During a luncheon at the White House in 1954, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain made a pithy and sententious remark whose echo still reverberates till today. He said: “It is better to jaw jaw than to war war”.
Since the national leadership and other organs of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) took an innovative decision to adopt President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as a consensus candidate to fly the flag of the party in the February 2015 General Elections, there seems to be some disquiet in the party. Even in the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), the competition for the party’s ticket is tearing members apart. All things are not adding up; some are applauding this aspirant, some are kicking against the other, like brigands on the highways or a riotous crowd in the amphitheatre.
But what most people forget to understand is that in a human arrangement nothing is perfect, such developments are therefore not unexpected. It is difficult, if not impossible, to please everybody. Even within a family setup, there are bound to be disagreements between siblings and between the husband and wife. Divergence of views is an ingrained order of the universe. The ability to hold unto one’s opinion is what makes humanity unique, what makes change and progress inevitable and possible. But what is nobler and more creative is when we disagree to agree. This is where the consensus issue comes in. When a party or a group of people come together and agree to support someone for a particular position, nothing is undemocratic about it, it is their inalienable right. The same thing applies if the same people wake up tomorrow to canvass a different view.
One of the beauties of democracy is the plurality of choice it fosters. It gives us the freedom and liberty to decide which party to belong, whom to vote for and even the privilege to abstain. When compared to other forms of government like socialism or totalitarianism, we see that democracy is still the best form of government ever crafted by man. But our democracy, though renascent, is in danger when we embrace it for what we can get and not for what we can offer. It is in danger and tethered on the cliff if pecuniary consideration is the primary motive. But sadly enough, our politicians play politics with this mindset, and that is why we have this sort of rumblings in our parties, some amorphous people going to court over mundane issues.
However, I must admit that the plurality of choice democracy offers presupposes that positions of leadership must be struggled for by people with varying talents, ideologies and orientations. Political endorsements, though not new, restricts or whittles down that competitive spirit. That is why politics is summed up as power struggle. But the manner we are elevating violence, antagonism and bickering in our political engagement and discourse does not bode well for our country and our fledgling democracy.
But for me, I don’t see anything novel in adopting Jonathan as a consensus candidate. It is still all part of the political process aimed at reducing tension in the system. In America, it is rare, very rare to see a politician in the same party challenging a sitting president in a primary, especially if that president’s performance is above average. During the 2012 Democratic National Convention in America for instance, Mr. Tim Kaine who was chairman of the event made it very clear that the Democratic Party was returning President Obama and his Vice Joe Biden. For the over 200 years of America’s democracy, only Presidents Millard Fillmore, John Tyler, Chester Arthur and Andrew Johnson are known to have lost their party’s nominations, and all owing to the fact that they were not the initial choice of the party; they were vice and became presidents on the assassination of their boss.
Coming back home, since the Abakaliki political bloc took the unprecedented step to announce former minister of health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu as their preferred candidate, much water has passed under the bridge. There are rumblings here and there, and most of them from unexpected quarters. Some of the aspirants are kicking. They are fuming, seething and raging like a bull in a China shop. All are steamed up as if ready to pluck out each other’s eyes! The peace that hovered in the air prior to the announcement has been perforated and pierced by the edge of the sword dipped in cold war.
But should our politicians push themselves to that level? Are they not stretching their luck and importance too far? Does that not amount to absurdity and political proselytizing? Do they need to tear themselves to pieces simply because they didn’t get Elechi’s anointing oil? If they want to be anointed, they can as well go to the market, there are many shops selling anointing oil out there, as our pastors know. But let them be careful, let them not fall into the hands of false merchants as I did on my visit to Israel. In 2001 when I visited Israel, I wanted to buy original olive oil, which, I understand, has the efficacy to drive evil spirits away. Fearing that I might fall into the hands of shylocks (remember that Shylock was a Jew in Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merchant of Venice’), I chose to buy it at the tomb of Jesus where I believed I would get the original. But lo and behold, I fell into the hands of crooks who sold corn oil to me in place of olive oil! Those gubernatorial aspirants who have decided not to heed their master’s voice should be sure they purchase the original oil, and that the anointing is not self-anointing as in the case of David’s two sons—Adonijah and Absalom—who struggled among themselves to unseat their father.
If I had an Ouija board to read the minds of some of the aspirants, it will not be hard for me to see that their anger is that they played a role—and are still playing—in the affairs of the state and were not favoured in the race to occupy Ebonyi State Government House. This is one of the mysteries of life. God knows why. That is why the Holy Book said that “the race is not for the swift, neither the battle for the strong”. When God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint a king for Israel, didn’t all but one of the sons of Jesse pass before Samuel? Were any of them chosen upon their attractive physical appearance? But it was that youngest little lad tending his father’s sheep in the bush that God chose. That is why the bible made it clear that the ways of man are not the ways of God.
Politics is like a race where every athlete competes for the gold, and only one person goes home with the coveted prize at a time. When those who play it understand it as such, they will be much peace in the polity, blood pressure will not go over the roof and there will be less envy and mudslinging. It is because they have failed to understand it as such that we have every place heated up as if we are in King Nebuchadnezzar’s ‘burning fiery furnace’.
One of the attributes of a good servant is the ability to follow the master. He has much faith, respect and veneration for him. He obeys his wish and trusts that his decisions are for his good. That was the import of Jesus’s parable when he said that anyone that must come to him must come with the faith and humility of a little child.
Let us not make this politics a do or die issue. Let us make it a competition among brothers, playing according to the rules with none stepping on anybody’s toes. Let everyone sheath his sword. No peace is ever achieved in the battlefield. After all the dane guns and bombs must have boomed, after all the suffering and bitterness and killings and carnage and destruction in the war front, it is on the table that peace is negotiated and achieved.
Let the gubernatorial candidates come together for dialogue. Churchill’s option still remains the best option for us in Nigeria: “It is better to jaw jaw than to war war”.