Opinion: Umaru Dikko, nostalgia and PDP’s politics

by Is’haq Modibbo Kawu

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But for now, it will be interesting to see how much discipline Alhaji Umaru Dikko can knock into the undisciplined political mob that constitutes the PDP.

A week can be a very long time in politics. This is even truer within the pressure cooker ambiance of Nigerian politics. Two events this week, underline the central place of power and the incredible struggle to retain it, by the denizens of the PDP.

Firstly, the party’s leadership reached for the past to exhume one of the dinosaurs of our political history, to solve problems very much in the mould of the present. They made Alhaji Umaru Dikko chairman of a new National Disciplinary Committee. Alhaji Umaru Dikko’s re-emergence speaks volumes about the mindset of old man, Bamanga Tukur. He was a governor, for a few months, of the old Gongola State, during the Second Republic, 1979-83, when Alhaji Umaru Dikko, was one of the most powerful individuals in the country.

He served as Transport minister; was a close confidant of President Shehu Shagari and in the high-wire politics of the period, was set up as straw man by the UPN opposition media, upon whom was poured so much opprobrium.

So successful was the demonization of Dikko, that the Buhari military dictatorship which toppled the Shagari administration, hired Israeli thugs to kidnap the man. He was drugged and crated and it took the Ghanaian journalist, Elizabeth Ohene, to blow the whistle that allowed British security to stop the man’s return to Nigeria. A diplomatic row ensued!’

Most Nigerians today are too young to have heard about that colourful politician of the NPN era. But to Bamanga Tukur, there is a strong element of symbolism and nostalgia involved in the constitution of a Disciplinary Committee with Alhaji Umaru Dikko as chairman. The parties of the Second Republic had an admirable cohesion and fidelity to basic principles, which elude the vote-rigging contraptions parading as parties today.

For instance, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai used to tell the story of how the NPN’s caucus met weekly, with party chairman, Chief Adisa Akinloye presiding, while President Shehu Shagari attended as a loyal party member. The president was not party “leader” as is the practice today. In the Nigerian states today, governors are the ultimate emperors and eternal puppeteers. They hold the purse strings, make and unmake the party apparatchiks and manipulate the political process to often, disreputable and personal ends.

This led to the exasperation felt by old party men from the NPN era like PDP chairman, Bamanga Tukur. He hacks back to the past to find solution to the problems the present has thrown up. But old man Tukur must give himself the pause; how can he demand the discipline of the NPN era when President Jonathan benefits from the anachronism reigning inside today’s PDP? Maybe old man Umaru Dikko will re-bottle the genie! But the portents are not hopeful.

Nostalgia can be potent but reality is a painful teacher. The era of the disciplined political party died with the Twentieth Century. The PDP (and its opposition clones like ACN, CPC APGA or ANPP!) reflects very much the new era of power without much principle and little responsibility. The platform of buccaneering and personal aggrandizement by groups of elite devoted not to the good of society but the protection of the racket that politics has evolved into.

The most likely scenario remains the re-rallying of the troops because no one, not even the most apparently aggrieved, wants to be out of the loop of power. And that brings us to the second issue of the day. After the huffing and puffing of the past few weeks, Governors Sule Lamido, Aliyu Wamakko, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, finally met with President Goodluck Jonathan, early this week. Lamido confirmed that the meeting held: “Yes, we met with Mr. President to discuss the current political situation in the country.

He invited us, five of us…The discussions were very frank and honest. We told ourselves the truth. And we were very, very frank with each other. So let’s leave it at that”. As the posturing for 2015 gathers pace, even old man EK Clarke, who heads the hawkish, gung-ho brigade of the Jonathan project, was said to have discovered statesmanship. Lamido said Clarke publicly apologized for “whatever might have been their perceived concerns and anger over his utterances”.

Sule Lamido added a clincher: “That is how leaders and elders should behave”; but knowing EK Clarke for what he is, the question should be for how long can he wear the ill-fitting, borrowed robe of the statesman?

These are interesting times indeed! For the sake of continued retention of power, the sharpened knives will be hidden under starched Babarigas for a while. Just for a while! The next round of heated passion will arise when they have to share the spoils of victory. 2015 isn’t too far away! But for now, it will be interesting to see how much discipline Alhaji Umaru Dikko can knock into the undisciplined political mob that constitutes the PDP.

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Read this article in the Vanguard Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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