Across the land, the statement former President Olusegun Obasanjo released last week is dominating political discourse, largely. No doubt, the Balogun Owu is enjoying the attention and being the focus once more. For me, an interesting aftermath of the statement is the pictures of some business minded Nigerians printing it, laminating and selling on the streets. Knowing our former president well, it might not be out of character for him to ask for royalties from those hawkers.
One also wonders why rabid supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari are going giddy over the exchange of pleasantries by Obasanjo and Buhari at the African Union meeting yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar in tow. Abubakar even added a comment in Yoruba, “Ki lo de now?” We remember only too well that Obasanjo danced with Margaret Okadigbo, the widow of former senate president, Chuba Okadigbo, at Okadigbo’s official residence a night before he was impeached as senate president in 2000.
A similar thing happened when Audu Ogbeh was forced to resign as PDP chairman in January 2005 effective February 28 same year. Obasanjo also visited Ogbeh’s residence and actually ate pounded yam even when he could not tolerate Ogbeh’s scathing criticisms as party chair. It is interesting that Ogbeh is part of the cabinet that crafted a mild response to Obasanjo’s letter signed by the information minister, Lai Muhammed. He could offer a lesson or two on Obasanjo’s embrace, it means nothing and does not stop a course he sets his mind on. As Simon Kolawole said yesterday, it is funny that APC members saw Obasanjo’s letter in 2015 the same way PDP members see the statement now: forget the messenger but listen to the message, showing us that nothing has changed.
But that’s not the focus of this piece, even though the last point Obasanjo made in his statement is instructive. It offers a possible direction to the path we should take and therapy to what ails us as a country. We need a new political party beyond the two dominant ones we have presently. The APC has proven beyond reasonable doubt that it cannot take us to the Promised Land while the PDP offers only tepid response to the APC’s shenanigans. Never, in contemporary politics, has a party thrown away so much goodwill like APC since the party got to power in 2015 moving from one blunder to another but the PDP too does not offer a credible alternative to what we have. Basically inchoate, bedeviled by internal contradictions and reactionary forces, it has failed considerably in metamorphosing into a serious and possible replacement.
Call it third force or whatever, our evolution as a nation will stagnate if we think PDP or APC will launch us into becoming a critical voice globally. There is, however, a snag. It appears as if Nigerians are not ready to be the change – that word again – we want for our society. This manifests in many ways, a serious one is the thinking that makes someone to utter that inane statement, “There is no alternative to President Buhari.” It befuddles how one could think that there is no alternative to someone and yet the person is performing below par. A senior colleague reminded me last week of Charles de Gaulle’s words, “The graveyards are full of indispensable men” wondering why my generation are the ones championing such silly thinking. He is in his 60s by the way. So, the starting point should be the fact that there are credible alternatives, if we only we are willing to search further.
Power, though, is not served a la carte and must be vigorously contested with a specific plan of action. Political consciousness is zilch among young Nigerians and they will rather pontificate on social media talking about the ills of Nigeria. Get out and organise, get a voter’s card if you don’t have yet, start asking questions more and demand that politicians engage citizens the more. It will not be easy but we must start from somewhere, gathering together some of those who led us to the hole we are in and giving them a new nomenclature cannot alleviate our woes. The task ahead is one where we must put forth our serious brain and not just the razzmatazz of social media posts. There are many parties now that it should not be difficult for any one to join a party of his choice, attend ward meetings, ask questions, put forward your demands and take Nigeria back from those who have held her hostage since independence.
Our problem cannot be fixed quickly but we must start somewhere, let’s think more of the future. We must dismantle the present order and build a new one, a difficult but necessary task.