Take­aways From Al­has­san’s Bravado

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - CITY FILE - Williams.alabi@guardian.ng

WHAT should have been early and ri­otous com­mence­ment of hur­ri­cane 2019 (pres­i­den­tial race) in the rul­ing party was care­fully de­flected and down­graded into a non-lethal fam­ily af­fair by lead­er­ship of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC). All through last week and one be­fore, the story in town was that of min­is­ter of Women Af­fairs, Aisha Al­has­san, who had the ef­fron­tery to de­clare her pref­er­ences for 2019. She was cat­e­gor­i­cal, when she said Pres­i­dent Buhari would not be en­ti­tled to an­other shot at the pres­i­dency, at least from her view­point. She al­luded to an un­der­stand­ing that was reached to that ef­fect.

Many Pharisees shouted ‘cru­cify her’. They wanted the head of the fear­less wo­man, in­stead of thank­ing her for do­ing what they lack the courage to say. Hyp­ocrites!

Some gov­er­nors who have been nurs­ing in­or­di­nate am­bi­tion in their clos­ets were the most vo­cif­er­ous in con­demn­ing Al­has­san, be­cause if her pref­er­ences sail through, they would lose out, ei­ther in their plot to be vice pres­i­dent or to run in case Buhari drops out for ob­vi­ous rea­son of old age and health chal­lenges. For what they du­bi­ously in­ter­preted as sa­tanic verses, th­ese spine­less gov­er­nors hur­riedly put her on me­dia trial.

But the good news is that the party has tem­po­rar­ily of­fered her re­lief, after she re­port­edly apol­o­gized. Al­has­san was at the party head­quar­ters on Thurs­day, where some claimed she was in­ter­ro­gated for two hours. The party’s na­tional chair­man, John

Odigie Oye­gun, was said to be in at­ten­dance, among other lead­ers. At the end of the talks, her­self and party spokesman, Bo­laji Ab­dul­lahi walked to her parked SUV, and re­porters were briefed of the en­counter.

Ac­cord­ing to Ab­dul­lahi, the strong wo­man from Taraba ad­mit­ted her er­ror and apol­o­gised. He said: “Now, hav­ing of­fered her ex­pla­na­tion, we ac­knowl­edged that as a mem­ber of this party, she is en­ti­tled to her opin­ion and en­ti­tled to her choice. How­ever, as a se­nior mem­ber of this party, her state­ments rep­re­sent an act of in­dis- cre­tion be­cause with the kind of po­si­tion she oc­cu­pies, even within the party, she is a party leader in her own right, so what she said was not what she was sup­posed to say at the time that she said it.”

On and on, party spokesman ex­plained that even though she said things that hurt the party, she has been for­given. On that note, it ap­pears the party has man­aged it well, even if it is just to grant her tem­po­rary re­lief. At the ap­pro­pri­ate time, the wo­man will be made to pay for her sin. I per­son­ally can­not be de­ceived, but I ac­knowl­edge the deft han­dling of what could have been a very messy case. It is al­ready, but to have promptly put it un­der con­trol is per­haps, the kind of cri­sis man­age­ment style long ex­pected of the chair­man on other mat­ters ail­ing the party.

On the ver­dict of ‘go and sin no more’, the lead­er­ship must have wisely reck­oned from her tone of ex­pla­na­tion that even though she was sin­cere in ex­plain­ing her short­com­ings, she could spill more beans if the mat­ter were al­lowed to es­ca­late. She also does not rep­re­sent her­self alone, but a ten­dency that is well be­yond her, which also has to be well man­aged. Go­ing after her so hastily could breed fur­ther headache for the party, the lead­ers must have reck­oned.

So, it is good that those who ex­pected more trou­ble for her and the party were dis­ap­pointed, even though tem­po­rar­ily. That is a com­mend­able take­away. The mat­ter was promptly han­dled like a fam­ily af­fair, and it was brought to a quick end, which I ex­plained might not be the real end. But it is a fair deal for all.

Ear­lier, we were told the lead­er­ship was go­ing to in­vite the

Women Af­fairs Min­is­ter and her pro­fessed god­fa­ther, for­mer vice pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar, for grilling. We didn’t see that last week. Maybe at an­other fo­rum, the for­mer vice pres­i­dent will come ex­plain rea­son(s) for his own tantrums. He said a bit of it al­ready, that after he helped to em­power the party and gov­ern­ment was formed, he was aban­doned. Atiku is a big fish, maybe at a higher level of in­ter­ro­ga­tion, he too will be asked to ex­plain fur­ther. He de­serves some re­spect.

