OPINION | National Consultative Front and the Emerging Pattern of Politics, Politicking and Politricks

*Author and journalist, Magnus Onyibe
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By Magnus Onyibe
Nothing defines the title of this essay more than the cause and the outcome of the recent ‘internecine’ war in the APC triggered by the struggle for power between a Godfather and his godson in Edo state which has inflicted on the former,  a bloody nose and seared the latter politically.
Whereas it took the former ruling party , PDP now in opposition almost fifteen years before it imploded (1999-2015), it is taking the current ruling party, formerly main opposition party less than six years to reach the milestone of implosion if the recent crisis within the party further degenerates.
Uncannily, history is repeating itself as the remote and immediate causes of the conflicts in both the APC now and PDP in 2014/2015 are self seeking egotistic intentions and inclinations of the leadership.
In the case of the PDP about 7-7 years ago, the party descended into anarchy as the center could no hold longer hold, apologies to Chinua Achebe. The inferno that engulfed the PDP was ignited by a cornucopia of powerful men who had disparate agendas of becoming president but got threatened when then president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan decided to present himself for election for a second term in office in 2015 which was against the spirit and letter of the agreement reached after the sudden passage of President Umar Yar’adua of blessed memory.
It may be recalled that Jonathan , then Vice President was left in the lurch because power had not been
passed over to him by his principal before he passed away.
That lapse created a leadership lacuna which was fortunately cleverly resolved through the now famous Doctrine of Necessity introduced by the National Assembly, NASS.
With the breach of the agreement as reflected by GEJ’s re-election ambition stymying the presidential ambitions of particularly former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and then senate president Bukola Saraki, amongst many others, hell was literarily let loose as the aggrieved members, led by the former Vice President Abubakar staged a walk out of a PDP leader’s conference held  in Yar’adua Centre in Abuja.
Subsequently, the cohort of aggrieved PDP top shorts sired what became nPDP signifying a split within the PDP, the ruling party at that time which justified and legitimized the act of cross carpeting from one party to the other that could have constituted a breach of the law had a split in the party not been established.
As it turned out, the PDP shrugged off the negative effect of the split up by the dissenting high ranking members, evidently to its peril.The assertion above is underscored by the fact that the formation of nPDP and the subsequent berthing of the ship of the dissenters in the camp of the the leading opposition parties that culminated into the formation of Action People’s Congress , APC by four leading opposition parties( ACN, CPC, ANPP as well as part of APGA) ushered in the demise of then ruling PDP.
Although the implosion of then ruling party, PDP appeared inevitable, it could have been reversed through deft political moves , like the one just made by president Buhari to save the APC from imminent disintegration . But the PDP at that time choose to live in denial resulting in its eclipse in 2015 by the APC .
Fast forward from 2015 to
2020 and it would clear to all that the current schism in the ruling party , APC is mimicking what happened to the PDP about 5-6 years ago.
President Muhammadu Buhari, unlike then president Jonathan has risen up to the occasion by dousing the fire that had literarily engulfed the ruling APC via his deft political moves of dissolving the National Working Committee, NWC and National Executive Committee, NEC and setting up a caretaker committee to replace it and with  the mandate to organize a convention in six (6) months.However,  some have referred to mr president’s move as politricks or dirty politics because Victor Giadom who was laying claim to the chairmanship of the party was apparently lured into setting up the meeting and thereafter dumped, as he was reportedly walked out of the meeting after the NWC was dissolved.
Despite all of the above actions so far taken, the tension  in the APC is still far from being resolved, so it is not yet Uhuru in the ruling party.
It is a major characteristic of, and if you like, intrinsic flaw in politics , that most of the leaders like the immediate past chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomole and national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who are still stunned by President Buhari’s masterstroke, but have pledged loyalty to the president would regroup to recover their crown and pride. That’s despite the pronouncements by their supporters that they are sheathing their swords by withdrawing the numerous cases that they had instituted against the APC in court.
And if my knowledge of realpolitik does not fail me, l’m convinced that these notable political gladiators that have been injured and are still feeling giddy from the surprising blows to their political enterprise are only on retreat as opposed to surrendering, totally.
As such, the  outcome of the proposed ruling party’s conference which presumably would be held in December or thereabout, may lead to a few patch ups here and there, but that certainly would not be the end of the furore.
