By Dapo Thomas
It is very unlikely that President Goodluck Jonathan would ever forgive Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his rascally joke that has unexpectedly snowballed into a revolution. Tinubu, a consummate political experimentalist and a practical politician of strategic and ubiquitous relevance, was the one that mooted the idea of a merger with Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Ogbonnaya Onu’s All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP): a marginal portion of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, was also accommodated in the merger.
Prior to the merger, Tinubu, an initiate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and some members of the Party abandoned the AD to form the Action Congress (AC). The formation of Action congress was compelled by some political tendencies of ethnic dimensions which obviated the relevance of AD in national political configuration. Also, the bifurcation of Afenifere into different blocs by individuals whose interests and agendas were no longer in tandem with the larger Yoruba national project, made the birth of the Action Congress a pacifying necessity. Moved again by the desire to upgrade the status of the Action Congress from its perceived identity as a Yoruba party, Tinubu and his group changed Action Congress (AC) to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN ). This new name ‘tushed’ the Party beyond the ethnic frontiers with people from other geo-political zones scrambling for the membership of the Party now that it had a national outlook. Still feeling constrained by its weak membership strength and its incapability to solely raise a formidable opposition against the maladministration and the atrocities of the ruling Party, the ACN leadership resumed their merger talks which were suspended before the 2011 elections with CPC, ANPP, APGA and others.
To the chagrin of the PDP and those who never wanted the merger to succeed, the APC pursued its merger talks conducted its primaries and concluded the selection of its Vice Presidential candidate with political maturity, spiritual discipline, patriotic and selfless zeal. Everything went perfectly well as if it was a marriage that had been made in heaven.
Like all revolutions all over the world, the “broom or ‘change’ revolution” was treated with levity, contempt, derision and mockery by the ruling party while it was incubating because it thought that the initiators of the revolution would never be able to align their differences and political aspirations.
The peak of the mockery was when a top member of the ruling party described Tinubu and his people as “jobless fellows who found passion in street-sweeping”. This sarcastic comment was made when the APC national leader led some members of the Party to go and sweep “away” the corrupting and contagious infection the President and his men brought from Abuja to Lagos when they invaded the state for a political rally. The paradox today is that that sarcasm has become the underlay for the present whirlwind blowing across the nation. It has also become a metaphor for an overhauling change in the nation’s polity. One of the President’s men authorized the public to call him a “bastard” if the merger ever worked. But what could have pushed a man to auction his paternity in the public in defence of things sojourning in the realm of the ethereal…”?
The actions and statements of these rogue aides illustrate one thing: those who occupy the position of authority are always contemptuous of the poor believing, wrongly of course, that they (the poor) are inconsequential in the game of power forgetting, however, that the collective lack of the so-called poor people is a potent venom to sting those who oppress them in the name of power. The anger of the poor against their oppressive leaders and rulers, while incubating, always seems like a joke to the rulers and their collaborative agents. But history is replete with revolutions that started as a street protest over what was considered insignificant. Men who are conversant with their history should not pray to experience the wrath of hungry humanity.
One example of monumental impact on the world will be sufficient for those who are ignorant of history or those who seem to have forgotten their history. The Arab Revolution, popularly known as “Arab Spring”, was triggered by just a street incident in Tunisia. A man, though equipped with a baccalaureate, had found no other means to support his widowed mother and seven siblings than to hawk vegetables on a cart. When a policewoman checked Mohammad Bouazizi’s papers one day and found he had no ‘licence’, she slapped him in the face, insulted his dead father and shut down his trade. Although accounts of the encounter with the policewoman have been disputed, it is confirmed that he appealed to the governor’s office for redress, and was rudely rebuffed. He doused himself with petrol, set himself on fire and died of his burns 18 days later. What might be misconstrued as the gesture of a desperate individual was in reality a tragic event epitomizing the plight of an entire nation. It was the act of a man who decided to sacrifice himself to send a message to the powers that be that, to preserve his dignity as a human being, he would rather die than submit to such arbitrary humiliation. Although President Ben Ali visited the man in the hospital, no such paternalistic gesture could stem the outrage of the population (courtesy, Madmen At The Helm, Muriel Mirak – Weissbach).
In an ironic twist of fate, the first casualty of the ‘Change Revolution’ was the Ruling Party itself, the PDP. As a result of internal squabbles which were mismanaged, five of the Party’s governors namely Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers State), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto State), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa State), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) defected to the All Progressives Congress along with Senator Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Kawu Baraje. They were later joined by the former Secretary of the PDP, Olagunsoye Oyinlola after some months.
The lack of vision and character which afflicted the Jonathan government also manifested in the crisis that quaked the PDP. Which organised and responsible Ruling Party will allow the defection of five of its governors to the opposition? To be the Ruling Party is a privilege and not a licence for depravity and recklessness. It is obvious that most of the problems and insecurity confronting the PDP today were the aftermath of the departure of these five governors who were in firm control of their states.
Judging from the way the PDP was handling its affairs and the government of the nation, it was obvious that it got carried away by the incumbency mentality which did not afford it the opportunity to embrace reality. Those who stay in the house of power enjoy an ironic immunity from reality. The reality was that the PDP by its actions or inaction, was stoking a revolution that the APC was secretly cooking. Assisted by Jonathan’s non-performance and cluelessness, the APC ‘Change Revolution’ began to blow across the nation like a wild flu that nobody can from escape.
I have discovered in history that the most lethal revolutions are the ones that are stoked by misrule. A revolution fuelled by high poverty and unemployment rates is like a consuming fire. It burns with visible ferocity, all those who attempt to quench it or stop its escalation. In most cases, it even consumes its architects. The only difference is that the architects of any revolution have impliedly offered themselves as sacrifice for the survival of the nation. Those who suffer most are the ones in power who are deluded by the large number of armoured tanks that provide a hedge of false immortality around them. A consuming fire is superior to the mortality of any military power.
Targets of revolution hardly survive the raging torrents that come with it. And the few that may possibly survive will ultimately come to prefer death to shame because their rule always ends in ruins. Let those who are beating the drums of war remember that nobody enjoys stolen money in moments of anarchy. Elections are meant for only the living souls with hopes and aspirations, therefore, let the war mongers know that hopes and aspirations cannot be fulfilled in the graves.
The APC ‘Change’ slogan does not seem to me like a call for violence or bloodshed. It is simply a clarion call to all those who desire progress and development for this nation to mobilize themselves for an overwhelming national revival if this nation must be saved from the hands of the “fisherman” in power. Or what do you call ichthyologist? Please pardon my ignorance, nay, innuendo.
*Dr Thomas teaches History at the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojoo