Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim: Strong Ideological Parties, The Future of Nigeria
Many thanks to all of my friends on this page who contribute meaningfully to the discuss on HE Obaseki's video on the surging "Obidient Movement" and its threat to the major parties.
I admire the energy of the "Obidient Movement" and it is good for our democracy. I also like some of Obi's messages that touched on the need to cut waste in public finance.
I have spoken on this repeatedly on this page in the last two years.
Fighting waste and corruption was the subject of my Arewa House lecture titled "Othman Danfodio and the legacy of anti-corruption." It is available online for the records.
Here is my take on the core message of Obi which is bringing financial discipline.
As important as fighting corruption and cutting waste could be , it is not the fundamental problem of the Nigerian Political Economy.
The point is that the country has a low productive base. Even if no cent or kobo is stolen and not wasted, Nigerians will still be poor because no matter how prudent you can manage little, it will still not go round.
Here is what I mean: In the year 2020, for the hue and cry about Nigeria's oil revenue which was about a paltry 20 billion USD. In that same year, one company in Florida USA- Disneyworld, whose trade is entertainment in America, made over 60 billion USD not to talk about Apple Inc, the tech giant whose revenue was in excess of 274.52 billion amongst thousands of companies with revenue bigger than Nigeria.
I have not seen Obi's strategy or that of his new party geared towards building an economy with capacity to make Nigerians exit poverty.
We had one in 2019 when we made a bid for the Presidency.
The parties of the Nigerian Nationalists had their own between 1955 -1965, that was why Nigeria was transformed within 9 years from a predominantly agrarian economy to an industrializing economy with a comparative GDP to Malaysia and Thailand.
Developing clear cut programmes and principles in the political parties is the first step to rebuilding Nigeria.
In the APC, during the build up to the Presidential primaries after I announced my bid to run, I was faced with a moral dilemma of having to cough out 100 million Naira as nomination fees (200,000 USD) in a country with an annual per capita income of less than 2,097 USD
Sadly, it became obvious that the stage had already been set for a political process where the outcome will be determined through bribery rather than programmes, competence and character.
In 2000, when I was Deputy National Publicity Secretary and Chairman of the Group of 55 NEC members of the PDP I found myself in such a moral dilemma when a number of the party senior officials wanted to automatically extend the tenure of the National Executive members from two years to four years.
The interesting thing was that if this was achieved, I would have been a beneficiary.
Despite the fact that I was in an advantageous position, I led a revolt against this on moral ground.
Interestingly, the present Chairman of the APC, His Excellency, Abdullahi Adamu, then Nasarawa State Governor was one of those who supported me.
The other Governors who were active in our support included George Akume (Benue), Abdulkadir Kure, (Niger), Uzor Kalu (Abia), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu) ,Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom), etc etc.
The entire National Assembly supported us as well as the Board of Trustees led by the indomitable Dr. Alex Ekwueme and some of the party's foundation fathers such as Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Dr Sule Kumo, etc etc .
The then President, Olusegun Obasanjo who was initially prevaricating on the issue had no option but to jump into the popular side and that infamous idea was defeated.
In those two years, we waged many internal struggles over internal party democracy that enriched internal democratic practices in the party until I resigned from the PDP in 2006.
Today in the APC, I am not a member of NEC so I took the line of least resistance by stepping aside from the presidential contest as what was happening was already offensive to my values.
I chose not to leave the party as the other parties are not immune to what happened in the APC.
It is my conclusion that serious minded leaders wherever they find themselves, must continuously speak up for the values of decency and insist that politics be driven by ideas, principle, integrity, character as opposed to cash or religious and ethnic bigotry.
I believe this is still achievable in my party, the APC.