Yobe, the state of party chairmen, by Hassan Gimba
This is not what I had intended to discuss this week, but circumstances have given it priority. Yobe is a state that is blessed. Here, I am not talking about how blessed it is with peaceful and peace-loving people. No. Nor am I talking about the natural resources the Maker buried there. No, not at all. I am not even going to talk about the abundance of human resources in Yobe State.
I want to look at it from just one aspect – the political angle. Politics, from Greek (politiká – ‘affairs of the cities’) can be defined as the way that people living in groups make decisions. It is about making agreements between people so that they can live together in harmony.
One of Aristotle’s most famous sayings is: “Man is by nature a political animal.” His claim motivated his saying that “every man, by nature, has an impulse toward a partnership with others.” This was accentuated by Karl Marx, who wrote that “The human being is, in the most literal sense, a political animal, not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only amid society.”
As far back as the 4th century, Aristotle surmised that man is either a political animal (in its natural state) or an outcast like a “bird which flies alone.”
The dominant ideology of man as a political animal stems from his ability to reason and communicate with others; therefore, he has the potential to change his living conditions for the better because he can recognise the difference between right and wrong.
And so it is that man naturally plays politics wherever he is, from the moment he opens his eyes in this world to when he closes them for good. He does so wherever he goes and in whatever he does. The infant knows how to get attention with its tantrums.
We all play politics within peer groups, in schools and workplaces. You have to be good at it to have control over your family or else they bounce you about like froth floating on a fast river.
No aspect of humanity is devoid of politics. One may think religion should be an exception, but look at how the religious world is divided among the children of Abraham. And for mainly political reasons – as politics confers power, influence and wealth – the two sides are yet to come together and follow just one path.
Since man is an inborn politician and survives only in a society, it goes without saying that there must be an organised setting with a division of labour. Some people naturally gravitate towards a natural calling while others are forced into it by circumstances.
And so we leave the larger politics of running the society to others born into it, who want to, or who we request to because of certain qualities we see in them. And it is through such that governments are formed.
In the early part of human history, when societies were being formed, the strongest ran the affairs of man. But societies glued together, for self-preservation, to form nations and, with time, the bravest took over because the bravest can overcome the strongest with guile; call it native intelligence. We saw this in the case of David and Goliath or the folklore of Achilles or in the legend of the 300 Spartans. Throughout history then, intelligence and bravery have always defeated brute force.
When the intelligent and brave organised the strong and not-so-strong into armies, military power ruled, but democracy has now permeated the world and soldiers have given way to civilians to govern nations.
In a democracy, eligible members of a society or nation have the inalienable right to install a government through elected representatives. While there are various forms of democracy, here we practise the multi-party presidential system akin to that practised in the United States of America. The strength, reach and ultimate success of a political party may, inadvertently, rest heavily on the shoulders of its national chairman.
Nigeria has had many parties since the First Republic but I am particular about four national parties out of many because they concern this write-up – they are the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
All of them, at one point or the other, had a man from Yobe State as national chairman. Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, the apostle of politics without bitterness, who many think was from Borno State, is actually from Yobe and he chaired the GNPP. Khalifa Hassan Yusuf, also from Yobe, took over the chairmanship of the PRP when its founder, the late Aminu Kano, died on April 17, 1983.
In the current dispensation, Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni took over the chairmanship of the APC at its darkest hour, when little remained for it to tip over into the abyss. He was able to stabilise and strengthen it by courting at least three opposition governors, members of the National Assembly from the opposition, and other influential stakeholders. The credit for APC’s victory in the just concluded elections should be attributed to him because he laid the foundation for it. Without his intervention, perhaps there wouldn’t have been an APC as it now is – strong and all-conquering.
And now the PDP has also found it fitting to give another son of Yobe State, Ambassador Umar Iliya Damagum, the mantle of its chairmanship. He, too, is coming when the party is in its lowest spirits and threatened by extinction. He will face a lot of challenges from larger-than-life political figures and egotistical men who are stupendously rich.
Though Damagum is said to have a mind of his own, is fearless, not easily intimidated and so cannot be cowed, the question on the lips of observers is, will he be able to chair the PDP to success like the talented sons of Yobe before him, or will their shoes be too big for him?
Only time will tell is an overused cliché. But he has begun on a sound footing by reversing the suspensions of some of the party’s prominent members.
Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.