Waiting 2015: Are ANPP, ACN, CPC, APGA And LP Different From The PDP?
About two months ago, Muhammadu Buhari gave notice to all Nigerians and the whole world that there will be widespread violence if Nigeria's ruling party, the PDP, attempts to rig the forthcoming presidential elections of 2015. Given the fact that the stunning
success of the terror campaign of Boko Haram had already considerably raised the temperature of political discourse in the country, Buhari's statement nearly tipped things to a boiling point. What prevents the pot from boiling over completely is the fact that 2015 is yet to come. As in the famous play by Nobel Laureate, Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot in which the entire action of the drama is constructed around waiting and waiting and waiting, everybody in Nigeria is now waiting for 2015. This series of two essays focuses on this period before 2015 while we await the fate that the elections of 2015 and their aftermath portend for the country and its peoples.
Buhari's warning of dire consequences for the country if the PDP rigs the elections of 2015 is based on four premises that are worth noting and exploring carefully. First of all is of course the expectation that the PDP will rig the elections of 2015 as it has allegedly done in all elections since 1999. The supposition behind this belief is that the ruling party cannot and will never run on its performance in office at the federal level precisely because its record is worse than mediocre. I think it is safe to observe here that all but the most ardent, diehard supporters of the PDP are with Buhari on this point. On this account, only a totally benighted citizenry and electorate would return the PDP to office on its record so far in office at the federal level, but the Nigerian people are not that benighted, that hopelessly set against their own political interests.
The second premise behind Buhari's declaration of a looming war in 2015 is the implicit notion that the claim of the PDP that as the ruling party it has the widest national political and electoral base among all Nigerian parties is quite bogus. The thinking here is that the real electoral base of the PDP is primarily in the South-south geopolitical region and in some parts of the North-central zone; in the electoral heartlands of the Southwest, the Southeast, the Northwest and the Northeast, the PDP's electoral successes have come from a combination of massive rigging and equally massive infusion of cash to buy out or buy off the opposition. Though very credible, this is a supposition that cannot of course be backed by easily obtained facts, figures and statistics: vote-buying funds are never properly receipted; and rigging that is upheld by post-election tribunals considerably confuses the issues, even though everyone knows that Nigerian post-electoral tribunals are extremely corrupt. The one and only way in which this claim can either be validated or refuted is by free, fair and totally credible elections. That is the only way in which we can get to know the true electoral bases of the PDP and the other political parties. But since such elections have eluded us since 1999, this claim continues to haunt the legitimacy and usefulness of both our electoral politics and our party system.
Thirdly, there is behind Buhari's 2015 doomsday predictions the feeling that to beat the PDP, there is no other recourse open to the other Nigerian political parties but to speak and act in the language that the PDP itself uses, apparently the only language that it can understand, and this is the language of violence and intimidation. Here, let us draw attention to the first epigraph to this essay, the adage which states that in order to catch a monkey you must learn to mimic the ways of the monkey. But in the present context, we are not really talking about an animal of quite modest powers of physical intimidation like the monkey; rather, we are talking about flesh-eating carnivores like the tiger or the lion. This is indeed why Buhari's declaration of an intent to meet fire with fire, violence with violence in 2015 was itself couched in very violent language.
Fourthly and finally, we come to perhaps the most fundamental of the presuppositions behind Buhari's claim that the PDP can only be successfully challenged by and with the language it understands. This is the presupposition that this claim pertains not only to 2015 and the future but to the past and the present as well since the ruling party came to power in 1999 with the inauguration of the Fourth Republic. In other words, the final confrontation in 2015 that Buhari is predicting will not be a departure from what has been happening all along, what, in fact, is happening right now; rather, it will be a culmination, a final showdown. And if this is the case, it means that willy-nilly, the other parties have all along been compelled to play by rules set by the PDP; they have had to adjust their identities and practices to norms set by the PDP. This is the real question now, while we await 2015: Has the PDP so compelled the other parties to play by its rules and norms that these other parties are more or less clones of the PDP, leaving Nigerians no real choice between the major players in the party politics in force in our country at the present time?
This is not an abstract or idle question. On it rests the peaceful, harmonious and stable evolution of the party system and the political order in place in our country at the present time. For if there is no real choice between our political parties, if for one reason or the other they are all compelled to play by the rules and norms put in place by a ruling party that is one of the worst, the most corrupt and the most mediocre in the world, we are truly doomed and the vast majority of our peoples now thirsting for better conditions and prospects for themselves, their children and their children's children will wait well beyond 2015 for any signs that things could and will get better in our country, much like the hapless characters in Becket's Waiting for Godot who, at the end of that bleak play, feel as if they have an eternity of listless, hopeless waiting ahead of them.
In my worst moments of despair concerning where we are now and where we are headed as a country, I think of the endlessly messy, corrupt and unregenerate politics of our country at the present time in the light of the second of the two epigraphs to this essay: 'no sane person struggles with 'yimiyimi', the dung beetle, over the food on which rests its existence, faeces'. Actually, we do the dung beetle an injustice by comparing it to the political order that dominates party politics and the political order in place in our country under the hegemony of the ruling party, the PDP. The dung beetle, with the scientific name Phanaeus vindex McLachlan, is actually a very beneficial insect within the natural order and the physical environment. Yes, it feeds on and sometimes lives in animal and human shit, but it is a great recycler and in particular it greatly reduces the habitat for flies that breed and spread filth and disease. Not so the human dung beetle of the Nigerian political firmament and the colossal bog of moral and political ordure that they have, with maximum impunity, imposed on the country. Unlike nature's real dung beetles and their lifeworlds, our politicians and the oceans or mountains of fecal matter in which they reside seem to have nothing beneficial or regenerate about it. The immense pit latrine of party politics in our Fourth Republic has sucked in virtually all political parties and any and all politicians of any consequence in the political class. And unlike eco-biotech pit latrines that are used to either fertilize farmlands or generate biogas, our political compost pits have little or no saving graces about them. Or do they?
This last question is an open-ended question. There are instances in which some politicians and political parties neither have any justification for joining the hegemonic PDP in the pit latrine of Fourth Republic politics nor try at all to provide any justification, any rationale. But then, there are other instances in which they do seem to have a reasoned and tactically defensible justification for playing politics the PDP way. And within the PDP itself, there are notable defectors from the ethos and the morality of the dung beetle. Whether or not we can talk of significant differences and real choices between our political parties and politicians is thus a matter of weighing these factors and patterns one against the other. This will be our starting point in next week's conclusion to the series. As we shall see, with a few notable exceptions, the things in which all our major political parties seem like clones of the PDP concern the exercise of power and the enjoyment of the spoils of office, whether at the federal or state levels; by contrast, the things in which there seem to be notable differences between them concern promises and projections for the future. As the late Claude Ake used to remind us, though we must never conflate the class in government with the class in power, we must pay scrupulous attention to the continuities between the two.