Monday, July 26, 2010

Will You Join PDP, If..........?

Let me start by sharing a recent experience. Few months ago, I received an email from a ‘facebook’ friend, who asked if I was interested in becoming a member of his political group. According to him, the group intends to mobilise interested Nigerians to become members of the PDP, with the aim of hijacking the party machinery. After reading the email, I quickly declined his offer. I declined the offer for three reasons. Firstly, because I’m based overseas and I couldn’t see how I can add value to their cause. Secondly, I have never hidden how much I detest PDP as a political party. Mind you, not that I believe any of the other political parties are better. I’ve just never believed anything good can come out of the party, except by “accident” (as a friend will say). And thirdly, I didn’t know the guy personally, so I wasn’t sure if they were been sponsored by another ‘cabal’.

Ok! That was then, but, what about now?

The PDP Chairman, Dr Nwodo recently noted that, the party will begin registration of its members this week. Prospective members of the party will be expected to pay a mandatory registration fee which will be registered online. According to media reports, the party believes it could raise N10bn annually by levying its members N1,500 each.

The PDP Chairman was also quoted as saying “gone are the days, where a ward chairman will not register a member because he/she doesn’t like the face of the prospective member”. But given the opportunity, how many people are interested in being members of the PDP?

So should the call for membership by PDP be seen by progressives, as an opportunity to get involve? What would it take to mobilise 500,000 “progressives” to register as members of the PDP, with the sole aim of reforming the party?. Why can’t all the political groups on facebook and other online social network work collaboratively, and join the PDP en mass? With 500,000 members (all on the same page), how difficult can it be to take over the party machinery, and force a change?

You may ask, why PDP and not ACN or ANPP? The answer to that is simple. Like it or loathe it, PDP remains the only party in the country with the geographical spread and structure to win an election. If one can mobilise enough numbers, why waste your time joining a party that only appeals to certain ethnic groups.

So I put the question to you, will you join the PDP, if there exist an opportunity to force a change within the party?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Youths Earnestly Ask for Jonathan - By Simon Kolawole

Nothing ever changes in Nigeria, isn’t it? The more things seem to change, the more they remain the same. The country is currently littered with mushrooms of associations asking President Goodluck Jonathan to run in the 2011 presidential race; all sorts of groups with names so similar you would be forced to suspect that they are being created and co-ordinated from the same source. They are singing the same tune – PDP must dump “zoning” (that is, power rotation) and let Jonathan run. Northern youths. Southern youths. Movement for this. Movement for that. Alliance for this.

Alliance for that. They all claim to be doing us some good and fighting for justice and equity and fairness. The impression being created is that the president does not know anything about it. It is Nigerians who are trying to exercise their freedom of speech. But haven’t we been here before?

Yeah, it looks too familiar. Youths Earnest Ask for Abacha (YEAA). That was in 1998 when the epidemic swept through the country. Gen. Sani Abacha, one of the finest dictators the world has ever produced, had held Nigeria by the throat for nearly five years, killing as many people as he could, looting as much as he could and doing all he could to push Nigeria into the abyss.

Mortuaries and prisons were filled with his victims. He embarked on a transition programme designed to ultimately produce him as the president. The five political parties he created all adopted him as their presidential candidate, even though he was never a member, never picked their nomination forms and never fulfilled any of the requirements for aspirants as prescribed by the law. We were told that Abacha was the best thing. At the million-man march organised by YEAA for him in Abuja, many prominent Nigerians – some of whom you would ordinarily expect to be sane – endorsed the project. Abacha died suddenly, effectively killing YEAA.

We had a similar project in 2002 when over 20 PDP governors stormed Ota, Ogun State, to “beg” President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for second term. Obasanjo, they said, was the only man for Nigeria. A bigger version of the project was launched a few years later. You guessed right: third term. Obasanjo organised a political conference, ostensibly to work for a new constitution, but surreptitiously to extend his second term in office. When it didn’t work, a full-blown third term project was launched. We were told Obasanjo was the only one that could solve all our problems. Indeed, everything seemed set for Obasanjo to get his third term as the constitution was about to be amended to accommodate his ambition. In a flash, the third term project collapsed. Obasanjo would later tell us that he was not interested in third term. As if we were born yesterday.

