The APC-nPDP “Merger”: 5 Things

Although it’s a bit of a misnomer, as the “New PDP” neither ever acquired a distinct corporate personality nor was recognised as an actual political party, but a “merger” with the All Progressives Congress (APC) was announced today. As the news spread on Twitter, a hitherto latent pragmatism also spread with it.  Suspicions about the leanings and probity credentials of the APC leaders gave way to acceptance that Nigeria isn’t yet ripe enough to be led by a party of saints. There was palpable excitement at the notion that a party that didn’t exist a year ago now has 18 governors (and numerous federal legislators) in its fold. What are the implications of this merger, though? Here are a few naïve thoughts from my de-tribalised, de-politicised, de-everythinged mind

1. An Epic Clash Awaits in 2014/15

Forget for a second, if you will, about the potential presidential candidates. Lick your chomps instead at the prospect of the mother of all muscle-flexing between Federal and State might. Incumbents typically do not lose elections in Africa. In Nigeria, the ruling PDP’s candidate has won every presidential election since our then (and still?) nascent democracy was born in 1999. The PDP has wielded control over the fabled “machinery” of elections since then. However, it was overwhelmingly the largest party in the past and its majority has now been halved. Federal Machinery is no more than an agglutination of Municipal Machineries. With Municipal (i.e. State) Machinery no longer aligned with Federal purpose the outcome may remain unknown for now, but it is sure that the jostling will be the busiest, rowdiest, most legendary election campaign (and spending, let’s be honest) that us 45’s and under have ever seen.

2. Shine Ya Eye

My twitter bio has been updated, to indicate my availability to provide electioneering services that cater to the vanities of elite Nigeria. I am not a ballot-stuffer and I have never brandished a weapon against a fellow human in all my life. To be honest, I want nothing to do with that side of our peculiar electoral process. However, I can do and coordinate the fancy stuff that we, the electoral minority, like. After all, a credible campaign consists of serving the illiterate masses empty platitudes and attempting to beguile the elite with concrete policy. If the epic spending predicted in point 1 above proves true, then there is going to be a big “mahkate” for consultants. Get your consultancy on.

3. Jagabanism is Next to Progressivenessism

Slate the Jagaban Borgu all you like but dismiss him at your own peril. This dismissiveness I speak of is not just in the context of the opposition parties (as the political calculations suggest a South-Westerner is unlikely to be a popular presidential candidate for another 20 years or so) but even with the APC aficionados. Sure, he is building a family dynasty, with the good lady senator senating and the Iyaloja General doing whatever it is Iyalojas do, but perhaps the Tinubus will be the Kennedys or the Bushes of Yorubaland – with due apologies to FFK. With the opinion most people express about him online, I think, given his astute succession planning in Lagos State, it is either he gets an unduly bad rap or Governor Fashola simply is not the saint we imagine him to be. Lagos has progressed unquestionably under their watch however, so it is clear that the man knows a thing or two about developmental spending.

4. Dry Bones Will Live Again

It was said recently, citing sources from within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, that the reason for its poor record of enforcement recently was  a lack of funds. No money to chase stealers of money; the sad irony.  We can rest assured, however, that this hitherto missing money or a good Executive substitute for it will be delivered to the EFCC and they will begin to pursue their statutory mandate with renewed vigour and unprecedented fervour. That the scope of their sights is set on members of the burgeoning APC will be a minor footnote in the quest to kick corruption out of government. Never mind the fact that the N255m armoured car scandal refuses to go away, even with the feeble Wag-The-Dog tactics of an attack on an empty ministerial car by unknown gunmen. But I digress.

