Eighteen years ago, specifically on May 31, 1995, the renowned American editor of the famous THE NEW REPUBLIC and Chief Speechwriter to the former United States President, Jimmy Carter, the legendary Mr. Hedrick Hertzberg, wrote an enthralling article with the apt title ‘A Moral Ideologue’. The article chronicled the life and times of former President Carter, who used ethical issues and moral ideology to get to the White House. Today, I have borrowed and used that title to discuss one of Adamawa’s leading politicians, whose political philosophy is similar to that of the former American President and who will possibly assume power following the latter’s footsteps. Dr. Umar Ardo’s entry into the political arena has hit some raw nerves and ruffled some feathers and is creating frightening waves around Adamawa state.
Expectedly, the state is currently engulfed in a tense political atmosphere which has no chance of easing until the 2012PDP gubernatorial nomination crisis is determined by the Supreme Court and a clear winner emerges, following all democratic party nomination processes. The prevailing tension is a result of political chicanery, unfairness and injustice that characterized electioneering processes in the state. The injustice led from one bitter experience to another and ended with the present imbroglio that has pitted the man in power against those who brought him to power; one of them being the foremost man seeking his coveted seat, Dr. Umar Ardo. It is therefore intriguing, if not baffling, that a godfather should angrily gun for the jugular of his god son. Similarly, it must be an odd and unexpected scene to see a kingmaker skip his trade and eye the throne of the king. However, these strange developments have been prompted by political naivety, recklessness and sheer wickedness. Now, the towering intellectual has left his greying opponent far behind and given him little chance to brace up for the political fight of his life.
At the moment, the deepening crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] in the state, and the legal tussle currently at the apex court at the instance of Dr. Ardo who believe that he was unjustly shortchanged at the nomination stage, have set the stage for the next gubernatorial election which promises to be an interesting fight between a young, well- groomed, well- educated and politically sagacious man and his elder whose repulsive antecedents and myriad of questionable qualifications have failed to bail him out of political obscurity. While the youthful contestant is seeking the people’s mandate, wielding better credence and propagating acceptable redemption messages, his aged opponent is once more showcasing his mediocrity and looking up to his illusive, embittered and estranged godfather to pave the way for him to cling onto power.
With his apt slogan of “POSITIVE CHANGE”, Dr.Ardo has undisputedly emerged as the man to beat in the impending political tussle for the coveted gubernatorial seat in Adamawa sate, not just against Gov. MurtalaNyako but against any contender in the state. Rising as a calm cloud, he has turned into a storm, rocking the political scene and uprooting political foes in the process. He has created a great and widely accepted movement that has transcendent yearning for redemptive change. Those who look at his campaign efforts with myopic prism will not appreciate the significance of his strategic moves and his creative statesmanship aimed at correcting current misfortunes and adversities.
The present state administration’s despicable infamy is more pronounced in its egoism and selective economic empowerment policies than in any other sphere of government. Since Nigerian politics is characterized by a weird philosophy of wrong is right and right is wrong and a poor understanding of the theory and practice of democracy, the likes of Dr. Ardo must come out to clear the Aegean stable. The universality of democracy is reflected in its total commitment to the socio-economic needs of the people. When democrats act contrary to this doctrine, they bring democracy to disrepute. This is where we are today in Adamawa with a bruised political psyche; a psyche that needs urgent healing. This healing can be expertly done by true democrats and those who can stand their ground and be recognized anywhere for their political dexterity and worthy academic credentials.
While most politicians in the state are gearing up for 2015, the dovish intellectual is working to determine the elections of 2012 and has gone ahead to prepare for a long drawn battle with the party, INEC and the incumbent. As he often says, for anyone to defeat an incumbent, one has to do three things – 1. Start early campaign; 2. Raise your name equal or above that of the incumbent; 3. Make the incumbent unpopular. Ardo has started early, he is a household name in the state and the incumbent is most unpopular.
Beside fighting it in our law courts, Dr. Ardo has also strenuously set up his campaign machinery and presented his case to the electorates. Presently he has got their ears and won their souls, and also warmed himself into their hearts. Wielding his well established grassroots programs, amiable disposition, forceful personality, intimidating credentials and effective use of mass communication, he has no problem with reception or acceptance by the people. Although he has remained humble, his influence is widely spread. Already, Dr. Ardo is shaking the political firmament and sending fears down the spines of his opponents. This has made him the target of uncomplimentary remarks by his opponents. With the type of prize at stake, he must prepare to receive caustic remarks, pungent and vitriolic flaks from them in their efforts to scuttle his ambition. It is therefore most uncharitable and mischievous to impugn his integrity over his intention to contest the next governorship election.
Not surprisingly, the campaign of calumny is waged by some government spokesmen. Instead of such individuals showering encomiums and expressing appreciation to Dr. Ardo for helping to bring their principal to power, they are paying him with ingratitude; instead of dignifying and showing much respect to their master’s benefactor, they are shamelessly pouring bile and scorn on him. In spite of their skirmishes and vituperations, they cannot distract or discourage Dr. Ardo or stop the star from shining. At the moment, the die is cast. What remains is time to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff.
The political turf in Adamawa is turbulent. However the towering intellectual has abandoned his chosen profession of teaching and ventured into the murky waters of politics with an eye on the plum governorship seat of his state. What has led him to do this? What difference will he make in an era in which those given the people’s mandate always turn on the same people with vengeance?
In recent interviews and public addresses, Dr. Ardo has given plausible responses to these pertinent questions. All this while, he has not hidden his ambition and plan to seek public office in order to bring positive changes and improve the living conditions of the people. He has repeatedly made it clear that the people in power have been grossly unfair to the citizenry considering their profligacy, inept and corrupt leadership. Most significantly, he never shied from telling people that he contributed immensely in bringing the present governor to power but has been disappointed with his odd and disconcerting manner of leadership. From serious observation, there is no place in the entire country, if not the entire world, where governance has been trivialized and brought to public odium as is the case in Adamawa. The irony here is not seen in the calibre of people that were brought into government but is demonstrated by what they have done in government and who have benefited from the government.
Although there is no coordinated epic battle to dethrone the present governor, it will be fallacious to think that he has done much to warrant further popular acceptance. The clamour for his exit is everywhere in the state because his administration has offered little hope and bred unfathomable discontent. Given the chance, the people of Adamawa would prefer going without a government than having the current charade.
In his current endeavour, Dr. Ardo needs no vision or mission statement; he is coming purely on a rescue mission. However, he has to address some fundamental questions some of which have to do with the mess his kinsman has made of governance. The issues of selective empowerment, marginalization and ethnic snubbing are central in this regard. His fate will therefore be determined by how he finds his way in this political maze and convinces the people that he will avoid the old path trodden by his failed kinsman.
Former Commissioner of Education,