An amazing fact is that there are characters that have always been on the “tazarce” (“carry on”) scene. I will mention just two names here. Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu was heavily involved in the Abacha project as the publicity secretary of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) – the party of choice then. Mantu, representing the North-central, moved the motion that Abacha should be the presidential candidate of UNCP at its Kaduna convention on April 16, 1998. Others who moved the joint motion were: Ebenezer Babatope, Josiah Odunna, Saminu Turaki (who later became governor of Jigawa State), Sergeant Awuse and Ali Modu Sherif (current governor of Borno State). In 2005-6, Mantu, as Deputy Senate President, organised a similar project for Obasanjo, co-ordinating the failed attempt to amend the constitution to accommodate third term. Dear readers, Mantu is now one of the co-ordinators of the Jonathan 2011 project. “Tazarce” runs in his blood.

There is also this character called Greg Mbadiwe who, unfortunately, hails from an illustrious family. He was neck-deep in the Abacha project. He wrote an interesting article to justify the ill-conceived “tazarce” project. In the article, which was published just around the time Abacha died, he declared: “The UNCP must not renege on the decision to present General Abacha as its flag bearer. For, contrary to the utterances by a few people who have access to the press, the masses of the people are in support of continuity and General Abacha. They are in alignment with his regime’s efforts and are eagerly waiting to give him a stronger mandate come August 1, 1998.” Mbadiwe, it must be recalled, was also the one who moved for the extension of Obasanjo’s second term tenure to six years at the political conference in 2004. He was also well involved in the failed third term project. That’s his stock-in-trade.

I don’t know much about Mbadiwe’s involvement in the Jonathan project, but I recently stumbled on an article he wrote to campaign for the president. He first condemned zoning and power rotation and then began to talk about how God had ordained Jonathan and how the man is the best person for the job. Read him: “Jonathan appears to be the bridge of unity and national integration which has eluded Nigerians for a long time.

We were closer to the attainment of that goal in 1993 when Nigerians overwhelmingly voted a Muslim-Muslim ticket, only for the military through an ill-advised action, to annul that election. The opportunity has presented itself again and history beckons on us to, in the spirit of Nigerian unity to formally elect a man from the minority tribe as our president in 2011. That would not only confirm that we have come of age, we would be giving a practical expression to the letters of the constitution which guarantees us the right to aspire to any position in the country.”

Let me be clear about something: I am not comparing Jonathan’s obvious ambition to the self-perpetuation plans of Abacha and Obasanjo. The two were clearly involved in something illegitimate which could only be achieved by subverting and manipulating the laws of the land. Jonathan, on the other hand, has every right to run for office next year as enshrined in the constitution. The power rotation argument is not about law or constitution – it is about a “gentleman’s agreement” as they call it. It is a PDP problem. ANPP does not have power rotation. AC does not have power rotation. So when I talk about the roles of Mantu, Mbadiwe and their ilk in the Jonathan project and similar projects in the past, I am talking basically about this malignant tumour called AGIP – Any Government in Power. I am also talking about the unseen hands behind the scene, patting the boot-lickers on the back while pretending not to be involved in any way. You know what I mean.

In a way, I do not blame Mantu and co. In Nigeria, real economic productivity yields little gain, so it is political sycophancy that rewards bountifully. Hard work hardly pays. How much would you make working your head off 24/7 in your office compared to what you would make practising AGIP? A fresh university graduate with a decent job would need to work for at least five years before he can afford a new car. If he chooses sycophancy, he can buy a 4WD after just one “contract”. The budget for sycophancy is normally in billions of naira. Furthermore, those who get the biggest appointments in government are not necessarily those who want to contribute to the progress of Nigeria. They are mostly those who play the right politics – those who carry the bags of the right people; those who wash the feet of the right people; those who utter the biggest flattery. You don’t need to do too much research to discover why Nigeria is so backward. Those who have been holding us hostage for decades are the same people holding us hostage today. It’s a brood of vipers. They reproduce themselves. They are from every part of Nigeria. They are ever present in our national life in one form or the other. I am therefore not surprised, at all, that the Jonathan government is turning out to be like the previous ones. This government is proving not to be different from the others. The signs are there for everyone to see. In Nigeria, the more things seem to change, the more they remain the same.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dreams Can be Crazy!

Dreams can be crazy, especially when malaria has a hand and a foot in it. Fancy the dream I had last night. It was so scary it made a horror film look like a routine Lagos traffic jam. I woke up sweating and decided it was time to see the doctor.

