The Gulf Widens


From all indications, the last is yet to be heard of the diatribe between President Goodluck Jonathan and one of his predecessors, Olusegun Obasanjo, writes Ojo M. Maduekwe

Quite expectedly, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was early Monday morning reported to have dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), however in a dramatic manner. Obasanjo announced his disengagement from the ruling party at his Hilltop Mansion in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, while hosting PDP leaders from his Ward 11, in Abeokuta North local government.

Obasanjo, who was once a former ally to President Goodluck Jonathan, and helped in pushing him into political limelight, but now the latter’s fiercest critic, was said to have after a short speech, handed his PDP membership card to the leader of the ward, Sunmonu Oladunjoye, who then tore the card.

Before his card was torn, Obasanjo was said to have enquired of his guests if they came with their PDP membership card, which some of them produced. Following this was his instruction to Oladunjoye.

Earlier, his guests were said to have told the former president that they had come to plead with him to stop his criticism of President Jonathan. According to reports, they had also intimated him of an alleged plan by the national leadership of the party to expel him from the PDP.

Although this was not the first time such allegation had made the headlines, the former president’s action on Monday has been long in coming. The ongoing face-off between him and Jonathan, for the greater part of it, was like the game of hide and seek. While he criticised Jonathan, he refused to leave the PDP or for a long time endorsed the opposition candidate.

Even when it was widely reported that he had at a recent event in Nairobi, Kenya, endorsed the presidential candidate of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, he later denounced the report. Nonetheless, his continuous fence-sitting has not masked his support for the APC.

On many occasions, while disparaging the President Jonathan administration’s achievement or the lack of it, Obasanjo has indirectly canvassed for Buhari and the APC. With his tearing of his PDP membership card, however, many are expecting that this will follow with a formal defection to the APC.

If that happens, and while politicians from the All Progressives Congress (APC) cash-in on Obasanjo’s criticism of Jonathan, the rest of Nigeria may want to pay close attention to the underlying lessons in their conflict because these will be helpful in strengthening democracy in Nigeria.

The first lesson should probably begin with Obasanjo’s tearing of PDP membership card. Obasanjo’s disengagement from the PDP, together with the series of defection between the PDP and APC, goes to further prove that political parties in Nigeria do not operate on ideology.

Even when members of the individual parties try to argue for their party, the general behaviour that many of the politicians continue to exhibit is that of opportunists. Take for instance the recent defection by the former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, from the PDP to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), just to fulfil his gubernatorial ambition.

Maku, like many politicians in the PDP and APC and the rest smaller political parties, travel from one party to the other when their political career is threatened. Obasanjo’s action, rather than stay to salvage what’s left of the PDP has proved this assumption to be accurate.

Another lesson is that many politicians, especially those in the APC, appear not to have paid attention to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, when he at the signing of the Abuja Accord, outlined some of the causes of post-election violence.

Jega had said one of the causes of post-election violence can be tied to instances when supporters of a particular party believe that their candidate was likely to win. According to Jega, even when an election may have been conducted freely and transparently, this class of supporters will not accept the result if their choice candidate failed to secure the majority votes.

It is a fact that Buhari’s popularity continue to rise, but still, there lies a danger when a candidate’s popularity among the people fails to translate popular votes at the poll, and this fear of what such a dashed hope could lead to does not seem to bother the APC and Obasanjo.

The former president, in several of his recent comments, has been hinting at Buhari being the next president, even when the election was yet to hold. There is a danger in this, to which some politicians and members of the APC, rather than promote a peaceful polity, are urging Obasanjo on.

One example is the former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), in the 2011 presidential election, Chief Dele Momodu. When Obasanjo compared the shift in election dates to the actions of former president of Cote d’lvoire, Laurent Gbagbo, Momodu took to social media site – Instagram – posted a picture of Gbagbo being humiliated with the following note:

“My brothers and sisters, so what shall it profit a man who’s been lucky to lead his country but out of GREED waited to be led out like a rat”. Momodu’s comment, inspired by that of Obasanjo, is the type that is capable of producing the kind of result Jega warned against in Abuja.

The Gbagbo analogy which Momodu has chosen to cite, failing to consider that the election was yet to hold is giving supporters of Buhari the notion – which could be a wrong one – that the election is their preferred candidate’s to lose.

Even Obasanjo was cautious in his comparison of Jonathan and Gbagbo, when he said, “It looks to me that the President is trying to play (Laurent) Gbagbo,” adding: “I believe this is the sort of thing Nigeria may fall into if I am right in what I observed as the grand plan.”

The last lesson is that many Nigerian politicians only think of how to advance their political career and do not factor in the masses. They have and are still being warned to desist from heating up the polity, but politicians from both the PDP and APC continue to do exactly that.

Although many a time, they claim to be defending democracy; their utterances are coated with untruth and bitterness. It was the reaction of having been pushed to the wall by the opposition that made Jonathan burst out in anger, and referred to Obasanjo and some elder statesmen as “motor park touts.”

This same attitude can be traced to the composition of the APC, which made the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, to describe those who defected from the PDP to the opposition APC at the Lagos PDP rally in January thus: “Because they wanted the seat of the president, and because they didn’t get it, joined the Aggrieved Peoples Congress.”

Both Obasanjo and Jonathan in particular, and the PDP and APC in general, should note that their conflict and outbursts are capable of plunging the nation into chaos, and that in a situation that happens, the masses whom they vow to be fighting for are the ones to suffer.

Thisday News – Culled from


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