As it is typical of politicians, at the most auspicious time, they would come out of hibernation and show some machismo.
That may be in the eleventh hour when the tenure of president Buhari would be coming to an end and he is transiting into the realm of a lame duck president.
While I don’t lay claim to being like Nostradamus who saw tomorrow , but l foresee the formation of another powerful political party by the aggrieved in the APC in cohort with other politicians from other parties, not necessarily the PDP, but other platforms, before 2023.
In the event that the APC splits up at the cusp of president Buhari’s exit from  Aso rock villa, it would feed into the oft-repeated narrative that the APC was just a political vehicle for president Buhari to fulfill his presidential ambition.
And the best beneficiary of APC’s implosion would have been ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo nurtured, Coalition for Nigeria Movement, CNM which later  morphed into ADC party in 2018 in preparation for the 2019 election.
Unfortunately, after the collapse of the technocrats studded CNM into the fledgling ADC party, it  fizzled out as dramatically as it was birthed.  As such, it  could not gain  a foothold in the 2019 general elections contest as had been hyped and anticipated. Many factors could be advanced for the early demise of the new fangled political platform that was full of promise as it was expected to fill the void of the visionless leadership that its founders ascribed to the ruling and main opposition parties APC and PDP back in 2018.
First of all, the Ralf Nwosu founded ADC which was Pat Utomi’s platform for a presidential run in 2007, was or is still a party driven by technocrats.
Secondly, it lacked the financial muscle and the elaborate political structure to sustain its existence,  how much more gain the required momentum to compete against the former main opposition APC which traded places with the PDP by becoming the ruling party in 2015 while PDP replaced it as as the leading opposition party.
In a manner reminiscent of  the founding of CNM in 2018 on Tuesday July 1, 2020, a new movement National Consultative Forum, NCF comprising of civil society activists,technocrats, academicians, lawyers, labour leaders and an ex military man was announced.
It was a sort of dejavu to me because , most of the actors (Pat Utomi, Oby Ezekwesili, Etal) that were in the- CNM vessel that was envisaged to be a cruise liner but ended up being a dingy boat that two years ago was capsized by minor storms , are the same paddlers of the new political boat.
I intentionally characterized the new vessel as a boat and not a ship because it is yet to demonstrate whether it is capable of withstanding the storms associated with the oceans of politics which only robust and sturdy ships can navigate successfully. Already some of the touted founders such as Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana and Abubakar Dangiwa Umar are distancing themselves from the movement. Your guess is as good as mine as to who next would deny being part of this new fraternity, which may be a child of necessity but whose birth the purported parents are denying. To me listing people who were not consulted as members of a group, smacks of dishonesty and passes off as politricks.
From experience, egg heads and activists such as the members of the current movement like Utomi, Ezekwesili, Jibo Ibrahim, Chidi Odinkalu, lsa Aremu , mailafia Obadiah, shehu Sanni,  Nkoyo Toyo , (the usual suspects)  have never succeeded in making headways in politics in Nigeria simply because they lack the organizational framework to facilitate such elaborate venture.
That perhaps explains why, apart from military men , (as evidenced by ex president  Olusegun Obasanjo, current president Muhammadu Buhari, and former senate president , David Mark) only professional politicians who have been at it continuously have succeeded in politics with money bags as the wind beneath their sail.
One of the plausible reasons for the edge that the military has over the other categories of Nigerians,  especially other professionals is that having ruled Nigeria continuously from 1984 when the last democratic Govt led by Shehu Shehu shagari was toppled via a coup detat, to 1999 when multi party democracy returned to our country, only men in uniform have
occupied public offices long enough to gain national name recognition. To be clear, l have no grudge against the military going into politics. In fact my dad was a soldier, so the military has a special place in my heart.  That’s why l personally feel let down whenever they fail to perform up to the expectations of the Nigerians and worse still, when their leadership decide to clog the growth pipeline by failing to depart from the stage by retiring when their time is up and by so doing stunt the progress of officers below. So much for the Nigerian military.
For any other individual to gain such popularity or notoriety as the case may be, he/she has to continuously be in the political game like Dr Olusola Saraki and chief Anthony Anenih, Adamu Ciroma ( of blessed memories ) who were constantly in politics for about four decades.
