Monday, May 29

2019 General Election and the Parable of the Periwinkle (Pt 2)

In Nigeria, we all indulge ourselves eating the popular Calabar vegetable soup called Edikai-kan. And as we do notice most times, if it is prepared in the true spirit of the real Edikai-kan it must have as ingredients; the periwinkle. The periwinkle we all know belongs to the mollusc family. What is peculiar to every periwinkle is the fact that they are all big-headed. They all like to wear crowns, and it is in the quest of all periwinkles to wear a crown that lies the problem of the periwinkle. To understand how the quest for glory by the periwinkles apply to the Nigerian opposition, particularly the ones we would regard as the third tier opposition, because for now the frontrunners for the 2019 general election in Nigeria are the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).  

The problem of the third tier opposition in Nigeria is that they behave like the periwinkle. All of them are wearing crowns of relevance and capacity, but the truth is that they are all tiny units. Like the tiny periwinkle they all have crowns on their heads and are misguided to confront the octopus. Strange enough, the greatest weakness of the periwinkle is that they lack capacity of the group ethics of the ants, so they become easy picking like every member of the mollusc family.

To buttress the point we are making, as at today, there are 91 political parties running with the crowd, a good number of them have presidential candidates. Prominent of the third tier presidential candidates are Fela Durotoye of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim of Alliance of Peoples Trust (APT), Omoyele Sowore of African Action Congress (AAC), Oby Ezekwesili of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Kingsley Moghalu of Young Progressive Party (YPP), Donald Duke of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Segun Mimiko of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and others such as the Democratic Alternative (DA), Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and National Conscience Party (NCP). Unless we believe in miracles, none of the people or parties mentioned will win the presidential election, not for lack of the brilliance of their ideas, but for the simple reason that they are all playing the politics of the periwinkles. They have crowns on their heads, but the unfortunate thing is that the crowns are weighing them down because structurally speaking, they all have mosquito legs.

The question to ask as we have alluded to before is; what if the periwinkles can for a moment forget about their bloated crowns and work collectively like the ants? Maybe we are fantasizing, but one of the major problems of Nigerian politics is that we all seem to think that with the ego-masseur of the Nigerian social media and mainstream media hype, such masseur and hype amount to potential energy for conversion of any value. We tend to forget that politics is a ground game built around people. It may be easy to accuse the big parties of playing money politics, but even to play money politics; you must see the people to give the money to. This is because the money may go to the wrong audience, if not invested in the right ground troops. 

Political Rally              Credit: Maroon Square
Political Rally Credit: Maroon Square

Two problems we can attribute to these wrong methods of fight. One, most of the people in the third tier of political sphere are not products of any ideological school or political groupings. For instance, where did Kingsley Moghalu, Oby Ezekwesili learn politics, is it at Patito’s Gang or Newswatch? Nowhere! They may be misled by Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France, but what they forget is that former French President François Hollande collapsed his structure for the benefit of Emmanuel Macron. Or they may have wrongly interpreted as is atypical the politics of the young Barrack Obama and begin to delude themselves of the mantra of; yes we can, train. But there was no yes we can train, as in actual fact Obama rode on the political machine of the Kennedys and the Black Caucus of the Democratic Party.


Secondly is that most of these third tier candidates are converting photo-shoots and social media followings into an aggregate of political good will. But in reality, this does not correlate for the reason of the facts that most people on the social media belong to the middleclass or have the potential of being in the middle class. And the most interesting thing is the fact that members of the middleclass are the most backward politically speaking and also have the extreme tendency to vacillate, and that is why Lenin referred to them as ideological windbags.

Thirdly, outside the SPN, DA and NCP, which all have at least left wing ideological beliefs, what is the difference between the two front runners APC and PDP and the other third tier opposition parties? None! Put differently, what is the difference between Buhari, Atiku, Ezekwesili and Moghalu? Buhari may not be as articulate as the latter two, but we may be surprised to find out that the latter two are just Washington Consensus candidates, with nothing frothing from their mouths more than privatization and Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). And we know in truth that there is nobody that comes from the Washington Consensus School that has not lost his soul because at best, they will be running dogs of imperialism. Maybe Oby Ezekwesili and Kingsley Moghalu are driven by the examples of Alassane Quattara of Côte d’Ivoire and Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia, who were protégés of the Washington Consensus School. But the truth was that Quattara and Sirleaf-Johnson built up political structures upon which they ran for presidency in their countries. 

Of the three parties with some level of ideological clarity, the case of the Democratic Alternative is the most tragic. Tragic in the sense that in 1998, the DA of all the groups had a better correct line in analyzing the current reality we are discussing here. This is because in the said year, anticipating the military transition tried to rally what we can call the periwinkle forces and begged all of them to surrender their small crowns for the purposes of building a rainbow coalition of democratic forces with at least a nationalist/anti-imperialist agenda that will confront the present ruling class as if it anticipated the current morass that we have fallen into. But 80% of the forces moaning today the tragedy of our existence for reasons of opportunism, treachery and lack of foresight viciously scuttled the project. As if to apply the coup de grâce, its former president, Dr. Abayomi Ferreira decided to handover the party to some portfolio politicians whom their first act was to join the PDP’s contrapped Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP). The NCP has also not fared better as it too is caught in the grip of hustlers masquerading as politicians. Yes the SPN may offer hope, but without being understood, it is also guilty of the periwinkle syndrome.

In conclusion, it is not that it is impossible to have a third force, but it must not be a third force(s), operating on the parable of the periwinkles. Groups must surrender their little crowns for the greater crown, which is the national salvation of Nigeria from a depraved ruling class that is absolutely incapable of governing because they do not even understand the laws of capitalism. To invest energy the way we are doing is to fail to understand the enormity of the problem before us and the wisdom in the African saying that; the snail cannot quench the fire with its spittle.

Onyeisi Chiemeke, is a legal practitioner. He is the author of the book; June 12 Election – Campaign for Democracy and the Implosion of the Nigerian Left. Copyright © Onyeisi Chiemeke, MaroonSquare

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *