Bread and Butter

Dan Agbese


By Dan Agbese  |


Phone: 08055001912 

IS anyone surprised that PDP is haemorrhaging so badly? I do not think so. The gale of defections from the party to APC is the way the cookies have always crumbled in our national politics. The winning party takes it all, leaving nothing but chaff or even bare crumbs for the losers. Trust Nigerian politicians. Even the crumbs do not come free for the losers.

Anyone who goes from fat, rosy cheeks to sunken cheeks and pockets absent the Naira, in the time it takes to say, PDP, need not wait to be instructed on the pragmatic political wisdom of joining the winners. That is where the chop is; that is where the choppers are and that is where some struggling politicians are instantly and miraculously transformed into billionaires. Ah, God is God.

Bros, this is about bread, buttered bread. Personal political interests always trump the airy nothings such as principles or politics of conviction in our kind of political climate. Blame no one. Criticise no one. No one has ever owed another an apology for his political survival. I tell you that pragmatic politics has an interesting and chequered history in our country. If you do a cursory check, you would count the number of people who have remained in one political party since 1999 with the fingers of one hand. To-ing and fro-ing is the defining character of Nigerian politics.

PDP, the party bleeding badly from desertion, was in power at the centre and most of the states for sixteen years. It was the party then and the only worth belonging to. When the going was so good and no one saw the possibility of another party with the capacity and the popularity to shove it off its perch, PDP chieftains began to dream and to believe in their dream that their party was destined to rule the country for ever. Its chieftains bestrode the nation like the colossus they were. PDP leaders virtually turned the country into a one-party state.  In their euphoria it never occurred to them that the one-party state is patently anachronistic.

The then national chairman of PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, grandly predicted that the party would rule for 60 years. I think he failed to consult the gods. His prediction fell flat on its face in the 2015 general elections. It had 44 years to go. The party that once called the shots in our country for sixteen good years has become bad news to its leaders and members. Its once arrogant chieftains are more or less sneaking around town, squeaking like the field mouse. There is a good English word for it. Yes, pathetic.

The APC chieftains are mighty pleased with what is happening to PDP. It is not the fault of APC that PDP members are destroying it by deserting it. It gains what the PDP loses. The defectors are rubbing the nose of their once beloved party in the murk of its own electoral misfortune. The party lost the chance to rally the troops in the early months of the change of government when, instead of trying to do a hard-headed post mortem on its losses, its leaders chose to indulge in mutual recriminations.

Come to think of it: Is the haemorrhaging of PDP good or bad for the country and its political development? Ignore for a moment the guffaw by APC chieftains who believe the humbling of their rival by their rival calls for the permanent outing of champagne flutes. We must look beyond that. And if we do, I am sure it would be easy to see the gale of defections is deleterious to our national political health. It is a potent retardation of our political development. It reinforces instability in the system.

Party politics thrives on stability; political stability is a process of political acculturation and the commitment to an ideology that drives the party itself. I think two things are important here. The first is that the to-ing and fro-ing is beyond PDP. It predates the party. Remember Western House of Assembly in 1954? The simple explanation is that Nigerian politicians have always found the prospects of being left in the desert positively disconcerting. The oasis of political fortune always beckons. You need not bet me but do take note that if the fortunes of PDP dramatically improve tomorrow, the defectors, professional or neophyte, would flock back to it. There are no permanent political parties; only the permanent search for political opportunities and relevance.

The second point flows from the first. Our national politics is not driven by principles and convictions. What else is new? These defections are actually symptoms of a much deeper malaise in our national politics. It throws up a number of fundamental issues about our party politics. Parties are formed by a group of people who subscribe to certain ideologies. A man chooses party A instead of party B because he believes in the ideology of the former. He believes in what the party stands for. That is the road to party stability as well as the stability of the polity. Yes, it is still fundamentally about winning power but this path to power cuts through the tunnel of principle and conviction. Therein lies the very fundamental difference.

This being so, men and women of principles and convictions stick with the one party of their choice, be they founders or joiners. Principles and convictions help to build and stabilise political parties. I had expected to see the emergence of politics of principles and convictions in our country by now after more than 16 years of democracy. No such luck. It is getting worse. Politicians from other lands must find it confusing that people who founded or funded or led or became beneficiaries of their parties have no qualms defecting from them to rival parties. Yep, it can only happen in Nigeria. Many of those who defect are what the kids call sky floaters. They are in search of crass opportunities for the crass chance to realise their political ambitions where the grass appears greener. It was so in the First Republic. It was so in the Second Republic. It is so in the Third Republic.

Ye gods.

Cascade of Candour

I thought I should add a last word to this column today. Have you noticed something? Our country is awash in what the ace British television interviewer, David Frost, once described as a cascade of candour. When corruption was regarded as essentially evil, big men accused of corruption denied it loudly and quite strongly. They always said: God is my witness.

None of them has called God as witness since Dasukigate began spilling its shocking murk in public. None of those fingered as beneficiaries of the slush funds has denied it. Everyone of them has readily admitted taking the money. God must be disappointed no one has called him as witness to their innocence.

I am still wrestling with what to make of it. Is it candour? Honesty? Or the courage to own up to malfeasance? Don’t tell me corruption is laughing. I am sure African traditional power is at work here.

—  Feb 1, 2016 @ 16:45 GMT


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