A serious spectre is hunting Nigerian politics. It is spreading like Harmattan fire. This spectre is pounding, gulping and consuming the remaining soul of the country called Nigeria. It is the political and moral spectre of opportunism and treachery. This spectre of opportunism started its fruition under the presidency of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan. But because of ex-president Jonathan’s government’s aversion to public ethics, this spectre of opportunism was thought to be associated only with his regime. But no less than four weeks into Buhari’s presidency, the spectre has risen from the dead; it has raised its head, it is standing tall, vibrant, resilient, gathering steam, on rampage and spreading fast in strange quarters which you will never have thought would be receptacles to this spectre of opportunism.
This spectre has produced Mr. Olubukola Abubakar Saraki as the Senate President of the Eighth Nigerian Senate. This spectre is also eating deep into the defence of Mr. Saraki’s emergence as Senate President. And this is the moral shock. This spectre has two arguments, which have been used to defend the emergence of Mr. Saraki as the Senate President. One is that it is a master strategy. The second is that it shows and ensures the “independence” of the Senate.
These two arguments show not just a moral impoverishment of our politics, if they were a dominant view among members of Nigerian middle class, it would show that Nigeria is beyond redemption – political, moral, and economic, due to the consuming nature of the spectre of opportunism.
The two premises used to defend the emergence of Saraki as the Senate President are badly damaged and inherently flawed because they fail to connect with the most recent history that produced the race for the Senate presidency. That history is the 2015 elections. And the most important and overarching question in the 2015 elections was the survival of Nigeria or its continued wreckage by the PDP under the superintendence of ex-president Jonathan, Tony Anenih (Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees) and David Mark – the then Senate President.
The most recent electoral history is important to understand this burning spectre of opportunism. Going into the 2015 elections, it was obvious the APC as a collective was looking towards the Eastern part of the country to pick its Senate President. Sadly, APC did not win any senatorial seat in the East. But when APC as a collective was looking towards the East, no one in APC (including our new fans of “independence” of Senate) thought APC as a party was violating “independence” of the Senate in hoping to pre-select its Senate President from the East even before the elections!
Also, before Olubukola Abubakar Saraki emerged as the Senate President, the PDP Senators met and gave themselves three options, including making David Mark contest for the Senate Presidency – to which they finally decided on a joint ticket with Mr. Saraki of APC, which allocated the Deputy president of the Senate to Ike Ekweremadu of PDP.
No one has said the meeting of the PDP Senators – before the Eighth Senate election – which decided on a joint Senate ticket with Olusola Abubakar Saraki, is a violation of the independence of Senators to choose.
In other words, the spectre of opportunism does not see the decision of the PDP joint ticket with Olubukola Abubakar Saraki (a purported member of APC) as a violation of the free will of Senators to elect, but it sees the decision of the APC to present its own candidate as a violation of the independence of the free will of the Senate!
The substance of the spectre of opportunism that is taking hold is very simple. And here it is. No one denies that APC is a coalition of ACN, ANPP, CPC and nPDP. Therefore each of the blocs has the right to share power. That is the nature of bourgeois politics. Bourgeois politics is never about moral principles. It is about what to share. Olubukola Abubakar Saraki is a member of nPDP, therefore he has the right to share.
But the opportunism is that Olubukola Abubakar Saraki is presumably a member of APC. He formed an alliance with PDP (a party he claimed he joined a Change Campaign to oppose) against his “own party” APC in order to become the Senate President. For those who are enamoured with the “independence” of the Senate, they will need to explain how “independence” and the free will of Senators to elect their leaders is consistent with the PDP pre-selection of Saraki as Senate president!
In other words, if the defenders of Saraki claim that APC’s decision to present its own candidate and the legitimate expectation of President Buhari to participate in the decision of his party is a violation of the “independence” of the free will of the Senate, then Olubukola Abubakar Saraki/PDP alliance is a violation of that same free will.
More importantly, one key factor in the wreckage of Nigeria under ex-president Jonathan was a complete failure of public ethics. PDP members such as David Mark (Senate President) Ike Ekweremadu (Depute Senate President), and Senators such as Olubukola Abubakar Saraki facilitated this failure. During the PDP days under these men, the Senate was indistinguishable from the presidency of ex-president Jonathan. And Senators such as David Mark, Ike Ekweremadu and Olubukola Abubakar Saraki made this dependence and lack of distinction possible.
