By Abdulwahab Oba
The Presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has come and gone; but the lessons of that eventful outing by the dominant opposition party in the current political dispensation will linger for quite a while and may be an insight to the shape of things to come. Given the profile of personalities that eyed the presidential ticket of the party, and given the ‘traditional’ response of many politicians in this clime to defeat in such contests, many expected that the outcome of the primary would eventually lead to unamenable implosion in the party, and make a mess of its avowed commitment to ousting the incumbent administration.
Not a few, particularly from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), had expected another Tsunami from the PDP after the primaries, hence the deliberate inconsistency in picking a date for the APC primaries across the country. But what do we have here today? A PDP that has shown that truly it has learned its lessons and is ready to behave like a truly democratic entity. This is the exact opposite of the ruling party which is now behaving like the PDP of old: no one is allowed to contest against the sitting President; those who have such interest are branded enemies of state and one way or the other driven out of the party.
That was the crime of, sure enough, every presidential aspirant of the PDP including the eventual winner of the ticket, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. They were branded rebels simply because of seemingly eyeing the villa.
But the campaigns by the aspirants prior to the primary had served to further popularise the PDP across the length and breadth of the country. It shows abundant human resources in our land. It has demonstrated the intellectual depth of the aspirants. And with the united spirit that has greeted the emergence of the former vice president, the PDP, unlike the APC, has less grouse to settle, less grumblings to fear. No rumbling in the PDP; no attendant voting-day silence that see aggrieved party leaders refusing to work against the opposition in their areas while not pushing for their own party either. This is not to turn a blind eye to the role played by monetary inducement in the pattern of voting. This is an emerging challenge in our electoral process.
As an observer and aide at the Port Harcourt primary, an issue caught my attention worthy of our collective attention too: the place of Kwara in the geopolitical system of Nigeria. There is no doubt that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki mounted one of the most rigorous, issue-engaging campaigns for the PDP ticket and has shown beyond doubt his capacity to lead a nation like Nigeria. His achievements as head of the eighth National Assembly, former governor and former chairman of Governors’ Forum have shown him as an accomplisher, achiever, resourceful and dogged fighter. At home, he’s a humanist and philanthropist. However, one of the key issues that came up against him was that of our identity as a state; Kwara as a minority in the north of Nigeria.As I sat for breakfast in the fast fading presidential hotel, a discussion ensued with a prominent leader of the north central zone. Identifying myself as coming from Kwara made him open up on the dimensions and intriques of the primary. “I’ve never witnessed the kind of sentiment in my life. People from our zone are rooting for candidates from another zone, not base on competence but on identity”, he groaned. According to him, the North would not see a Kwaran as one of the real northerners, while the South will easily identify with theirs’. So, as I said several times here, our identity had suddenly become an albatross, a dividing line, an obstacle for any one from here to clinch such a coveted ticket!
Although Saraki has accepted the outcome of the primary in good faith, and he’s forging ahead to work for the party’s victory in the general elections, I have not ceased to ruminate over the issue of identity and its attendant implications for our political fortunes as a state. What has become very clear to me is that with the way things are, we would have to take our political destiny in our hands. Because of our identity, we would have to fight seriously for any position of significance in this country. I think this was what Saraki understood when he pushed himself into his current position! if he had been less pragmatic, another zone would have taken it simply because of our identity.
And that is why, secondly, I will continue to canvass support for a man like Saraki who has read the game wisely and applied the best strategy to make us relevant as a state in the affairs of this nation. Courtesy of his daring move, which resulted in months of humiliation by the powers-that-be for him, today Kwara will always be mentioned as one of the states in this nation that has produced a Number Three citizen in a political dispensation. Our best ever before then was being a Majority Leader of the Senate, and again, it was courtesy of his father!
Thirdly, I see the current move by our brothers in the APC in Kwara state, to surrender to the suzerainty of Lagos, in much the same light; as a step in reversal of fortunes. It’s retrogression! It’s preposterous! I have heard of the humiliating primaries the party conducted in the state and how for days results were kept inside somebody’s pocket and how every earlier promise of freedom of choice was thrown overboard. In the end, it became what the Yoruba terms ‘Iso inu eku’; when you foul the air while wearing a masquerade regalia you bear the offensive odour since you can’t throw away the mask lest you expose yourself. What a disgrace! What a shame!
It is certain and clear now that those who say they are fleeing the ‘imposition’ by Saraki have been shown that the imposition from elsewhere is even worse; that true freedom is not when you reject the leadership of your own kin and allow an outsider to come and rule over you. Is it not an insult to say that all the egg heads, all the proven politicians in the Kwara APC cannot choose among themselves without a meddlesome interloper from Abuja? If they accused Saraki of not allowing the will of the people to prevail in the choice of party candidates, is their own candidate now the choice of the people? And our brothers from Ilorin, are we now taking orders from others, reversing the primus inter pas?????, first among equals -a position that the Almighty has given to us?
Our destiny must be placed right and squarely in our hands. Where our people have gone to seek help, I can predict, will lead to further enslavement. Ask the people of Osun state. Ask why Ogun state in not in their good book. Ask why Kayode Fayemi became an ‘ingrate’. Ask why Fashola had his troubles. And ask why Ambode is where he is today.
Let us sit around Saraki. He is not infallible as a man. Let us point his attention to his shortcomings and build our own state with our own men. He’s the dove, they’re the hawks.
*Oba can be reached via e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org