By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, please let me say categorically that I don’t subscribe to the sentiments of those who think APC is in trouble just because the party recently lost one of the States it controlled in its stronghold of South West. My thesis is very simple. The APC stands to gain from that shock treatment if its leaders are serious about remaining relevant in our political landscape. I have read many commentaries about what went wrong for APC in Ekiti State. Some are right, most are wrong.
While Governor Kayode Fayemi must naturally carry most of the blame, it is pertinent to note that the voting pattern in Ekiti was not a vote for PDP. It was an endorsement of Fayose’s sagacity as a street kid. Ekiti is still largely rural and the people love it when you can lower your nose a bit no matter how educated you are. They want you to savour your bowl of pounded yam and speak your dialect with impeccability. Fayose was the ace for PDP and not the other way round despite the Federal power of intimidation.
We must drum it into the ears of those Agidigbo drummers of PDP who won’t let us rest about their conquest in Ekiti, that it was a straight contest between the personalities of Kayode Fayemi and Peter Fayose, and nothing to do with the fortunes of their party having changed. Fayose is a popular politician who was impeached under controversial circumstances. Unlike others who simply vamoosed after losing power, Fayose never lost his spirit. He is a dogged fighter and a rolling-stone who crisscrossed different political parties before returning to his original turf of PDP. That strategy kept him engaged and he was able to build a humongous network in the process. He was smart to be in the same camp with Fayemi at a time.
Fayose understood the aphorisms: the enemy of your enemy is your friend and that he who fights and runs to the other camp may still return stronger one day. The idea was also to use that to buy sometime and legitimacy. The masterstroke was that no one in the Fayemi camp could have legitimately called Fayose a criminal or any such unprintable nomenclature because he was with them and they had accepted him warts and all. Nigerian politics has not yet advanced to the level of principle and ideology; individual performance and achievement, may be!
All Fayose wanted at the time was to be a Senator. But he couldn’t realise his dream and he was forced to move on. That is one of the hard lessons APC must learn urgently; that life is give and take. You can’t invite people on board and treat them like animals of no consequence. The use and dump tactics of Nigerian politicians always come back to haunt them. APC failed to realise that you must always keep your friends close and your foes even closer. They would need to employ relationship managers at the rate they are going. ACN has metamorphosed from being LTD to a PLC, and the terms of reference must be different. Had they managed to keep Fayose in their fold, perhaps he would have deferred his Governorship ambition.
The same could be said of Honourable Opeyemi Bamidele who used to be one of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s closest foot soldiers. The inability of the party to keep Opeyemi under lock and key was the beginning of trouble for APC. The Bible is very clear on this; a house divided against itself shall fall. It was obvious Opeyemi stood no chance of winning but he was ready to be the loose-cannon and play the devil’s foil. Opeyemi may not have wasted substantial votes of APC but he provided the perfect platform and alibi for PDP to crawl into the cracked walls of APC like lizards often do. If the foundation of APC was stronger in Ekiti it would have been more difficult for Fayose to use cudgels to demolish their house like a pack of cards.
Ask most Ekiti voters and they will tell you that they would have voted for Fayose whatever Party he had contested for. They will also tell you that they still have no faith in PDP but that Fayose had redeemed the Party somewhat. The PDP will be deluding itself if it considers the victory of its flagbearer in Ekiti State somehow translates into a victory for its failed policies and directionless leadership. Nigerians are more discerning.
Let’s now move beyond Ekiti and focus on the future of opposition in Nigeria. Despite the teething problems APC is experiencing, I believe Nigerians will support them ultimately. It is in the nature of man to fear change or even resist it. But PDP has wobbled and fumbled for too long that any alternative becomes palatable. We have seen similar situations all over the world where seemingly impregnable parties were kicked out of power become the people were just tired and totally bored with the shenanigans of their reckless leaders. It is in the character of human beings to crave what they have not tried. Barack Obama was lucky to arrive at that point when the Americans saw no redeeming grace in George Bush Jnr and his gang producing better governance in America. Their volcanic anger beclouded whatever prejudice they might have had against a Black candidate.
All it takes for APC to turn its current misfortune and the debacle in Ekiti around is for its leaders to rise up to the challenge and stop fighting like babies whose lollipops have been confiscated. Nigeria is bigger than their personal interests or vaunting ambitions. There is no better time for the opposition to take power in Nigeria. Only they can use their own hands to throw this great opportunity into the ocean of stupidity. I will now go on to illustrate what APC needs to do quickly to become more acceptable to most Nigerians yearning for change.
