Two controversial issues that had dominated the political space in the past two weeks border on the travails of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, in the hands of the Department Of State Services (DSS) and the search of the aircraft of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, by security operatives. These two episodes generated storms, albeit in different ways.
First was the detention of Oshiomhole; news filtered in that the APC national chairman was detained and interrogated by the DSS on the party primaries. Most Nigerians, tried as much as possible to fathom the essence of DSS’ involvement in the primaries of a political party. While the grilling drama lasted, puzzling questions begged for answers on the lips of keen watchers: does the DSS have the right to investigate whether bribe was given to or taken from a chairman of a party? Bribery may be a corrupt practice but how does it constitute a threat to national security to the point that DSS would be involved in the manner they acted?
Even if it was actually confirmed that the party chairman took bribe to clear some candidates, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Police should have been in a better position to investigate such financial crimes. As usual, when the story broke out that Oshiomhole was detained and after he was released he hurriedly left the country immediately he was left off the hook, funny memes and sarcastic phrases flooded the social media. A particular one mimicked God calling Adam in the Garden of Eden after he had eaten the forbidden fruit: “Adam(s), Adam(s), where art thou?” Safe for the letter S added at the end of the first name of the APC national chairman, he shares the same name with the biblical first man created by God.
Insinuations were rife that the APC chairman had fled the country after being harassed and forced to resign by the DSS. But with all the rumours, one had to ponder how possible it would be for the DSS to detain the chairman of the ruling party without clearance from the president even though it is known that President Muhammadu Buhari hardly interferes in the workings of the security agencies. Could this be why some of them have turned to ‘feudal lords’? It was this arbitrariness on the part of the security agencies that led the DSS operatives to break into judges’ homes as well as play the role they did in the Ill-fated invasion of the National Assembly.
Imagine what would have happened if the DSS had arrested and detained the chairman of the opposition PDP, Uche Secondus for 10 hours. The political temperature in the country would have hit astronomical heights. The PDP and armchair critics would have issued a statement alleging that the nation’s democracy was under threat. The narrative would have been that Buhari is taking the country back to the dark era of military dictatorship.
Most of them would have raised the alarm and alerted the international community and called on the United States, UN, EU and UK to save Nigeria’s democracy. Middle Belt and Southern leaders would have issued a statement warning Buhari not to take the country back to 1983. But all these kinds of statements didn’t play up when Oshiomhole was said to have been detained for over 12 hours by the DSS. In fact, the PDP took tomfoolery to ridiculous heights by asking the Interpol to track and arrest Oshiomhole in London. The opposition party forgot that the stick used to beat the first wife is still around for the second wife.
Just as the Oshiomhole bribery and arrest saga were simmering down, the search of Atiku Abubakar’s private plane by security agents took centre stage as if it was waiting in the wings. In Nigeria, we all know that overzealousness is the second nature of our security agents, especially when the case is against perceived enemies of the government of the day or political opponents.
But again, the question that popped up in this episode was simple: is the former vice president immune to search by security agents at airports? As analysts and commentators, journalists should also be careful not to fall prey to politicians who are hell bent on maximising any small opportunity to score cheap political points. The barrage of attacks and criticisms that trailed the security checks on Atiku sounded suspicious to most Nigerians. The opposition came out in full force to condemn the raid. The one that caught public attention was the statement issued by one Timi Frank, former APC deputy spokesman, in which he alleged that the plan by the federal government was to also drop bags of foreign currencies and other implicating items in Atiku’s aircraft. He claimed that the special squad of security men who carried out the search confessed that they were directed by the presidency to embarrass the former vice president.It would have been funny if it were not tragic. Paul Josef Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 would be turning in his grave by now at this amateurish and sloppy attempt at propaganda. At least political propaganda should be made of sterner stuff.
Not a few Nigerians have been advocating for issue-based campaign ahead of the 2019 elections. But that seems to be a tall order for most of our politicians who suffer from intellectual vacuity. Our politicians should for once base their campaigns on constructive issues ahead of the elections. We would like to see them debate on how they intend to solve the perennial power problem in the country, how they plan to block leakages so that there will be less money to steal, and how they are going to have a leaner and efficient civil service.
Candidates of the various political parties should reel out their blueprint on how to create jobs and provide an enabling environment for both local and foreign investors. They should tell us how they are going to address the issue of the rising number of out-of-school children in the country, which had risen to 13 million in the last three years. The candidates should dwell on policies that would enable them wean our overdependence on oil and the realistic steps they wish to take in revamping the economy. We all know Nigeria cannot turn to a developed nation overnight but we need to start seeing positive steps in the right direction. These are the issues that should dominate the 2019 campaigns.