Femi Gbajabiamila Takes Center Stage
Sometimes in politics, the political smoke is much bigger than its political fire. Or how else can one explain the heat in the polity induced by the refusal by Femi Gbajabiamila and the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara to sheathe their swords, until President Muhammadu Buhari shouted at them for just fifteen minutes to change their game?
One would have thought that if Femi Gbajabiamila hadn’t become majority leader, the heavens would fall and if Dogara capitulated, Nigeria would cringe. But none of those scenarios endured. After just fifteen minutes of a monologue by the President Muhammadu Buhari who continues to treat Nigerian politicians like primary school pupils, the greenhouse is orderly again.
This in itself means that the whole standoff was more personal than national. If you looked critically, you would have seen that the APC was under pressure to hold the polity together, while ensuring that its deed was done, in the greenhouse, while the PDP was relishing the feud and hoping for an opportunity to tell the country that its opponent was incapable of putting its house in order.
Structurally, the country and indeed its democracy, was in dead heat, owing to the altercation. And if that intercourse had been consummated, the result would have led to, God forbid, a botched republic.
But who’s fooling who? All this was happening amidst devastating national penury, rising crime, and a punishingly stubborn minimum wage negotiation in many sectors, which took the Nigeria Labour Congress to the Senate. On the face of it, however, it looks like the political smoke that billowed from the “greenhouse” was less harmful than the APC fire-marshals initially thought. Similarly, the excessive provocation and abuses directed at the Speaker have been substantially ineffective and may well have created unintended consequences for Dogara. Now, by conceding, he has a double whammy being the obedient party man while the rest are the renegades.
But stunningly, while support for Dogara increased in the greenhouse, support for the Gbajabiamila group increased outside. People began to think of 2019. The card-reader is still around and may get even better. But before anyone gets anxious and starts to ascribe all sorts of pejorative nouns at the parliament, elections for principal officers are not usually a public affair but an internal matter. That notwithstanding, the ruckus provided vital snapshots of our politicians’ contempt for change.
I am inclined to think, based on the events of the last three months, that politicians have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. Both parties have their work cut out for them. It is imperative to note that while in the past voter apathy was extremely high, which signifies a lack of trust in the political process and governance, disinterest in our democratic process, frustration with and distrust of politicians, and general hatred towards party politics, hope has been restored and people are becoming confident that their votes will count in the 2019. Politicians beware!
You are on a slippery slope. Lest we forget, the PDP won enough seats in the general election as to boast that it still provides an alternative platform. It can neither rest nor “rust” on its losses. If it is to be taken seriously and if it is to win the hearts and minds of the electorate again, an electorate that is extremely apathetic and distrusting of politicians, it cannot divert its energy nor waste its resources in the pursuit of folly and fluff. Its burden is always going to be greater than that of the APC. “Sak” is the word of the moment. Therefore, the PDP’s primary, secondary and tertiary focus must be on redesigning itself and articulating bankable policy alternatives to keep the APC on its toes.
Opposing for the sake of opposing and planting operatives like Ekweremadu in every parliament may appeal to its diehards, but that alone cannot ensure a comeback. If the PDP wants to capture the hearts and minds of the electorate, in a significant way, it must resist the temptation of believing that pouring sand-sand in the APC garri would bring people back to its fold. Before long, there could be a whole heap of “ants in its political milk”.
Winning the minds and hearts of the electorate is dissimilar to reciting wicked and malicious propaganda like they did in the run-up to the 2015 general election. For politicians in both the APC and the PDP, it will be profitable to “hop off the fender”, organize, strategize and brace yourselves for the revenge of the electorate. Voters are now the wiser and the card-reader is there to ensure that no one takes what does not belong to him.
In addition to hardcore, on-the-ground activities, house-to-house canvassing, conversion and target campaigning, politicians in the APC and PDP must also begin to support those government policies that are being pursued in the best interest of the country. They must adopt what in other jurisdictions is called bipartisanship. They should not allow political tribalism to push them “right off the cliff”.
But our politicians are acting as though Nigeria belongs to them. Most of them are exhibiting ‘foolish invincibility’, believing earnestly that Nigeria is now APC country. Well, Nigerians may very well have a love affair with the APC today, but judging from how things have gone over the last few years, many have been expressing frustration and disappointment with all politicians. The political “bedroom-bullies” of the PDP have been kicked in their behind because gone are the days when politicians sat in their bedroom corners and allocated seats. The harsh economic times have boxed the bread out ‘of their mouths and they must begin to see the handwriting on the wall if they wish to remain relevant.
– All Africa