Politics can be as enthralling as it can be atrocious. It can bring fame and fortune, just as it can lead to dearth and dishonour. It can make one a president as easily as it can make one a prisoner. And politics can bring out discipline in people as speedily as it can show their greed.
Earlier this year, when former military administrator of Borno and Lagos states and former Nigeria High Commissioner to South Africa, Brig. Gen Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd.) decamped from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I questioned the wisdom of that move in a piece titled “Marwa’s Miscalculation”. I argued that Marwa’s decision to leave the APC for the PDP was a grave misreading of the dialectics of Nigerian politics.
In leaving the APC, Marwa had accused the then interim national leadership of handing over the party in Adamawa to Governor Murtala Nyako who only joined the APC after its formation, saying that his supporters were marginalized during the APC membership registration in the state.
Today, the executive council that Marwa accused of handing over the party to Murtala Nyako has been replaced, and Nyako, whom he accused of taking over APC from “the original founders in the state”, has been impeached. I also noted that “all Marwa needed to do to actualize his governorship ambition was to manage the processes and expectations of the various contending groups – in other words, to play real politics”.
I concluded the piece with the words, “Marwa’s miscalculation was to peg the limits of his ambition on the uncertain possibility of becoming a PDP governor of Adamawa against a more probable APC president of Nigeria . . . by knocking himself out of the contest even before it starts, Marwa has robbed himself of the chance of taking a realistic shot at the biggest prize in the political sphere: the Presidency”.
Almost exactly the same sets of circumstances played out three months later, when former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and former presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Nuhu Ribadu, hurriedly left the APC for PDP on the notion that both parties were essentially the same. If that is so, why leave one for the other?
The reasons for Ribadu’s dramatic departure from the APC may not be fully known, and it may be one-dimensional to attribute it entirely to his vaulting ambition. Some suggest that he was broke – which should not be surprising – considering that the former cop, though a lawyer, had never practiced law, had no concrete means of livelihood and was not a contractor. Others say Ribadu actually believed the PDP’s promise of an automatic ticket and funding.
Whatever the real reasons were, it was clear to all but the most politically obdurate that Ribadu was never going to smell the ticket, and that like the highly intelligent, urbane and likeable Marwa, had made a politically flawed miscalculation in joining the PDP.
This is because, regardless of their grouse with the APC, Marwa and Ribadu were both key figures in the party and had sufficient acceptability across the country to fly their banners in any political contest. And with politics being as vacillating as it sometimes is, who says the current presidential frontrunners – Buhari, Atiku and Kwankwaso – will remain on the scene indefinitely?
What happened to Marwa and Ribadu may be political miscalculations on their parts, but a very coldly calculated step on the part of the PDP. The former soldier and policeman both forgot, or perhaps never really learnt that politics is a long-term game and only greenhorns work with the immediate circumstances, as they did.
The PDP as a party may not be known for deep thinking, but it does not take profound thinking to realize that if Marwa and Ribadu had remained in the APC, they would have played vital roles and even penetrated areas where Buhari never did? It therefore made sense on the part of PDP to destroy these potential adversaries immediately, before they grew bigger, stronger and more formidable.
And what better way to do so than to invite them to dinner, and then refuse to allow them to sit at the table? By dropping open hints for Marwa to return to his former party and enticing Ribadu to join his former adversaries, the PDP has played a subtle, but very far-reaching political coup.
The beauty of the masterstroke is the way PDP effortlessly smashed the credibility and political futures of two potential challengers without giving them anything in return. The computation is simple; if either Marwa or Ribadu had become governor under APC, with the entailing power of incumbency and visibility, they would have made formidable opponents for the PDP in any election.
A final food for thought: Assuming the acting governor, Umaru Fintiri actually wins the gubernatorial election next month, can anyone really stop him from contesting again in 2015?