PDP may be sinking but ACN and CPC are not the rescue boats

Olaitan Ladipo

Even by the most generous outlook, only three parties have a fighting chance of winning April presidential elections and these are the People's Democratic Party, Action Congress of Nigeria and the Congress for Progressive Change. Notwithstanding the probable good performance of some others like the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Labour Party and the All Progressive Grand Alliance, in governorship and national and state assembly elections, the presidential candidates of the former three remain the only reasonable hopefuls for Aso Rock.

Also, of those three foremost candidates - Goodluck Jonathan, Nuhu Ribadu and General Muhammadu Buhari - Jonathan is the clear leader by a mile, and that is chiefly because all of the other parties, with the possible exception of the National Conscience Party, are in varying degrees nothing more than poor copies of the PDP.

While admittedly a number of leaky holes have been punched below the water line of the PDP ship, most of the damage is not the result of opposition activity but in fact self-inflicted, and top amongst those selves is the Northern Elders Political Forum element within the PDP. That group was not only willing to scuttle the vessel that took them to and still capable of sustaining them in power, for no other reason than they disapprove of the ethnic origin of the captain, but they were equally prepared, given some unguarded utterances, to sink the bigger Nigeria ship.

That self-indulgence to pull the house down over all of our heads now appears (and I use the word appears deliberately) to be giving way to collective goodwill, thanks to the rout of the hegemons at the PDP primaries and deft political and divinely humble moves by Goodluck Jonathan. All of which only underline that Nigerians and Nigeria's leaders have hardly learnt their lessons from history.

Thus, there being no ideological difference between, in fact, there being no ideological identity of any, of the parties, April's contest is in that sense truly a candidates' race. The lack of ideological distinction is the reason it is possible for example to separate the persons of Governor Raji Fashola and Nuhu Ribadu from their party's character. It is similarly the reason one can see PDP as merely a vessel for the realisation of the higher democratic ideals of Goodluck Jonathan's candidacy.

If there are any valid reasons to support voting for Goodluck Jonathan and not Nuhu Ribadu in the April elections, it should be two mainly. The first, which I have repeatedly offered, is the fact that Jonathan's victory in April will be a victory for national democracy, as it will establish that the Presidency is not for the exclusive play of oligarchy musical chairs by the Hausa, Igbo and the Yoruba, nor for that matter the Ijaw. It will establish that any Nigerian eligible, from any region or tribe, can aspire to and become President.

The second reason will be the antecedents, for which many refuse or conveniently forget to give him credit, of Mr President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

On the 25th November 2011, Goodluck Jonathan declared on his Facebook and I quote, "I was loyal to my leader, the late great President Umaru Yar'Adua. I am loyal to Nigeria, I don't claim to represent North, South or a Committee-I represent Nigeria. I am loyal to Nigeria's economy, I don't have accounts or property abroad, ALL my children live and school in Nigeria. I am loyal to my wife and friends. Can those who accuse me say the same?" [emphasis mine]

What the President wrote must be true since, were they lies, we would have known by now from Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Mallam Garba Shehu, the highly effective (and commendably so) spokespersons for ACN and the Atiku Abubakar campaign respectively.

However, that most Nigerians could be indifferent to such an earth-shaking, revolutionary, ever before unheard, statement as this, beats me.

Indeed, how many of the other aspirants that have held public office and their running mates, including we-are-made-to-believe-is-Mr-squeaky-clean General Muhammadu Buhari despite his demonstrated disciplined mien, could hold their hand up and say the same. I suspect not even Christian preacher Pastor Tunde Bakare, even though I will not hold him to that task since he has never held public office. Frankly, if Nuhu Ribadu could meet those standards in addition to his previously proven progressive credentials, it should be enough reason to vote for his party.

