(Vanguard of Sunday, June 18, 2006)
When, like illimitable Mbadiwe would say, the come comes to become, you will make a choice that will put food on your table, ensure that you can pay the rent for your apartment, pay the children’s school fees and cater for the large family that Africa recognizes as nuclear. As bread winner, you have your wife or wives, your children, children of your father’s wives, the wives themselves, and all others who look up to you for sustenance.
When you visit home once in a while, they ask you what you have brought for them from the city. They never welcome you home with even a few tubers of yam from their farms. They believe you do not eat yam anymore because your tastes in the city have changed. Because you have discovered that the only paying business is politics, you look for where you can slot in to make hay while the sun shines.
There is very little, if any room for ethnicity in all this. But when one community attacks your community, you will take up arms to defend your little acre. Is the South-South our little acre we must defend in the Nigerian arrangement? The answer is yes, but people will ask what is there for them after the victory. But first, we must know what war is being fought before the victory and its war spoils can be looked forward to. The war is a political war, and we chose to walk the democracy highway in May, 1999, didn’t we?
We have groups we work with, and in, and these groups and groupings are political parties. At the last count when INEC registered two new parties, the number had exceeded 35. Most of them are there, not because they know they can win any votes in any election, but because there is an arrangement for INEC to hand out money to those political parties that exist in its books. But the king of them all, the ijele masquerade, has been the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Its affairs seem to have translated into the affairs of the nation, its plans the nation’s plans, its pains the nation’s pains and its zoning formula the nation’s zoning formula. But this is wrong and should be seen to be wrong, very wrong. We are in a democracy and every party must sit down and plan its future.
The question of the ethnic card is therefore tabled for debate. The Ijaw and the Edo and the Urhobo and the Efik and the Igbo and the Isoko and the Anang and the Ndoni can be accommodated in the Niger Delta region, in the South-South. But you cannot access power without a political party, and what we are told we have to do is to bring one of us, who inevitably must be from one of the ethnic groups, to run for the office. As South-southerners, we will endorse him against the South-Easterner. But what if we belong in different political parties – PDP, ANPP, APGA, AD, ACD or any of the other parties? It is here that the ethnic card is weak and seriously weakened and undermined. I have a case to back this up.
We decided at Auchi to work for an Auchi son to be chairman of the council. Shagady was uncomfortable with the arrangement because the Auchi son who was nominated to be chairmanship candidate was ANPP. Chief MCK Orbih of blessed memory was the ANPP kingpin who endorsed the nomination of the Auchi man. He was from Avianwu Clan but had lived all his life in Uzairue Clan where he had immense political clout. The question then arose as to who to support. Orbih said party loyalty must be respected and Shagady said as chairman of the PDP in Etsako West Local Government Area, he would have to work to deliver his area to his party. Auchi solidarity collapsed, and so also Uzairue Clan solidarity. It was not that Shagady loved Auchi less and that Orbih loved Uzairue less, but that they belonged in organizations in a democratic setting where interests rose above ethnicity.
Bring this scenario to the South-South issue. The brief is that a serving governor from the South-South should be one of those to be recommended for the top slot. Forget why the brief is restricted to serving governors. Find out who is asking for this choice! You would be tempted to think such request is the outcome of a national referendum. No. It is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that is flexing its political muscle!!! And why not.
It controls more than two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the National Assembly, and more than two-thirds of the 36 states that make up the Federation of Nigeria. Even if there is no other party to think of, and believe me when I say that there are other parties to think of, the ruling party itself is imploding, if we must be temperate enough to use the mildest word we can find.
And what of the South-South, the segment of our discourse? No one thinks of the fact that even in that sector, the governors, all six in the PDP, are not friends that can vouch one for the other. Attah of Akwa Ibom and Alamasieyegha of Bayelsa were the most ardent fighters for resource control. Ibori spent a lot of time paying for supporting an Ekwueme-Atiku ticket during the 2003 primaries of the PDP and has just been released from the criminal leach he was tethered to because of that support. Odili’s second home is outside Port Harcourt.
It is right there in Aso Rock, and he has never owed anyone any apology being at the beck and call of Baba and Stella. Igbinedion spent so much time abroad you wondered if he had friends here at home, but there was no doubt that he felt most at home with Ibori. His political calculations after 2007 may not have foreseen the brief that his zone could produce the president and not a vice. Duke walked the tight rope of not being seen to be for or against either Atiku or Obasanjo.
His absence at crucial meetings of the South-South Peoples Assembly where he would have been identified as a player left people in doubt about his being a referee or an observer at the match. Perhaps he had to play safe because he had the least allocation from oil earnings along with Igbinedion of Edo State. We should not push our luck far by discussing who among the governors would support any other that had been picked to fly the presidential flag of the PDP.
But the die should be seen to be cast. The chips will be down sooner than later. With alignment talks all over the place, mega parties will emerge and the PDP will discover that its choice of candidate for President will make or mar it. Many praying warriors want it from the South-East or South-South. But they do not see what I see. I know that the God we all serve is a giver, not a taker. Politics as we have perfected our practice of it is not, for Him, the way He ordained that service be given.
Cheating and fraud are traceable to Satan who is associated with Darkness and Evil. Our practice of politics is evil and satanic. Like I have asserted, satanic programmes have a life span and will return to the authors in multiples. I do not see the programme for a South-South or South-East PDP presidential candidate as a genuine project. I think we are still trying to bluff our way into another phase of the Third Term Project because it would seem the governors would more easily be traduced into submission than any other who had not the opportunity to visit the government till unstopped for eight years.
Even if the South-South does produce a candidate for the post of president, would he not be the candidate of the PDP? What of the ANPP or ACD or APGA candidates, or the candidates of the new parties that are coming fully armed to confront the PDP, and those who run their affairs in the states and wards in the South-South? Will they vote en mass for the PDP candidate because he is from the South-South so that at the end of the day, all the patronage would be distributable at a PDP caucus meeting where no thought would be given to those who might have enthusiastically gone out to choose a candidate from their zone! It won’t work. Don’t try to roast me before the event. Just wait and see, and you will start getting to know man and his ways better.
(Published in Vol. 2 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh, pages 153- 156; Lagos, 2008).