Therefore for anyone to use the correct and legitimate formal criterion of “autonomy” and “independence” of Senate to defend the process of the emergence of Bukola Saraki as Senate president is laughable, comical and self-serving. Why? The process that led to the emergence of Saraki as Senate president was partly facilitated inside the Senate by David Mark, Ike Ekweremadu, PDP, and the same people who violated the principle of the “independence” of the Senate during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.
So, how can the proponents of the subversion of the independence of the Senate during the presidency of ex-president Jonathan be honest proponents of the independence of the Senate? This is why something must be amiss with some members of Nigerian middle class who advance this strange argument and defence of the spectre of opportunism in Nigerian polity today.
Those who use this criterion to defend Saraki exposed themselves poorly because of the consequence of their argument. Given that it was the same people who violated the criterion of “independence” of Senate under ex-president Jonathan who facilitated the emergence of Bukola Saraki as Senate President, the point becomes a moral choice around what we are being “independent” and “autonomous” from and what we morally choose to depend on.
In other words, the facilitators of Bukola Saraki chose to depend on the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan and chose to be “independent” of the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. Presumably, there is nothing wrong with this among people who choose to think and act this way. The minimum required is to admit to this and not pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians.
Given the presumed moral difference between Buhari and Jonathan, this is what betrays the spectre of opportunism among those who are using the correct and legitimate criterion of “independence” of the Senate to whitewash the basic opportunism that led to the emergence of Saraki as Senate president. In other words, for the PDP facilitators of Saraki and Saraki himself it was right for the Senate to be dependent on Jonathan but it is not right for it to be dependent on Buhari!
Saraki’s defenders who talk about “superior strategy” in the process that produced Saraki as Senate president are even in a worse situation than their soul mates who use the criterion of “independence” of the Senate. The “superior strategy” argument forecloses context; it is blind to the serial wreckage of Nigeria by the purveyors of the so-called “superior strategy;” it assumes that the end justifies the means; it is not concerned about substance; finally it does not care if “superior strategy” results in the return of PDP which Nigerians had good reason to send packing just two months earlier!
Some members of the Nigerian middle class carry this spectre to a ridiculous extent by showing a “trophy”, which is how the process that produced Saraki as Senate president allegedly “helped” President Buhari “solve” how to bring in South East elites! By this they meant the PDP/Saraki platform that produced Saraki as Senate president and Ike Ekweremadu (South-East) as deputy Senate president.
While recognising the legitimate moral need to be inclusive geo-politically, let us leave the usual Nigerian ethnic taunting and ask more relevant, serious and sober questions: supposed it is true that a “superior strategy” that made Saraki the Senate president also “helped” President Buhari “solve” the “inclusion” of the South east elites, the critical questions are: is this the type of “inclusion” the South-East elites want and deserve?
When was the “superior strategy” hatched-before the “election” in the Senate or during the ‘election”? Who are the partners to this “superior strategy”? Was it PDP alone? Was it nPDP and PDP? Was it PDP and Saraki? Was it PDP and President Buhari? Was it President Buhari/PDP/nPDP? Was APC part of this “superior strategy”?
How can a strategy that retrieves and strengthens PDP, which Nigerians morally rejected at the polls, be celebrated as “superior strategy?” Is President Buhari part of this “strategy”, such that he is content with strengthening the PDP (a party he fought against for six years) via this “superior strategy”? If so, why call for “Change”? Why waste the time of Nigerians old and young, home and in the Diaspora calling for “Change” only to turn round and go to bed with forces against Change?
It is opportunism of a heinous proportion to sing Change yesterday only to ally today with the forces that fought against Change yesterday and are fighting Change today. This is why I have argued that it is either that Buhari’s Change is empty, a mere tool to grab power for personal and sectional reasons, or it is something we have to re-understand so that each Nigerian begins to make their choices.
The final word is that given Bukola Saraki’s role in Societe Generale Bank for which he is being investigated, a moral burden he is yet to discharge, and which he ought to discharge, the process that produced Bukola Saraki as Senate president is a treacherous reversal of the genuine moral investments of Nigerians, young and old, home and in Diaspora in the Campaign to Change Nigerian political leadership at the executive and legislative levels for the betterment of Nigeria and for public good.
If this persists, down the road, given the mass consumption of the soul of Nigerian politics by the spectre of opportunism, it may be difficult for Nigeria to extricate itself from this.
It may as well be that the moral investments that brought President Buhari to power have been radically compromised beyond redemption. We wait for the future to prove this wrong as Nigerians begin to re-examine issues while reviewing their moral choices.
Adeolu Ademoyo, email@example.com, is of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.