Politics in a Crime Scene
ENGAGEMENTS BY Chidi Amuta
President Buhari has just etched one enduring legacy on our political landscape. He rescued his ruling party from a near death experience and saved it from a possible catastrophic end. A much troubled party convention eventually took place. Here was a party that was afflicted with a cocktail of terminal ailments. A dysfunctional national executive was saved by a wobbly caretaker contraption led by a governor who is arguably a functional illiterate.
The caretaker arrangement was itself perennially tormented by a slew of lawsuits from every direction, peer group rivalries and mistrust. In the run up to the scheduled and rescheduled party convention, a political coup by a conclave of ambitious governors almost toppled governor Buni’s interim tug boat. Mr. Buhari discharged himself from his doctors and scrambled the presidential jet from its London parking position and ran home. With only a few days left to the convention date, Buhari performed the feat of saving the fractious party and its troubled convention. The rest is history.
But that history is fraught with contradictions and headaches that will soon return to torment us all. As far as party internal democracy goes, the just concluded APC convention raises more questions than Buhari tried to answer. The approach of a ‘consensus’ list of candidates was literally from the pre-history of party politics itself. Perhaps Buhari had run out of options and had a difficult choice to make. Like the military general that he once was, his objective was one: to save the party to fight another day.
If he left the field open for normal electoral democratic processes, the badly factionalised party would go up in flames. The outcome would have been a disastrous cacophony of petitions, protests and lawsuits that would make nonsense of the electoral timetable already issued by INEC. If badly handled, it could endanger the transition to a new elected government and Buhari would go down as the one under whose watch the nation’s democratic edifice came crashing down. Using presidential power or blackmail to foist an executive of his own choosing was the next best thing. Of course he had a vested interest in the matter as well. He needed to marry the need to save the party with his own vested interest. The result is what we have before us, a short circuiting of process to achieve a desirable political objective.
The matter of ‘consensus’ as a political concept is neither new, strange nor illegitimate. Ordinarily, in a political situation, a consensus of interests and views can be deployed to arrive at a resolution of a conflict or potential political conflict. What is however most common is a consensus of viewpoints, tendencies or a consensus on issues. The Buhari APC consensus was neither a consensus on issues nor of perceivable interests. It was a consensus on personal preferences for individual candidates and the interests they represent, not on any issues or ideas whatsoever. It was a feudal autocratic imposition, an allocation and sharing of positions based purely on personal or group interest. It of course falls into Buhari’s essentially monarchical model of conservative leadership. The recourse to this coarse ‘consensus’ is typical of his long standing preference for dictatorial solutions and his impatience with the niceties of process and democracy. His choice of party Chairman was therefore predictably a fellow old breed conservative. What he is likely to do with Mr. Abdullahi Adamu in the days ahead will yet unfold. But the gubernatorial and other gladiators in the party are lying in ambush in the run up to the presidential nominations.
The president as the leader of the party dictated the prospective chairman and foisted his choice on the party. He left the rest of the positions for the pickings by a possible consensus of governors and other interest groups in the party. The mild initial resistance petered off and the presidential fiat prevailed, but only for now. The grimmer fight for the presidential ticket of the party lies ahead. But the efficacy of the cobbled ‘consensus’ lies in its Machiavellian essence. The end was the survival of the party. The party is first and foremost a national political institution and deserves to be saved from itself. No dispute on that. The means was the deployment of presidential absolutism to achieve that end.
This may have worked for the preservation of the ruling party. But the subsequent exchanges between the two major parties has been the familiar free exchange of street brawl insults and beer parlor abuses. The opposition PDP has issued endless statements about the internal incoherence of the ruling party, about the APC’s responsibility for the present national malaise and its now familiar track record of bad governance and disastrous overall performance on the job. In turn, the APC has responded to its adversary as if the last seven years never happened. The relentless blame game on the PDP’s record of corruption and incompetence has been resurrected by the ruling party. None of the two major parties has told us what the issues presently are and how each of them hopes to address them to make this place a happier place instead of the crime scene that it is. They are both behaving as though no new issues and questions have arisen in the last seven years.
In the interim, the nation over which the political contest is about to be waged has degenerated into a veritable crime scene. The usual endless recriminations about endemic corruption continues. The virtual collapse of nearly all institutions of nationhood continues. The abysmal level of governance and the collapse of whatever values there once were continues unabated. The economic conditions of most ordinary people have gone from worse to hopeless. Endemic violence and the prevalence of crimes of social and psychological degeneration continues on a scale hitherto unknown. Between the utterances and conducts of officialdom and the realities of the lives of ordinary people, there seems to be an unbridgeable chasm. The incredible has become commonplace while the horrendous is the new normal. The specific matters of inflation, collapse of basic healthcare, unsafe highways and neighbourhoods, power system collapse, bad schools and decaying courts have not managed to catch the attention of the new wave of political aspirants or manage to infiltrate their rhetoric.
But right from the APC convention ground, the national crime scene was on full display. Incidentally this hellish scene is the decisive canvas for this political succession season. The organisation of the APC convention was a rehearsal in anarchy. The accreditation process took the better of a whole day. Access control into Eagle Square was a display in commotion. Hoodlums competed freely with security agencies for control of the environment. As a result, the access points were effectively breached. Hoodlums and apprentice gangsters took over the seats reserved for delegates well before the accredited delegates arrived the venue. Even the VIP entry points were under the control of these agents from hell. There were more pick-pockets than pockets to pick. And since most of the party posts to be filled by the convention were already predetermined by compulsory ‘consensus’, it did not matter that the voting process at the Convention could not be hindered by the hoodlum takeover. The organised commotion went very ‘well’!
Two days later, a much anticipated World Cup qualifier football match between Ghana and Nigeria took place at Abuja’s Moshood Abiola National Stadium. The match played to an over capacity stadium with literally all government VIPS in attendance. Nigeria lost to the visiting Ghanaian team. All hell broke loose as football fans transformed into a riotous mob of dangerous hoodlums. In the ensuing stampede, at least two Football Association officials were reportedly killed. The mob went ahead to freely vandalise the structures and fittings at the stadium which had been refurbished at a heavy cost by industrialist Aliko Dangote as corporate social responsibility.
The invasion of the APC convention grounds by undesirable elements and the spontaneous mob riots at the Abuja stadium are mere indicators of the collapse of order in the larger society. The political aspirants of this succession season will have to contend with a near total collapse of social order in nearly every part of the country. The real fear going forward is the management of the mobs at the impending political campaign rallies all over the country.
More consequentially, two days after the APC convention, all hell was let loose along the Abuja-Kaduna rail link. A horde of terrorists used IEDs to blow up part of the railroad linking Abuja, the national capital, with the strategic military city of Kaduna. The terrorists, reported to be in their hundreds, vandalized and ransacked the train coaches and carted off a yet unknown number of passengers. Nine of the passengers have so far been confirmed dead while an undetermined number ranging from 50 to 100 have been declared missing. Over 50 persons are lying in hospitals in Kaduna and its environs with varying degrees of injuries.
Shortly after that incident, the terrorists struck another train station along the same route and wreaked havoc on public real estate ad assets. An unconfirmed report a few days afterwards indicated that the terrorists briefly laid siege on the Kaduna-Abuja highways, a favorite operational resort of the terrorists.
In an earlier more daring attack a week before the railroad incident, again hordes of terrorists attacked the Kaduna airport. One person was killed while many were injured. Flight operations at the airport have since been suspended as aircraft on the ground could no longer take off. This was in the same week that most of the nearby state of Niger was literally declared an emergency destination following increased terrorist activities in many local government areas.
Taken together, the incidents along the Kaduna-Niger-Abuja axis indicate a concerted strategic assault on the sovereignty of the nation. Anyone who has studied the methods of organised jihadists in other parts of the world would understand why this axis holds a special attraction for Nigeria’s expanding terrorist jihadists. The ultimate objective may be Abuja, to cut it off from the rest of the militarily strategic surrounding centres and perhaps invade it as the symbol of Nigeria’s sovereignty. If our security chieftains have not yet perceived this strategic intent, then we are all in trouble. A close look at the Taliban’s encirclement of Kabul before he final fall should be instructive to our security and intelligence experts. The same thing happened in Mali in 2013 where the jihadist were marching on Bamako which was halted by the arrival of the French intervention force.
In the immediate aftermath of these dire strategic assaults in an area bordering the national capital, all we have seen of our security chiefs and service chiefs so far is an on the scene pageant of brass, swagger sticks and epaulets. And of course the familiar empty threats of grandiloquent generals whose most illustrious battles are waged in over decorated offices in Abuja. It is quite instructive that while one of the ministers was visiting the location of the recent train terrorist attack, another band of terrorists were reportedly operating nearby, completely indifferent to the nearby presence of government and the state!
In all of this, we are entering a season of political fanfare in a nation that is a virtual crime scene. Our politicians are rehearsing to play politics as usual in a nation hemmed in on all sides by credible threats to national continuation. The very survival of the state is being contested by armed vicious forces of anarchy. Those who derailed the train on Kaduna-Abuja route are not mere bandits looking for loose change. They may make demands for financial ransom but only to swell the coffers of ISWAP to fund the next assault. A stout defense of our national sovereignty is not just about scrambling the jets and indiscriminately bombing rural settlements who have no spokespersons that can demand their human rights in English. The challenge on hand requires rigorous intelligence and precise targeting.
The politics of this national crime scene has defined the calibre of president that this nation now requires. It is the democrat as a fierce and fearless hero with courage and uncompromising nationalistic commitment. The politics of this hour has to convert this crime scene into a place of safety, order and prosperity for all. The politics of this season is not for the infirm or the faint hearted. It is an invitation to genuine and tested heroes.