AKINOLA: AVERTING ANARCHY IN THE LAND
THE one compelling reason why the presidential baton must be snatched from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) this April, is the crisis situation the party has foisted on the nation via its own internal crisis. Halting the PDP in the putative presidential election due in April could be the wisest route to averting anarchy in the land.
It can be predicted, judging by the level of anger within the PDP, that serious bickering will continue into the future regardless of who the eventual presidential candidate of the party is. The party's presidential primaries due this January promise to be a travesty of democracy and its ideals, as some delegates are reported to have been warned of the repercussions of not supporting a particular candidate in the election. The scale of bribery to be expected in the so-called primaries also promises to be unprecedented and the outcome could be bitterly contested.
One once thought that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan would bring class and grace to the democratic process. That thought is no longer there, not least because of what seems to have been Jonathan's not too clever desperation for power. A great leader would subject his or her ambition to the greater good of party and country but not Jonathan. He was reported as having said he would rather 'sink the boat' than let go of his ambition and he has also touted with the idea of giving automatic tickets to corrupt governors in return for their loyalty. Right in his presence, Chief Anthony Anenih was reported to have threatened delegates with sanctions if they did not vote for Jonathan in the primaries. Our President would seem to have enjoyed that threat made on his behalf! It did not matter that he was the same president seeking divine help in assorted churches!
The PDP, if one must restate here, has 'zoning' as its cardinal principle. The late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, shortly after his inauguration in 2007, praised the principle of 'rotational presidency' as an important contribution of the PDP to political stability in Nigeria. Yar'Adua, a Nigerian from the north, had then just succeeded General Olusegun Obasanjo, another Nigerian from the south, as President.
Of course, the north has dominated the leadership process for the greater part of Nigeria's political life since independence in 1960. In discussions with friends from the south, it is this particular historical fact that gives emotional edge to the candidacy of Goodluck Jonathan in their estimation. However, from this writer's point of view, the principle of leadership rotation itself is intended to put a permanent end to what, undoubtedly, is an historical injustice.
There are injustices we are not going to be able to undo, no matter how bitter we are about them. We are not going to be able to enslave white Americans because their ancestors had enslaved our own. Neither would Nigerians want to colonise Great Britain on the ground that that nation had once colonised us. There is a time in history when a people should put an historical injustice behind them and face their future with confidence and optimism. Once we have agreed on a principle we must respect it. The future must not be sacrificed on the altar of retribution.
There is unjustifiable arrogance in the rank and file of the PDP. The party may have considered itself as the largest political party in the African continent but all it has been able to show for its awesomeness is corruption and lawlessness. The PDP is arrogant because, in reality, there is no formidable challenge to its power. To its credit, the PDP is broad-based.
The PDP will always have the upper hand, especially in presidential elections, for as long as 50 or more political parties keep on parading themselves as 'opposition parties'. How on earth can that number of political parties claim to be opposing just one political party. The so-called opposition parties must find a common ground, uniting behind a formidable presidential candidate, if wresting presidential power from the PDP is to be realised.
They would have to come up with a set of programmes that would assure Nigerians that they can be different from the current dispensation. Those political toddlers clogging the process of party fusion or alliances, in the thinking that they themselves must be presidential candidates, should be reasonable.
They claim that their political parties are ideological, but the truth of the matter is that there is no serious ideological divide in Nigeria. What divides Nigerians are their ethnicity and religion. Of course, they are also divided by the ambitions of clueless politicians. Absence of ideology is explained by the culture of opportunistic defections or political prostitution that pervades the political system.
Even if Nigeria has ideological divide, the truth about presidential politics is that any political party that would effectively challenge for the presidency must be broad-based - a political party that is an amalgam of diverse interests . In the more sophisticated party systems of Western democratic nations, the tendency is for supporters of large political parties to locate in different strata of ideological spectrum- Left, Right, Centre, etc, etc. The assumption that the political party can be an association of like-minded individuals may not always be the case.
The next Nigerian government has a great challenge before it. The constitution would need to be reviewed with a view to making Nigeria a truly federal nation. We would need to introduce structures that would give new direction to our party system. The wranglings in the ruling PDP remind one that the leadership question is, indeed, the national question. If zoning is unnecessary, the Omoruyis in our mist must still come up with an idea of how we can successfully douse tension arising from claims that ethnic nationalities make against one another.
• Dr Akinola lives in Oxford, England