We had assumed that we knew the Peoples Democratic Party. We knew the party’s trivia. We knew its humble beginnings. It was a spin-off of G-34. We knew its logo. The tricolor umbrella. We knew its command center. Wadata Plaza. We knew the genealogy of her chairmen. ( Solomon begat Audu, Audu begat Barnabas, Barnabas begat Ahmadu, Ahmdau begat Vincent, Vincent begat Okwesilieze, Okwesilieze begat Bello, Bello begat Bamanga and Bamanga begat Adamu.) We knew her decapitation curse. We knew her motto. Power to the People.
But the leader of the party, President Goodluck Jonathan, rid us of our delusion. He said PDP was not a political party. PDP was a less serious concern than that. The party was a culinary party. The raison d’être of the party was to be a society for eating and drinking.
At the presentation of the F-grade report of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organization, President Jonathan remarked, ’’ I encourage members of the party not to become disillusioned because we lost the presidential election and decide to go where they will fill their stomachs or something. It’s not easy. I have been here for five years plus, you hardly satisfy even 15 percent of those who work for you.
‘’Those people running and those already cross-carpeting, they will come back on an empty stomach because they will touch the primary members of their party, before they get to you. They know you are hungry: Before it will get to you, the food will be gone.’’
This revelation of PDP as a gastronomic cult cracks the riddle. It helps explains why the party’s sixteen year-long is a paradox of greater national wealth producing increased citizen misery. A cell of cannibals was feeding off their countrymen.
In retrospect, the motto of the PDP was a sham. Power to The People was not the capsule of the directional principle of the party. That’s why the party mouthed it for nearly two decades but did not deliver it. Billions of dollars were poured into some black holes in the name of power. But thicker darkness prevail across Nigeria today than when PDP began promising ‘’power to the people.’’ They say the witches are to blame.
PDP, the culinary party, would have continued the pretension to conducting governance had the voters decided not to cut the reel. They would have carried on the despoilment of the land, like a plague of Egyptian locusts, if the electorate had acquiesced to the party’s scheme to hold power for sixty years. And the reason why they consume anything in sight would have remained a secret cult’s secret.
The party has been hemorrhaging since the electorate voted it into relegation. Jonathan, the incumbent who lost PDP the Presidency, felt responsible for persuading remnants of the membership not to join the exodus. And the most effective way to keep the would-be defectors was to paralyze them with the imagery of kwashiorkor outside the fold.
If they emigrated because of hunger, Jonathan warned, in Lagbajaspeak, there would be ‘’nothing for you’’. They would return worse off. They would come back leaner and more malnourished. Because the rule in Mama Put’s roadside eatery also applies to any respectable party: Service is on a first come, first served basis.
The game plan is convince the already hungry that there is worse hunger elsewhere and they will become virtual hostages. They will not venture out to try their luck. They will endure until whatever election year the PDP regains the reins of power.
The funny thing is Jonathan addressed the wrong audience. People don’t listen when they are famished. Starving folks can’t stomach a sermon on longsuffering. A sad confirmation is the tryst of hunger and mass suicide called the Mediterranean Sea. A shipload of Africans, Nigerians inclusive, drowns there in a tragedy of countless rewinds. The new batch of migrants draws odd incentive from the report of the obliteration of their last forerunners: Their desperate resolve is ‘’if I perish, I perish’’.
The truth, however, is that the hunger President Jonathan alluded to was not mundane hunger. It’s not the hunger that takes the appeasement of three square meals. It’s not the hunger of the commoner. He spoke to the hunger of the privileged.
Governor Godswill Akpabio illustrated this premium hunger last year. When an assembly of Chairmen of South South PDP states complained that they were hungry, Akpabio showed five-star compassion. He responded, ‘‘my brother, Governor Uduaghan, said our members are hungry and that we must put food in their stomachs so that they will not stray to other parties. I am giving all the state chairmen of the party 1 million each for lunch. Our members must not be hungry.’’
The lunch eaters didn’t ask why they were given so much for lunch. They didn’t ask whether the donation made Akwa Ibom treasury or the cheerful giver poorer. They didn’t bother to ask. They believed they were entitled to such stupendous meal tickets. When a PDP man confesses hunger, it is his right to be fed the monetary weight of an adult elephant.
Apparently, all hungers are not equal. Hunger has rankings. The hunger of a PDP member takes more food to satisfy than the hunger of a commoner. One instance of a PDP man’s lunch will pay the Nigerian minimum wage for four and half years. That’s why President Jonathan couldn’t feed more than 15 percent of his aides.
Another pointer to the party as a hedonist enterprise is the annual geometric increase in the food budget of the Presidency. This year, gluttony was allocated 17.6 million naira.
Now the culinary party is over. Or as Senate President David Mark says, PDP is ‘’ in comatose situation’’. APC is the new ruling party. Will APC be any different from a club of feasters? Will it be a decent political party?
A party has to be about a vision of the country. It has to derive its being from a noble persuasion to better the country and her people by the pursuit of a set of agenda. If it’s the lengthened shadow of one man or the confluence of ambitions ranged against another party, it is a fraud. And like all frauds, it would someday the day the victim awakes.
Most APC supporters admit that their celebration of Buhari’s game-changing win was tempered by the fear that the new ruling party may turn out PDP’s alter ego. APC owes a significant part of its population strength to former PDP diehards. Some of APC’s biggest promoters match PDP’s sponsors in corruption notoriety. APC has no proper ideological individuality that makes confounding it with any other party impossible. Its foremost challenge is define itself in sharp contrast to the party it just supplanted.
APC’s messaging machinery has been drumming that the party predicated its ability to deliver CHANGE on inheriting a treasury running over with money. The party and President-elect Buhari had a strategy for confronting the Gowon dilemma of sitting atop too much money and not knowing how to spend it. But Buhari has hard luck. He would inherit empty coffers. The bus conductor receives a big sum before he is obligated to give you some change. The job of a President is more complicated than that of a bus conductor. So Buhari is acquitted of his campaign promises.
This offers a range of tenable readings: The winners regret their victory because there are no spoils. This is an appeal to be relieved of expectations raised by sugar-coated manifestoes. This is APC and Buhari’s advance alibi for failure. This is laziness dreading a fraction of its job description.
Last week Chairman of APC Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha, led his brother governors to a courtesy call on Buhari. And it was a shameful outing. Okorocha pleaded on ‘’behalf of his colleagues’’ for a bail out for the states. The states are bankrupt. They can’t pay meet their recurrent obligations. They borrow to pay salaries.
Taken together, APC is sending a disheartening signal. They seem intent to convey that lethargy has preceded the resumption of work. The party’s agents want an easy yoke and a light burden. They labored to win elective office in order to procure an eternal Sabbath. They don’t want to break a sweat. They just want to sit back and disburse readymade riches.
But we are in the last days of the oil era. There will be less and less petrodollars to share. APC’s task is to create wealth, to explore innovative ways of harnessing the abundant resources of the country.
APC’s stalwarts cannot distinguish the party by adopting a consumption posture. They can’t plead surrender because the situation demands resourcefulness. What they were elected to do is a job. They will have to earn their keep. They have to bring something to the table.
PDP was about tending the bellies of its upper echelon. APC must be a different ruling party. Or we would have effected the proverbial change of trading a dog for a monkey, another sitter animal.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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