The mischief of PDP governors

By CASMIR IGBOKWE

Published: Sunday, 12 Apr 2009

 AS a small boy in the early ’70s, I played a lot of hide-and-seek with my peers. In the night, we would hide under a lorry usually parked in our neighbourhood. Our main prank then was to startle passers-by. The more frightened a passer-by, the happier we were.

Our strategy was to put a big black rope on the road. And from our position under the lorry, we would pull the rope slowly in a snake-like way, making whoever was passing to shout, jump and draw back. Some brave ones would come back with a big stick to kill the crawling thing. On discovering that the presumed reptile was actually a rope, our victims would either move on stylishly or look under the lorry to teach us some bitter lessons. By then, we would have escaped, grinning from afar.

 Mischief! That is the only way I can describe the recent statement credited to the Peoples Democratic Party governors. Media reports last Thursday indicated that these governors had lent their support for the second term bid of President Umaru Yar’Adua. The chairman of the Governors’ Forum and Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki, reportedly said the President had the constitutional powers to go for a second term and that the governors were in support of that.

 Mr. President’s constitutional right for a second term is indisputable. It’s unlike the third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which later hit the rocks. But my natural reaction when I read the story was, these politicians have come again. My take on it could be found in Saraki’s statement that politics is full of mischief. Some people, he reportedly said, could print posters of him running for the presidency, when he might not be interested in the position. We have also seen instances when some politicians said they were not interested in a particular position only to come out later to claim their people forced them to vie for it.

 Let’s even examine the governors’ grounds for supporting the President’s second term bid. Yar’Adua, they say, is sincere, focused, determined and has vision. I’m almost sure that even Saraki that made the statement does not believe himself. Yes, Yar’Adua may be sincere to an extent. He seems to be a true and pious Muslim, who observes his religious obligations to the letter. And soon after he assumed office in 2007, he declared his assets. Unlike most Nigerian leaders, he also seems less interested in material acquisitions.

 But the questions are: where is the focus? Where is the determination? And where is the vision? This is an administration that makes one policy statement today and reverses itself tomorrow. At a point, Nigerians created such phrases as policy reversals, policy summersaults to describe the lack of direction of this government.

 I can’t also see determination anywhere. A determined president should be the last to go to bed and the first to wake up. He should attend to every problem with dispatch and attend functions he has been pencilled to appear. Can we say these of our President? I don’t think so. Here is a president who does not respond to issues as fast as he should. This has earned him the nickname, Baba Go-slow. Sometimes, he cancels functions he is billed to attend without any explanation. A typical example is the launch of the rebranding project in Abuja last month. He was to attend, but at the dying minute, he sent the Vice-President without any explanation. This is the same manner he failed to honour a proposed state visit to Brazil last August and attendance at the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly last September.

 We can give him a little credit in the area of vision. He espoused the seven-point agenda and vision 20:2020. The latest vision is that we will generate 6000MW of electricity by December this year. When you look for concrete steps being taken to achieve these visions, you don’t see any. The seven-point agenda has remained what it is – a mere slogan. Now, they are giving all manner of excuses preparatory to the grand excuse of why we will not meet the December 2009 electricity target.

The President reportedly said his plan was to use two years to study the ground and then use the next six years to accomplish his vision. Let’s hope so. But Nigerians have since learnt how to view statements from politicians with a lie detector. Saraki was also quoted to have noted that the support for Yar’Adua‘s second term bid in the North was total. Does this support include Atiku Abubakar and some elements in the Arewa Consultative Forum?

 No doubt, Mr. President may have his supporters. But I know that a sizeable number of northerners are opposed to his second term plan and are seriously mobilising to undermine his ambition. Considering the rumoured fragile health of our President, I thought he would go home after his first tenure to have a good rest. But Saraki and Co. would want us to believe that the man is as agile as a cat and as strong as Mike Tyson in his heyday as a boxer.

They also commended his fight against corruption. Nothing else can be further from the truth. Which corruption case have we pursued to a logical conclusion? Halliburton? Siemens? National ID card scam? There are former and current public office holders who have been fingered in corruption cases, but rather than answer questions in the courts, they still move about with high shoulders and a swagger.

 Part of the problem we have is the PDP. The ruling party has vowed to rule for at least 60 years. But it has no ideology or blueprint to draw this country out of the woods. Some other parties are planning to form a mega party. It will be interesting to see how that will eventually turn out. Some of the leaders of the so-called opposition parties are defecting to the PDP. Atiku Abubakar thought, perhaps, that organising a phoney reconciliation with Obasanjo would grant him his political heart desires. It did not take long before he engaged in a verbal warfare with the ruling party. The next thing was that the police withdrew his security details. Typical of the reversals we are already used to, the police authorities reportedly returned two of the orderlies last Thursday night.

 President Yar’Adua should not go and relax and feel that the entire North and the Governors’ Forum are solidly behind him. He will be surprised that in the nick of time, one governor may even emerge to challenge him. By then, this whole idea of mischief will be clearer to him. And not even his presidential stick will frighten his traducers, as they will simply move to a corner and grin at his misfortunes.

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