Why I Will Still Not Vote ACN

Posted on 21/03/2012



Why I Still Will Not Vote for ACN

Ever since the emergence of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the controlling Nigerian political party, the major opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria,(ACN) has been quick to criticise the policies of the central government. While I believe that the present ruling administration is far from being the best that Nigeria should offer at this point in time, I find it hard to agree that opposition has any better credibility.

A quick delve into the past would further the argument. There is very little difference in ideology or attribute between the current Nigerian parties, even as hard as we have tried in the past to define ideologies. The First republic political structure certainly had its defined borders and principles as the parties simply took the  identities and ideologies of each region. The Northern People’s Party (NPC) represented the interests of the predominantly Hausa/Fulani Northern Region, with hugely Islamic fundamentals, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) – later renamed National Council of Nigerian Citizens, represented the predominantly Igbo Eastern Region, with self-determination and advancement of ethnic interests as its fulcrum, although it had begun with a nationalistic viewpoint and a concerted effort to create a true nationalist party by embracing  different sets of groups from the religious, to tribal and trade groups. The third major party was the Action Group (AG) – a left-leaning party with a liberal progressive platform, which dominated the Yoruba Western Region, and which had a free education policy as major selling point.

The Second republic was even more defined as the six major political parties of that period had differing ideologies. Though the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) was formed to create a national outlook, the exit of Waziri Ibrahim, who had led a splinter group to form the Greater Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), led to an erosion of politics without borders. The party tried to promote social justice and social change as vital ingredients of its mission, but its original intention was to transcend the politics of ethnicity and promote the cause of both the prominent ethnic groups and ethnic minorities. The emergent GNPP’s prominent ideology was based on the updated theme of ‘Politics without bitterness’ – a strange contraption in the Nigerian political context! The Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) was highly regarded as a progressive left of center political party, leaning towards a populist framework. The Nigeria Advance Party was a progressive political party headed by a radical Lagos lawyer. The Unity Party of Nigeria’s fundamentals were based on democratic socialism. The  party’s main difference with its competitors were those ideals of social democracy it was founded on – amongst others, it advocated free education for all and free medical treatment. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) adopted a system of zoning, which reflected on its entire national, political and administrative approach. 

Ibrahim Babangida’s proposed ‘Third Republic’ had two political parties: the center-right National Republican Convention (NRC) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP). SDP was seen as a moderate party with a flavor for young radical intellectuals and socialists. In its manifesto, it called for concerted efforts to improve the people’s welfare and fight for social justice. NRC was organized to cater to the conservative leanings of some Nigerians. Although the IBB contraption laid defined templates, with one party being “a little to the left, the other leaning a little to the right,” not much else differentiated them ideologically. The doomed experiment died a sudden death after the June 12 balloon burst.

Today’s ACN is regarded as a natural successor to the progressive politics more closely associated with Action Group and UPN  in the First and Second Republics respectively. However, criticism of the party’s more pragmatic and less ideological political outlook has often made many argue it is less of a worthy political heir.

The ACN has been unable to successfully defend itself against claims of a lack of internal democracy, especially during its party caucuses. Critics have often accused the party of conducting selections, or better, impositions, as against elections, by enforcing candidates favoured by the party leadership upon the party. Such claims were rampant during the last elections, often leading to bloody rivalries during the party primaries in almost all the ACN state caucuses. One could argue that this is a throwback to the Awolowo era – one of the many arguments against Chief Awolowo’s style of leadership was his polemical nature. Awo would often ignore more credible personalities and support candidature based on allegiance and trust – quite often damning the consequences of his actions. This uncompromising nature of his has often been cited as one of the reasons why Awolowo’s political star shone no further than the Yoruba lands. Such lack of transparency and obvious favouritism of party leadership is the albatross hanging round the necks of today’s ACN leadership. During the last elections there were rampant cases of replacing popular candidates with favoured ones – and even relocating them far away from home turf, or wherever there were envisaged contentious constituencies. Perhaps the most insensitive such case of imposition was that of the current Speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly, who was moved from his home constituency in Epe town and asked to contest a seat from Ikeja!

Then there is the case of corruption. No party is corruption-free in Nigeria. It is endemic in the Nigerian political structure. You may find a non-corrupt individual, but it would be rare to find one not soiled by the system. The corruption within the system grows against the laws of nature – from top down! Nigerian politics is propagated by ‘thuggism’ – permit the coinage just this once. A trip to the motor parks around the major cities would reveal the worst of our so-called grassroots politicking. The transport workers unions – the notorious NURTW have been responsible for some of the worst violence on our streets, with rival political factions, armed to the teeth with all contraptions of warfare all sponsored by the topmost echelon of political parties. Political godfatherism – Nigerian style was transmitted to the international community via Louis Theroux’s BBC TV series, ‘ Welcome to Lagos’ which featured the local union boss, the infamous Mc. Oluomo (Musiliu Akinsanya) blatantly advertising his direct connections to the state party hierarchy – connections which have enabled him and other union chiefs to live a life of lavish, wanton existence. On certain days of the week, passing through the Fadeyi axis of Ikorodu Road can be like passing through a war front, as the local ‘area boys,’ members of rival factions of the party face themselves in gun battles. Often the entire axis of Mushin to Shomolu is a war zone. These battles are funded, either directly or indirectly by the political godfathers – the political godfathers within the Action Congress of Nigeria.

