It is really exciting reading the various reactions to the recent apologies to Nigerians by the PDP’s national Chairman, Uche Secondus. According to reports, the PDP’s national chairman at a recent national discourse on contemporary politics and governance in Abuja apologized for the party’s mistakes, which he claimed led to its defeat in the 2015 election. Chief Secondus did not mention the mistakes. But several Nigerians, mostly those sympathetic to the ruling APC, took him to the cleaners.
One of the first to react was expectedly Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, who was the ruling party’s chief propagandist during the 2015 general election. He asked the PDP to first return the funds “it looted” during its 16 years of rule before Nigerians would consider forgiving them. Additionally he used the opportunity to accuse the PDP of sabotaging the work of the government. He was quoted by the Vanguard of March 28 2018 as saying:
“PDP, press the rest button. Stop sabotaging the work of this administration, which is packing the mess you left behind through your reckless statements and unfounded allegations. Play responsible opposition politics. Put Nigeria’s interest over and above partisan interest. Temper your desperation to return to power. Spend quality time in the purgatory and you will be forgiven.”
One Comrade Joseph Ambakadermo, said to be the convener of South-South Reawakening Group, in taking on the PDP’s national chairman on his apology was quoted as saying: “It is one thing to tender an apology and it is also another to know if the apology genuinely comes from the heart. Yes, apologies are good but in this case, the man tendering the apology on behalf of his party is himself a product of impunity…”
Comrade Ambakadermo was probably referring to the allegation that during the last PDP national convention Secondus was among those ‘sponsored’ or ‘imposed’ on the party (depending on where one stood in the controversy) by Governors Nyesom Wike and Fayose who were said to be behind a consensus list of candidates that circulated before the elections at the convention.
PDP of course threw some counter-punches. It asked the APC and the federal government to end their sanctimonious stance and return immediately to the Federation Account all stolen funds it claimed were used to finance Buhari’s election in 2015. The party was quoted as saying that “the APC and the federal government cannot continue to play saints when state governors who stole billions of Naira meant for the development of their states to fund Buhari’s election in 2015 are still enjoying cover as members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet despite outrage from their people”.
There are several layers in the PDP’s apologies and the kettle- mocking- the pot-for-being-black game between the party and the ruling APC:
One, what did the PDP really hope to achieve by that apology? To rebrand itself as a humble party? Chief Secondus, as an experienced politician, should have known that the competition for power between political parties revolves around an offensive-defensive strategy. The idea is to label your opponent and do all you can to put the opponent on the defensive, allowing you to gain some mileage in the competition for the moral high ground. The apology by the PDP therefore is like ammunition to the APC to put the party on the defensive. By the way, there is a reason most companies never apologize to individuals or accept guilt even after they have agreed to pay compensation. A primary reason for this is that they do not want to open floodgates of accusations and possible litigations. For this, it is often easier for companies to say they are paying so-so amount as a ‘demonstration of good will’ than to say they are sorry. The same is also often true for political parties. The truth is that governance is a process, not an end product. And because every policy, even the most altruistic, must have unintended consequences, whatever policy any government in power pursues must hurt some people. It is often the duty of an incoming government to ‘clean-up’ the mess from those unintended consequences of policies by the preceding government. The new government will inevitably leave its own mess for others to clean up. The tragedy of the Nigerian condition is that most incoming regimes focus on the challenges or politicise it (often called ‘the mess’ for full psychological and emotional impacts on Nigerians), forgetting that some of the mess were often unintended consequences of some good policies or policies that were deemed expedient at that time.
Two, rather than an apology, the PDP ought to do some strategic assessment of why it lost in 2015 and see whether it is remedying some of those situations now. In the final analysis, politics is a contest for power among discrete entities, in which all forms of variables and affiliations are mobilized in a war without blood. The truth is that Jonathan’s candidacy in the 2015 election was a major factor for the party’s defeat because his candidacy mobilized most segments of the North which felt the zone was being cheated in the unwritten power rotation between the North and the South (especially after the zoning controversy of 2010-2011). I do not think there was anything Jonathan could have done to pacify many from the North-east and the Northwest in this regard. Add to this Jonathan’s naivety about political realities. For instance by allowing the Speakership of the House of Representatives, which was ‘captured’ by Tambuwaal (allegedly in collusion with Tinubu’s defunct A.C.N) to stand, or not sufficiently rewarding the zone for that loss, several people from the zone felt marginalized and therefore willing to be mobilized into the new APC marriage of convenience. The question for the PDP now is what has it learnt about its mistake with the South-west under Jonathan? What is it offering the zone now that will be better than what it already has – a sitting Vice President and some choice ministerial and other appointments? I think it was a mistake that the party did not offer the region the national chairmanship of the party – even if it also plans to offer it the VP-slot. The reality was that the zone was the beautiful bride in 2015 and will remain so in 2019.
Three, rather than trying to market itself as humble party, I feel that humility will be better demonstrated by a recognition that the APC propaganda machine since it came to power has de-marketed the party through its probe rhetoric and episodic release of information on humongous sums it claims Jonathan and his government stole. Recognition of this means the humility to admit that there has been a serious damage in its brand value. This will mean for instance realizing that going into alliance with some parties and changing its name could be a better re-branding strategy than a public apology for its past actions and inactions. Rather than do this we hear stories that PDP is resisting merger with other parties and changing its name because it does not want others to control its structures. So much for humility!
Four, I chuckled when I read about some of the allegations from Lai Mohammed and other APC sympathisers. I have always believed that Lai Mohammed has not really got over the 2015 campaign mode. In fact several of his speeches (except his very measured reaction to Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari) confirm this. For instance, while Lai Mohamed talks about looting by PDP, he conveniently forgot to tell us how the APC funded its 2015 elections, especially when Buhari mentioned that he borrowed money to buy nomination forms. He also forgot several corruption allegations against functionaries of the APC government and extreme polarization of the country under APC. Of course, it is only when a government is replaced by another that we are inundated with stories of ‘looting’ by the previous government so we will all reserve our judgment on the APC government until another party comes to power.
For me, from corruption to impunity to imposition of candidates and lack of internal party democracy, the difference between the PDP and the APC, despite their grandstanding and shenanigans, is like the difference between 12 and one dozen.
Religious Freedom and Society in Africa
The above was the theme of a workshop jointly organized by the Kukah Centre and Yale University at the Catholic Centre, Abuja from March 15-16 2017. This very interesting workshop sought answers to several questions: Are religious institutions in their present form and character (as captives of partisan politics) – part of the continent’s problems or its solutions? How does faith interface with society among Christians and Muslims? What are the best ways to engage the emerging leaders from the continent? How should the church and the mosque engage the political class?
Speakers at the workshop included Dr Michael Glerup from Yale University, Cardinal John Onaiyekun, former Governors Peter Obi and Kayode Fayemi, Professor Lamin Sanneh, (a Gambian scholar at Yale University), Professor Ibrahim Ashafa, Barrister Yakubu Pam, Fr George Ehusiani, Archbishop Emmanuel Kwashi, Hon Edward Pwajok, Bishop Kukah (the convener) and a host of others. The papers presented at the workshop could be obtained from the DG of the Kukah Centre, Fr (Dr.) Atta Barkindo at: