Nigeria’s pro-democracy community is sharply divided over the ongoing visits of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to some of Nigeria’s past leaders and chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, formally requesting them to join the opposition party.
While some of the activists, some of whom staked their lives to ensure the return of democracy to Nigeria, expressed outrage at the development, saying the APC’s progressives posturing may after all be a fluke, others said it was a welcome development, which could facilitate the ouster of the ruling PDP.
For those in the latter category, by desperately going in search of these Nigerians believed to have contributed to bringing the nation to its knees, the opposition party has shown that it is not different from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in ideology and that it is only interested in grabbing power.
APC leaders have embarked on an elaborate membership recruitment with visits to some of the country’s past leaders, including former military president, Ibrahim Babangida; former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar; former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.
All, except Mr. Abdulsalami, are members of the PDP.
They had also visited and successfully wooed five governors elected on the ticket of the PDP, namely Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), all of who defected to the opposition party on November 26.
Other notable members of the PDP who have joined the APC are Senators Bukola Saraki and Abdullahi Adamu, former governors of Kwara and Nasarawa State respectively.
Only last Wednesday, 37 other PDP members of the House of Representatives decamped to the APC, thus making it the majority party in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber.
The APC leaders are also visiting former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who recently wrote an 18-page letter complaining among other things, the state of the PDP.
The activists ,who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES in separate interviews, expressed anger and disappointment that APC, whose registration last May they hailed, had gone on to recruit characters, who might taint it with conservative bent.
Pro-democracy activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Femi Falana, said that the APC leaders were recruiting the former leaders who have been excluded from what he termed the “come and chop” policy of the PDP.
“In bourgeois politics, the ongoing development is called ‘realignment forces.’ In the process, those who have been excluded from the ‘come and chop’ policy of the PDP are now being asked to choose their place at the table in case the APC takes over power in 2015,” Mr. Falana said.
Lamenting that the APC leaders did not have any plan to woo the youth who constitute more than 60 per cent of the country’s voting population, Mr. Falana said the mobilisation of the past leaders and other PDP chieftains had basically shown that the opposition leaders were only interested in power.
He said, “The APC has no plan to woo the youth who constitute more than 60% of the voting population. It is the belief of the leaders of both APC and PDP that the 2015 general election is going to be fixed by the traditional manipulators of elections. This is the basis of the ongoing mobilisation of the PDP chieftains including those who cannot win elections in their own wards.
“By wooing discredited military and civilian despots who have destroyed the country since 1966, the APC has shown that it is only interested in power for the sake of power.
“I understand that one of the retired generals is going to become the chair of the Board of Trustees of the APC! This is a case of alienation from the people. How can APC leaders believe that Nigerians want Generals Obasanjo and Babangida to be rehabilitated after destroying the country?
“The duo ruled for 20 years and ruined the country in the process. General Obasanjo has just confessed that he has been installing incompetent leadership since 1979. And he is not ashamed to make that provocative disclosure. Has he offered public apology for his maxima culpa before wooing him?
“The situation is not different in a number of states and local council areas where the new PDP is busy taking over all the structures of the APC. Since the APC is positioning itself to retain the status quo it cannot become a truly progressive party.”
Mr. Falana said the PDP had started fighting back ferociously and violently because the stakes were high, adding that huge funds and weapons of mass destruction were already being assembled for the general elections while money, religion, ethnicity and other primordial sentiments were being deployed to confuse the electorate.
Another lawyer and activist, Bamidele Aturu said he was not surprised by the visit of the APC leaders to some of these prominent Nigerians, adding that he had always known that there was no difference between the PDP leaders and their APC counterpart.
“APC is not different from the people they are visiting,” Mr Aturu said. “They belong to the same ideological camp. They (APC) are not progressives as they claimed. You are not a progressive because you gave yourself that label.”
“They are going round to woo these people because of the succession crisis in the PDP. What then is the difference in ideology and vision? PDP believes in selling everything. They sold PHCN. I won’t be surprised if some of them (APC) leaders bought it.”
Mr. Aturu challenged the APC leaders to tell Nigerians how that they are different from the PDP members they are wooing.
However, a former Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, Moshood Erubami sees nothing wrong in the manner the APC is going about its recruitment drive, saying it is in accordance with the concept of deliberative democracy, which requires that all shades of opinion must be heard.
He contended that though Messrs Babangida and others contributed to the nation’s rot, they could also be part of the process to rectifying the past misdeeds.
‘The concept of deliberative democracy requires everybody that will be useful participates and there is need to form all shades of opinion,” he added.
“It is not that they are coming to play key roles but they have to be part of the process to make things right. If things must be right, it is not only the progressives that should be identified. If fixing our country requires those who have also contributed in damaging it, there is nothing wrong with that.”
Mr. Erubami also noted that the APC leaders themselves were not saints, adding “If working with former leaders will make us get to Eldorado, why not?”
The Chairman of the Election Monitoring Group, EMG, Festus Okoye, concurred with Mr. Erubami, insisting that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with APC leaders visiting those past leaders to request them to join their party.
“For me there is nothing fundamentally wrong with such visits if people believe that it will help their party to arrest the slide in the country,” he said.
“There is a lot of anxiety and fear and so if they believe that these people can help to arrest that then they are perfectly in order.
Mr. Okoye, who once chaired the TMG, stated that ideologically, the PDP and APC were not different.
“Fundamentally, the only difference is just the individuals that are in the parties. Ideologically, the difference between the two is not fundamental. It is blurred.”
Also speaking, a former governor of the old Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, said he was not opposed to the wooing of the former leaders, saying in democracy there was the need for tolerance if that would bring about development in the country.
He explained that his position was informed by the urgent need to flush out the PDP from power because it had made free and fair elections unrealistic in Nigeria.
Admitting that some of the leaders were bad, Mr. Musa, however, argued that they were not the worst in the country. According to him, there was a need for the realignment of forces to flush out the ruling PDP, because “it is the problem of the country.”
“PDP has an advantage because it controls the federal government, majority of the state governments, resources of the country, the judiciary, the electoral body and everything,” he noted.
“To defeat such a party, which is so powerful and mindless, APC needs to be broad-based.
“You may not like it, because they (past leaders) are being accommodating in order to defeat the PDP, which is the most fundamental problem in the country. The PDP makes things difficult.”
Mr. Musa also stated there was no difference between the two big parties, noting “the situation in the country has been reduced to the state that it is not a question of ideology.”
Another activist and lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, said there was nothing to lament about the wooing of the former leaders by APC, because giving the royal nature of politics, it is understandable.
“My take in this matter is that there is a division among the ruling class. A faction of the ruling class represented by the APC is building a broad-based coalition against the other faction.
“Therefore, within the context of Nigeria royal politics, the consultations the APC has embarked upon becomes understandable.
“There is not ideological political context here. The party of the right is divided. We’re not talking about the left and people need to understand this.
“Nigerian politics is identity-based politics, not issue-based politics. If (Lamidi) Adedibu were to be alive, they would consult him. So if you have a clear understanding of this, it becomes understandable. For them the end justifies the means.
“This is important: I guess that they (APC leaders) will not care much about what Nigerians will think because Nigerians are not known to have rejected the PDP because Babangida, who annulled an election, is in PDP. So why will you reject APC? These are parties of the right contesting for power.”
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