But there is a new disease spreading along the corridors of power within the party. It is called Dynastic tendinitis. Don’t pick up a medical dictionary just yet. I have been patiently waiting for a credible defence from the ACN bigwigsover the grave accusation of establishing lines of succession and creating crown princes and ‘queens.’ Was it in the best interest of party cohesion and national development that Remi Tinubu had to become a Senator? To the best of my knowledge she was making some enviable impact behind the scenes as party matriarch on many social development, woman, child and humanitarian fronts. It is hard to find the impact she is making in Abuja – except, of course enjoying the special ‘benefits,’ salaries and allowances that our legislative members have cunningly ascribed for themselves? Who would have been a more credible representative of youth interests and party sustainability between Jamiu Abiola and Olumide Osoba for an Ogun State House of Representatives seat? The former had rich political pedigree – he had worked ceaselessly for the party while the opposition held fort, and his mother was a martyr for political freedom and democracy. The latter had recently been conscripted into the party. His father had shamefacedly lost the state to that opposition eight years earlier, enabling the state to plunge into the darkness of opposition party dominance.

Much has been said about the capacity of the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola. Far outweighing most of his other achievements is the current status of the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR), estimated to be in the region of 20Billion Naira monthly. What has not been so visibly understood has been the relationship between the IGR, the State government and its tax consultants in the past, Alpha Beta and TAMAC, alleged to have links with the past state chief executive. Both firms have been accused of alleged outrageous lifestyle, squandering tax-payer’s money, double- standard and encouraging multiple taxes in the state. The private revenue/tax consultants were introduced when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was governor of the state. A huge 15 percent of all state internally generated revenue is being creamed off since 1999! A few months ago the Nigerian media carried a report of how a boss of the State Inland Revenue service feted friends and associates to his daughter’s lavish wedding, far, far away, in Dubai! Was this made possible by tax payers funds?

There are many grey areas concerning the Lekki Toll gate issue. Occupy protests engulfed the area late last year as residents picketed against the concessions granted to the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), also believed to be linked to the former governor. What had begun as peaceful protests later generated into violence and unfortunate deaths as hired agents (state-approved thugs – as earlier explained) stormed the crowds with lethal weapons! Lekki is quiet now – tolling is in process, but I’m just wondering if the seeming calm is a storm brewing. Only one toll has been completed, out of an envisaged three along the 49.5km road, of which barely 23km has been completed! The area has a long history of political violence. The Lekki – Epe peninsula has never been kind to the ACN. One would have thought  that this would be the perfect opportunity to heal the wounds of the past. But what am I saying? It is estimated that between the former governor and the present State government, the Lekki toll project could generate an estimated 6 Trillion Naira over the thirty years of current concession!

The Judge Ayo Salami saga again provides many posers. Salami, who headed the Court of Appeal, had in 2010 delivered the epochal judgement that removed the PDP Governors of Osun and Ekiti States by a ruling of the Court. It was the beginning of a stream of events that would lead to his eventual suspension by the Presidency and investigations by the National Judicial Council. (NJC) Those investigations exposed call history allegedly revealing that Salami indeed had phone contact with one of the contesting parties, before, and perhaps during the trials. Unfortunately with Nigerian politics, and law,  it is not so easy to determine the guilty party. Sometimes the accuser may be even more guilty than the accused! In final analysis of the Salami saga – which is yet to be over, as the man is fighting for reinstatement, the justice system is the victim. Once upon a time, it used to be the final arbiter for the common man!

Sadly many times in the course of political performance, the ACN too often allows politicking to take priority over nationalism, patriotism or even statism. I refer you to the famous Ribadu election ‘dump’ which emanated out of the GEJ-BAT Pact on the eve of last year’s Presidential election. Malam Nuhu Ribadu was the Presidential candidate of the ACN. He had been supported by the party up till the moment of the Presidential debates, until suddenly, just prior to the final election he was abandoned mid-stream! Had the party hierarchy signed a secret pact with opposition, while keeping him in the blind? It seemed so – the Presidential jet had made a few round trips the night before! Was money involved? Or immunity from…whatever? It amused me lots as ACN went about complaining bitterly about Ribadu’s recent appointment to head President Goodluck Jonathan’s Oil Revenue Task Force. The party talked about betrayal. Excuse me…? Tit-for-tat seems pretty fair – in my book!

Finally, it is impossible to ignore the unsolved ‘mystery’ of the aura of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Who is this man? What were his beginnings? Is he a descendant of the Tinubu Royal family of Lagos? What is the true link to Iragbiji, in Ekiti State? Or do I taunt the tempest? We must be willing to do that at times, if we must be true to ourselves. The tortoise only makes progress when it exits its shell. It is obvious that Tinubu had a rather traumatic and challenging childhood, but left that behind to excel as a student in America, and in business and politics. The past is done, and dusted,  But there are gaping blanks and missing links in spaces of his biography, blanks that have never been explained. For instance, where was he between 1982 – 1989? Simply because nobody has an answer to that question all sorts of discreditable, even damning postulations have been suggested. A lot of Tinubu’s past is hidden, which is quite unfortunate for one who seeks credibility, trustworthiness and a people’s mandate for the political organisation he leads. 

One should be brave enough to come out in the open, unless one is scared of what might be exposed. He who is scared of himself, cannot lay claim to being our Kratos. The onus has always been on the Action Congress of Nigeria to prove that it is different from the ruling party, which has been severally accused on all fronts. To my mind, if positions were switched, our situation might be no different. Like the late Nigerian politician, Bola Ige once said, “There is very little different between six and a half dozen.”

Posted in: Politics