Ear­lier last Wed­nes­day, Al­has­san walked jaun­tily to the Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil (FEC) meet­ing in the Villa, not show­ing signs of fright. She moved around and ex­pressed the fun­da­men­tal free­dom that is hers alone. Her fel­low min­is­ters also warmed up to her, go­ing by pic­tures that were shown.

On that note, the Pres­i­dency de­serves com­men­da­tion, for not be­ing in a hurry to pay back. At other times, a more bullish pres­i­dency could have locked her out, or just do some­thing ter­ri­ble to ac­knowl­edge her vit­riol. But like I said, there will be suf­fi­cient time to do that, sure. Pres­i­dent Buhari can­not be ex­pected now to learn such act of gen­eros­ity in old age. The sol­dier politi­cians that we have had are not known to for­give eas­ily and for­get. Even if a new wave of com­pas­sion has come over Buhari, his foot sol­diers in the gov­er­nors’ camp will want to pay back, not be­cause they love Buhari, but be­cause the min­is­ter’s im­pu­dence jolted their cow­ardly am­bi­tion.

One of the rea­sons given for Al­has­san’s rep­ri­mand, by the party, even though she had been for­given, ac­cord­ing to Ab­dul­lahi, is that the tim­ing of her provo­ca­tion is not a ripe one. That means she is too much in a hurry, even though what she said about Buhari’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion for 2019 is her pre­rog­a­tive.

And I ask, what is the ap­pro­pri­ate time to dis­cuss is­sues of 2019? This is one area the po­lit­i­cal class has not ex­celled in since 1999, and it is at the bot­tom of the ten­sion in par­ties, whether in states or na­tional. They do not have suc­ces­sion plan. They keep a heavy lid on the sub­ject, pre­tend­ing it is a dis­trac­tion for gover­nance.

Had Obasanjo hinted his for­mer vice early of his in­ten­tion to do a se­cond term with clear as­sur­ance that since power was to re­turn to the North, Atiku would ben­e­fit, the for­mer vice would have had no rea­son to plot to over­throw his boss. Know­ing Obasanjo for whom he is,

Atiku couldn’t trust him 100 per­cent. Dur­ing the 2007 tran­si­tion, the PDP field was throne open. Wealthy can­di­dates like Peter Odili had gone round the coun­try on cam­paigns and wasted re­sources, only for Obasanjo to pull out his joker at the last minute. Umaru Yar’adua was brought out as the party’s can­di­date. And that was the be­gin­ning of an­other trou­ble for the party, be­cause its zon­ing ar­range­ment suf­fered de­rail­ment once Yar’adua was un­able to con­tinue with the North’s slot.

It was suc­ces­sion dis­pute that ru­ined chances of PDP in 2015, when Jonathan, after six years in of­fice still held on to the party’s ticket. That was the rea­son for the ex­o­dus, which de­pleted the PDP and en­riched APC.

There­fore, it is not too late for in­sid­ers in APC to know the party’s plan for 2019. This is mid-term and in ev­ery demo­cratic clime, this is time to be­gin prepa­ra­tion for the next elec­tion. The ar­gu­ment that elec­tion mat­ters could dis­tract gover­nance is sham. It is a lazy ar­gu­ment for non-per­form­ing par­ties. In fact, prepa­ra­tion for the next elec­tion is sup­posed to fire per­for­mance in of­fice.

It is on that note I in­vite Mr. Pres­i­dent to make up his mind on 2019 and free the party to ex­plore from its ar­ray of good and mod­er­ate hands. The APC did not en­joy good tim­ing be­tween when it was hur­riedly patched to­gether, and the pe­riod cam­paigns broke for 2015. Many things were done hastily just to present can­di­dates for that elec­tion. Now, vot­ers need to know those who will come up for elec­tions and have enough time to in­ves­ti­gate them. This coun­try is too chal­lenged for just any man who can win elec­tions. Now we know there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween win­ing votes and ac­tual com­pe­tence. There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween crowd pulling and ca­pac­ity for the job. And all par­ties, vot­ers should think deeply!

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