The Turaki And The Rest Of Us
The most dominant topic in the political circles and among political commentators in Nigeria at present is the recent defection of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Turaki of Adamawa from the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) back to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he was a foundation member. While APC is ruing the loss of the political gladiator, the PDP is exulting in welcoming the Turaki back to its fold once again. And as Atiku’s critics see his defection as a sign of inconsistency and desperation for power, others see it as a patriotic move and the provenience of the schism that is imminent in the ruling party seen by many as an amalgam of political strange bedfellows.
Indeed, Atiku’s move did not come to many as a surprise for he has been strident in condemning the shenanigans, the inadequacies and the dictatorial tendencies of the current administration. He has also been at the fore front of the clamour for the restructuring of the nation – something the present regime considers as a no-go area.
No doubt, the bulk of those who criticized the move were from those who foisted the present militarized democracy on us and they are obviously afraid of Atiku’s capabilities for wrestling power from them. When viewed from the standpoint of the current political realities in Nigeria, you will agree with those who think that the Turaki’s move was in the right direction. A cursory look at Nigerian political landscape is enough to establish the fact that part of the problem of Nigeria is the existence of the cult of generals who think and act as if they own Nigeria. Nigeria needs a break from the cult of generals that has a stranglehold on the nation; who feels that Nigeria is their conquered territory, that Nigeria is their spoil of war. Elsewhere, it is the military that is subordinate to civil authority but in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Since the end of the civil war in 1970, the political class has not properly taken its rightful place. The main feature of our politics is characterized by impunity, lack of due process, corruption, coercion among other vices all due to pervasive military influence. During the OBJ’s second coming in government the main refrain sang by his excuse-makers for his inadequacies then was usually long period of military rule. Truly, the military incursion into our politics has had serious debilitating effects on our body politic.
It goes without saying that the regimes of ex-military officers is more or less like an extension of military rule. Their decisions are propelled neither by the desire for the protection of the constitution, the rule of law, national unity, promotion of democratic participation, building and strengthening public institutions and bureaucratic norms, nor general public interest but by parochial considerations – self, family and cronies. The level of impunity, mediocrity and official high-handedness are unbearably high. There is process violation; court orders are not obeyed, force and coercion have become the norm rather exception. This is because the military top brass does not understand the ethics of dissent. They have very poor conflict management orientation. They only understand command and control.
Our inchoate democratic experiment is still tottering because the true civil politicians have not been given the chance to operate true civil democracy. There is therefore a yearning need to demilitarize the polity: our democratic space, structures, institutions and processes for the real desired democratic culture to evolve.
Clearly, one of those individuals in the present day Nigeria with the strength and sagacity to extricate Nigeria from the stranglehold of these apparent insuperable generals and restore the deserved honour to civil politics is the Turaki. This is why the OBJ and his ilk are apprehensive of his emergence and are hell bent on checkmating him. His traducers are quick to point at phantom corrupt cases that they cannot establish as an excuse to discredit him. Ironically, those that make these corruption allegations are the most corrupt Nigerians.
Although this essay is not about the Turaki’s personality or about his political philosophy but, it is pertinent to point out that the Turaki of Adamawa has the clout and the tenacity to thrive on our bizarre political environment. He is a hardnosed politicians and business man with strong local and international exposure. The Turaki has had a successful public service career in the Customs and civil politics. He has a thriving business empire employing thousands of Nigerians. He has a demonstrable track record of performance and success in business. The advantage of having people with successful business pedigree in public service is that they are always performance-driven or goal-oriented because as a matter of orientation, they always want to make a mark unlike those who feel it is their right to lord it over others even when they have no requisite qualities for leadership.
Interestingly, the politics of defection is not peculiar to the Turaki and may not be misinterpreted to mean inordinate ambition or desperation for power as is being touted by his critics but rather a burning desire to serve his father land. Certainly, it is a reflection of the main feature of Nigerian politics – politics devoid of ideology. The only known political ideology in Nigeria is tribalism or ethnicity. What our politicians crave for is power; and even when they talk about ideology, it is not in the true sense of it. Thus, ‘party-shopping’, cross-carpeting and strange alliances are commonplace among the politicians and even PMB moved from ANPP to CPC and now APC all in the craving for power.
Moreover, one of the qualities that count generously in Atiku’s favour is that he is a completely detribalized Nigeria. He has his network of friends and associate across the nation and globally. He is Pan-Nigerian and therefore has a broad view about national issues. His business orientation has made him broad minded. He has a Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa wives – an indication of his true Nigerianness. Is it therefore surprising that he has been at the forefront of those clamoring for restructuring the nation despite the strong opposition from the North, his own region?
As a socially exposed individual with strong network across the nation the Turaki most certainly understands the variegated nature of the Nigeria nation, its stakeholders – ethnic configuration, concerned general public, interest groups, pressure groups, elected representatives, NGOs, traditional institutions and public advocacy…If given a chance at the helm of affairs, he obviously would adopt a better stakeholder engagement and conflict management approach (dialogue, conciliation, lobbying…) rather than the crude coercive mechanism of the dictators. Thus, Turakism may not be about politics of defection but of openness, robust engagement and inclusion – something that are glaringly lacking in the current dispensation.
So, it is time for Nigeria to move away from the self-seeking individuals who pretend to be more patriotic than others and the extremists with sinister agenda and embrace reality. The current political reality points to the failure of these groups of pretenders. In reality therefore, what Nigeria needs is a leader who understands the concept of interdependence, effective conflict management mechanism, collaborative public management principles; that will forge effective coalitions to tackle frontally the myriads of problems created by the dysfunctional leadership foisted on us all. And clearly, Atiku Abubakar fitted properly into that mould.
Gozie Irogboli (email@example.com
An economist and public policy analyst