In the UK, former prime minister, Winston Churchill was a soldier and so also was Dwight Eisenhower and Theodore Roosevelt in the USA military generals .
According to the USA Department of Veterans Affairs records, out of the 45 presidents of the United States of America, 29 of them had some military background.
Even in the developing economies such as Korea and Pakistan,  some of their presidents were first of all military men, before they became democratic presidents-Park Chung- Lee in Korea and Muhammad Ayub Khan in Pakistan readily come to mind .
So transiting from military to presidency is not an anathema, but intellectuals and activists were not left out of the those that leapfrogged into presidency in the Western and advanced democracies earlier chronicled.
According to records , Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the USA is reputed to be the only president of that country to hold a PhD degree. And the prestigious Harvard University has produced 8 presidents, and they include Barrack Obama, George W Bush, John F Kenedy, and both Roosevelts, Theodore and Franklin. Others are John Adams , John Quincy and Adam Rutherford Hayes.
The likes of Bill Clinton attended Yale university, while Richard Nixon obtained his degree from Duke university both of which are also Ivy League like Harvard .
So far, in Nigeria, the highest level that intellectuals, academicians, labor activists, journalists and clergymen have attained in governance is up to governorship. And these include, professor Ambrose Alli of former Bendel state who was an academician , Alh Lateef Jakande and Aremo Segun Osoba, former journalists who ruled lagos and Ogun states respectively and reverend jolly Nyame of Taraba state, who was a clergyman.
From the medical profession,  comes Dr Bukola Saraki who ruled Kwara state and Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, the immediate past Governor of delta state as well as the current delta state Governor, Dr Arthur Ifeannyi Okowa. Coming in the rear is Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a former labour leader and activist who is the immediate past governor of Edo state.
There have also been professional bankers like Abdulfatah Ahmed in Kwara state, Willie Obiano in Anambra state and Emmanuel Udom in Akwa lbom state.
l’m not unaware that the likes of Alh lbrahim Shekarau, ex Governor of Kano state and prof  Osariemen Osunbor , who was briefly the Governor of edo state, as well as Alh Shehu Shagari, plus Goodluck Jonathan were professional classroom teachers before they mounted the saddles of leadership as governors and presidents.
To be clear, the possession of a university degree is not a guarantee that one would be a good president or leader as evidenced by the 9 presidents who had no university education in the USA and acquitted themselves creditably . Our experience in Nigeria with respect to presidents being well academically grounded, is worse because apart from Goodluck Jonathan, no other president has had a university education before becoming president or head of state, except Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa in the first republic.
It is worthy of note that former  military heads of state, Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo obtained university degrees only after they had completed their tour of duty.
The point being made by dredging up all the facts above is that with other professional having made it to the Governorship level,  they can now be said to have been in the political game long enough to ‘take a shot’ at the presidency of Nigeria. In other words, other professionals in Nigeria have now come of age politically and are therefore setting  their gaze on Aso rock villa as the presiding officer, indicating that they are no longer content with being mere chief  economic and political advisers to the president, chief of staff to the president or permanent secretary in the presidency.
The university dons don’t even want to remain INEC returning officers for elections, courtesy of Abubakar Jega , the immediate past lNEC chairman who during his tenure extended political party elections largesse to his former colleagues in the academia.
The forgoing are some of the reasons,  I’m not ready to write off, (for lack of a better term), the JULY 1 MOVEMENT being spearheaded by a coterie of professionals with a mishmash of egg heads , human rights activists, labour leaders and technocrats, most of whom have tried in the past to clinch the presidency but failed.
In my view, failure is not a death knell in politics. In fact, it can be a building block.
History has taught us that Winston Churchill failed several attempts at becoming prime minster in the UK until he succeeded.
Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria failed three times and only succeeded on his fourth attempt.
Also, let’s not forget that the coalition of political parties against the PDP , when it was the ruling party, failed on many occasions,  before it finally succeeded in 2015.  That happened when all the main regional parties- ACN, APC, ANPP nPDP and most powerful politicians realized that while they were busy engaging in supremacy battle , their common foe , PDP was waxing stronger so they hastily agreed to suspend their respective unique and sometimes conflicting interests and agendas for the sole purpose of making it impossible for the PDP to realize the boast of its former national chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, that the party would rule over Nigeria for at least 60 years.