I dreamt that Senator Ahmed Yerima was elected the President of Nigeria. He settled into Aso Rock and ... See moreintroduced a thirteen year old, Fatima, as his wife and First Lady of Nigeria. That instantly posed a problem for the media which did not know whether Nigeria had a First Child or First Lady. Opinion was divided, but Ray Ekpu of Newswatch stepped in and decided that the media should hold a national conference and take a common position on how to address the President’s teen wife so as not to embarrass the President. The Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka maintained that to be grammatically correct, we should not address a child as a lady and asserted with authority that a “lady” is a term used to address “mature women” not “children.” He argued that she should remain a “First Child until further notice.”

But the People’s Democratic Party maintained that the problem was not grammatical but political. To which famous lawyer, Chief Femi Falana pointed out that the “child” in question was not of voting age and as such should not impose a political burden on the country. He maintained that the nation should assume that the President had no legal wife or in the alternative ask him to produce another wife worthy of being addressed as a First Lady and who was of voting age.

We were still trying to solve the matter when we heard that some civil right groups had taken the matter to the court to annul the marriage and let the child go back to school. We told them to hold on that the child was still in school and will actually be a part time First Child or First Lady and part time student. The case was dropped. We would have rested the matter there but guess what? Along came Prof. Dora Akunyili (I mean Prof Dora Akunyili again!) and said she had it on good authority that Her Excellency was still bed-wetting. She said it would do great damage to her rebranding exercise and wondered “how you could rebrand a country when the First Lady was busy wetting beds abroad.”

The Federal Ministry of Health responded promptly that it had developed drugs which could take care of bed-wetting, but if the drugs were not okay, then the First Lady could use catheter in the night and not wet beds in presidential guest houses abroad. Everyone was relieved but guess what? The Central Bank came charging that such money would not be charged to any budgetary item and would amount to an extra-budgetary expenditure and fraud. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission agreed and said the National Assembly should approve a “Bed-wetting allowance” for the president, before any fund was drawn. They noted that if the man were to travel as much as President Olusegun Obasanjo did, then it would add to the national inflation and would be difficult to justify based on existing financial regulations.

Well the debate was still raging when we heard that President Barrack Obama was coming to Nigeria on a state visit and would be accompanied by his wife, Michele. Civil liberties organizations swung into action and tried to persuade the American Embassy to postpone the trip until the “First Lady” issue was resolved. But the Embassy said the visit was part of a tour of strategic African states and Nigeria was amongst the most important in Africa.

Obama actually came and was met on the tarmac by President Yerima with his wife, Fatima, in tow. Obama thought Her Execllency, Mrs Fatima Yeriama, was the garland girl and bent down to have her hang a garland on his neck. Her Excellency on the other hand thought differently in the innocence of her childlike heart, and thought he was bending down to admire her dress. She giggled and said, “Isn’t this a very wonderful dress? It is the same color with my undies.”

Michele laughed heartily and picked up Her Excellency in her hands, stroking her head. I nearly fainted! She turned to President Yerima and said, “This should be your beautiful daughter, where is her mother -your wife?” To which President Yerima looked at her stunned, not knowing what to say. The American ambassador to Nigeria stepped in and saved the situation, “Mrs. Obama, that is the President’s wife that you are carrying in your hands. You may wish to put her down beside her husband so that the reception will continue.”

The Nigerian First Lady who had been struggling to get out of Michele’s hands, looked up indignantly at the American First Lady, said, “I will not be your friend again. Only my husband carries me up and you dared to carry me up.”

President Obama stroked his tie thoughtfully and said, “Let us not have a diplomatic row over this, I forgot to tell Michele that in Africa you catch them young. It is entirely my fault. My apologies to the First Couple. And now Mr President can we proceed to other reception formalities?”

Soon the airport reception was over and the two First Ladies had to while away time while the Presidents discussed matters of state. Mrs Yerima insisted on showing Mrs Obama her toys and her grades in school. The other women stood idly by as one baby doll after the other was shown to Mrs Obama. “My husband bought this toy for me from China, she can even sing, let me play it for you.” Mrs Obama nodded.

Her Excellency Fatima hit the button and the doll began to sing, “God damn America the great Satan, down with the infidels and down with the west…” Mrs. Obama cringed but the child paid her no heed.

She bounded over to the television and turned it on. Then she moved the dial to Cartoon Network and turned to Mrs Obama, “Do you watch Tom and Jerry?” But by this time Mrs Obama had had enough, she fainted and had to be flown back to America.

I was filing the report to my editor when my wife woke me up and said it was time to take my anti-malaria drug. [Ha HA Ha Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa]

Hat Tip Tobi Sowole