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Shaka Momodu: Between Cameron and Modu Sheriff

I am tempted to take seriously those who postulate, albeit tongue-in-cheek, that the devil is a black man and more precisely, a Nigerian. Indeed, I am persuaded on this by the very evidence of our daily existence: the hypocrisies, contradictions and paradoxes that define our lives; the intellectual and mental laziness, the short-sightedness, the manifest greed as well as our pursuit of immediate gain and self-glorification rather than enduring legacies. And I have often queried our circumstances in the search for answers as to why we are the way we are.

In this unenviable task of unravelling the central and all-consuming question of our being, I have tried to inquire into the science of it rather than relying on assumptions and presumptions; searched the four corners of the planet earth and travelled deep into the firmament space for meaning and purpose but have come up empty-handed. But every day, the practical realities of our daily existence continue to challenge and dampen my enthusiasm about our humanity and have helped to build a powerful case against the definitive answers science would have provided regarding what is wrong with being black, and more specifically the Nigerian genre of the black race.

It may sound unreasonable to draw direct parallels between race in terms of capacity and achievements, but the evidence all around us is super-compelling. In sterling human achievements, no black nation can be counted. Why is this so? Science is yet to provide answers.

Nigerian public officers and politicians may very well be among the worst in the world. Their pursuit of personal self-enrichment is on a scale that defies any rational explanation. Why do people steal so much from the public purse? Obviously it’s because we love the comfort money brings but dislike the hard work to earn it. We like the easy way out by stealing public money and flaunting it to satisfy our vanities. Even if it jeopardises the future of everyone else, we don’t care because we enjoy the attention and veneration such unearned wealth draws to us.

Just take a look at our politics and politicians, and then you would begin to understand the depth of hopelessness that pervades the land. Apart from their failure to show leadership, they are uninterested in taking responsibility for the poor moral direction of the country. Everything they do or have done is driven by self-interest, nepotism and ethno-religious considerations which have always been counter to the greater interest of Nigeria and her people. It is a shame that our politics is devoid of principle, morality and ideology.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced his resignation after losing the “In” or “Out” of Europe referendum held last week. He vigorously led the “Remain” campaign with every ounce and fibre of his being. But by the time the results started to stream in, it was clear he had lost the all-important battle of his political life. He gambled big to calm his restive party backbenchers and had to fall on his sword. But that is the way of politics. Had he won, it would have solidified his position and put the issue to rest once and for all. I blame him for taking that gamble in the first place, he didn’t need to. But having gambled and lost, he felt his moral authority had been diminished too badly for him to continue in office. And since he believed firmly that Britain was better off in Europe, he could not therefore be the one to lead negotiations to structure and flesh out a new framework on the relationship between the United Kingdom and its European partners going forward.

This was what he said: “I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel – head, heart and soul. I held nothing back, I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union and I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone – not the future of any single politician including myself.

“But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires a fresh leadership to take it in this direction. I will do everything I can as the prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.” Indeed he left everything on the field.

Now contrast his honourable resignation in the face of the people’s rejection of his position to remain in the European Union to the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, Modu Sheriff, who has been roundly rejected by nearly every strata of his party and yet has clung to office. Despite attending and participating in the Port Harcourt convention that elected new party leaders, he has blatantly refused to accept his fate in the larger interest of the party. Instead, he has chosen to continue to cause problems and disaffection amongst party members he was unexpectedly brought in to lead. (Whatever the calculation to bring him in was in the first place remains a mystery to many).

Why can’t he just take the honourable path like Cameron and leave for fresh leaders to steer the affairs of the party in a new direction? Why can’t he say that notwithstanding the reservations he might have had about the process that led to the emergence of the new leaders, the party cannot be allowed to have a “disputed” leadership. And for that he has decided to step aside for the party to focus on providing a robust opposition to the All Progressives Congress (APC) – all this, in the larger interest of the PDP and Nigeria’s democracy.

But not Sheriff, it appears he would rather the roof comes down on everybody than to take the high road in the interest of the party he once led. It is a tragedy of monumental proportions that our politicians value positions more than the honour, dignity, sacrifice and clarity of a statesman. What will Sheriff lose if he subordinates his personal interest to the interest of his party if indeed, he means well? Was he born chairman of the PDP? Does his life depend on being the PDP chairman? It appears more than anything else, the man is interested in the destruction of the party he once had the honour to lead no matter how brief a time that was.

