There can only be two takes from the assertion by Bamanga Tukur, the Crown Prince of Nigeria’s ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP that leadership in the party was “not for babies.” This is a clear echo of the wiseman – leader from the old African school of thought, that which produced the continent’s rich field of dictators who turned their post-colonial nations into one-party states. This came from the mischief lifted from the African traditional political systems that in Africa, wisdom resided in the old, and it flowed from top to bottom. Gerontocracy, that is rulership by seniority of age as a system of government was a product of this old thinking.
The second is that Tukur takes the crown this coming weekend to lead the ruling party of the continent’s largest democracy, coming with a mindset that reposes no confidence in the country’s young people. For this school of thought, the average saying that the future belongs to the youth does not apply. Tukur, who belongs to the generation that wasted Nigeria’s past is poised to preside over the annihilation of the aspiration of the future leaders. It’s a no win situation either way. This major gaffe, notwithstanding, Tukur is destined to emerge the party leader in the convention because the high command culture of the PDP will ensure that he does. At age 81 as announced by ThisDay writer, (or 75 as his campaign has asserted) the candidate knows himself that this is his last political contest; so he is not leaving anything to chance by giving it his all. We don’t know if Bamanga Tukur is the one spending all the money involved or the government is spending it for him. What we do know is that this will go down in history as the most expensive chairmanship campaign ever. This notwithstanding, most Nigerians are of the view that the Presidency has quietly maneuvered the election of Tukur, a man they believe will serve their interest, in effect becoming a North-East Chairman serving South-South purposes. In the emerging circumstances, the Northern, and specifically the North-East regional interest will not find accommodation under Tukur. By this, President Jonathan will have scored a double against the Northern advocates of zoning.
When we look into history, President Jonathan may not be doing something that others have not done before. When Northerners were faced with the decision to concede power to the South in 1998, what they did was to fish for an amenable South-Westerner. They shunned the idealistic Bola Ige and ignored the more competent Olu Falae to settle for General Olusegun Obasanjo. Never mind that Obasanjo in turn rendered the parable of the teeth biting the tongue to pay back the North. A sinner can be born into the Imam’s compound or that of Pastor. When it came to his turn, Obasanjo himself shunted his Vice President, the robustly prepared Atiku Abubakar to pick as successor, the ailing Governor of Katsina State, the late Umaru Yar’Adua.
State Governors who, once united, can wield the strength to deny the centre its choice of chairman are in disarray, unable to put together a common front as they approach this convention. The consequence of this is that regional interests as captured in the philosophy behind zoning have been thrown over-board.
This loss of dominant status by the Governors at the centre is itself not without explanation. Today’s Governors are autocrats running their states and the parties in control as their personal fiefdoms with no democracy allowed, and all dissent and opposition are suppressed. All of them talk and behave as if their states are sovereign entities which brook no external interference.
In the given circumstance, saying governors should come to Abuja to assert their hold over the party is something not democratic in principle and in action. No, it is not even reasonable to expect Abuja to honour their democratic and constitutional rights. Besides, everyone understands without saying it that with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC effectively used by Abuja, the era of strong states wagging the weak, toothless dog at the centre are gone for good.
To make correction and make his term appealing, Tukur as in-coming party chairman should revise his views about the young people of this country. Let him not forget that the youth play an important role in the country’s politics even where this is limited merely to being thankless voters and the thugs used as enforcers to ensure compliance with the wishes of party leaders and elected officials.
In the words of the Indian sage, Mahatma Gandhi, “you are not an elder by mere looks of grey hairs; he is only an elder in whom resides truth and justice.” At 80 or 75 (whichever version of his age you believe), how can Bamanga cope with the perception that he is someone else’s stooge? At this ripe age, what more could he have asked of God that he hasn’t given him, which he now desperately wants to achieve? Having achieved fame and fortune in the course of his public life and in retirement, power at any price should be among Bamanga’s least expected aspirations. The tendency of elderly people, perceived as the repositories of knowledge, to engage in ignoble roles at the expense of reputation defies reason. Who or what bewitched Bamanga to ignore the stress and rigours of managing the crisis-ridden PDP? Arising strictly for my concern for his health, does he appreciate the bewildering catastrophe that is called the PDP in Oyo or Kogi or Ogun or Anambra?
Lastly, can a man live his life twice – a leader yesterday, today and tomorrow?