Last Wednesday, Information Minister, Mr Labaran Makun, launched a blistering attack on members of his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who defected recently to the new opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), an amalgam of the Action Congress (AC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a faction of APGA. The defectors, the minister said, were “like the Fulani nomads; they move from one party to another without shame. It shouldn’t be something we should cherish.”
The minister launched his rather gratuitous offensive during a news briefing in Abuja, the federal capital, on the outcome of the day’s Federal Executive Council meeting.
In launching his attack on the defectors he singled out the governors of Kano State, Dr Rabi’u Kwankwaso, and his Sokoto counterpart, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko. They were, he said, undemocratic desperados who parachuted themselves into the APC and hijacked it from its founders.
Their defections, he said, were however good for the party; akin to an obese person shedding undesirable fat to live a healthier and more robust life. (I am not so sure it would be wise for PDP to be so smug as the youthful minister; between Kano and Sokoto states there are relatively nearly as many voters – over seven million – as the entire South-South put together, with their nearly nine million).
Maku’s unflattering comparison of the defections with the nomadic lifestyle of Fulanis has been rightly condemned by many as ethnicist. However, I agree completely with the underlying assumption of his diatribe which is that any defection based on ego or personal ambition rather than on a sublime principle is a thing to be condemned.
The trouble with Maku’s angry words, however, was that they were not based on any principle. Rather they were simply meant to please his political godfathers. Otherwise it would have occurred to him before he spoke that his harsh words would be truer of former governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, and his Sokoto State counterpart, Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, who subsequently traded places with their predecessors by defecting to the PDP. This realisation would have advised him to have been more careful in his choice of words against Kwankwaso and Wamakko.
Take Bafarawa first. Nearly twelve years ago, on March 28, 2002 to be precise, the former Sokoto governor, as guest speaker at the second anniversary of the founding of the Arewa Consultative Forum, had only harsh words to describe what he said was the marginalisation of the North by the PDP under former president, General Olusegun Obasanjo. “Ogun and Oyo alone,” he said, in the course of his lecture to the applause of his large audience, “have benefitted from over 30 billion Naira worth of road projects, more than what 12 states that make up North-west and North-east together enjoyed.”
His answer to this marginalization, he said, was Northern unity, pointing out that “While the West is AD 100%, the South-south and the South-east are PDP 100% … the North is 50% APP and 50% PDP.”
He concluded that it was therefore “imperative that, at least for the sake of future Presidential elections, we must all go one direction…United we stand, divided we fall.”
Without prejudice to the merit or otherwise of his preference for the politics of regional monolithism, a preference which lacks any basis in our political history because opposition forces had always thrived in the old regions, one must ask what has changed between now and when Obasanjo left office seven years ago to justify Bafarawa’s defection to the PDP. The truth, as Bafarawa knows all too well, is that the North has been marginalized even more under President Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP than under Obasanjo’s.
Exactly eight years to the day he was guest speaker at the ACF’s second anniversary, he said in a lengthy interview in The Nation (March 28, 2010) that he would never join PDP because being in opposition was the only way to deepen democracy in Nigeria. This was after he left ANPP in frustration following his accusation that PDP had planted Chief Donald Etiebet as ANPP’s chairman to serve as a fifth columnist.
Instead of joining PDP, he said, he decided to form his own Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) on whose platform he eventually contested the 2011 presidential election. Naming then PDP chair, Dr. Amadu Ali, and then acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, as his witnesses, he claimed Obasanjo offered him the control of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states by ceding the nomination of their governorship candidates to him, if he would join PDP. He said he rejected the offer.
The Nation: What is in PDP that is making you run away from it?
Bafarawa: I don’t believe in joining PDP because I want to help democracy grow…When there is challenge in democracy, then the government will move but if there is no opposition, there is no democracy.”
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what has changed about the PDP’s proverbial “garrison democracy” four years after the former Sokoto governor’s encounter with editors of The Nation that it has now suddenly become a beacon of democracy without the threat of a viable opposition party.
Obviously Bafarawa needs a better excuse than the ones he’s been giving us for his defection to a party that before now he had regarded as simply incapable of fostering democracy. And what is true of Bafarawa is even truer of the former Kano State governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Only late last year at a conference organised by the Movement for Better Future and Democratic Emancipation in Kaduna on September 7, 2013, he dismissed President Jonathan as a “total failure.”
“My assessment,” he said then, “is that the government is a total failure… The only answer to this failure is to get the right people to do it.”
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, how within a short spell of five months the president has, in the former governor’s eyes, become, for all practical purposes, the only right person in Nigeria who can now “do it.”
For this intelligent and highly eloquent former teacher-turned-politician who, most Nigerians agreed, emerged the clear winner of the 2011 Presidential debate – what with, in the words of BBC News (April 5, 2011) “his eloquence, a calm disposition and an apparent grasp of policy issues” – to now sing praises of a president he thought unworthy of his office not too long ago, it speaks volumes about the courage and integrity of the self-declared convictions of our politicians.
Of course real elections are won not by debating skills alone. In free and fair elections that have defied this country, politicians win on the strength of their character and performance. The long history of carpet crossing between parties in this country and the manner in which our youthful minister of Information, Labaran Maku, heaped scorn on those who defected to the opposition party is proof positive that it would be a great miracle if next year’s election is, for once, won, not on the basis of propaganda, but on the basis of character and performance.
My column of four weeks ago on the return of Chinweizu to the pages of Nigerian newspapers after a very long absence, received nearly sixty texts in response. Over a dozen of those responses offered to send me copies, original or photo, of his controversial book, The Anatomy of Female Power, which I had requested him to send to me because it seemed to have gone out of circulation almost as soon as he’d published it.
Perhaps the man himself did not read my piece in which I tried to take him up on his argument that our present constitution is an imposition of a Northern military cabal, but he did not respond to my request for the book.
A friend has since given me a copy. I wish to thank him and all the readers who offered to send same.
Along with those who offered to send me copies, there were others who wanted copies if I happened to get any. I am afraid I am unable to oblige for reasons of costs and logistics. However, I am advised the book may be bought from Amazon, the online bookseller, and from similar companies.
RE: Babangida’s triumph of hope over reality
So IBB does not as a Nigerian, a former president, war veteran, leader, elder statesman, etc, etc, have the right to say his mind and air his views on any national issue, without you attacking him.
So Gen IBB is wrong and you are right. How selfish, self-centered and confused you are.
Are you attacking IBB to please your pay masters or you have nothing to write or you want to be heard loud and clear because you attacked IBB?
You (have) many issues to write about so why wait for IBB to speak, you then attack him? He has been very kind to you and your family. He does not deserve any attack from you on pages of newspapers, more so when you have direct access to him and can see him at any time you so wish.
Who is sponsoring you against IBB? Who is afraid of IBB?
Please have a re-think and kindly desist. IBB only said his mind, simple and clear and he has the right to.
Hassan Muhammad Jallo.
Does it matter if there are hitches in a society? And despite General Babangida’s optimism, yours was “pessimism” all through! Remember, you have benefitted from this same wobbled system and you are still benefitting. Give encouragement and support to our Leaders rather than sanctions and ridicule!