Hamman: Banana peel and the PDP chairman
THE idiomatic use of the phrase banana skin or banana peel in Nigeria’s contemporary political lexicon was made popular by the late Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo; and it refers to something negative that is either embarrassing or uncomfortable for an individual or party, or something that poses a problem or causes a challenge. In the physical type of comedy, actors often used common props to help create the humorous scenes related to their physical activity. One of these was the banana peel or skin, where an individual would frequently slip on the banana skin and fall comically to the ground. Over time, the banana skin came to be associated with general liability, i.e. people slipping on things. In more modern uses of the phrase, a banana skin is not just a humiliating or embarrassing mistake, but something that has serious consequences for an individual or a group. For example, in business, leaders might talk about an unanticipated challenge like a legal liability as a banana skin, not just in terms of the negative publicity that it may cause for the business, but also in terms of its economic effects. When Dr. Okadigbo used this expression, he was referring to the frequent humiliation of successive senate presidents from office due to accusation of corrupt practices.
It was apparently within this context that Chief Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom State Governor, applied the phrase in his remarks shortly after Dr. Adamu Mu’Azu was inaugurated as the new National Chairman of the PDP last week. According to the Nigerian Tribune report, Akpabio was unapologetic in canvassing for state governors to be leaders of the party at the state levels while the president should lead the party at the national level. “You must beware of banana peels. We agree that crises have always been the main problems between the PDP executives and governors,” Akpabio warned. But Chief Akpabio’s warning to the new National Chairman is fraught with danger. To fully grasp the full import of his statements, it is important that we review the events of the last one year in PDP and situate that with the new chairman’s agenda. Dr Mu’Azu had in his inaugural speech emphasised that the party will pursue three key cardinal policies under his leadership: promotion of internal democracy, enforcement of party supremacy and conduct of open, free and fair primaries. These are very noble causes that would reposition the party for the challenge of 2015 and beyond. Why then did Governor Akpabio, in responding to the Chairman’s speech, resorted to giving the chairman such a warning which is an affront to the new leader and indeed the NWC.
The seeming implication of Akpabio’s statement is that he should be allowed to run the PDP in his state outside the influence of the NWC and the leadership of National Chairman, choose candidates and delegates and conduct primaries without a look at the party’s Constitution. In other words, Akpabio prefers to run the party in his state as an extension of his fiefdom, independent of the national headquarters and without deference to the national chairman and his NWC. He has thus raised more questions and sent wrong signals to party members across the country. Are the National Chairman and NWC members not relevant in maintaining party supremacy across the country? Is the governor not under the leadership of the National Chairman? Why is he asking the new chairman to steer clear of party affairs in Akwa Ibom State, and what does his agenda portend, especially in relations to party discipline, internal democracy and the fortunes of the party in 2015?
If Akpabio is allowed to have his way, such a regime could trigger another round of crisis within the party and this would diminish its performance in the 2015 general elections. Governor Akpabio is brazen enough to push such a draconian idea to the party’s national leadership given the crisis in the party since he emerged as the Chairman of PDP Governors Forum in February last year. As soon as the governor emerged Chairman of the Forum, he perceived some governors as Judases and threatened to hunt them out of the party. His early conduct created mistrust among the governors and set the stage for the mismanagement of the Governors Forum election of last May, the walk-out at the mini-convention in August, the mass defections from the party and in the ouster of Dr. Tukur. Akpabio’s conducts and pronouncements are instrumental to the crisis in the party. He should resign his appointment as the Chairman PDP Governors’ Forum without waiting for the party to say so as to ensure lasting peace in the system. It would be unconscionable for the PDP to reward him with opportunities for further grandstanding and loquaciousness after his party is nearly consumed by crisis.
The governor had announced that he had appointed Senator Etok his campaign director for his senatorial election in 2015. In other words, Chief Akpabio will want to replace Senator Etok in the Senate, and it is Etok himself that would serve as his (Akpabio’s) campaign manager! Repeatedly, he had told his fellow governors to visit him in Uyo to learn a thing on gubernatorial performance since, according to him, no governor does it better.
If Dr. Bamanga Tukur was magnanimous enough to resign to make room for a peaceful resolution of the crisis within the party, Chief Akpabio should also be replaced as the Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum for a full resolution of these challenges. It is an affront on faithful party members for a man whose actions and inactions generated so much negative passions and led to such intra-party crisis to be handing down orders to the new Chairman. It is pleasing that the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had quickly doused the discontent created by Akpabio’s proposition to the new PDP Chairman. The president had noted that the position of the president as a National Leader of the party and governors as Leader of PDP in the state is not in the Constitution of the party. The presidential clarification indicates that all members of the party should submit themselves to the supremacy of the party.
• Hamman is the Executive Secretary of Democratic Development Network, an Abuja-based NGO.