By Dele Sobowale

“Hypocrisy is the homage paid by vice to virtue.”—De La Rochefoucauld, 1613-1680

Irrespective of who wins the Presidential election next month, as long as it is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, or the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Nigerians are in deep trouble. President Buhari, the incumbent and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, the challenger, have both fallen for the temptation to offer personal insults, fake news, defamation and a great deal of malarkey instead of elevating ideas to Nigerians. Altogether, they have not only insulted the electorate; they have diminished themselves as leaders. Nigerians who for long have complained that this country’s progress had been retarded on account of deficit of leadership should not expect that deficiency to be reduced after voting in February. On the contrary, our leadership gap will most likely widen. Nigeria, already the poverty capital of the world, with 87 millions already living below the poverty line and adding five millions more each year is set to add another five million in 2019 to the number. By December 31, 2019, ten more million Nigerians will become economically destitute. That is the stark reality facing us.

In any other democratic nation, the fact that by the end of a particular year will become basket cases, mostly jobless and idle, would have been the top priority concern of the Presidential candidates of organisations which qualify to be called political parties. Unfortunately, Buhari of the APC and Atiku of the PDP lead gangs of people, that neither of them has adequately addressed this tragedy in their campaign speeches nationwide. Neither Buhari who should be a statesman, nor Atiku, who should provide the viable alternative has risen above the low level of the mobs constituting their political organisation. One day, almost typical of other days, yielded the following from the media – none of it can be regarded as fake news by even Lai Mohammed.

“Tinubu, Oshiomole, Amaechi hit Obasanjo for attacking Buhari” was one common offering. “Opposition mobilising bandits to derail polls, create interim govt – FG; FG’s allegations irresponsible, ludicrous –PDP.” “Don’t return treasury looters to power – Osinbajo.” “APC leaders are liars – Atiku.” Reading through that list of headlines and the stories which followed each of them, any right thinking voter should ask the most obvious question: does any of these solve the problems of increasing poverty, rising youth unemployment; pervasive insecurity and a permanently sluggish economy which seems to be unresponsive to the Federal Government’s economic measures which are frequently wrong-headed and unproductive.

“In every country, there is a class of people profoundly dangerous to the rest. I don’t mean the criminals. For them we have punitive sanctions. I mean the leaders. Invariably, the most dangerous people seek power.” Saul Bello in VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ,  p 124.

For the present set of political leaders, in the APC and PDP, despite their apparent differences, are united by hypocrisy. Permit me to respect protocol by starting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s statement about returning treasury looters. The VP must either be ignorant or deliberately evasive. The APC is already a nest of looters. Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, recently disclosed that PDP leaders had looted the nation for sixteen years. The Minister, now in APC, must have forgotten that he was in the PDP for fourteen years. Objective observers must ask him how much he looted when in PDP.  Senator Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom State, was in the PDP until 2018. How much did he steal? Governor El-Rufai was Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, and under him, the NITEL which had delivered N1 billion to the public purse suddenly was in the red to the tune of N50 billion.  (see: PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED). Senator Dariye and Reverend Nyame were jailed recently – both were PDP governors who picked up the APC card. They were received with open arms. Is Ganduje, with the mountain of evidence against him, no longer in APC?

Alhaji Atiku, the PDP presidential candidate, was a big financier of Buhari’s campaign in 2015. From highly reliable sources, he donated at least $2 million to the Buhari/Osinbajo campaign. Two facts about the Atiku contribution to APC in 2014-5 demonstrate the abiding falsity of Osinbajo’s statement. First, nobody called him “corrupt” and his money was not rejected. Second, that quantum of donation was in violation of electoral laws limiting such donations by individuals. So, at what point did Atiku become corrupt? Finally, let me ask a “satanic” question: now they have labelled him corrupt, will they refund his $2 million? Even VPs should think first and talk later.

Even if there is anybody foolish enough to think that there is any qualitative difference between the APC and PDP, Adams Oshiomole has exposed the hoax. The Chairman of the APC, who talks first and thinks later, publicly told corrupt PDP members to join the APC and their sins are forgiven. Good God! Any political party which still retains a spokesman like that must be the most corrupt in the world. Since when had it been the function of any political party, presumed to be acting in the public interest to “forgive” looters? Were the funds stolen its own? What kind of person, in leadership position talks like that except the dangerous type seeking power?

El-Rufai added his own bit to the trope of hypocritical statements. According to El-Rufai, the PDP has never won an election; they always rig – or words to that effect. But, El-Rufai must have forgotten that he was in the PDP until 2013. For fourteen years he was part of the unpatriotic effort to rob Nigerians of their constitutional right to elect the government of their choice. He profited immensely from the alleged rigging by the PDP. Again, should a political party claiming to be above corruption be parading a self-confessed beneficiary of electoral fraud?

