The PDP And The Ventriloquist From Minna
The attempt by the former military dictator from Minna to sneak back into the arena of national political relevance, it would appear, is getting more and more brazen with every passing day. There are those who would even readily attest that bravura is a key element at work in what is fast assuming the contours of sick humour and provocation directed against the numbed psyche of a nation on its knees. As if emboldened by recent happenings within the PDP which have further reinforced the enduring image of the party as an outfit dominated by some of the most anti-people forces in the history of Nigeria, Babangida has been gallivanting across the country in an alleged bid to be president in 2007. And, not surprisingly, the usual cast composed mainly of the unscrupulous segment of the political class and its allies - contractors for whom the bottom-line is all that counts, so-called traditional rulers, carpet-baggers of every hue, etc. -, is either cheer-leading or busy playing host to one of the country’s most despised political figures. It is during one of his ‘outings’ about a week ago that the ex-dictator and the current tyrant in Abuja were to treat us to a re-enactment of political ventriloquism à la nigériane the profound significance of which citizens would do well not to ignore.
As the Minna tin god was reiterating to the local Nigerian media in Bauchi his intention to actively participate in the campaigns for 2007 (and beyond), his alter-ego, Mr. President, was, on his part, seeking to accord what is tantamount to moral legitimacy to that ambition in far-away Europe. That Obasanjo chose to merely restate Babangida’s supposed constitutional right to vie for the Nigerian presidency just like any other Nigerian is most revealing. We all know that Babangida has not played the type of role a citizen with claims to leadership would normally be expected to play in the life of the country. As a matter of fact, it is hard to imagine that any future Nigerian ruler can inflict the kind of havoc either Babangida or his friend, Matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, has wreaked on the people of Nigeria. At any rate, we are dealing here with an individual whose political conduct as a power-hungry tyrant is one of the main reasons for the profound moral decay in all the spheres of our collective existence. For the president to seem to ignore that fact of our recent past by trying to hide behind legal niceties which he has amply demonstrated mean little or nothing to him is worrisome indeed. We are reminded that it was Obasanjo who in 1999 told Nigerians that there would be no sacred cows in a supposed anti-corruption crusade of his government. These days, the anti-corruption posture of the regime can be reduced to one word – hypocrisy. Babangida has been a principal beneficiary of this hypocrisy and protection on the part of the Obasanjo dictatorship. Despite his sordid track record which should have been the subject of a government inquiry, Babangida, it is apparent, is instead enjoying the camaraderie of key members of a regime he reportedly helped install.
Babangida’s aim, it should be noted, has always been to have a regime in place that would be least tempted to stir up a hornets’ nest concerning his scandalous record in government. A regime beholden to him and his allies is the best guarantee for the preservation of the status quo. This would seem to explain, at least in part, the type of political ventriloquism one has witnessed so far with both co-optation and regimentation as essential ingredients of its internal dynamism. That Obasanjo and Babangida are conceivably working together to ensure a pre-determined outcome in 2007 is hardly surprising in this regard. So, for this duo and their acolytes, what ultimately matters is not whether or not Babangida per se is sworn-in as president in 2007. What matters most is that they succeed in imposing a kindred spirit who will continue to be loyal to those interests that they have come to symbolize in the present scheme of things. Those who wish Nigeria well and are thus opposed to the prospect of a Babangida presidency in 2007 should bear this in mind. The aim should be to not just neutralize Babangida and his allies but crucially, to attack what they stand for. In concrete terms therefore, this would mean repudiating their unwholesome political practices including, especially, any surrogate either Babangida or Obasanjo would want to impose on the nation. One should remember that maintaining the status quo, because it shields the Obasanjos and Babangidas from paying for their various crimes and atrocities, cannot be in the interest of the Nigerian people.
Now that Babangida has indicated his intention to openly and actively continue to participate in shaping the future direction of a country he has helped ruin, it is only fair to confront him with not just his past but also his present. And if that past is strewn with the corpses of innocent victims and broken promises, the present, on its part, is burdened by, amongst other things, the unrepentant recklessness of the man, his utter disdain for the people, his profligate tendencies, and above all, his conniving cowardice and love of tyranny as is the case in his active support of the dictatorial regime Nigerians have been living under since 1999. Obviously obsessed with his self-preservation, the ‘big oga’ from Minna has been reduced to muttering contemptible accolades each time he is called upon to comment on the Obasanjo dictatorship. In a nutshell, this is the mindset, not to talk of worldview, of the moral poltron who wants to lord it over Nigeria again.
