Of APC, Scorpions and Comrade Burombo’s Advice,
By Hassan Gimba
“Each time I want to fight for African rights, I use only one hand because the other hand is busy trying to keep away Africans who are fighting me.” – Benjamin Burombo
Today I want to talk about Nigerian democratic growth and good governance but with the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a springboard. This is necessary because, like it or not, the APC is currently the ruling party. Whatever affects a ruling party must affect governance. A stable ruling party led by those who have the interest of the country at heart will translate into having a responsive government that hearkens to the yearnings of the citizens. An unstable ruling party managed by self-centred individuals would tell on the government and the country will always be the worse off for it.
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I am not a politician, but I have had the cause to write about politics and politicians. I have also written about governance and parties that have midwife governments. One cannot escape such if one desires to write about society, about a nation and about human development.
Until towards the middle of last year, the APC was a party hurtling towards self-implosion. Then in June last year, Governor Mai Mala Buni was made to supervise the party in the capacity of chairman of its newly made-up interim caretaker committee. Barely a year after I wrote: “The APC was on the brink of implosion when he took over. It had lost states and national legislative seats in the 2019 general elections and was on the brink of losing sitting governors. But the party, which had 64 senators then, now has over 70. He has also made three PDP governors throw away the umbrella and embraced his broom wielding party, with the possibility of bringing in more.
“The APC was birthed through the merger of four legacy parties on February 6, 2013. The major parties were the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), along with a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). It was like a child of necessity coming when Nigeria was then at a crossroads.
“That the All Progressives Congress (APC) was galloping towards disintegration was obvious. That other political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that would benefit from APC’s implosion, were happily watching, like vultures sensing a carcass and awaiting the apocalypse, needs no elaboration.” The party was just fighting against itself.
In that unfortunate situation in which the ruling party found itself, governance was affected. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government was out of sync with various officials singing discordant tunes. The government was then plodding on because the conduit that brought it to power was dying.
Then came Governor Buni, who breathed a new lease of life into the party and it metaphorically got a second chance to live. It became the most courted political party in Africa south of the Sahara and grew into a threat to the opposition. The opposition became jittery because, whereas the party had dropped to their level, now it hovers over them.
However, a major disadvantage of the current political parties, unfortunately, is that they are not borne out of ideologies like those of the First Republic. And to an extent, even those of the Second Republic. Some have attributed it to the demise of the Soviet Union. Maybe.
What we can say is that the parties are almost the same. Therefore, changing platforms based on self need is never a problem for our politicians. And so, what differentiates the parties is the calibre of people in them. Those with the most “movers and shakers” of the society always win elections. Oh, aberrations occur, but they are too few and too far in-between.
The APC, under the supervision of the governor, started magnetising the bigwigs that hitherto left the party and those who were never even in it. Those who had packed their bags and were on the verge of exiting found reason to stay back. Calmness also enveloped it and the government picked up as party affairs no longer diverted the attention of the president.
It is, therefore, inconceivable that a member of the APC, a genuine member, will want to see all this work gone with the wind or seek to rubbish the efforts of the committee led by Governor Buni. In other climes where people’s efforts are recognised, where those who gave their all to right a capsizing boat are found, they get honoured. APC members would utter his name in reverence and the party would immortalise him in their Hall of Fame.
But some people say it is the African’s way to fight who fights for him, to sting who seeks to protect him and to bite the finger that feeds him. Well, at least that was what Comrade Benjamin Burombo said. Comrade Burombo was a labour union leader and black nationalist in then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Born in 1909 in Buhera in Manicaland, he worked in South Africa, and then in Bulawayo, where he formed the British African National Voice Association in 1947. He died young in 1959.
Power tussles and the dream of offices in 2023, a time that only God knows who will witness, are the primary cause why some of the party members want to throw away the baby with the birth water. And some of those with an eye on 2023 but afraid that with the way the party’s current caretaker committee is repositioning the party, they may lose out are those who, in desperation, want to destroy their political vehicle. They started their attack last year using ghost names of people purportedly from Yobe State. Having failed at that, they have now come out from another angle.
To destroy what Governor Buni has done is to destroy the APC. Without the APC, many of these people would not occupy the positions they are now enjoying. Have they ever thought of what becomes of them and their dreams without the party?
It would not be a good idea for them to use the vagueness of some laws and shoot themselves in the foot. They will only fall into the willing hands of the opposition. Attacking their caretaker committee and its work is akin to plunging the knife into their soft underbelly. But then, as Comrade Burombo told us, it is in our nature.
I recall the fable about the scorpion and the frog. The Scorpion and the Frog is a tarradiddle that emerged in Russia in the early 20th century. It teaches that some people cannot resist hurting others even when it is not in their interests. This tale seems to have some APC characters in mind.
The story goes thus: ‘A scorpion wants to cross a river but cannot swim, so it asks a frog to carry it across. The frog hesitates, afraid that the scorpion might sting it, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. It (the frog) considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. It lets the scorpion climb on its back and swims. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”’
Then there is also that of The Old Man and the Scorpion. it goes like this:
‘One morning, when passing a stream, an old man saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water. As the waves washed the scorpion closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively, the man withdrew his hand. A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched himself out again on the roots to save the scorpion. This time, the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that his hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain. At that moment, a passerby saw him stretched out on the roots struggling with the scorpion and shouted: “Hey, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”’
Without taking his eyes from the scorpion, the old man replied, “The nature of the scorpion is to sting and mine is to help. My nature will not change in helping the scorpion.”
Comrade Benjamin Burombo would have advised Governor Buni not to change his nature, for some things are done to be known, and appreciated, by people ages after our bones have turned to dust.