Femi Aribisala The PDP and the APC have decided to form a grand coalition in order to lay the foundation for the rebirth of Nigeria in this centenary year. The sudden decision to merge the PDP and the APC has caught everyone by surprise. When the announcement first came up last night, I thought it was a big joke. But then I saw it on BBC and CNN and quickly had a rethink. When I also heard it announced by Reuters, I concluded that what we are experiencing in Nigeria is nothing short of a miracle. Just when you think they are going to drag the country into the ditch, Nigerian politicians pull back from the brink and come up with the most unexpected solutions. Same old, same old, Many of us have always maintained that these politicians are all the same. It does not matter what party they belong to, they are the same disreputable lot. SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
That is the reason why they are able to cross-carpet with amazing ease. Take Atiku Abubakar, for example. Yesterday he was PDP; today he is AC. Tomorrow he is PDP again; the day after he is APC. Only God knows what he will be in the future.
Under normal circumstances, if one of the arch-enemies of your party decides to cross over and join you, you would be wise to be suspicious of him. He could very easily be a Trojan horse. He might be joining you in order to gather inside-information about you and hand it over to the other side. Therefore, you might not be inclined to accept him into your ranks. Or if you did, you would make sure he is excluded from the main organs of your party.
Not so in Nigeria. A PDP member joins the APC and he immediately takes over the party’s political machinery in his state; no questions asked. The PDP president decorates APC Buhari with some medal of honour, and Buhari bows and smiles in loving admiration. The irate Obasanjo, who lampooned Goodluck Jonathan in a public letter, comes to Aso Rock to shake hands with the same Goodluck Jonathan. Suddenly, you realise that these people are not just friends pretending to be enemies. As a matter of fact, they may actually be members of the same family. Buhari might actually be a distant cousin of Obasanjo, while Obasanjo might actually be the Jonathan’s uncle on his mother’s side.
This kind of conclusion has been proven right by the announcement that the PDP and the APC have decided to form a grand coalition ostensibly in order to lay the foundation for the rebirth of Nigeria in this centenary year. Who would have thought it? Frankly, there were already some tell-tale signs. The first one was when some PDP Governors who had hitherto excoriated members of the APC, decided to cross over to the APC. The second was when the APC big-wigs went cap-in-hand to invite former President Obasanjo of all people to join their ranks. The third was when members of the APC also started migrating back to the PDP. And now these Tweedledee and Tweedledum parties have decided to merge.
Just listen to these hypocrites. In announcing the merger, President Jonathan said: “This new mega-party shows that the leadership in Nigeria is forward-looking. We are practitioners of politics without bitterness. Nobody can now say we don’t have the interests of the Nigerian people foremost in our hearts.” What poppycock! Even Muhammadu Buhari chipped in with his own white-wash: “Our various followership can see that we are now determined to forge a one Nigeria. One Nigeria united in vision and purpose. One Nigeria that will create a great Nigeria that will be the envy of nations around the world.”
Who is going to believe this kind of pious balderdash? Even former President Obasanjo, at whose residence in Otta the merger was announced after barely three days of intense negotiations, declared: “I am glad to have midwifed this rebirth of Nigeria. It can only be appropriate that as we are celebrating one hundred years of Nigeria’s amalgamation, we begin the next one hundred years with truly a new beginning. All the doubting Thomases should now know that God truly loves Nigeria. Long live one Nigeria!” Long live Nigeria indeed!
What are the implications of this merger for Nigerian politics? Is it not likely to make us into a one-party state? With these monstrous PDP and APC parties now becoming one, will there be any viable opposition now in Nigerian politics? Have we not opted erroneously for the South African one mega-party model which is increasingly proving to be misguided?
I am of the opinion that those who conducted this strange marriage don’t have the interest of Nigerian at heart. They are only interested in ensuring that, whatever happens; the different strands of the Nigerian political class will partake in booty-sharing after the 2015 elections. As a matter of fact, this merger has made the forthcoming elections next year politically irrelevant. Of course, the billion naira question is who will be the presidential candidate of this new mega party?
There is no doubt in my mind that the decision about this must have been made before this merger was announced. Otherwise, the entire project will collapse in the acrimony that will arise if that is to be decided at an open convention. My understanding is that a decision must be been taken to sacrifice the current Vice-President, Namadi Sambo. In short, Buhari will become President Jonathan’s running-mate and thereby he will become a shoo-in as presidential candidate in 2019.
Such a decision will create a number of problems in my view. In 2015, Buhari will be way too old to be an effective president. He is now 71 years old. In 2019, he will be 76 years old. That means, should he be elected and should he contest for a second-term, he would be still be president at the age of 80. That is way too old. The kind of president Nigeria needs in this new dispensation is a man half that age; one that is vibrant and open to new ideas.
The second problem I envisage with this new merger has to do with the presidential aspirations of the Igbo. Any deal they may have come up with must have entailed the sacrifice of the Igbo. Eight years of a Buhari presidency from 2019 means the Igbo will have to wait until 2027 before they can get a realistic shot at the presidency. How can this be acceptable to them? Did they really approve of this merger or are we going to see their imminent withdrawal from the PDP and from this new mega-party? My forecast is that the withdrawal of the Igbo will be in a matter of weeks as opposed to months.
Then there is the question of Bola Tinubu. Was he really part and parcel of this merger? Why was he not present at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding? Why has he not made any statement about it? What is in this new mega PDP/APC party for him? The only benefit I see for him is that he can now be secure in his South-West stronghold. There will now be no PDP candidate fighting to dethrone him in the states he is currently controlling. Beyond that, it means Tinubu is now irrelevant politically. Nobody really needs to bother about him again at the federal level. He has been effectively nullified.
Unending good luck
There can be no doubt that the principal beneficiary of this PDP/APC merger is President Goodluck Jonathan. Contrary to all expectations, it seems the man’s good luck is never-ending. By this merger, he has secured his primary ambition: an easy passage to another four years come 2015. He has made all those who say the country will go up in smoke if he even contests to eat their words. Now his arch-enemies will have to deal with him for five more years. There is no guarantee that the fears of the de-camping nPDP Governors of being handed over to the EFCC will not now come to pass, unless if their non-prosecution is an integral part of the merger deal.
There is also no guarantee for Buhari that the merger will not collapse in 2019, even if at that time he is sitting Vice-President. By agreeing to defer his ambitions for another four years, Buhari is taking a big risk. After four years as Vice-President, will he still be seen as the Teflon anti-corruption crusader he is now touted to be? Will his grassroots talakawa supporters in the North not come to regard him as a sell-out? One thing is for sure: the Buhari who is vice-president in 2019 will not have the same allure as the Buhari of today, even to his die-hard supporters.
In the meantime, there is opposition already emerging against this new PDP/APC merger, although it is not like to amount to much in the context of the next elections in 2015. Former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, a man who is determined to be president of Nigeria at all costs, is already a declared opponent of the merger. As a matter of fact, he has announced that he will be seeking recourse in the courts to declare the merger null and void. Atiku’s position is that the merger is a blatant attempt to truncate democracy in Nigeria. But what is more self-evident is that the merger is yet another nail in the coffin of Atiku’s presidential ambitions.
As can be expected, the APGA and Olu Falae’s newly formed UPN are also implacably opposed to this PDP/APC merger. However, there seems to be nothing they can do about it.
Prognosis: It remains to be seen if this merger will survive until the 2015 elections. A major landmark will be the National Convention at which the new officials of the new mega-party will be announced, and the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the party will be ratified. Then such questions as the role of Bola Tinubu in this new merger will be answered.