Meanwhile, the PDP, on the other hand, is behaving as if it has nothing to explain to Nigerians about its sixteen years of stewardship. My book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED provided sufficient evidence why ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo should have been impeached. The PDP, under OBJ, created the template for large-scale “authority stealing”. One example demonstrates the complicity within the PDP to protect the President even when mis-management of public funds was indisputable. Even when he could buy a car for a lady of easy virtues with his own funds, he did it with funds withdrawn from the Petroleum Development Trust Fund, PDTF. The Senate, under its President, Ken Neman, established an ad hoc committee which discovered this and other serious misdemeanours, refused to act in the public interest and impeach Obasanjo. Nnamani is now in the APC – all sins forgiven, of course!

All the APC leaders wasting everybody’s time, diminishing themselves in the process, hitting Obasanjo for criticising Buhari forgot that Buhari was asked to probe the $13-16 billion reportedly spent on the power sector under Obasanjo and to try and recover as much as possible from looters. If that had been done, two positive results would have been achieved. First, recovery of the suspected looted funds would have reduced the amount we have had to borrow since 2015. The collateral damages of this failure include higher debt service payments and less funding for infrastructure, education, and security. Buhari refused to order the probe out of loyalty to his former boss. He forgot that a responsible government must aim to ensure that its measures aim for the greatest good for the greatest number of Nigerians. How does protecting Obasanjo achieve that goal? So, Buhari kept OBJ active, instead of silencing him. Why are they now complaining, if the man he kept relevant now stabs him in the back? Buhari deserves it. He had been unfair to 200 million Nigerians. No pity here.

The PDP still has a sordid past to explain. Dariye, Nyame, already convicted for looting their states, and Ladoja, Orji Kalu as well as Fayose, now in court, were all PDP Governors. Virtually all elections of governors overturned for rigging – Ngige, Professor Osunbor, Oyinlola and Oni – were PDP candidates. So, with a demonstrable record of pervasive looting and rigging by the party, it is astonishing that the PDP have ignored their seedy past. They are not promising to change their pattern of behaviour; neither were they setting out an action plan to ensure that a new party emerges – instead of the “same stale stew, warmed up and served in new plates”.

 “For every folly of their [leaders], [Nigerians] feel the lash.”—Horace, 65-8BC, VBQ, p 61.

So far, intelligence and wisdom are in short supply by the two largest political parties. To some extent they were always missing ingredients. We have frequently been led by people engaged in conspiracies to seize the treasury and loot it. Even the best managed states are seldom governed by honest people. Presidents and Governors loot because legislators turn blind eyes to crimes once they are settled. There is not much to choose between APC and PDP. That is why it was easy for Oshiomole to invite opponents to cross over and “your sins are forgiven”. We are led by people without conscience.

Under normal circumstances, the ruling party campaigns on its record of achievements. The APC is doing none of this. Buhari and Osinbajo, not having much to their credit, have sounded like broken records and sometimes ridiculous. They lead the demolition derby of opponents’ character assassination and peddling of half-truths and even plain untruths. They also inadvertently reveal their own impotence as rulers of Nigeria. When the FG announces that “opposition is recruiting bandits to derail polls” without naming or arresting anybody, Osinbajo should be the first to point to that as a rumour. Responsible governments don’t trade in hearsay.

For their own part, the PDP has been offering the same “salad bowl of illusions” about job creation, security, infrastructure etc – without telling us where the funds for implementation will come from. They conveniently forget that even if Atiku wins in February, they will not be in government until May 30. By then the damage to the economy in 2019 would have been done. Even a thousand geniuses cannot alter the predictable low GDP growth. In 2020, whoever wins will be offering Fellow Nigerians excuses for the failure of the previous year. Buhari/Osinbajo will again point accusing fingers at Jonathan and PDP. Atiku/Obi will certainly heap the blame on Buhari and APC. Nigerians will certainly feel more of the lash in 2019 and perhaps in 2020.

So, where does that leave a sensible voter in February? There are three choices – none very promising. First, vote Buhari. That in summary means voting for poverty, unemployment and herdsmen. Second, vote Atiku. Nobody has been able to prove charges of corruption against him. But, his return might bring back looters who will do it again and hide it better. To vote first or second options, you need to hold your nose.

Third, you take a chance. Vote one of the debaters. Unfortunately, in Presidential system, a tree cannot make a forest. If elected, they go into office without elected Senators and House of Representatives members of their own party. They will be forced to compromise.

God help us.

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