It was Jon Stewart who got me thinking at the weekend as I encountered his one line bomb: “If con is the opposite of pro, then isn’t Congress the opposite of Progress?” I wonder if those who founded the All Progressives Congress would not start wondering whether Stewart, in saying this, was not being used by the venal spirit of the dead opposition in Nigeria. Is the contradiction we see around us in its essence or just in its name? Or is Stewart’s thesis an explanation for the institutional contradictions and the inertia the polity has been blessed with by a political class that packed so much hope into its message of change just two years ago?
For 16 years, the PDP staged its dance of spirits, gnomes and demons and the people watched with helpless interest. There were moments you would call great. There were equally moments of utter disappointments. The disappointments were a direct result of that party’s bad head which made it to think it could do whatever it liked with the people and get away with it. The bad behaviour of the power-drunk PDP ultimately gave it the grace of burying itself. What misfortune can be worse than its decking itself with the dubious reputation of being the first ruling party in Nigeria to be disgraced out of office by the sheer power of people’s votes? The PDP actually did not start out as an organisation carrying a bad head on its neck. It held a lot of promise before the ugly spirit of unwell afflicted its leaders with bad behaviour. When your destiny (or head or chi) is good and you wilfully decide to do bad, that bad behaviour will soon cancel out your good fortune. That, precisely, is what happened to the PDP. Now, so soon after the PDP experience, the APC appears determined to die the same death.
I once warned the APC against opening its doors to the spirit of arrogance in victory. I forgot to warn too that there are other evil spirits anywhere victory is. The APC has become the new PDP in its ways and manners. It has its Lagos division. There are also at least two divisions in Abuja. These are well heeled war camps headed by battle-tested lords who would insist that all is well with their multi-storey political edifice even when the cracks are widening by the minute. But the chairman of the APC governors’ forum, Rochas Okorocha, is a man of language, poise and charm. He has drama too. All these he has deployed in talking about salvaging the APC’s own House of Commotion. Okorocha made some interesting moves last week, dashing from the Villa to the Senate, to the House of Reps, to the APC secretariat. His message was urgent, soothing and alarming. The APC was fractured and failing, he cried. He wanted a peaceful, united APC once again. Okorocha literally pronounced the party a disaster at infancy, an army throwing bombs at itself? He believed it was not too late to attempt reinventing that ship of change that brought today’s beautiful government of Muhammadu Buhari.
“One wonders then what went wrong. Where did we get it wrong? And after these troubles and after the much hope we have given to Nigerians, we still cannot work together as a party, as a family. It seems to me like there is no more platform for us to chant those old songs which we used to sing in the days of struggle for change. One wonders, was this what we were asking for or was this the change we were asking for? I think Nigerians expect so much from us and at the end of it all. We noticed and we know that we are a party in majority at the National Assembly and we are a party with majority in the number of governors — state houses of assembly — but we notice there is no cordial relationship between the governors, the executive and the legislature,” Okorocha lamented.
I share in Okorocha’s concern and grief. The APC in its present splintered form is a danger to itself and the polity. It is a barrel bomb. “We used to watch horror movies. Now we are living them,” a Syrian man who witnessed the effect of barrel bombs recently told the BBC. A former US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, once described barrel bombs as “vicious things indiscriminately launched … at targets without any concern about civilians.” Now, if you know that barrel bombs are actually large containers “packed with gasoline, nails and chunks of steel “you would understand how destiny-killing a ruling party could be when splintered along unedifying, deadly lines at a time of great expectations. Nobody ever feels safe anywhere politicians fight over power. Do these people know that as they bicker and fight openly and secretly, the people are jobless, cashless, hopeless and hungry and even dying?
If you accept that Stewart’s con and pro thesis as true about what is happening to the ruling party in Nigeria and you still go to the newsstand every morning arguing, against lamentations of motion without progress, shouldn’t one tell you that you need spiritual cleansing and deliverance? This is not about being cynical about the progress promised by the party, it is about why the party and its leaders have refused to see the horror in the eyes of the voter who now feels abandoned by a people of change who campaigned with “a banner without stain.”
Success is very difficult to manage. That bit rings true of every human being and every organisation, including political parties. The truly successful ones are those who understand victory in battle as a means to something greater in value than war. The party should not be like the forgetful fisherman who was an exemplar in poverty but now sleeps in riches through sheer smile of luck. His wealth has become so much that sleeping in a palace of gilt, gold, tapestry and damask makes him think he is the greatest. He soon loses all like others like him. That is my little gift to the APC. It must wake up, learn and change. Power, like riches, is the buffeting waves of the ocean. It comes and goes.