Memo to the ‘third force’: “Ev­ery­body is Cry­ing!”

Sunday Trust - - SPORT -

“Ev­ery­body is cry­ing” is the clar­ion call for all the par­ties, politi­cians and po­ten­tial lead­ers who rose in re­sponse to the fu­til­ity de­fined, per­pet­u­ated—and now promised in per­pe­tu­ity—by PDP and APC to sub­sume their am­bi­tions in the na­tional in­ter­est.

The leaked au­dio tape in which Ro­timi Amaechi, the Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion, of­fers an in­sight­ful cri­tique of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari re­news the chal­lenge for those po­lit­i­cal out­siders who say they want to res­cue Nige­ria.

I re­fer to the ‘third force’ as cor­rectly de­scribed early last year, but sub­se­quently be­trayed, by a for­mer Pres­i­dent, Oluse­gun Obasanjo.

That dys­func­tion in­cludes the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), which can­di­date, Atiku Abubakar, is Buhari’s strong­est challenger.

Only four months ago, Pres­i­dent Buhari named Amaechi, a for­mer Gov­er­nor of Rivers State, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of his re-elec­tion cam­paign.

Amaechi had served in the same ca­pac­ity in the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) Pres­i­den­tial Cam­paign Or­gan­i­sa­tion (APCPCO) in the last gen­eral elec­tions, play­ing a piv­otal role in Buhari’s victory.

Last week, how­ever, Amaechi, one of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in Buhari’s cab­i­net, was qui­etly sup­planted in the cam­paign as Buhari en­throned the party’s Na­tional Leader, Bola Tin­ubu, as his “co-chair­man” in the APC pres­i­den­tial cam­paign coun­cil.

In or­gan­i­sa­tional terms, Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo ought to be co-chair­man, as he is the one run­ning with the pres­i­dent. But Buhari was do­ing a dif­fer­ent, non-WAEC math­e­mat­ics.

He pledged that in the cam­paign ef­fort, nei­ther gov­er­nance nor his work—as though they were dif­fer­ent mat­ters—would suf­fer, and that Tin­ubu “will be fully in charge”. Fully? Buhari of­fered this ex­pla­na­tion thus: “The op­er­a­tional buck of this cam­paign stops at his (Tin­ubu’s) ta­ble, and I, there­fore, urge all of us in the lead­er­ship of this cam­paign, in the field op­er­a­tions on the cam­paign trail and in the sec­re­tar­iat, to con­sult with Asi­waju when­ever guid­ance is needed.”

To avoid con­firm­ing any tur­bu­lence in Aso Rock or in his cam­paign, Buhari char­ac­terised the new “di­vi­sion of re­spon­si­bil­ity” as be­ing “clear enough”.

“The lead­er­ship (Amaechi’s) that has for­mu­lated the cam­paign pol­icy will su­per­vise its ex­e­cu­tion,” he de­clared, “the di­rec­tor gen­eral will have over­all re­spon­si­bil­ity for all as­pects of the cam­paign…”

It was a re­mark­able ef­fort to pa­per over the schisms, but it is un­re­al­is­tic to have one man with full op­er­a­tional con­trol, and an­other with “over­all re­spon­si­bil­ity for all as­pects” of ex­e­cu­tion.

How­ever, the new arrangement ac­com­plishes two goals for Buhari. The prin­ci­pal one is pun­ish­ment of Amaechi for dis­loy­alty in as­sail­ing the pres­i­dent’s in­ef­fec­tive­ness.

Un­der Buhari, Amaechi swore on the tape that Nige­ria, be­ing “hope­less and help­less,” can­not change un­less “ev­ery­body” is killed.

He de­scribes the sit­u­a­tion as be­ing so bad that Nige­ri­ans are in tears: “… ev­ery­body is cry­ing, cry­ing…press­men are cry­ing, farm­ers are cry­ing, work­ers are cry­ing, politi­cians are cry­ing, stu­dents are cry­ing, three years oo!”

And he added: “The rate of poverty is very high. The peo­ple are hun­gry…”

Amaechi also un­der­lines one of the ways Nige­rian cor­rup­tion thrives: politi­cians look­ing af­ter their own in­ter­ests, cit­ing his ef­fort to es­tab­lish a univer­sity in his vil­lage af­ter he has, in ef­fect, bribed Buhari with one in Daura, Buhari’s home­town.

The min­is­ter then of­fers this blis­ter­ing pro­file of Buhari: “The pres­i­dent does not lis­ten to any­body. He doesn’t care. You can write what you want to write. Does he read?”

It’s a fair as­sess­ment, but the party line is that Buhari’s school cer­tifi­cate is merely miss­ing. He is a hero and the only an­swer to Nige­ria’s ail­ments.