5. Plus Ca Change…

Asari Dokubo and co will no doubt, in the wake of the moves to unseat their “Jesus Christ on earth”, remind us that it is Niger Delta oil that is running through all our veins and that removing the incumbent president would be akin to ripping each of our hearts out of our bodies. It will be of no consequence, should this president be removed by a popular vote. It is “their turn”. Then, as elections draw closer, and the president begins to lie down before men of God for prayers, religion will also join tribalism as an honoured guest at the electoral feast. General Buhari, did not lie prostrate before the archbishop of Canterbury during his recent visit, so GEJ is well ahead in the picture polls. Pictures from the Jerusalem walkabout will resurface and Buhari will have to defend why he contracted the Mossad to abduct Umaru Dikko. Allegedly. Then the president will reduce the barriers for accessing the Nollywood World Bank Fund. So those ones will come out and act and sing for him again. Then North will be awash with “Sai Buhari” posters. Then the polity will be unbelievably heated up, in spite of the tepid warnings from the presidency…

Soldiers of Fortune – A Review

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I’m glad I bought a copy of Max Siollun’s Soldiers of Fortune. Many might say it merely rehashes a lot of information that was already in the public domain but I would strongly disagree. Even if that assertion was true, a compendium of all the information from a pivotal point in the nation’s history can never be a bad thing.

My personal repertoire of the events that have shaped our history has never been more than superficial. No nuggets of particular insight, unless I was chanced to be in the company of someone “in the know”. Soldiers of Fortune puts into perspective many things I was either too young or too unsavvy to understand at the time they happened.

The book’s preface sets the context for the history it recounts, with a summary of transitions from independence to the civil war to the overthrow of the Shagari government, shortly after its “re-election”. Relying on a wide range of sources, from ‘hagiographic autobiographies’ to interviews given by the various actors, the book then surgically considers the events leading up to each intervention by the military, including the unsuccessful ones.

What surprised me most through the book? For one, some coups were instigated by civilians, one of whom became a martyr for democracy, another a perennial applicant for a gubernatorial position in the Niger Delta.

Secondly, there is absolutely nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to government proposals. The proposed “entertainment tax” in Lagos State was deployed by the Military Governor of Ogun State in the early 80s. A single 6-year term for executive office holders had been mooted (and rejected by the government of the day) since 1990 or thereabouts.

Thirdly, the June 12 intrigues will surprise a few readers, although I must admit, I found the portrayal of IBB as both orchestrator and victim of the annulment somewhat confusing. It also seems history has been unkind to Prof. Nwosu, chairperson of the electoral commission that organised the elections. I find a quote attributed to our Senate President particularly interesting.

On a personal note, I was at secondary school with the son of one of the officers executed for the “failed” 1986 coup. Siollun actually singles out the officer for being implausibly linked to the plot, having no soldiers or weaponry under his command. I remember the son cursing out Babangida on a few occasions.

Still on 1986, the tragic irony of the case of the officer who was executed for not reporting the rumours he’d heard was very sad. This man had informed General Buhari about rumours of a coup in 1983, not knowing that Buhari himself was at the centre of the plot. Buhari had him arrested and locked up for several months. When he got wind of the Orkar coup, he rightly(?) decided to keep mum and paid for it with his life.

In addition to his meticulous reconstruction of events, Siollun frequently provides analysis to explain rationale and sometimes fill in the gaps that the dramatis personae have left in their accounts.

If there are any lessons to be learnt from this book, it is that all incisive criticism of today’s government is a good thing. Not rabid, senseless expulsion of hot air, but line-by-line examination of government policy. We must also shelve blind nationalism and vainglorious pride – IBB was saluted for rejecting the IMFs conditions but imposed even more stringent conditions than the IMF had requested anyway. So, to all those who keep getting the word “activist” spat at them as if the appellation were some deadly plague, keep the pressure on. Additionally, it is clear that a whole generation will pass before the country’s political landscape is devoid of (de)militarised politicians – many of the beneficiaries of the system from 1983 to 1993 are alive and well; and loaded. Finally, until the Northern part of the country experiences real economic development, some of the thinking of its elite as reported in Soldiers of Fortune, should that line of thought still be prevalent, means that fiscal federalism, devolution of power from the centre and virtually almost all other constitutional reform as it regards the political status quo are an extremely long way away from happening.

My one grouse with the book is its use of endnotes instead of footnotes. I find endnotes impossible to use but this is a person foible and should not detract from the quality of Siollun’s work.

My Limericks (…so far)

A beloved central banker

Was alleged to be a wanker

He squeezed the send button

To another’s man mutton

Alhamdulillahi,Love u,he thanked her

_____________________________________

A hippo came from the delta

And spoke, all ran helter skelter.

