Conversation with Azu
The official mourning period of the Peoples Democratic Party appears to be over, and the party’s spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, is doing all he can to regain lost ground. For quite some time now, Metuh has been firing on all cylinders, getting acres of attention in the press.
Apart from accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of flirting with dictatorship by delaying the appointment of ministers, Metuh raised the alarm, alleging that the government was sleeping at the wheels and driving the nation toward economic chaos. Not done yet, he sparred with former APC spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, and promised that nothing will stop the PDP from “exposing the present administration’s agenda to destroy the nation’s democracy and impose a dictatorship on the country.”
A few days ago, Metuh also took aim at Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, and launched a doublebarrel attack aimed at Adesina for his “lack of capacity,” and the government for supposedly drifting. That is just as well. We need opposition to keep the governing party honest, but we also owe ourselves a duty to remember, else we risk being sold on snake oil.
It’s easy for the PDP and the Metuhs of this world to forget for many reasons. First, the collective memory of the former ruling party may have been damaged by its own turbulent and acrimonious rites of passage after the party’s defeat. PDP never thought for a second that it could lose. After their loss, top officials of the party were too busy blaming one another over who stole the party’s funds or trying to figure out where to hide from the justice to come. So they hardly had time to reflect on and learn any lessons from their defeat.
While the country is still bleeding from the injury inflicted by the former ruling party, the PDP could hardly resist the temptation to add insult into our injury by lecturing us on how the country should be run. Divisions over the sharing of party offices in the APC presented an opportunity.
Now we have suddenly found ourselves in a situation where members of the party that should be in the dock telling Nigerians exactly how we got into the mess in the first place are the ones threatening to expose the new government; the party that should be explaining to us what happened after 16 years of ruin is the one accusing a new government of drifting; in short, we have found ourselves in a situation where the inmates have become the presumptuous managers of the prison. It’s not their fault. They think that, being Nigerians, we have forgotten all.
If Metuh were not in the room, I would say he hasn’t done badly as a spokesman of the new opposition. I agree with him that the spectacle in Kogi and Bayelsa states, where the APC candidates for the coming governorship elections have issues with the EFCC, raises serious questions. But that is for the APC to worry about. They cannot complain if voters decide to punish them, which might well be the case.
But does Metuh expect to be taken seriously when he talks about “capacity” and a “selective fight” against corruption? If his party, the PDP, had any capacity at all – or deployed anything close to it – Nigeria will not be where it is today. For 16 years his party, the PDP, failed Nigeria on three of its most pressing problems – security, corruption and power. Metuh may try to sweep it under the carpet, but we cannot forget so easily. We cannot forget, for example, that former president and leader of Metuh’s party,
Goodluck Jonathan, told Nigeria that Boko Haram elements had infiltrated his government yet he allowed them to hold him hostage while hundreds of innocents were dying and billions of naira was being diverted in bogus arms purchases. We cannot forget, Metuh, that in spite of the celebrated capacity of the PDP and yours, after the first Nyanya bomb blast that killed over 71 persons and left 124 injured, you blamed the governors and leaders of the APC and said nothing about the leader of your own party who had excused himself to attend a social event in Ibadan that same day. Thousands have died since and yet your courage and capacity seem to have overwhelmed your patriotic instinct to name the governors or APC leaders involved.
As for the so-called selective war on corruption against PDP leaders, it’s not worth the waste of words. That only becomes a matter of concern if those allegedly targeted are denied the right to fair and transparent trial. Except if Metuh is suggesting that things in the judiciary have become so bad that the only evidence for conviction is filing a case, then he should save himself the trouble and let the accused have their day in court.
Does Metuh share the general sense of misery suffered by families and businesses that cannot get one watt’s supply of light for the N2.7 trillion reportedly invested in power under the PDP administration since 1999? Does he know what it means to go for days without power and without a drop of kerosene in the lamp because subsidy thieves have put the price beyond reach? Metuh has a job do to and it’s perfectly right to rally his party’s dwindling base, especially those who had accused him of betraying Jonathan for not appointing him campaign spokesperson – or even those who might have been out of this country and out of touch during the 16 years of the PDP.
For the rest of us, after experiencing the PDP, if we see a government that is adrift or lacking in capacity we would not need Metuh to tell us.
• Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/ Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and a member of the Board of the Paris-based Global Editors’ Network