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