Nat­u­rally, such a leader does not ac­cept be­ing por­trayed as ar­ro­gant, ig­no­rant and abysmal, par­tic­u­larly by his own min­is­ter, es­pe­cially now in view of the pub­lic re­la­tions and elec­toral con­se­quences in­volved.

But as fir­ing the man would have granted louder pub­lic­ity to the story and miles of am­mu­ni­tion for gloat­ing to the op­po­si­tion, the pres­i­dent played the Tin­ubu card. If he wins re-elec­tion, Amaechi can ex­pect to be fur­ther side­lined in the sec­ond term, even if he builds that univer­sity in Daura in the next few weeks.

How­ever, there is clearly a sec­ond rea­son for his ap­point­ment of Tin­ubu: it sets Buhari free to re­lax in front of a tele­vi­sion set where he is the most com­fort­able, as in that iconic pic­ture from his med­i­cal leave in Lon­don, where his only chal­lenge was the re­mote con­trol.

But in one way, the ap­point­ment il­lus­trates Amaechi’s very point: Buhari is in­ept, cyn­i­cal and afraid. Be­cause if there is one ex­am­ple of why Nige­ria is in­deed “hope­less and help­less”, it is Tin­ubu.

The for­mer Gov­er­nor of La­gos State re­turned Buhari’s com­pli­ments last week, pro­claim­ing his “in­tegrity”.

Ac­cord­ing to the new co-chair­man, if you leave Buhari with N1 on the ta­ble, it will still be there when you re­turn.

But that is only be­cause of a cer­tain fic­tion that noth­ing is cor­rup­tion, but loot­ing. It does not ad­dress gen­eral de­cay and per­ver­sion of our val­ues and in­sti­tu­tions.

If Buhari ever coura­geously ac­knowl­edgeds that, many of the peo­ple he has sur­rounded him­self with would be in jail. And they would in­clude peo­ple who have com­pro­mised the for­tunes and prospects of en­tire states.

La­gos, dat­ing from the days of Tin­ubu’s Al­liance for Democ­racy (AD), is Nige­ria’s sor­ri­est ex­am­ple of this Buhari, of course, he does not know that, does he?

We now know that when peo­ple close to Buhari take that N1, for in­stance—or forge cer­tifi­cates to get top gov­ern­ment jobs, or steal from In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDPs), or bro­ker shame­less reg­u­la­tions such as the ex­ec­u­tive pen­sion laws that ex­ist in many APC states, led by La­gos—he does not know. Like the Onit­sha farmer Amaechi al­ludes to who could not sell his goats dur­ing Sal­lah, Buhari’s pres­i­den­tial at­ti­tude has been “what is my busi­ness with that?”

And so here we are, with his “next level” cam­paign be­ing led by Tin­ubu—who per­son­i­fies the tragedy of La­gos State and of the pu­trid state of our democ­racy—as a po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and eth­i­cal icon.

It is also fas­ci­nat­ing to ob­serve that the op­pos­ing cam­paign of the PDP is be­ing led by the Se­nate, Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki, him­self the Tin­ubu of Kwara State: two wealthy men who have been dragged through the sewage of Code of Con­duct Tri­bunal tri­als.

Buhari claims to be fight­ing cor­rup­tion, but the big­gest icons of cor­rup­tion are all still stand­ing, many of them shoul­der to shoul­der with him. Lit­tle won­der we are the same laugh­ing stock we were when he ar­rived, and “ev­ery­body is cry­ing”.

Amaechi’s won­der­ful cap­ture of our dis­tress ought to be the ral­ly­ing cry for that third force, the need for which was iden­ti­fied well be­fore Nige­ria be­came trapped be­tween APC’s Buhari and PDP’s Abubakar. The need is re­vived by the night­mare that Nige­ria now seems poised, ev­ery four or eight years, to fall into the arms of one.

“Ev­ery­body is cry­ing” is the clar­ion call for all the par­ties, politi­cians and po­ten­tial lead­ers who rose in re­sponse to the fu­til­ity de­fined, per­pet­u­ated—and now promised in per­pe­tu­ity—by PDP and APC to sub­sume their am­bi­tions in the na­tional in­ter­est. There is no other way to re­verse the Nige­rian curse.

Be­cause “ev­ery­body is cry­ing” and to avoid even­tual blood­shed, true pa­tri­ots must in­vest in col­lab­o­ra­tion, un­less they would rather fail and fall as in­di­vid­u­als, as true pa­tri­o­tism al­ways de­mands sac­ri­fice and self­less­ness.

Let us re­mem­ber: “ev­ery­body is cry­ing” now. But that is not the worst that can hap­pen to us.

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