria news – Nigeria's breaking news website
Now that the patronage organisation that used to call itself the largest political party in Africa has successfully conducted its national convention, its members must be resting and breathing easier, if not rejoicing and dancing in the privacy of their homes or at ceremonies bankrolled by the power-brokers in and outside the fold.
And to think that it almost never happened, this harbinger of a return to happier days of dining and wining and wenching that were supposed to go on for 60 unbroken years until it was rudely terminated, beg your pardon, interrupted, some six years ago!
Yes, it almost didn’t happen.
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Former national chairman Uche Secondus, leader of a faction of the party, had petitioned the courts to block the convention, on the ground that the party was under his control and that there was no vacancy for another leader.  Only when the courts denied his petition some 24 hours to the scheduled beginning of the convention, was it certain that it would indeed hold.
There they were at any rate, counting the days to the 2023 General Election when they will wrest power from the governing APC.  Many of the hardy perennials were either missing outright from the Southwest contingent or deliberately stayed in the shadows.
I am thinking in particular of Ebenezer “Ebino” Babatope and his Mainstreamers Group.
Ebino was the much-admired, sure-footed director of Organisation of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s  Unity Party of Nigeria and a close aide of the Sage himself.  You could say that he stood higher than most Nigerians than in terms of name recognition.   At that time Olagunsoye Oyinlola was probably a cadet in the Military Academy. Outside that institution, nobody knew him.  And yet decades later, Olagunsoye worsted Ebino in the race for PDP National Secretary.
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Something told me then that Ebino was politically finished.  Washed up.  Some would date his fall to the time he nominated the brutal dictator Sani Abacha to run as the sole presidential candidate of five political vehicles fabricated for that purpose, a contraption that Chief Bola Ige put down for the ages as “five leprous fingers of the same hand.”
Oyinlola, aforementioned, was of course at Eagle Square, brooding and raring to duel it out with Taofeek Arapaja, an alumnus of Lamidi Adedibu’s school of garrison politics, for the post of Deputy Chairman (South) of the PDP.
The post was to be filled by consensus, like all other posts.  The cards were stacked against Oyinlola, but he refused to yield and carried the contest right down to the wire.  He lost. But he took it in his stride as befits a gallant soldier and graciously congratulated Arapaja.  “Politics without bitterness” is not quite dead yet in Nigeria, contrary to the lament that has been in the air for decades.
In my book, Oyinlola’s encounter with Arapaja has got to be the high point of the convention.  Each went to the Eagle Square with a retinue of minstrels and drummers and praise singers belting out songs and chants and slogans laced with snide remarks, salacious abuse, delicious gossip and biting sarcasm reminiscent of the good old days in Western Nigeria when politics was also a spectacle.
At Eagle Square, it is necessary to repeat, candidates had to emerge through consensus.  Why engage in a brutal, no-holds-barred contest to pick a candidate when you could with some negotiation, the path of which may lie through a network of shrines, some blackmail, and a promise of patronage to sugar the pill, get everyone else to stand down for a preferred candidate.  That is the game they call Consensus.
Since politics is among other things the art of building consensus to achieve a common purpose, there can be no politics without consensus.  But that is not the sense of consensus that has come to dominate Nigerian politics since the June 12 1993 presidential election.
Bashorun MKO Abiola had run through dozens of contests to clinch the Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket.  In the substantive election, he garnered more than one-third of the votes cast, and more than one-fourth of the votes where he fell short of the one-third benchmark. He had won the race decisively.
Consensus never came in finer robes.  Nigerian politics had never witnessed this margin of victory and probably will never see it again.  Yet, they wanted the contrived annulment of the election resolved by Consensus – in the form of a contraption that claimed to be a government when it wasn’t, and national when it was anything but.
The only truth in its advertised label was that it was interim; mercifully so, too, lasting all of 93 inglorious days, most of it wobbling, with no sense of direction.
Since then, at every stage of the political process, be it local, state, or national, one is assailed by loud and insistent calls for “consensus” candidates.
Consensus seems to have served the PDP very well, at any rate.  It knocked out former Senate President David Mark, who was angling to be national chair; it eliminated Oyinlola even before the race had begun, and catapulted Arapaja over him in the race for deputy national chair Consensus produced 17 of the 21 offices filled in at the convention just ended.
We will see more applications of this winning formula.
If many of the hardy perennials were missing in Eagle Square, it was not all gloom. There was a judicious sprinkling of relatively new faces, many of them relatively unknown.  They will come of age literally on television.
Atiku Abubakar, more a candidate of habit than conviction, was on hand.  They thought they had neutered him when they employed consensus to zone the Presidency to the North the calculation being the national chair and the presidential candidate cannot emerge from the same zone.
Nonsense, says Atiku.  Only party offices were zoned, not elective offices.  To zone the latter would be unconstitutional, he maintains. As I see it, Atiku is going nowhere, consensus or no consensus.  They are going to have to reckon to wish him until the very last act.
Bukola Saraki, candidate of opportunity and entitlement was there, carrying himself like a king in exile poised to make a glorious return to his domain to claim his throne, and o to gee be damned.  His gleaming luxury Sarakiya buses were not just for conveying his supporters to the convention grounds.   I suspect they are designed to awe the o to gee group and lead them to believe that there is more, much more still in the till that financed the munificence of the era before o to gee and that a return to that era is imminent.
Following a gale of high-value defections from the PDP to the APC, with more expected in the aftermath of the convention, Saraki, who knows a thing or two about such matters, has warned the APC that it is deluded if it believed even for a moment that it could retain power by inducing opposition elements to break ranks.
I see a roaring defection market opening up shortly.  I see disaffected members in one camp threatening to defect to the other camp.  If the members are considered valuable assets, the party asks them to name their price for staying.  The disaffected members will ask the other camp to match the offer or top it.  And since politicking is not a game of charity, the camp that offers the best inducement wins.
Even former Senate President and more recently secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim, Pius, Anyim, is threatening to run for president, and to dragoon Oyinlola along as his running mate.  Poor Oyinlola.  Maybe it will never come to that, but if it does, many are going to be asking:  How did Oyinlola’s political fortunes fall so precipitously?
But whether it comes to that or not, Anyim, who has no known political constituency has said that even with the presidency zoned to the North, nothing precludes an aspirant from the Southeast from running. The political convention signalled the start of political activity.  He had received the calling back in 2020 when his supporters flooded the nation with his banners and posters but had decided that the time was not ripe.  Now is the time to go and the EFCC be damned with its nebulous and unfounded charges of graft.
The silly season is now well and truly upon us.  Let us savour it unencumbered by Boko Haram and ISIS and bandits and cattle herders and marauders of whatever stripe, not forgetting Covid-19, the epileptic power and water supply, the slaughter slabs that pass for highways and inflation and climate change and all such irritants.
We have learned to live with them anyway.
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