Reflections on the PDP Presidential Primaries


I am neither a politician nor a political commentator, but common sense makes certain observations inevitable to a thinking person. I'd been trying to draw some life-lessons from Atiku's defeat at the PDP presidential primaries. Then a friend, Chinweuche, made a  casual comment about it on his Facebook wall. That gave me the first opportunity to articulate my quiet musings on the matter  

  Whereas The PDP presidential primaries of 13 th January 2011, provided the ground for the Facebook exchanges that gave birth to this piece, this article has little to do with my political leanings or preferences. This is about lessons, not politics.  

  With some additions and little editing here and there, I have reproduced my comments on my friend's wall. Inevitably then, it still has the general casual tenor of social network gist.  

  LESSONS FROM WAR: 1. Sympathy: We heard a lot of: " Don't underestimate Atiku . " - Now the bubble is burst; and the bubble is burst not first because of the incumbency factor but more by the sheer immaturity of the Atiku campaign package. He set GEJ up to be pitied. Too bad!  

When you make a man look miserable, people sympathize with him. He did it to Goodluck (GEJ) and some of the delegates voted for him for the same reason - out of sympathy. We are emotional beings. We like to identify with people who appear weak. We enjoy stories of nobodies becoming somebodies; while we secretly detest self-acclaimed somebodies , trying to run down alleged nobodies . Even heaven helps those who CANNOT help themselves!  

  Lesson: people have emotions! Don't run a man down too much in public. The public might rise to his rescue!  

  2.Desperation: A desperate man is a suspect! People smell a rat when you are OBVIOUSLY desperate to help. Leadership is about service, so why won't people smell a rat when you're fanatically desperate to serve. Service is as much a burden as it's a trust. Normal people are not desperate to come under burden. The opposite would be expected of normal men.  

  Atiku's obvious nervous desperation sent signals of foul motives to Nigerians. Why would a normal person be so desperate, if it is just to serve? There might be more than he is telling us. Nigerians consequently acted on a truism: 'never trust a desperate man!'  

  3.Mudslinging: It is hardly justifiable to throw mud at others, however deep the hatred you nurse for them. The trouble with throwing mud is you soil your hands. Not just that you soil your hands TOO, but you soil them FIRST! As in the case of Saul and David, any smart David can dodge from Saul's javelin. In the case of mudslinging, if that happens, the Saul will not only miss his target, but also lose clean hands. He'll lose his purity!  

  The Atiku camp used a lot of dirty 'fact-digging'. Of course, both camps did, but Atiku had been longer on the national platform than GEJ. (He was Vice President for 8 years) People have not completely dispensed with the dull after-taste of his saga with his former boss in the presidency. Consequently, he should have laboured more to (in your words) - 'let sleeping camels stand'. He should never have played all those dirty digging game. He threw mud and not only soiled his hands but missed the target. That sort of thing puts a man in a bad spot. It's like when you hear lone screams of ole, barawo , thief . Then you to come out only to find the alleged stolen fowl in the screamer's trousers! The screamer then becomes the unfortunate broadcaster of his own guilt. Lesson: Mudslinging is safe only after you have won the war; but then, it becomes unnecessary.  

  4.Expired rhetoric: Every human invention dies. Simple!  

  No matter how well-dressed and perfumed, never bring a corpse to a village meeting. You'll cause mood swings of a magnitude you never desired, and the swing will be against you.  

  Atiku's campaign leaned too heavily on an unfounded claim of being the messiah of/from the north. Meanwhile, the 'north' is a failing term. Let me explain. As far as I can see, the South/North political division of Nigeria is dead. Atiku brought the decomposing cadaver back to the village square. Cadaver smells. This one was not an exception, and Atiku's theatrics were not sufficient to daub or curb the putrefying odour. It oozed. Even his brothers & sisters from Adamawa ran away to catch a breath of fresh air!  

  To my point: The division of Nigeria into north and south in the political arena is too simplistic to be a presidential campaign fort. Several states in that 'north' are not happy with the division. They feel the arrangement is meant to make them a means to a ' core-northern' agenda. They argue that the core north uses this arrangement to boost its population figure, but leaves them out in the cold when the spoils arrive. They'd prefer to be called middle belt or some other different label. The north of Atiku's thinking is an expired concept at the moment. It does not exist. Atiku based his candidacy and right to the presidency on this expired concept!  

  5. Seasons: There is a season for everything under heaven. I am not saying it is somebody's season. I mean it is NOT someone's season. I don't know whose season it is, but it is clear whose season it is not. This is not Atiku's season. He made a logical blunder by assuming that if it is not GEJ's season, then it must be his. How wrong. It is like propositions. When you have two contradictory propositions: (a) Both may be wrong, (b) One may be right and the other wrong, but (c) They CANNOT BE BOTH RIGHT.  

  It may not be GEJ's time but that does not make it automatically Atiku's. They could have been both out of season! Atiku missed this simple logic. It was more glaring that Atiku was out of season than anything about GEJ. In the attempt to keep Atiku out of season, the delegates almost inadvertently put GEJ in there. I guess (it's only a guess) that some people voted for GEJ as a means of putting Atiku out, not because they were particular about putting GEJ in. Lesson: In war, your opponent's season is good to know, but your own season is critical for victory.  