What would he gain if he were to walk away and stop this confusion? Of course honour; and perhaps, an opportunity to reinvent himself. But that is too abstract for people like him who appear more fixated with the immediate and the triumphant futility that comes with it, than any enduring legacy for future generations.

On Monday, it was reported that 24 of the 36 state chairmen of the PDP met with Makarfi in Abuja. They recalled that Sheriff was the national chairman of the party who presided over a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) that authorised the May 21, 2016 national convention of the party held in Port Harcourt. The chairmen said that the convention was conducted in adherence to a court order which barred it from conducting elections into three national offices and therefore, wondered why Sheriff would turn around to dispute the outcome of the convention. “We attended the last NEC meeting which was held on May 17, at which Sheriff himself presided and which approved the last national convention held in Rivers State on May 21. It is noteworthy that there was no court order whatsoever from any court of competent jurisdiction restraining the party’s convention. The tenure of our national officers terminated on May 21, 2016,” the chairman of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter, Yunus Suleiman, was quoted to have admonished Sheriff.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that he has lost the confidence of a great majority of party members and has only a very few greedy followers on his voyage, he has continued to constitute a hindrance to his party, issuing counter-directives and acting in a manner that fuels the suspicion that he is acting a script.

Sheriff has become a sort of metaphor for all that is wrong with our body politic. The greater good means less as long as their personal interests are fulfilled. We routinely see this manifestation in the vicious contest for power by all means and at all cost by all manner of petty crooks with solid backgrounds in thievery that have seized the commanding heights of our politics and now dictate who gets what and how. The result of their brand of selfish politics is what is choking Nigeria to death.
Specifically, in the last electioneering, when the people were offered change, sugar-coated with all manner of promises, they didn’t bother to interrogate the promoters, and the catastrophe of ignoring the danger signals is what we have in our hands today.

When former President Goodluck Jonathan made the now famous telephone call to congratulate the then APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, even before the final tally of the votes, that to me was a seismic change in attitude, nature and texture of political contests from the old order of never accepting defeat by politicians, even when it was obvious that they lost the elections. That phone call saved Nigeria from a political crisis and was supposed to set a new tone for our politics.

Those who appreciated the momentousness of that telephone call hailed it as the birth of a new nation for politicians to build on. Even President Buhari who unfortunately never conceded defeat in previous electoral contests, even when he didn’t have the national spread to win, has repeatedly praised Jonathan’s statesmanship in conceding defeat. The question is: have politicians learnt any lessons from that telephone call Jonathan made to Buhari? The evidence all around us points to the contrary. The struggle for power and the permutations to get it are even more vicious and cold-hearted.

I must say here that winning an election on the mantra of change does not equate the “change” with that change we seek; it’s actually an opportunity to make that change happen. Unfortunately, those old tendencies have since rebounded with do or die politicians doing what they know how to do best: massive rigging of elections while election petitions are dragged through the chain of the judicial system such that we even lose track of the issues, that is, if the elections are not conveniently and mischievously declared as “inconclusive” by INEC..

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who led the Leave campaign and the red-hot favourite to succeed Cameron has announced he would not run for the office of the prime minister. “My role will be to give every possible support to the next conservative administration to make sure that we properly fulfill the mandate of the people that was delivered at the referendum, and to champion the agenda that I believe in, to stick up for the forgotten people of this country,” Johnson said in a speech in which he was widely expected to launch his bid to seek to lead the conservative party which automatically makes him the Prime Minister. Instead, he surprised the world by saying it was not about his ambition but about the interest of Britain.

CNN analyst reported yesterday that his decision was based on the fact that he could not garner enough support from his party to launch a bid, so he pulled out even though he led the campaign that won the referendum. Which Nigerian politician would do that? Certainly not a Sheriff. Even when his party is asking him to go, his hubris is in full season.

Where it to be in Nigeria, all Boris Johnson needed to have done was to move several Ghana-must-go filled with wads of cash around at night. And by day break, endorsements would be pouring in like rain from the sky.

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