There is a sense in which great fortune engenders misfortune. Good fortune can make an otherwise skillful General lower his guard on the battlefield. That was what the PDP did with itself when its last President, Goodluck Jonathan invited his enemies to nominate referees in their electoral combat with him. We read Dr Junaid Mohammed’s disclosure that it was Jonathan who asked Muhammadu Buhari in 2010 to nominate a national commissioner for the INEC. Did he also not do same with the other enemies in other zones? Only a politician with a mind set on martyrdom or stark suicide would sign such a blank cheque for his opponent to go cash except he is so confident, very sure that the enemy has been permanently incapacitated.
That moment of self-sure-footedness ultimately eased the overthrow of the PDP from the high horse where it boasted it would remain for 60 years. It is evil for democracy to stand on a leg. No one benefits from a political system that is so one-sided that the underdog is contemptuously discountenanced by the ruling elite. The party in government gets swollen headed, the people suffer without a voice. We owe it to this democracy, therefore, to create an opposition for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Indeed, the APC owes its survival that duty to join in the search for an enemy. Our democracy is imperiled with the APC roaming freely, fearlessly, doing and undoing what it likes with the full knowledge that there is no one to scold it. The APC itself is endangered if in the next couple of months an opponent worthy of being called that name is still not within a jab distance. The PDP, having travelled that road for 16 years, is today too down to play that role. It is, in fact, out.
You would know the PDP is down and out when you appreciate the mesh of court rulings it has around its neck. The asphyxiating effect of the cases is enough to tell anyone who still hopes for a redeeming moment for that party to give up. If there is a time the APC needs someone to hold up the mirror for it, that time is now. It cannot assume that it is as beautiful as it sees itself. The appreciation of its warts and all is better done by opponents with exaggerated loathsome. A peacock will lose all its plumes if it lacks a critic. If “Machiavellian dictatorship” was the definition of colonialism’s relationship with Nigeria, must we cook for ourself a homegrown dictatorship of self-righteous, Kabiyesi messiahs which is never wrong because there is no one to press its brake pedal?
It is so easy for us to condemn, lament and excoriate the 16 years of the PDP but have we asked what all of us, including the official opposition, contributed to the mess? Democracy is synonymous with competitive party politics. Is that what we have had in the years from 1999? We run a peculiar democratic system in which parties contest, lose elections and dissolve into the bowels of their conqueror while eating and waiting for the next polls. The guardian spirit of our politics is that of the stomach. The spirit that rules the parties does not understand that the people deserve and, indeed, have the right to good governance. That would explain why our multi-party democracy works as single party system with a negation of the values of tolerance and compromise in public affairs.
Greek philosopher, Aristotle, posits that in all systems of government “no one is allowed to become overly great and powerful enough to threaten the stability of the state.” He is right. When a man or institution is too big and too strong for the system to caution, he/it works ignorantly, arrogantly and directly to destroy the system. “Acquiring great prerogatives,” Aristotle continues, “quickly tends to corrupt people, for not everyone can stand good fortune.” Exactly. We saw this in the PDP which became so well fed, so blessed that it forgot how to behave well and be pragmatic when it mattered. Great fortune gives great confidence. We saw it in Julius Caesar as he spurned the warnings and counsel of both his wife and the soothsayer about the fatal promise of the ides of March. Power, immense power, gives immense confidence, and, immense confidence gives steady decay and certain death.
A democracy is so called because it serves the people. The people element in the system distinguishes it from autocracy and tyranny. A democracy can only serve the people if it produces a government that respects and fears the people. A government will fear the opinion of the people only when it knows the people have an alternative to it. It will do the people’s wish only when the realities show that the people have the capacity and the opportunity to ensure that the party in opposition today is enthroned tomorrow. Nigeria made a mistake with the PDP when it invested heavily in it in every ward, every local government and in every state without putting a worthy rival beside it to make it behave responsibly. The PDP itself indulged in self-mortification, killing off others that would have assisted it with criticisms.
The APC has spent 14 months in power. Has it impacted positively on the life of the ordinary man? Has it been fulfilling its promises or repudiating them? If it has fallen short of expectations, who has been the voice of the people calling it to account? Is it not customary in multi-party democracy for the opposition to be the conscience of the people? In the twilight of PDP’s glory, didn’t its nemesis, the APC, consistently beam the floodlight of scrutiny on all and every of its actions? Can the fractured PDP of today play the same role, especially at this period of borderless economic pains? If the PDP is fatally injured to act, should the society not consciously construct its replacement?
Nature has no space for vacuum. All spaces are filled in the field of nature. If there is no outsider to fight, you turn your sword homewards. This is normal in the animal kingdom which, truly, politics is. Scientists say the hunger for extra protein often lead certain animals “to chow down” on their own kids. It is the same in politics. They call it implosion. When you shut out outsiders from seeing and speaking about your ugliness, insiders will rise to reject your odious smell.
Our ruling party is already behaving like its predecessor in power, silently killing off opposition with proxy meta wars. If we are dumb enough to allow it run away with this, all rights will soon become wrongs — and we wouldn’t be able to complain. The good news is that history teaches us that no empire lasts forever. Even King Louis IV of France, credited with the famous phrase “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the State”) ultimately on his deathbed was quoted by historians as surrendering: “Je m’en vais, mais l’État demeurera toujours.” (“I depart, but the State shall always remain”).