As a nation with democratic aspirations, Nigeria is today confronted with a Herculean challenge – the fact that Babangida and his principal ally, Mr. President, have invaded and occupied our political spaces, thanks, in part, to a largely irresponsible political class. These two individuals and their henchmen have now hijacked the platform of an otherwise democratic institution, the PDP, and are using it for the perpetuation of an essentially selfish agenda of impunity and rampant tyranny. In the struggle to salvage Nigerian democracy and restore hope to millions of citizens, there should be no compromise where tyrants are concerned. There should be zero-tolerance of the type of mediocrity that continues to ensure a political shelf-life for characters that should normally be paying their debts to society in maximum security prisons. We are aware that some people would consider this a rather generous measure against those that richly deserve to be subjected to a “take-no-prisoners” approach to ‘crime and punishment’ in Nigeria. Babangida has soiled his hands with the blood of fellow Nigerians. His buddy and current President, Obasanjo, is continuing in that grim tradition. The recent imposition of a stooge called Colonel Ahmadu Ali as National Chairman of the PDP is a calculated move on the part of these anti-heroes of the Nigerian democratic project to maintain their stranglehold on our polity beyond 2007.
Remarkably, the very first move by the now three-headed monster called the PDP was to order the expulsion of Governor Ngige and his estranged godfather, Uba. It is obvious that Ngige was the main target of this illegal act which is yet another indication of the extent to which the likes of Obasanjo and Babangida can go in their politics of disdain regarding Nigeria’s constitutional order. If any one person were to be banished from the PDP or any other party for their role in endangering Nigerian democracy in the present dispensation, that person would be Obasanjo. As for Babangida, his supremely un-edifying role in the annulment of the late Chief Abiola’s victory in a presidential election that was arguably the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria does render his pro-democracy claim suspect.
It is noteworthy that for once, there are voices within the PDP itself that are rising not just to condemn but also to offer resistance to what is happening to the PDP, and by implication, to the national polity in general under the reign of Obasanjo and his éminence grise composed mainly of the likes of Babangida. An erstwhile National Chairman of the PDP, Solomon Lar is vowing, in the light of the illegalities that have taken place of late in his party, to help organize resistance against what he sees as the loss of focus by the party - a tragic consequence of its control by undemocratic and tyrannical forces. His words, though belated, should be music to our ears. “What is happening shows that some people don’t have respect for democracy. And we will resist it. I am resisting it. Anybody that is a dictatorship, anytime, any day, Solomon Lar will fight back...I mean the owners of the party will not sit down and watch this useless thing…We are planning…We are trying to see that the party that Nigerians worked for comes back in a very strong form…It will not be a party that will be playing the script of a few people” (The Punch). These are encouraging thoughts, but Nigerians should be vigilant because of Chief Lar’s recent history of collaboration with the regime in Abuja. One is more re-assured by the position of Gani Fawehinmi – a constitutional lawyer and an indefatigable pro-democracy activist - concerning the PDP, Babangida and the latter’s fantasies about 2007.
The human rights and pro-democracy lawyer has expectedly taken a dim view of Ali’s appointment as National Chairman of the PDP. Stating that Ali is unfit for the post, Gani goes on to point out what this imposition entails for democracy in Nigeria. He avers that Obasanjo and Ali “must be told that political parties are constitutionally recognised and established bearing in mind Sections 221-229 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The Constitution of PDP cannot ignore the Fundamental Rights of its party members. If Obasanjo and Ali are allowed to render party system ineffective and inconsequential, then both of them will become dangerous impediments to the sustenance of democracy in the country and the consequence will be very grave for both the PDP and the future of this country. Ali must go” (Daily Independent Online).
But Gani has reserved the strongest indictment for the ex-dictator from Minna. Reacting to Babangida’s reported interest in the presidency in 2007, the pro-democracy activist has said that he is “most unacceptable”. “This man is most unacceptable, most derided, most hated because he has caused the greatest hardship for Nigerians politically, economically, socially and culturally. He is a nemesis on this country and is a man whose evil must be exorcised from the Nigerian psyche. God will never allow an evil man again to triumph in this country. Enough of his evil and he has no place again in Nigerian history. There is no positive side to him. There can be nothing positive about evil…” This is a potent and apt reflection. On Babangida’s army of sycophants and foot-soldiers and their sleazy campaign, the human rights activist had this to say: “This is the first time evil men will fail in Nigeria and they will fail disastrously. No matter how much stolen money they have acquired, they will collapse” (Daily Independent Online). This is no doubt a demystifying view on the ventriloquist from Minna. And it should be noted that the truth it projects is not meant to convey complacency or a false sense of security on our part. The note of urgency and determination contained in those wise words should be seen as Gani’s way of telling fellow Nigerians that Babangida and his allies in the PDP have waged a moral and political war of attrition on the nation and what is left of its values. There is a lot at stake and citizens cannot afford to sit on the fence.
Gani has spoken the mind of the silent majority. His is a timely reminder to Nigerians at home and abroad and the international community to take note of a continuing source of danger to the nation and act decisively to salvage democracy in this strategic part of the world. Babangida and his gang have had their fun at the expense of the country. Now is the time for people of goodwill to draw a line in the sand by insisting that enough is enough.