Dansadau’s Cop-Out?

The recent announcement by Senator Saidu Dansadau that he has resigned from partisan politics and from his political party must have come to many political observers as a big surprise. It certainly surprised me. For me it was also a big disappointment. Dansadau was a two-term senator from Zamfara and a chieftain of the All Nigeria Peoples Party.

Chances are the reader is asking himself Senator Saidu Who? Dansadau is not exactly a household name like, say, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, the senator famous or infamous depending on where you stand as the arrowhead of Obasanjo’s controversial Third Term Agenda which in the end came a cropper, thank God. For a politician, Dansadau was exceptionally self-effacing.

If Dansadau is not a household name, he should be. First, he represents the type of conviction politician who is a rare breed in Nigerian politics that has since been turned into an avenue for self-aggrandisement. A few years ago the governor of his state, Alhaji Ahmed Sani, Yarima Bakura, offered car gifts to the federal legislators from his state. Dansadau graciously declined the gift because he believed the money spent for the creature comfort of the legislators should have been spent to provide for some of the basic needs of the ordinary folks in the state.

Needless to say, Dansadau’s gesture did not endear him to the governor. He was to pay a heavy price for this “impertinence” which characterized much of his relationship with his governor and with many of his legislative colleagues.

Second, for several years Dansadau served diligently and efficiently as the Secretary-General of the Northern Senators’ Forum. Between himself and the forum’s chairman, the late Senator Idris Kuta, they worked hard to make it a very formidable source of opposition to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s well-oiled attempt to turn himself into an imperial president and breach the two-term constitutional limit for being president.

Over six years ago, Dansadau contested for the chairmanship of his party. Following the cynical but not altogether surprising appointment of Senator Mahmud Waziri, then ANPP chairman, as a Special Adviser to President Obasanjo—the aim clearly was to neutralise it as the most viable opposition party—my good friend Alhaji Yusuf Ali, a one-time managing director of Unipetrol (now Oando) and chairman of the Nigerian Football Association, was anointed by the then seven ANPP governors as its chairman. Up till then all efforts to conduct a proper convention failed - that was until July 2002.

At first it looked like the party would be lucky this time around. The contest for the chairmanship was essentially a two-horse race between Ali, the incumbent, and Dansadau.

Typical of our politics, the election was rigged in favour of the incumbent by zoning the chairmanship to Kano where Ali was from. Dansadau remained undeterred and unfazed in the comfortable knowledge that the zoning had no basis in the party’s constitution. He mounted a highly successful campaign for the chair and as the convention date approached, it looked like it was his to lose.

Not surprisingly, he lost. He lost, not through the vote, but because the convention never held. Naturally the party itself blamed everyone else but itself. In a paid advertisement in several newspapers the party’s National Convention Committee accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of a grand conspiracy to stop its convention as a prelude for rigging the 2003 general elections.

“The convention of our party was postponed due to the refusal of INEC to monitor our convention by the use of the anonymous court order and deliberate display of injustice and contempt to our dear party the ANPP,” said the convention committee. INEC’s monitoring of party conventions is a legal requirement for their validity.

However while the ANPP convention committee, in effect, accused the PDP of frustrating  its convention by signalling INEC to stay away from it, there was widespread suspicion that a faction of the party leadership itself engineered the court injunction that stopped the convention in order to give INEC a convenient excuse to stay away. This was a last desperate effort to stop Dansasau from what seemed to be certain victory.

Whatever role the PDP and INEC may or may not have played in aborting ANPP’s 2002 convention, it was obvious that without divisions in the party it would never have been so easy for anyone, even the powerful PDP, to undermine it.

Six years after failing several times to hold a proper convention it is obvious that the divisions in the party have persisted. Indeed, if anything else, those divisions have become so wide that the party is, for all practical purposes, as good as dead.

Virtually all the five governors elected on its platform have kept it at arm’s length. Some of them, including Malam Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano, Alhaji Ali Sheriff of Borno and Alhaji Mamuda Shinkafi of Zamfara, are widely suspected to be making moves to cross over to the PDP.

Then as every body knows by now there is no love lost between the party’s presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, and the party leadership.

Worse, the party chairman, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke - through his son - and its secretary general, Senator Saidu Kumo, have defied their party’s constitution by taking up jobs as special advisers to President Umaru Yar’adua in PDP’s so-called Government of National Unity, while at the same time holding to their party posts.

It may sound unreasonable to criticize the PDP for exploiting the divisions in the ANPP to neutralize it as the biggest opposition in the country. After all politics is war by other means and has it not often been said that all is fair in war? Or is it?

Even in wars there are some things you don’t do. In wars it is, for example, regarded as the height of cynical cruelty to kill or maim unarmed old men, women and children. In this sense one can say the PDP was clearly at its cynical worst when it appointed Ume-Ezeoke’s son as a special adviser to the president knowing fully well that the young lad, barely out of his diapers, lacked the experience and the knowledge to advise anyone, least of all the president of the largest Black nation in the world, on anything.

I suspect that Dansadau must have surveyed all this and come to the conclusion that the ANPP he was a founding member of has simply become irredeemable. And being a conviction politician he apparently did not think the answer to a comatose ANPP was to join another party.

He had been denied the party’s ticket to contest his senate seat for the third term during last year’s general elections because of his disagreements with his ex-governor, Alhaji Ahmed Sani, who appeared at the time to have had a stranglehold on the party apparatus.

In the light of all this, politics, party politics at least, must have become meaningless to the senator. Hence his decision to quit party politics.

In announcing his decision, Dansadau says he is not quitting politics altogether. “I do not think it is correct to say I resigned from politics... One cannot say he has resigned from politics,” he said in an interview in Weekly Trust (October 18).

What he has done, he said, was merely to resign from his party and from partisan politics. He did so, he said, because as a young politician he had pledged to his Creator that if he lived long enough to spend 30 years in partisan politics, he will leave it at the end of those 30 years. October 1, he said, marked the end of those 30 years.

Anyone who has monitored Dansadau’s involvement in politics going back to the ‘70s when he was a protégé of Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, Marafan Sokoto, himself one of the country’s leading political figures, will agree that the ex-senator is one of the most principled politicians in the country and someone whose word is his honour.

Even then I find it difficult to believe him when he said he resigned from partisan politics because he had promised God that he would spend only 30 years in it. After all had he not been blocked from contesting his senate seat for the third time, he would have been a senator today and as senator he was bound to be partisan is his politics, at least some of the time if not all the time.

I believe Dansadau quit because in this country politics seems to have become meaningless and its future seemingly hopeless. If this is so, I believe he quit for the wrong reason. A good man like Dansadau should never give up on politics, partisan or otherwise.