2019: Neither APC nor PDP but…

Madam Oby Ezekwesili, the irrepressible and unrelenting advocate for the public good who has imposed on herself the thankless job of being one of Nigeria’s public conscience, has kick-started a potentially disruptive campaign on social media. The hash tag #RedCardMovement which is already gaining steam on Twitter promises to be politically penetrating as the 2019 elections approach. The stage is getting set for another round of social media politicking not unlike like the case with the last election circle where the virtual space proved to be the springboard that propelled slingshots of soft power that greatly aided the fall of an incumbent from power.

An integral component of the budding movement which will attract a series of pieces in this column relates to the suggestion that neither the All Progressives Congress (APC) nor the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is fit to be trusted with power in 2019. Thus the associated hash tag, #RedCardToAPCAndPDP, is also in the mix of the campaign fast spreading online. The premise that the two most prominent political parties have bungled the goodwill and trust of Nigerians and so can no longer be trusted to benefit from further electoral mandates is quite understandable. This position is likely to gain popularity among millions of distraught and disenchanted Nigerians who gleefully voted out the PDP in 2015 without knowing that they were as much as installing another side of same coin in office. Events which have unfolded in the last two years confirm that voters only succeeded in propping up an equally clueless and rapacious wing of the political elite class, which once embedded in power, carried on with unrelenting torment of citizens and a brazen blaze of self-aggrandizement. Those who dreamt that taking out the PDP which ruled for an unbroken 16 years would open up the country to Eldorado where milk and honey would flow on the streets of Lagos and Daura; that one naira would exchange for one US dollar; that petrol would sell for forty naira per litre; and that millions of jobs would be created to banish unemployment into history, have been starkly disappointed. And those who sold such fairytales as gospel truths to naïve and impressionable minds have been unraveled for who they truly are. As has now become evident, it was a clearly misplaced fantasy to expect the likes of Nasir el-Rufai, Rotimi Amaechi, Samuel Ortom, Timipre Sylva, and Bukola Saraki, among a host of others, who were politically empowered in the last 16 years of PDP ‘misrule’ to suddenly behave differently simply because they exited the mutilated cover of the umbrella and embraced the smithereens of a tenuous change mantra. The gladiators needed an alternative platform to actualize a common aspiration to kick Goodluck Jonathan out of power and APC proved to be the veritable tool for that; nothing close to a binding ideology to deliver good governance and gains of democracy to the masses held them together. So once they gained power, the spoils of office was the next bone of contention and once the sharing formula and pattern for this proved disadvantageous, a new scuffle was bound to ensue. And this would in turn, result in a natural implosion which is one way or the other now benefitting the PDP. This is why Atiku Abubakar who anchored the ‘New PDP’ rebellion that crumbled the PDP is now back to the fold after having been served with the short end of the stick in the APC. But the former vice president retains some respect on account of his courageous and relentless battles against the onslaught of his boss at the time, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who sought to emasculate him after both men fell apart in the second term of that presidency. Atiku’s several judicial travails at the time contributed significantly in strengthening Nigeria’s political jurisprudence. While we are likely to see more defections back and forth; and in and out of the APC and PDP respectively, some of those who masqueraded as messianic redeemers of our collective destiny in the former are busy re-packaging a new set of lies, half-truths and propaganda to entice the gullible for votes in 2019.

Unfortunately, the disappointing outing of the APC in government over the last two years has condemned it to an early verdict of failure. The ruling party is now head-to-head in comparison on Governance Deficiency Syndrome (GDS) with the party it displaced from federal power in the 2015 general elections. To compound its budding record of negative ratings, the APC has manifested a disturbing level of internal contradictions, political arrogance, insensitivity and other improprieties like the party it replaced in power. Or how do you explain its failure to hold regular National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings or convene a national convention as dictated by its own laws; or even put in place critical organs like a Board of Trustees (BOT)? A party that cannot as much as comply with its own rules can hardly be trusted to govern satisfactorily. That is why its national chairman will come out openly to deny the presidency it controls over the embarrassingly distasteful nomination of dead men into government boards and parastatals. Nobody expects the APC to be free from internal contradictions- after all the circumstance of its formation was enough pointer to this eventuality. But one would have expected it to learn from the mistakes of the PDP and not repeat or out-perform them. With no clearly defined ideology which it amply made up for with hifalutin campaign promises it knew it would not keep, the ruling party is bumping on the same failures it brandished to heckle the PDP from power. Now the chickens have come home to roost.

The scales have fallen from the eyes of Nigerians to reveal forlorn faces of agony and hardship. The hailstones of economic downturn are falling on both the poor and the rich; the privileged and under-privileged; and many cases of both reported and unreported suicides are becoming the order of the day. Champions and amplifiers of the packaged lies and propaganda have retreated into regret and shedding crocodile tears on Twitter and Facebook. Hailers are fast transforming into wailers at the speed of light and unsolicited memos have started to fly and up and down on the pages of newspapers and popular blogs. In the light of this, should the PDP be the option in 2019? Although the opposition party is currently parading itself as the viable option it has also failed to properly reposition and take advantage of the failings of its successor. The party has failed to take the take the opportunity of its defeat in 2015 to rebrand and open up to new thinking; like the leopard that cannot change its skin, the PDP is still stuck in its old ways where internal democracy and a genuine opening of its space to fresh, young and vibrant minds that seek participation in the political process is a rhetoric rather than a reality.

But in pushing aside the twin evils of Nigeria’s election-winning machines, what viable options are available to citizens? What alternative is Madam Ezekwesili and her co-travellers offering? Is the polity going to witness the emergence of a third force that will seize the space and confine the APC and PDP to the dressing room of political oblivion? This is why the #RedCardMovement should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand; careful attention should be paid to what the former minister and others of her ilk are contriving for 2019. But whatever is brewing is not certainly going to be a tea party.


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Author: Oke Epia