Late last week (Thursday, October 16, 2014), the All Progressives Congress (APC) startled decent Nigerians when its national chairman, Mr. John Odigie-Oyegun, announced that the party put the cost of its expression of interest and nomination forms at the cost of N27.5 million in order “to separate the men from the boys.” Another way of saying this is: ‘to separate the wheat from the chaff!’
This statement which almost immediately reverberated across the nation through various blogs and television screens was widely reported in the papers the next day, Friday, October 17. As I write now (about 48 hours after it echoed in Abuja), neither the APC nor its national chairman has even attempted to “clarify” the very unwholesome assertion or withdraw it in its entirety. This can only mean, therefore, that the party solidly stands by such an outrageous and unsettling statement by its topmost officer. What a sad, tragic development.
Now, to describe a grown man as a “boy” is to dismissively imply that he is immature, inexperienced, inadequate or, worse, irresponsible. And so, going by the statement of the APC chairman, the ability to roll out millions of naira is what qualifies somebody to be a “man” in the party. In other words, even if you are generously endowed with superlative moral, intellectual and managerial abilities, as long as you are not a multi-millionaire or have multi-millionaire friends who can throw the millions on your behalf, you are in the “progressive” thinking of the APC a mere “boy” – immature and irresponsible, and, therefore, not qualified to contest a responsible position on the platform of the party! For a party that has unduly strained itself to persuade Nigerians that it represents a healthy alternative to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), this is indeed a most devastating disclosure and horrendous disappointment! What this, once again, demonstrates very clearly is that whereas the APC has deployed enormous efforts to tell Nigerians how bad the PDP is, it has been most unsuccessful in its attempt to allay growing fears (and conceal the stubbornly reoccurring indications) that it is, perhaps, even worse than the PDP.
The APC chairman made this alarming statement when one of the party’s presidential aspirants, former head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, came to the APC national headquarters in Abuja to collect his expression of intention and nomination forms. The Vanguard of October 17 quoted Oyegun’s statement in full and here is it:
“Let me say that the N27.5m is to separate the men from the boys. It is quite clear. We know you. I don’t expect you have N27m under your bed. But I expected that there are Nigerians who will vouch for you any day and who are ready to stand for you any day and that is the result that we have obtained today.”
Very sad indeed! If the promotion of money over natural endowments and turning its aspirants into helpless hostages to godfathers and moneybags is the kind of “change” the APC is proposing to offer Nigerians, then this country is in deeper trouble than anyone had imagined. What Oyegun was telling Buhari that Thursday afternoon was very clear: there are several moneybags out there who would readily jump at the opportunity to pay this “small change” for you, so just ask, and you would get more eager sponsors (potential godfathers) to last you a lifetime.
And what happens after the elections, assuming Buhari wins? A reenactment of the Ubah/Ngige saga in Awka, or the Adedibu/Ladoja version in Ibadan? Indeed, I would really like to see the term “progressives” completely banned in any discussion of Nigerian politics so as to save it from the egregious devaluation and debasement it has been so horribly subjected to for some time now by those claiming to represent the face of change.
Buhari’s own statement at the event only helped to compound APC’s moral crises and confusion of values. This is what he said as reported in the Vanguard which captioned the story: “Buhari Took Bank Loan To Purchase APC Nomination Form”:
“It’s a pity I couldn’t influence this amount to be put down … I always looked left and right in our meetings but I could not read sympathy, so I kept my trap. But I felt heavily sorry for myself because I don’t want to go and ask somebody to pay for my nomination forms, because I always try to pay myself, at least for the nomination. N27 million is a big sum, thankfully I have personal relationship with the manager of my bank in Kaduna and early this morning, I put an early call (and) I told him that very soon the forms are coming, so, whether I am on red, or green or even black please honour it, otherwise I may lose the nomination.”
Now, Buhari’s supporters in the APC have tried to sell him to Nigerians as a man with sufficient principles and courage to bring about ethical revival in the country. But here is the same man pitiably lamenting his helplessness at the very first opportunity presented to him to authentic the very credentials that have been widely advertised as his greatest selling points. If he could so easily flow with the crowd (in his own party) in a policy he has publicly confessed that he found very objectionable, what is the guarantee that if he becomes Nigeria’s president tomorrow, that he would be able to tame any party bigwig who might want to run foul of the law? Would he be able to contain the habitually troublesome moneybags whom his party chairman is advising him to run to for the bankrolling of his campaign? Wouldn’t he turn to Nigerians again and begin to mournfully lament: “It’s a pity I couldn’t influence this…”
There is also the issue of his discussion with his bank manager in Kaduna. Do the regulations put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to standardize banking operations in the country sanction the kind of transaction Buhari confessed he is having with his bank in Kaduna? What kind of “personal relationship” flourishing between him and this bank manager that could warrant the approval of loans for political activities without collateral? Can Buhari’s presidential run be rightly described as an “investment” except in the thinking of the APC which sees nothing horribly wrong in grossly monetizing its nomination forms and handing them over to the highest bidders? And how does Buhari hope to pay back this loan (and the several others he would take as his campaign progresses) if he wins the presidency? Is it not even unbelievable that Buhari, the man running his campaign almost solely on the note that he would enthrone transparency, due process and zero tolerance for corruption, would seek to exploit some “personal relationship” to subvert banking regulations in order to pay for his party’s nomination forms whose prohibitive cost he finds highly unacceptable?
Indeed, both the CBN and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should show more than a passing interest in this “personal relationship” in Kaduna and how far it has already gone to undermine efforts to standardize operations in our banks. It is also very sad and disappointing that in the whole leadership of the APC, Buhari could not find a single person that sympathized with his position that selling nomination forms for N27.5 in order “to separate the men from the boys” is very outrageous. Indeed, it represents undue, immoral emphasis on money over other edifying attributes that ought to count in decent and redeeming politics.
No doubt, it is another bad day for Nigerian politics. Many Nigerians daily bemoan the continued erosion of core values in our politics, and it is unimaginable that the APC, despite its noisy attempt to cast itself in the mould of a change agent, could be caught so fragrantly championing the same evils whose uprooting it has so loudly claimed as its mission. Of course, no rational being would buy the very naïve, puerile, pedestrian theory being religiously peddled by the APC (through its body language and even utterances) that even if you were the worst devil when you were in the PDP, once you decamp to the APC, you would automatically become a saint, an attainment you would immediately lose once you leave the APC again.
But despite these, the APC is still expecting us to take it seriously. Well, if the party and its presidential aspirant, Buhari, really wish to be taken seriously by Nigerians, they should publicly withdraw those very grievous statements made in Abuja last Thursday and apologise to Nigerians for brazenly and callously dashing whatever bit of expectation they may have succeeded in raising in some quarters by purporting to be something new and different. That is their only path of honour.