So Pat Utomi and Oby Ezekwesili are in good company with President Buhari who failed serially before he eventually made a triumphant entry into Aso Rock villa in 2015. Based on experience, a single political party can hardly remove a ruling party in Nigeria from office, but a combination of opposition parties can accomplish the feat as evidenced by APC’s success in supplanting the PDP in 2015 after a coalition of major opposition parties.
One thing that’s certain now is that the time for the real change that our country men and women have been yearning for may be nigh.
But it has to be made clear to NCF that it would take more than rhetorics and grandstanding to make it to Aso rock villa.
My preliminary assessment of the new movement is that they may have robust media presence, excellent vision and intimidating spunk , but they certainly lack the political wherewithal.
Clearly, they are not deep pocketed; and they hardly have the political structure to reach out to the grassroots which is required to clinch the presidency. The presence or absence of those elements can make or mar political ambitions.
Therein lies the dilemma.
Unfortunately, we are not in a society where volunteering is a model in politics that could have reduced the cost of organizing and mobilizing supporters which are critical ingredients in party politics .  At the same time, political funds raising is also not popular here , simply because of income disparity whereby the rich may be a mere 5% of the population with the rest of the 95% mainly in the middle or poor income bracket struggling for the proverbial daily bread. Such people have no money or time to spare. Rather , they are targets for votes purchase by unscrupulous politicians – a phenomenon that former lagos state Governor, now Works and Housing minister, Babatunde Fashola tagged ‘stomach infrastructure’.
What that does to politics and politicking, is that it leaves the field open for money bags to occupy and thus enable them engage in politricks that more often than not manifest as Godfatherism amongst other negative fallouts that have bedeviled many states and currently afflicting Edo state and which is the trigger for the recent firestorm that engulfed the ruling party, APC .
And that is part of the underlying reasons public office holders engage in primitive acquisition of wealth through hook or crook to satiate or free themselves from their godfathers, and have enough skimmed off to feed the next election circle where a candidate for public office would be the source of livelihood for legions of supporters.
In conclusion, heartily, the new political movement is starting early,  so they have enough time to do their homework, such as consulting with those that they want in their cohort before announcing them publicly as members. The NCF or the JULY 1st Movement as l would like to continue to refer to them at this juncture, must get such seemingly innocuous aspects of politicking right before the real horse trading begins. The founders of the novel movement must recognize and internalize the fact that robust organization is very critical  and central to political party formation and operation.
As it now appears, there seems to be a consensus of opinions amongst Nigerians that the ruling party, APC has failed to create an atmosphere of peace, security, safety and stability for our countrymen and women to thrive, and occupy a pride of place in the comity of nations. And by the same token, most Nigerians have also not forgiven the former ruling party, PDP, now the main opposition party, under whose watch the country did not fair so much better, not in terms of security and safety of lives, as is currently the case, but with regards to economic development of our country to full potentials . So a new crop of politicians that would bring a new lease of life to politicking based on sound intellectual and pragmatic understanding of the yearnings of Nigerians, as opposed to the current situation whereby people who lack the ability to comprehend issues, how much more articulate them, dominate the political space, may be the type of politicians that Nigerians would like to elect in 2023.
In the light of the above, cleaning up the proverbial Augean stable may not be in a revolutionary manner, but it could be like in the USA where  ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington which is a euphemism for sweep out the old politicians became the battle cry of president Donald Trump and his surrogates four years ago and it still remains so today.
As the saying goes, nature abhors  vacuum, so the political momentum is now available in Nigeria for any group with spunk to seize.
And the assertion above is underscored by the fact that professional politicians appear to have currently become too battle fatigued and therefore weary,  perhaps owing to a lot of changes that have taken place in the political landscape in the past six years or thereabouts. The emergence of professionals like the NCF on the scene , to seize the space with the intention to quickly transform themselves into professionals in politics should awaken professional politicians who consider themselves to be the Goliath in Nigerian political ecosystem . By now they must be aware that David is lurking behind them.
And what that portends has been very well documented.
*Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former cabinet member of Delta State Govt, sent this piece from Lagos.
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