By Sufuyan Ojeifo
The apology should have strategically come at the point of inauguration of a new government, after it must have successfully defeated President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential election. By that time, the nation must have been ready for the party’s new offerings.
That would have been the best time to advert the attention of Nigerians to those things that might be considered as mistakes during its 16-year rule from 1999 to 2015 and seize the momentum of the celebrations to promise that never again will it repeat such mistakes now that it has been given a second chance to govern the nation.
The apology of March 26, 2018 at a public national discourse on “Contemporary Governance in Nigeria” was an imprudent own goal that has caused it a collateral damage. Reason is that it provided an opportunity for an almost comatose All Progressives Congress (APC), which had lost its momentum in running the opposition’s gauntlet in recent times, to suddenly find its voice.
The APC tried to strike a rhythmical chord, even if tentative, in the haze of its internal contradictions, confusions and crises. Its offering in the circumstance was that Nigerians should not accept PDP’s apology. The APC was trying to appropriate the triumphal edge in a battle in which it has been roundly pummeled.
The PDP publicists, under the command of the veteran journalist-turned-politician, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, have doubled down the party’s publicity machinery in the campaign to deconstruct and pooh-pooh the APC-controlled federal government and President Muhammadu Buhari’s incongruous political and governance philosophies.
They have tackled every misstep and policy inconsistency of the APC government such that the governing party had been largely beaten back in the battle for control of the people’s minds. The apology by the PDP was a breather that the APC capitalised on to forcefully rebound.
And, in rebounding, its usual mantra of “looted public funds by the PDP” was deployed prestissimo for some damaging effects. The APC’s only option was to make a big issue of alleged looting of public treasury that purportedly took place under the PDP-led federal government, superintended by former President, Goodluck Jonathan.
But instead of turning out as the governing party’s joker, the option of deploying the issue of corruption has blown up in its face as counterproductive. The reason is that corruption in public office and criminal looting of the treasury are characteristic of successive administrations. The APC administration, in that circumstance, has been unable to escape essential indictment because of the presence in its fold of allegedly corrupt former public office holders who were hitherto in the PDP.
The APC thus scored an own goal by trying to assail the nation and the world with a catalogue of criminal diversions of public funds allegedly perpetrated by the PDP in the prosecution of the 2015 presidential election. By that strategic blunder, the Buhari administration confirmed the extant prejudice that it has all this while been accused of in the anti-graft war.
Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, in a bid to dismantle PDP’s claim to having been reformed, rebranded and repositioned for 2019 and its generation next agenda, released a one-sided, obviously partial list of Nigerians who allegedly looted the public treasury. The first list of six persons comprised PDP leaders.
The second list of 24 more persons comprised PDP leaders, former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), former ministers, former military chiefs and businessmen who executed one business or the other in the Jonathan administration, even though many of them still have their cases pending in court.
Lai Mohammed, who is a lawyer, shunned the legal restraint of the matters being sub judice by declaring them as looters of public funds. He faces two risks: one is contempt ex facie curiae (contempt outside the court) while the other is civil suit of libel that those whose names had been published when they had not been indicted by any court of law can file against the federal government with Lai Mohammed as co-defendant.
The published list did not include names of indicted looters of public treasury in the APC neither did it include the names of former PDP leaders who plundered public treasury at different times since 1999 till date but who are now sheltered in the APC.
Their identities are well known to the Nigerian public. Nigerians must have been terribly scandalized by the sheer double standards exhibited by the APC government in the attempt to point a finger of guilt at the PDP as being a party of looters whereas the remaining four fingers point back at it.
There is no own goal in a game of football as exemplified by this treasury-looting game that could be more lugubrious than this. The faux pas has caused the Buhari administration a collateral damage. Its so-called integrity has been damaged. The administration has unraveled as tentative and lacking strategic capital to attract and sustain the confidence of a distraught population.
Rather than the cacophonous spat that the PDP’s apology has precipitated, what we should have seen happening really is a season of somberness for the APC to look back and assess its successes and failures ahead of the 2019 general elections. It should have, without the prompting of Nigerians, embarked on an audit of its campaign promises in a bid to account to the Nigerian voters who invested their mandate in its administration.
Since the APC came in the saddle amid the perceived failures of the PDP to provide leadership, it is in its place as the governing party to tackle the problems inherited and not to resort to incessant complaints about the magnitude of the rot that the PDP government left behind. Buhari was elected to perform and not to complain. This is the tragedy of the Buhari administration. It has unraveled as incompetent and ineffective to adopt the essential summation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Its latest frenzy to make political capital out of the incongruous list of corrupt politicians, which tended to portray indicted politicians in its ranks and party as saints and perhaps untouchables, is against the run of morality, fairness and good conscience.
The APC and the Buhari administration are therefore complicit in providing cover to a special breed of public treasury looters whose sins are overlooked in furtherance of some political considerations. This is an own goal by them and Nigerians are laughing at them in derision. Truth!