“This party, as you all know, is a business-friendly party. The government of PDP encourages policies and will come up with programmes and policies that will promote enterprise and industry. We believe we must encourage commercial activities. And within this period that the PDP has been ruling, we’ve actually created a number of millionaires and billionaires.”
That was President Goodluck Jonathan, while speaking at the fund raising dinner of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP where over N21 billion was raised for his reelection campaign. Much has been written and said about the propriety of raising such an outrageous amount at a time when most government workers were yet to receive their salaries and were facing the prospects of a very bleak Christmas, and there’s hardly anything new to be added. But for a government that is asking Nigerians to prepare for hard times, it is clear that that admonition is not for PDP members, but for other ‘animals’.
The title of today’s piece was teased from a book I read in secondary school, titled, My Family and other Animals written by Gerald Durrell and published in 1956. For someone who usually goes through books in hours or days, it was a book that took me several days to open, and weeks to read. The news of PDP’s decadent N21 billion left me with the same lassitude: it took me hours to believe and longer to appreciate the magnitude of insensitivity on the part of the president, his party, his hangers-on and the billionaire donors.
But then, whoever said PDP is known for propriety or even a sense of proportion? How would states like Benue, Plateau, Bauchi and Niger which are struggling with payment of workers’ salaries get source the N50 million they ‘donated’ to Jonathan’s reelection effort? It seems that those of us who thought NNPC’s missing $20 billion were intended to grease PDP’s electoral machinery were either naïve, obtuse, or dense.
It is a sign of how decadent and shameless our politics has become that Professor Jerry Gana, who has spent most of his life either in the classroom or in one political office after another, could, along with ‘friends’, donate a staggering N5bn. When did the professor of geography become a businessman influential enough to pull ‘friends’ to donate N5bn for Jonathan’s reelection? Were those ‘friend’s from his teaching days or cabinet days?
Another eye-catching donation was from the National Automotive Council, NAC, which donated N450 million. When did government agencies begin to donate public funds to political parties, and specifically for the reelection of an incumbent president? That donation is not only indecent but a display of acute cronyism. A more sensible government would have returned NAC’s donation and sanctioned its management.
It is not surprising that some people are beginning to compare the story of Nigeria’s political and economic elite to that of the cautious thief and the vicious brigand. The former battles with his conscience, so takes just what he needs. He even tidies up after the act. The latter, on the other hand, breaks down the front door, takes everything in sight and proceeds to destroy what he doesn’t need or cannot haul away. The story would have been funny were it not so similar to the violent rape of Nigeria’s treasury at different levels by those who seem determined to rob Nigeria to death.
PDP’s fundraiser was supposed to be an opportunity for the party and its echelons to engage with Nigerians and market their product, no matter how flawed.
Instead, like My Family and Other Animals which was intended to embrace natural history, but ended up as an account of a family’s experiences, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies they let into their home.
I am not by any means comparing the donors of PDP’s N21bn to these animals, but the symbolism in allowing all shades of characters into the Presidential Villa to ‘donate’ money simply refuses to go away.