Defections And Nigeria’s Jackboot Democracy

Casmir Igbokwe

Tonton Macoute was a terror in Haiti. It was a special operations unit within the Haitian paramilitary force. Created in 1959 by the late dictator, Francois Papa Doc Duvalier, the Tontons Macoutes committed human rights abuses and suppressed political opposition. They not only attacked political opponents of Papa Doc Duvalier, they also became notorious for corruption, extortion and murder. In 1961, the group massively rigged election for Duvalier. In 1964, they appeared in great force again and helped him rig a referendum that declared him President for life.

The Nigerian police appear to be gradually turning into Tontons Macoutes. Early morning of last Tuesday, they made themselves unwanted guests at the residences of the Senate President Bukola Saraki and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu. They gave flimsy reasons, but it was apparent that they wanted to scuttle the defections of some senators and members of the House of Representatives from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

READ ALSO: The inside story of siege to Saraki’s, Ekweremadu’s residences

But Saraki is a smart politician. While the police blocked his gate and waited to effect their sinister motives, he miraculously found his way to the National Assembly, where he presided over the plenary that day.

What followed was an announcement of a gale of defections from the APC to the PDP. The affected persons were about 15 APC senators and 37 House members. Two of the defectors reportedly went back to the APC. Remember that Senator Dino Melaye had comically composed a song deriding the APC and wondering when he shall see his PDP again. You can blame the man for his uncouth behaviour sometimes, but he also went through hell in the hands of the police.

Recall that this same police took some untoward actions at the recently held governorship poll in Ekiti State. The Federal Government had deployed about 30,000 of them. But rather than maintain absolute neutrality to ensure a free and peaceful election, the security agents showed some bias in their conduct. For instance, they allowed a seamless campaign rally for the APC but tried to scuttle a similar one by the PDP. Along the line, the outgoing governor of the state, Ayo Fayose, cried and claimed that they manhandled him.

Democracy is a game of numbers, not rigging. It is a game of free choice, not coercion. It is a game of negotiations or horse-trading, not brute force. And it is a game of the people, by the people and for the people; not a game of the security agents manipulated by the government for the powers that be.

On the defections, the ruling party tried to give the impression that all was well. It consoled itself by saying it still retained the majority in the National Assembly. President Muhammadu Buhari also wished the defectors well. He expressed commitment to the values of democracy and freedom of choice. He was also said to be totally willing to work with all members of the National Assembly, irrespective of party affiliation in the interest of the nation. I hope the President maintains this stand.

Nevertheless, for the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, the defectors were mercenaries and could very well go hang. As he put it, “If the only motivation is personal interest, what is in it for me, how many people have done xyz for; if that is the basis, the earlier those in this business of personal gains, the earlier they return to where they belong, the better … but let me assure you, I am so happy that, over time, water will find its level.”

The APC should watch it because it appears to be losing it. While the PDP continues to make deft moves to woo more people to its fold, the leadership of the APC has continued to talk tough. The other day, Oshiomhole threatened to suspend the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, from the party, if he failed to inaugurate the board members of federal agencies and parastatals under his ministry within one week. Ngige has since explained why he would not obey Oshiomhole. He also expressed disbelief that such a threat could emanate from the APC’s comrade chairman.

READ ALSO: Ngige dares Oshiomhole: I’m not afraid of expulsion

It was this same haughty posture that caused the PDP its leadership position in 2015. The party once boasted that it would rule for 60 years. It bothered little about the complaints and discontentment among its members and the general populace. Even when some political parties merged to form the APC, the PDP thought it was inconsequential. And when a splinter group called the New PDP (N-PDP) emerged, the PDP waved it aside. Elections came and the ruling party suddenly became the opposition party. Such is the beauty of democracy.

A similar scenario is playing out again. The APC now has a splinter group called Reformed APC (R-APC). Buba Galadima is the national chairman. Recently, this R-APC formed an alliance with the PDP and some 37 other political parties to wrest power from the APC in 2019. Part of their pledge is to put a stop to the dictatorial tendencies of the present administration.

As the PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus, put it, members of the opposition were ready to be arrested, intimidated and killed.

“Just last week, the APC conquest regime came up with Executive Order, which all political watchers, including civil society groups, liken to Decree 2 of the military era. We know why they are doing this on the eve of a general election because they know the people have turned their back on them, but they want to retain power at all costs including cowing us down,” Secondus said.

READ ALSO: 2019: Nigerians looking unto PDP –Secondus

The PDP is not a saint though. The difference between the party and the APC is like the difference between six and half a dozen. The same characters are the ones migrating from PDP to N-PDP and APC, from APC to R-APC and back to PDP. There is no ideology, no concrete plans for the citizenry and no shame. All they are after is mainly to grab political power and use it to siphon our resources.

To present a facade of holiness, the PDP reportedly contemplates changing its name. But no matter how hard you bathe a pig, it will remain a pig.

Whether they go by the name APC, or PDP, or SDP, or Reformed All Progressives Confraternity, Nigerians want good governance. They want accountability.

They want a peaceful country devoid of the killings they presently witness almost on a daily basis. They want reforms or restructuring, not selfish defections.

Above all, Nigerians desire a country where the rule of law prevails. If a court gives orders that a Dasuki should be released from detention, he should be released. If anybody kills his fellow citizen, justice should take its course. If for any reason you want to arrest a Senate President or anybody for that matter, go with a warrant of arrest. And if anybody expresses a contrary political opinion, they should not receive any Tonton Macoute treatment.


Re: Is Adeosun still Nigeria’s finance minister?

Thanks, for your write-up in today’s Sun Newspaper: “Is Adeosun still Nigeria’s finance minister?” Truth shall prevail. God bless you for saying the truth. Best regards.

– Chris, +2348036348333

Casmir, you were not at your best today in the views you expressed in your column. For your information, some legal infractions can be overlooked given certain situations particularly when that infraction has not done any harm to anybody. Are you aware that violation of traffic rules is a crime and some of them even on conviction are not capable of denying the culprit a public office, e.g. driving without a fire extinguisher, caution sign, spare tyre, etc. It is only the person who is affected by law that can apply for exemption. So, Adeosun was within her right to seek an exemption. The only issue in her case is whether she was granted such exemption. She will only have a case to answer if the exemption certificate she has is a forgery. However, participation in the NYSC programme does not play a role and has not done so in the screening of ministerial nominees by the Senate. Please, note that Anambra State was far from being an Eldorado during the time of Peter Obi. Thanks!

– Anonymous, +2348033072852

Is it now that groups know that minister for finance didn’t serve or has fake certificate? After all, she was commissioner for finance in Ogun State before; why didn’t this issue come up then? I believe it is distraction from some groups to stop her from performing her duty.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535


Re: Like Fayose, Nigeria’s democracy has serious neck pains

I like Peter Ayodele Fayose as a fearless and radical governor who was able to confront the Buhari-led APC government for their aberrations. Nevertheless, his democracy was bound to have pain in the neck thereby leading to rejection of PDP in Ekiti State because he owed civil servants, unlike his Anambra State counterpart who was re-elected on the ground that he did not owe salary and will not owe. This has already earned him the sobriquet “Alert Governor.”

– Chinedu Ekwuno (JP), +2348063730644

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, July 30, 2018

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