ne of the distinct tragedies of our politics is that a succession of leaders has honed to an art the mind-boggling inability to learn from those before them.
The result of this is immediately apparent: a vastly variable set of leaders, but the very same set of values and, of course, consequences. We have been led by sometimes accomplished, sometimes idiotic men – but the effect has been the same; Nigeria continues to decline.
This ongoing tragedy was on vivid display last week as a posse of Action Congress of Nigeria chiefs descended on Ondo and proceeded to indulge in the kind of verbal seppuku that one should only find in a slum beer parlor. Including From dangerous ‘confessions’ by its national leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that he gave millions of pounds to Olusegun Mimiko, the party projected a loud and wild confidence that it would “crush” its rival.
Of course, pride comes before a fall. By the time the dust from their brooms settled, the ACN had lost the elections so badly that even the PDP got more votes without investing as much time, money and hot air. Mimiko, under the Labour Party, got 260, 199 votes. The People’s Democratic Party candidate, Olusola Oke, got 155,961 votes. Rotimi Akeredolu was left with a measly 143,512 votes.
It was almost impossible not to draw parallels with the PDP’s fatal misadventure in Edo barely months ago – where President Goodluck Jonathan led a boisterous, clownish parade declaring premature victory in a state which any analyst worth his salt knew the PDP was going to lose.
In that same vein, the ACN sort to supplant the humble mobilisation of votes and winning of hearts that is at the heart of democracy with a vacuous chest-thumping that undoubtedly got on the nerves of the electorate, and repelled observers across the country.
The ACN has sadly become a punch line. It came into our political space with plenty of promise, signalled by its broom party symbol, which signalled it was ready to sweep away the uglier tendencies of politics ans policy in Nigeria. Instead, over the past few years, and with intensity over the last couple of months, it has slowly but steadily transmuted from hero to bête noire.
The insurgent party has become unrecognisable, the very demonstration of that which, without irony, it rails against. Even its promise of Awolowo’s developmental vision has largely been a mirage. In the South-West which it dominates, it has ambled along with juvenile irredentism (Rauf Aregbesola, Osun) arrogant elitism (Babatunde Fashola, Lagos), oblivious inaction (Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun), wanton profligacy (Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo); redeemed only by flashes of brilliance (Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti).
It has abandoned any pretense at modesty to expand its base and deepen its achievements, a path that many would have expected, not because of any inherent decency, but in the strategic realisation that hubris is the tragic flaw that has destroyed the PDP and made it incapable of transforming Nigeria.
As a student of Nigerian history, I cannot pretend to be shocked at this turn of events, but it has not lessened my disappointment. Which is why I join the popular celebration of the defeat or the ACN and Tinubu, in Ondo State on Sunday.
As surely as the sun rises in the east, the party deserved that humiliation, and as Nigerians ponder the absence of a credible alternative in our politics at the moment, the moral of this story is quite simple really: the broom is no cleaner than the umbrella.
In fact, when push comes to shove, they are, both, two fingers of one giant leprous hand. Let the buyer beware.
Ff on twitter @mydoubletwo