Even before his Facebook revelation above, Goodluck Jonathan had said also in his declaration speech on the 18th September in 2010, "Not once did I imagine that a child from Otuoke, a small village in the Niger Delta, will one day rise to the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. … In my early days in school, I had no shoes, no school bags. I carried my books in my hands but never despaired; no car to take me to school but I never despaired. There were days I had only one meal but I never despaired. I walked miles and crossed rivers to school every day but I never despaired.

Today there are many in public positions or who held public offices in Nigeria who trekked miles barefoot to school like Jonathan; whose parents too could hardly pay their schooling whilst they lived in rented hovels or village shacks. Unfortunately, as soon as they attained positions where they could make a difference, many of them thought the answer to their deprived background is to consign present and future generations of Nigerians to even worse deprivation than that with which they grew up.

They pilfer our commonwealth into bulging foreign accounts; buy mansions and condos abroad for themselves, their many wives and girlfriends, and litter the front of those houses and car parks with expensive cars they hardly ever ride; run down our learning institutions but send their own children to study abroad. We will further examine our alternatives.

Firstly, that ACN leaders waited deliberately (and no amount of official denial can refute this) until they knew who the PDP presidency candidate was, before electing their own, was tantamount to putting up a ‘for sale' sign on their party and making it known that the currency of purchase had nothing to do with principles or integrity. Only when eventually they realised the Turakin Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, was not coming back to the AC were they prepared to consider the immensely qualified and hugely popular Nuhu Ribadu.

So much has been made of the negative influence of some powerful members of the PDP to the conclusion that we should expect nothing good of its presidential candidate. However, with Bola Tinubu increasingly operating like a Chairman/MD; with nominations no longer more than appointments by him; with imposition, against the wish of party members, of family members and cronies, a disturbing pattern of de-democratisation of that party too has emerged.

Taofeek Arapaja, Oyo State's Deputy Governor and PDP member has asked Tinubu to remove the log in his ACN eyes before criticising the speck of Jonathan and Alao-Akala's and if there is anyone yet unconvinced by Arapaja's factual criticisms but who needs to be, they should read Ijeoma Nwaogwugwu's Tinubu's God Complex in ThisDay. While many of us are left wondering what exactly is Tinubu's official post in ACN and in Lagos State, his unofficial roles are in no doubt - it is that of chief financial beneficiary and strongman, which, hardly, is recognised constitutionally.

Like Jonathan to PDP bigwigs, Nuhu Ribadu is no less beholden to Bola Ahmed Tinubu. That however does not make the ACN or Ribadu, or for that matter Bola Tinubu, worse candidates than Buhari and the CPC.

Of all criticisms of General Buhari, the most damaging yet, given his squeaky-clean façade, is the allegation that part of Abacha's loot may have found its way into his campaign chest, believable if one remembers how Buhari amongst others went to Kano to give a clean bill, saying Abacha never stole anybody's money. Only a few days ago however, Segun Adeniyi, erstwhile Aso Rock Press Secretary, revealed that even the billions that Olusegun Obasanjo and his administration made us believe had been recovered from the Abacha family, are in fact still in their possession and verily financing Mohammed's quest for political office. Segun Adeniyi's tale revealed a shady deal that looks like it ended, if one could read between the lines, in a double-cross or triple.

Whatever Buhari did or did not do when he was military dictator would matter less if there were no suspicions that he is unrepentant and would repeat it. He has never apologised for his glaring sectional bias then and, when exposed to the scrutiny of even his recent actions, Buhari's democratic credentials do not stand up. He left the ANPP because he could not abide by the majority decision of the party, notwithstanding that he had a case against colleagues that he considered stabbed him in the back. Like Chief Awolowo before him who was tagged rightly or wrongly with a sectional label, Buhari's ambition to lead 250 tribes of Nigeria in a civilian democratic government may yet suffer from fear by the majority.

Goodluck Jonathan may have a long way to go in satisfying the democratic and economic yearnings of Nigerians but, comparing our options, he is our best yet for realising those aspirations.

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