From Azazi to PDP, with love! By Godwin Onyeacholem

Considering the intriguing contest for supremacy between a rash of sycophantic denunciations and a trickle of measured approvals trailing the outburst, it was clear this was one testimony – at the risk of exaggerating – from a most unlikely source. Andrew Owoye Azazi, the retired army general whom his kinsman President Goodluck Jonathan made National Security Adviser, was not expected to swipe the ruling People’s Democratic

Party for whatever reason.  For holding a political appointment, he is condemned to be a loyal party man and a staunch supporter of his “brother” the president. That was supposed to be his destiny.

But the security chief opted, instead, to follow his own mind. He decided to take a gamble on the joy of heroism and the misery associated with villainy. And, as a consequence, he is already virtually placed in either of these perceptions, depending on individual interest.

Yet one thing is clear: no candid observer of the trajectory of the so-called democratic governance since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999 will deny Azazi’s declaration that not a small fraction of the bizarre security challenge currently facing the country is traceable to PDP’s brand of politicking. To disclaim this spot-on confession from a supposedly accomplished professional as the NSA as most of the party’s henchmen and supporters have done and are still doing, is to live in blissful denial while glossing over, with mischievous intent, a genuine opening for serious introspection.

Azazi’s comment definitely stemmed from deep-rooted frustration in, again, wilful refusal of his party to recognise not only a creeping self-destruction, but also a steady annihilation of the country through some of its irresponsible policies and decisions. To elucidate this point, it is important to state that thirteen years of PDP governance has rested on the sole plinth of unrelieved injustice. The self-styled largest party in Africa, who ought to be unambiguous in living out the ideals (maturity, discipline, fairness, etc.) of its assumed name, has made no single effort to acquit itself in that regard. The party, over the years, has revelled in ostentation and self-absorption. To come to the point, PDP has been everything but democratic.

Look no further than the party’s style of administration to get a handle on the spread of corruption for which the country gets a bad name on a daily basis. But as if the distress it has unleashed so far is not enough, corruption has spawned another savage beast called impunity. Many analysts contend that impunity has indeed overtaken corruption in the hall of national infamy. The two are now so well-nurtured and safeguarded that, unfortunately, they have turned out to be the only features of governance that Nigerians can see since PDP took over the reins of government.

Though party leaders are often quick to identify corruption as the chief impediment to growth and development, they are not prepared to take any concrete action to curtail it. For instance, President Jonathan is on record as having declared zero-tolerance for corruption, but as he himself has shockingly refused to declare his assets since assuming office May 29, 2011, Nigerians are waiting to see what moral strength he would summon to lead the fight against the dreaded monster.

One of the salient features of leadership is the force of personal example. Followers would always copy and draw inspiration from those in that position. Even at the horizontal level of leadership, the behaviour of the subordinates is invariably influenced by the posture of the one who leads the pack. If the leader of government in Nigeria does not send the right signal under any circumstance, it is difficult to see how other state functionaries operating under such personality, whether as ministers, governors, lawmakers, state commissioners and local council officials would respond in a contrary manner. That is why today most Nigerians find it difficult to argue that a meaningful war against corruption is going on when the commander-in-chief, with his battalion of troops and the force of moral, political, legal, and even spiritual authority to wage a sustained campaign, has long ago absconded from the battlefield.

In any case Azazi was generalising when he linked prevailing insecurity in Nigeria to PDP’s mode of politics. He did not specifically say the party’s method created Boko Haram insurgency, but that a large chunk of the current security challenge cannot be divorced from PDP’s kind of strange politics. President Jonathan and his party cannot pretend not to know that widespread socio-economic injustice, which manifests in the failure to prosecute top government or party officials and their friends fingered in corrupt practices, has formed an alliance with the political injustice Azazi insinuated at the south-south summit to fuel violence in the country. Nigerians know that all the PDP governors, especially those who govern in the south-south region, as well as Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State who embarked on a course of misguided vilification of Azazi for his uncommon forthrightness, are aware that terrible injustice exists not just in their party, but also all over the country. But what have they done about it? Absolute nothing.

And the pattern of this horrible wrongis indefinite. The case of the unduly deposed governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State presents a rich illustration of how the party leaders use unfair decisions to fan hatred and division among members. All the governors, including Sylva himself, who got up to beg the president to pardon the governor of his state, to allow him contest the primaries were treated as nobodies. And that is just one out of many. Sylva, now hunted by the prospect of an imminent trial for money laundering, is quietly lying underground, leaving his fate in the hands of a higher being.

To a less disciplined person minded to violence as a means of resolving disputes, what befell Sylva was enough to mobilise former militants and launch a fresh round of crisis in the state. Though he is certain not to have his way, his activities would disrupt the state’s programme of development and worsen the problem of insecurity. This is an example of the odious politics Azazi was referring to – politics borne on the wings of deep injustice; that could spark violence with casual spontaneity.

So rather than chafe over an age-old open secret which PDP leaders deliberately ignored for selfish reasons, the party should see the need in dispatching a memo to one of their own, thanking him for mustering enough courage in helping to realistically locate a major cause of rising crime and low-intensity violence across the country. Azazi deserves no less.


Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist based in Abuja


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