Perception is very key in politics and life in general. The impression of many people today is that there is no difference between PDP and APC. They wonder why they should migrate from one evil to another. APC has not done enough to disabuse the minds of such people. As a matter of fact, APC missed the boat when it failed to rejuvenate itself during the recent national convention which was nearly aborted due to all manner of in-fighting and intrigue. Not just that, APC came out as a very conservative and unambitious party by not putting forward its brightest stars as national officers. The Party did not take advantage of its youths. APC should have borrowed a leaf from the British Labour Party which had been out in the cold until new whiz kids like Tony Blair emerged on centre stage. New Labour has continued its stride through the Milibands and the Conservative Party is not left out with a charismatic leader like David Cameron. The youth and charm of Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats is also remarkable.
Those who packaged the present concoction for APC did not do well at all. It created doubts in the minds of admirers like us about the sincerity of the Party that claims to represent change. What we saw on display was the antithesis of transformation. What they dumped on Nigeria was uninspiring and lacklustre. We must tell the leadership the home truth because they raised our hopes to high heavens only to play into the hands of their detractors. If this trend persists, APC is likely to come up with candidates far worse than what we think we have at the moment. That would be tragic.
APC seems unwilling to try new skills. They are behaving like soccer teams who play Brazilian style of football against Brazil. Nothing could be more foolhardy. The strength of APC should be in its ability to take on new challenges and launch fresh offensives. The attempt to play politics the way it has always been in Nigeria can only end up disastrously. APC will never win at the centre if it does not show sufficient evidence of what differentiates it from PDP. Our people want to see a metamorphosis in policies, principles, direction and above all, leadership.
APC must bury its many hatchets and reconcile with everyone who has a positive and refreshing attitude to politics in order to present a common front. I’m baffled that Tinubu and Tom Ikimi’s personal altercations are turning sour for the Party by the way they are washing their dirty linen in public. Tom Ikimi was one of the ACN leaders who midwifed APC. Yet the same APC has suddenly realised how close Ikimi was to General Sani Abacha. If I were a copywriter for PDP I will have more than enough scripts to pen out of the present verbiage being churned out against one of their own.
The same thing is going on in Ogun State where Governoir Ibikunle Amosun and former Governor Olusegun Osoba are locked in a gladiatorial war of attrition. The story is not different in Borno and Ekiti where some party leaders are missed at supposed shabby treatment. The shame of all this is that these battles are private and are not rooted in developmental quests. It is not a good sign for APC. It is as if PDP has succeeded in injecting its own poison of indiscipline into APC. Only a bewitched party would start its journey on such chaotic note.
APC must kill all sentiments and return to the path of sanity. Its leaders must be prepared to sacrifice individual ambitions and support their best materials to succeed. The next Presidential election is not going to be easy. The Party stands no chance unless it fields a Presidential candidate and Vice who can ignite the passion of novelty and freshness in our youths. Its general candidates at the other polls must also fire the same imagination and innovation. The traditional voters are too few and totally rigid to give APC the required figures to win at the polls. The Party should search far and wide for accomplished and respectable Nigerians and give us a semi-shadow cabinet to look forward to. With the right balance, APC will be able to galvanise first time voters into coming out en masse. Over 70 percent of them are still floating and undecided at this moment.
If APC makes the mistake of fielding its usually predictable leaders, things are likely to end up the same way they’ve always been in the past. The impression that the Party is limited to, and owned by, a few people should be erased speedily. It hurts so many of their sympathisers that the Party is handled like a private company of few shareholders. This is why many of its former godsons are beginning to rebel. They are frustrated that they have no say in a Party they love so much. They are embarrassed at the abuse of democracy by those who ought to be the custodians of egalitarianism. Everyone is worried that Nigeria may be saddled with another four years of gross incompetence of the ruling government and they hold APC absolutely responsible for this tragic possibility.
The leadership of APC needs to wake up immediately from its self-induced coma for the sake of future generations. The party appears inebriated by the initial support it received when it was conceived as an amalgamation of positive, powerful, fresh and old politicians. APC needs something similar to smelling salts to wake it up from its deep slumber. The Party must not take Nigerians for granted. Nigerians have been patient and tolerant enough.
It is hard to imagine where Nigeria is headed with the present mess. It is harder to accept another four years of no light, no water, no education, no infrastructure, no security, no jobs and no finesse plus the complete collapse of our core values. Simply put, we’ve never had it so bad. In its present limitations, APC represents the only option we can explore because PDP has been in power for far too long to change its way of doing things. The fall of PDP may finally convince our leaders that failure would not always be tolerated and promoted.
That is the hope and attraction that APC holds out to many of us.