(Vanguard of Sunday, December 3, 2006)
Believe me when I tell you that many Nigerians are confused, confused because they do not understand what is happening, why what is happening is happening and what the bloody hell can be done about what is happening.
But I am not confused because my simple way of looking at life, mirrored to me in the deed, is to accept that it is the fruits of what we sow that we reap. I am sorry I seem to be moving into the area of preachments these days, but what else can I do, can those who have been warning us do, when things are moving from bad to worse and we insist that only prayers can provide the solution.
I believe in the efficacy of prayers but not the mockery we identify as direct communication with God. For me, the answer to prayers is in the seed you sow. It must grow into the plant that is buried in the seed, and multiply for our reaping.
You cannot pray for blessings to flow from the evil seeds you sowed that should invite curses on you, especially when you refuse to change your ways.
Let us look at the political scene today and predict how the prayers we are now saying through the seeds we are sowing will be answered in the harvest. We all know that we cannot contest elections without using the forum of a political party, and a political party is one because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says so.
The say-so is reflected in the registration, and at the last count, the number has hit 50! There is no doubt that some more groups may come up to be registered. But having been registered, there are some demands made on the party, and these demands are manifesting in what is now heating up the polity.
Those who want to be councilors and chairmen of councils; those who want to go to the Houses of Assembly; those who want to go to the House of Representatives and the Senate of the National Assembly; those who want to be governors, and those who want to be president, they are all on the move in the different political parties, jostling, hustling for party endorsement at the ward level, the local government level, the state level, and finally at the national level.
The shortest journey is for the councilor who will need anyone outside the ward to endorse him (and him stands for her, too), or would he? And as the constituency is enlarged to the local government area for the chairman of council and the senatorial district for the senator and the state for the governor and the country for the president, so the heavy-duty responsibilities settle on the shoulders of the aspirant.
Already, there are so many candidates you wonder whether they all believe they will or can win or they just want to make a point.
Whatever reason they may have for entering the race at whatever level, all the candidates will know, if they do not know already, what it means when we are told that experience is the best teacher.
There are two situations everyone must face – the de jure situation and the de facto situation. One has to do with the Constitution and the Law; the other with Convention.
The Constitution and the Law provide for how you achieve the office of representing the people; the Convention secures obeisance to the one who influenced your candidacy, and claims that without him, you would never have been there.
The Constitution and the Law are interpreted by the courts, but the conventional arrangements override the Constitution, the Law and pronouncements of the courts. The Constitution and the Law entrench due process and frown on breaches of procedures for securing justice, but the Convention is preoccupied with results, and so the ends are more important than the means.
The de jure situation is straightforward. The de facto situation is a circuitous route. In the latter case, meetings take place in the night and decisions just emerge to meet the requirements of the de jure situation, the demand of the Constitution and the Law. I have illustrated this situation in the past.
A delegation was sent to someone who wanted to be governor of a State. He was told he had to be a member of the Association of Witches. He said he could not do so because he was a Muslim.
The person who led the delegation laughed, and said, “We have been friends for 40 years. What is my religion? Make no mistake about this by mixing water and ink. You want to be a governor and we are talking politics, not religion. One is spiritual, the other material…”
The friend then explained why the one seeking office had to belong to the Association of Witches. “You will pledge allegiance to the association before you take office because, from experience, while there, you can mess up everybody, and it is only the association that can call you to order with means you should be aware of…”
Much later, it turned out that the witches association was one of at least seven bodies he would have had to commit himself to, seven invisible groups. Where there is one known godfather, the godfather swallows up other groups, as we have seen in the seven years since we started our walk on the Democracy Highway, Nigerian Version.
Looking back, there seems to be sense in the demand by the de facto situation that things be accepted the Nigerian way before the visible route which is the de jure situation is followed.
We should come back to this in a moment, but let’s first look at the de jure situation which I said is straightforward. It is what the Constitution says which INEC has manifested through the registration. And INEC itself has the Electoral Act to comply with.
The Electoral Act makes demands on the political party to conduct congresses and conventions, and gives a deadline for compliance. To this end, there is a timetable and everyone is rushing to meet the deadline.
In this rush, which is more of a race, casualties are already showing up with broken bones and sprained ankles. Even some lost their lives, long before the races started, and many more will die.
The reason is that this race, this war, is for ruthless businessmen, anchored by godfathers, and the most lucrative business in Nigeria today is politics. If people do not want to be in the opposition, you can now guess why. But let’s not jump the gun. The one who starts winning at the ward congresses may run away with victory at the convention.
Reports from all over the country already show those who are winning and those who are losing. In some places, contenders seem so equally matched that there are stalemates, which can only be for a time because one group must emerge, and the loser will work for the failure of the winner by pulling support to other parties.
It has happened before, and it will continue to happen. Because of the long period of military presence, many may not have remembered or are too young to know that the de facto situation, not the de jure, has dominated Nigerian politics.
In the first republic, we had the founding fathers of the NPC, the Action Group and the NCNC calling the shots. The problems in the West arose from the resistance Akintola put up against the leadership of Obafemi Awolowo.
Mbadiwe’s challenge of Zik’s giant profile was a storm in the teacup. Ahmadu Bello’s leadership of the NPC was not threatened even when he called the shots from his position as Premier of Northern Nigeria.
The presence of the military robbed us of a whole line of possible de facto influences in our political journey to now.
But since 1999, we have had IBB being associated with bringing Obasanjo into office; Vice President Atiku Abubakar calling the shots between 1999 and 2003 because his Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) was the soul of the ruling party, the PDP; and President Olusegun Obasanjo taking over the driver’s seat in the PDP after the bold step of castrating the PDM and forcing it out of the party through an exercise that was no doubt designed to tame Atiku and his committed team.
The de facto situation has also shown visible presence in Anambra State (through Emeka Offor and Chris Uba); in Edo State (through Tony Anenih); in Oyo State (through Adedibu); and most recently in Plateau State (through Senator Mantu) because the wards the godfathers made had either revolted or shown signs of declaring themselves independent of their mentors.
The push for control of who next occupies the various elective positions is on and is vigorous and even violent, and should witness many dislocations, including the scattering of the flock. Those who win will retain their control of the parties, and those who lose may lick their wounds or move out to other parties to seek the green pastures.
By May next year, those who emerged finally as those to represent the people will take their oaths of allegiance to the Federal Republic and also swear to serve the people and defend the Constitution.
But there is the more binding oath of allegiance to the godfather. So do not be confused. The struggle is for the continuation in office of the mentors or their replacement. And if there is this much ruthlessness, it is because many more godfathers are in contention for control of the political space.
Do you know how many serving governors are leaving office, having served the mandatory two terms? And you think they will remain subordinate to ageing political mentors?