A virtue, her name

Like Helen, a dame

Her logo, a big umblerra.

______________________________________

A soldier named AlMusty

15yrs on trial grew dusty

One week out jail, promoted, all hail

Their consciences are rusty.

THE LOGIC OF AMNESTY

First, they had no spokesperson and their demands were unknown. Then, they were ghosts and the government was not going to put itself through the indignity of negotiating through psychic mediums, spiritualists and marabouts. Now, it seems somebody’s called the Ghostbusters, told them that their services will never be needed and an amnesty committee has been constituted to make recommendations concerning Boko Haram.

 

This follows hot on the heels of what many might consider a pre-emptive strike, with the Federal Government said to have awarded yet another dodgy security contract, this time in the South-Western region of the country, to yet another leader of a local militia. The contract is said to be worth N2.4bn a month and it is unclear what the duration is. Southern Nigeria is now crawling with guerrilla warlords who have been rewarded for their mutinous behaviour with “juicy” government work. Let’s ignore the fact that we have several security agencies and reasonably-sized armed forces. Let me not say that government is outsourcing the performance of what the constitution describes as its “primary purpose”, when my ogamost oga at the top is clearly saying something else.

My “Ogamost” Oga At The Top

THISDAY reports that the president “bowed to pressure” to shift ground on amnesty for Boko Haram. This pressure came from many elder statesmen and even a branch of the Nigerian Bar Association. The logic behind the pressure is that amnesty worked in the Niger Delta (although this post empirically questions the correlation between the amnesty programme and increased output in the Niger Delta), therefore amnesty will quell every uprising Nigeria will ever have. Alright, so I have laced it with a healthy dose of cynicism but this clearly is untenable not only from a policy position but also from that of logic.

Granted, there is the solitary similarity between Boko Haram and the Movement for the Emancipation of The Niger Delta (MEND) – they are both militant groups with tribal/sectional origins. But that must be where the similarity ends. MEND was ostensibly fighting for the diversion of a greater portion of the region’s mineral wealth to its own people and remediation of all the damage to their farming land and fishing waters. When the government commenced its amnesty programme there, it first of all admitted that it had wronged the people of the Niger Delta. There was some logic to the government saying, in that instance, “your fight is an honourable one; we have wronged you; lay down your arms, come back into decent society and not only will we not punish your insurgency, we will restore all that the cankerworm has eaten.” Or words to that effect, anyway.

On the other hand is Boko Haram, whose cause no one has been able to successfully articulate AND rationalise. “Rationalise”, for me, is the key part of that sentence. Were they formed for an aim that rational society should accommodate? Can any of their demands be met rationally? Is there anything rational in all that they have said or done since they stepped into the international spotlight? If the answer to all these is a resounding ‘NO’, what then is the rationale for granting them amnesty? What has led the government to believe it can reason with them? Above all, what part of their behaviour or rhetoric suggests that amnesty would even be a useful tool? Lest we forget, the predominant MO for MEND was to kidnap oil workers and sabotage oil infrastructure. Boko Haram are suicide bombers.

Now, I fully understand that Borno and Kano have been ravaged by the sect and the people just want peace. But is peace at any price really peace? Boko Haram wants less of an interaction with western civilisation and the implementation of Sharia law nationwide. How do you begin such negotiations? Ok, we’ll ban western education in Borno and Kano States but you have to leave the rest of the country alone? You get to have Sharia in a maximum of 10 northern states and that’s it? And if they renege and pick up their arms again tomorrow, do we show more flexibility on where ‘Boko’ will be ‘Haram’ and how far Sharia will be allowed to spread? Only recently, a splinter group, Ansaru, has been reported to be even more deadly than the original Boko Haram. Should they be offered amnesty too? Is amnesty for Boko Haram justice?

 

 

Location of the four cities in north eastern N...

Location of the four cities in north eastern Nigeria where the Boko Haram conflict took place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The message from the government is also quite clear. Arm yourselves, disrupt activity within the nation with as much violence as you can muster. We will reward you from the abundance of our treasury. You will be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Unlike your peers who are busy acquiring an education or struggling to build a career. They would be dead to us, if not for the taxes we need them to pay.