By Barrister Okoro Gabriel
The just concluded Peoples Democratic Party’s primaries across the country have more than ever exposed the non popularity of some top ministers (who until their resignation, held sway under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration) among their people. The likes of the former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, whose quest for power and political relevance shot them into perpetual bootlicking throughout their stint in the Jonathan’s cabinet. Without doubt, their rejection at the polls serves as realities check for all of them.
From Sokoto to Ebonyi, Imo to Nasarrawa, Lagos to Bayelsa, the story remains the same: the sudden fall of men of yesteryears whose self delusions led them into a false believe that they were loved by their people. These characters have just learnt albeit in a hard way that “Abuja politics” is a lot different from local politics. When the following ex-ministers: Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Health (Ebonyi); Musilu Obanikoro, Defence (Lagos); Emeka Wogu, Labour and Productivity (Imo) and Labaran Maku, Information (Nasarawa) stepped down from their “juicy” positions, they did so on the understanding that their popularity and performances as ministers would secure them easy victories at the primaries. But alas! They have all fallen like pack of cards and it may take them many years or perhaps another round of sycophancy to revive their political misfortunes.
Labaran Maku began his journey to infamy when as the Minister of Information he induced a political crisis in his state, Nasarawa. Maku personally led protest in the streets of Lafia demanding the resignation of the state governor, Al-Makura, whose only crimes appeared that he belongs to the opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). The attempt to impeach the governor however by the highly compromised House of Assembly met a waterloo when the panel set up by it returned a no-guilty verdict on him (Al-Makura). The ex-minister might have played this shameful role in the state in preparation towards fulfilling his political ambition. But unfortunately for him, when the chips were down, his party abandoned him and went for his rival. Undoubtedly, his sycophancy could not save him from this sudden crash!
While the former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, may not be as controversial as Maku, he nonetheless allowed quest for power to destroy his pedigree, as it were. Chukwu was caught up in the political crossfire in Ebonyi state between the state governor, Martins Elechi and his deputy, Engr Dave Umahi. The former minister went into the race on the wrong assumption that he would clinch the party’s ticket having been adopted by the governor and other political bigwigs in the state prior to his resignation. But the deputy governor fought like a wounded lion and eventually secured the party’s ticket in a highly controversial primary. Neither Chukwu nor his political godfather, Elechi, participated in the primaries. Nevertheless, the party’s National Secretariat has since accepted the result thus sealing the hope of the ex minister. He too has fallen like Maku while Abuja looks with hands akimbo.
In Imo state, the party’s primaries were characterised by intrigues, mudsling and horse-trading. The former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu, one of the powerful ministers in President Jonathan’s administration before his resignation, lost woefully to the Deputy Speaker of House of Representative, Ihedioha. The former minister came a distance third in a race that was clearly between the deputy speaker and the former senator, Ifeanyi Ararume. Wogu’s entrance into the race was more of a political ambition taken too far. Having been in the federal executive for more than six years, the ex minister fell into a self illusion, thinking probably that his influence at the Federal Executive Council was powerful enough to secure him the party’s ticket to Douglass House in Owerri. How he miscalculated!
The federal might the ex Defence Minister (state), Senator Musuliu Obanikoro wielded as a minister was too weak to win him the party’s ticked at the Lagos primaries. The ex-minister and one of mr president’s strongest allies lost to the newest member of the party in the state, Jimi Agbaje. The former minister might have also thought that the yeo-man’s job he did for his party at the recent Ekiti and Osun’s governorship elections would land him the gubernatorial ticket on the plater of gold. Koro, as the ex minister is often called, has already challenged the outcome of the primaries which he described as “sham”. Truth, however, is: Abuja may not be able to rescue him from the political obscurity that looms before him as far as the party’s southwest leader, Olabode George is involved, and the earlier he realises it the better for him.
Godsday Orubebe, the former Minister of Niger-Delta Ministry, failed beyond measure in Delta State. The ex-minister garnered just 49 votes in a primaries that saw the Senator representing Delta North Senatorial Zone, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, scoring 406 votes to emerge the party’s flabearer. It was a tragic outing for the former minister, to put it mildly. In Sokoto state too, the Deputy Governor, Muhktar Shagari, who refused to follow his boss, Alhaji Wammako, to defect to the All Progressive Congress sometimes this year, failed, like other president’s allies to secure the party’s ticket. Not even his open allegiance to Aso Rock could save him from his outright rejection at the primaries by his people.
Bayelsa too witnessed the downfall of “Abuja men”. Virtually all the aspirants close to the First Lady, Dame Patience Goodluck, failed to secure the National Assembly’s tickets. Madam First Lady’s influence could not even secure return tickets to the serving Senators and House of Reps members in the state. The embattled governor of the state, Dickson, whose political future few weeks ago remained bleak because of his fallout with the First Lady, is surely having a last laugh.
The hard lesson for these men of yesteryears is that there is a limit to sycophancy and political bootlicking. It suffices to state that power is transit. This development should equally serve as a warning to the country’s political office holders to buckle up as next year’s election approaches. The electorates are now more politically sophisticated and enlightened. It follows then that they (politicians) who have long alienated themselves from their constituents must begin to reconnect back before it is too late. Governance must be brought closer to the grassroot, while the people’s welfare must top the government priorities at all levels. Anything short of this will certainly spell a doom day for Abuja and its cohorts.