  6.Wrong data: No matter how intelligent you are, when you work with the wrong data, you'll arrive at the wrong answers. The Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Political Leaders' Forum (NPLF) that picked Atiku worked with the wrong data set. Perhaps, somebody else would have lost to GEJ with fewer votes than Atiku did, but really, there was no ace, there was no winning card in the pack from which Atiku was chosen. None of the four candidates: Ibb, Atiku, Gusau and Saraki, could have beaten GEJ in that war.  

  The NPLF should have borrowed a leaf from the biblical Prophet Samuel at the Jesses'. The prophet rejected all the popular and Jesse-endorsed candidates for Israel 's throne. Led by God, he refused seven apparently correct men, some of them men in the military. David - a novice, a shepherd boy, the last born of the family - was God's choice for the job.  

  The Ciroma-led team should have been bold enough to reject all four initial candidates and scout for the shepherd boy that should have taken the day. They worked with the wrong set of data and the rest is an emerging history for all of us. Lesson: In war, don't make do with what you have, until you are sure it's all you've got.  

  7.Strategize, don't criticize: I almost thought that GEJ's men packaged Atiku's campaign bundle and his infamous speech at the primaries for him, but I know too much to so think. Well, whoever did buried Atiku alive.  

  There are good reasons why football commentators are usually not allowed on the field of play. They talk too much! Hidden away in some glass cubicle, they only serve to massage our emotions. Nothing more! We know that whereas they reel out verbose commentaries on what the players do on the pitch, they themselves could never perform anywhere near the players, let alone compete like/with them, if allowed on the pitch. Yes, some of them are ex-players who have lost form due to any of many reasons. Still, we occasionally do remind them that: 'it is not easy.'  

  Atiku acted worse than football commentators. He took to the ignoble role of a critical saint. A commentator would lose his job if he tried that. Why did Atiku hope to have won the war by what he did, when more was now at stake than a FIFA trophy? He appeared to know more about GEJ than about himself. Instead of telling us what he would do, he told us more of what GEJ didn't do.  

  We don't allow commentators on the pitch. We feel they talk just because 'talk is cheap.' The delegates are normal people like us, so they left the uncharitable commentator (Atiku) alone in the cubicle to continue with his commentary of criticisms, and cheered the Player. I believe they felt Atiku talked like he did because he was not the one behind the ball. Lesson: Atiku, if you get the chance again, strategize more, criticize small.  

  8.Circular reasoning: This is when you present the absence of a solution as the actual problem. For instance, someone might say: 'our problem is that there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Getting a cure for it will solve the problem.' Wrong! Non-availability of cure is not a primary problem. That's just absence of solution. In this example, the real problem is a combination of the fact that the HIV strands exist and that certain human practices predispose humans to this virus.  

  Dwelling on the submission that GEJ is an incompetent leader after eight months as President is an argument too superficial for an aspiring president. GEJ may have failed to solve our problems but our problems must be differentiated from that failure in order to articulate solutions to them. Ousting GEJ is not the kind of major solution Atiku should have dangled before us. He should have dwelt more on some of the details of his alleged 5-point 'Policy document' for Nigeria .  

  GEJ may, rightly or wrongly, personify the absence of a solution but that should be a secondary issue for another presidential aspirant. Atiku seem to think that just to prove he is better than GEJ means he is equal to the task of fixing Nigeria . Lesson: In war, killing your (incompetent) commander - alone - does not annihilate the enemy army, and does not fight the war for you at the fronts, and surely does not make up for a famished army. You've got to know the actual enemy and formulate a real action plan targeted at routing him. Dwelling on secondary details is to self-destruct.  

  9.Goodluck: We call it different names, depending on our world view; but there is no doubting the fact that: ' The horse is prepared against the day of battle, but victory is from LORD. …It is not of him that wills, it is not of him that runs; it is of God that shows mercy.' (Prov 21:31 , Rom 9:16 ) Preparing the horse is what you MUST do, yet, a prepared horse alone does not guarantee victory. Victory is what heaven MUST decide and donate! Therefore, it is folly to disregard this difficult-to-describe-thing called (by some as) good-luck. The bible calls it MERCY. To disregard it is to disregard its source; is to unwittingly disregard God!  

  Atiku said in his speech at the primaries: 'It is time for us to move beyond this luck thing' . Truth be told, when you disregard mercy, mercy disregards you! When mercy disregards you, whatever merit you stand upon, vaporizes. Mercy triumphs over human merits any day. For the records, mercy does not trivialize labour and competence and merit and so forth; it crowns them!  

  Personally, Mercy is the reason for my hope: that I shall be welcomed into eternal habitations when I die. What is more, I am enjoying it from here. Lesson: Call it good-luck, call it favour, call it mercy; having done our best, we all need it. Atiku, next time, pray for good-luck!  

  Gideon Odoma (