Guest Columnist

  Lest We Forget! Where is IYORCHIA AYU? By Onu John Onwe

On April 28, 2022, I wrote in this column an open letter to Iyorchia Ayu, National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, one of those correspondences one sometimes take up as a public duty, especially if one envisages that things may go wrong with the discharge of public or private duty to the public and posterity. I admire Senator Ayu having crossed his paths literally through his writings as a scholar and through his activities as a partisan politician. He was one of the Jos University Faculty of Social Sciences teachers that banded together to write and publish very scholarly and well researched essays on Nigeria’s socio-economic and political problems. Among these writings waere his essay, ‘The Kaduna Mafia: A study of the Rise, Development and Consolidation of a Nigerian Power Elite’ in the book, Kaduna Mafia… edited by Bala Takaya & Sonin Gwanle Tyode and his book on Fela. But as has become the albatross of Nigerian leadership problem of leaders not matching their supposedly held belief and conviction with action, Iyorchia Ayu like many others before him betrayed the cause once they are saddled with leadership position. He will neither be the first nor the last in this unfortunate situation, for the great Zik of Africa, as a torch-bearer betrayed the cause with a mere pot of porridge. So also were Anthony Enahoro, Joseph Tarka, Itse Sagay and several radicals that turncoat to serve autocratic government they condemned.

For the consumption of Senator Iyorchia Ayu and his PDP, I’m republishing an excerpt of the letter as a lesson which he and his ilk have refused to learn. Happy reading!


Mr Chairman, kindly accept my belated felicitation on your election as the national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party. Mr Chairman, pardon the delay and congratulations!

Mr Chairman, I decided to make this letter an open one due to its public nature and significance and most especially because there is nothing secret or confidential to warrant it being routed to you as a personal or confidential correspondence. Hope, you don’t mind?…

Mr Chairman, your emergence as the helmsman of PDP at this period in the historical juncture of Nigeria is not just fortuitous because the ineluctable march of history records the fact that no human event is entirely made without the deliberate effort of man as dictated by historical necessity. Take the case of PDP as a case point. In 1998, the military interregnum was rolled back by the conscious effort of Nigerians especially when G18 metamorphosed to G34 wrote Abacha on the need to restore democracy. From that point, Nigerian leaders conquered fear, that major hindrance to human progress and with the courage arising therefrom political forces galvanized to confront the military oligarchs. The deaths of Abacha and Abiola in controversial circumstances were part of those inexplicable forces of history and from then on, political activities gathered momentum. General Abdulsalam Abubakar transition programme’s creation of three parties (PDP, APP and AD) further entrenched the political process. However, Nigerian social forces and people were not ready to seize the momentum to work for “a revolutionary resolution of the mafia problem’ which was, and I hope still is your academic or intellectual position on Nigerian problem as eloquently presented in that seminal paper you contributed to the study by the social sciences teachers of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Jos. That study entitled, ‘The Kaduna Mafia: A Study of the Rise, Development and Consolidation of a Nigerian Power Elite’ edited by Bala J. Takaya and Sonni Gwanle Tyoden remains one of the most incisive explanation of Nigerian leadership problem. I do not know how you interpret your emergence as the national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party. To me, God has placed you at this pivotal position to help resolve the internal contradictions that have been responsible for Nigeria’s stagnancy and dysfunction. In your essay, ‘The Kaduna Mafia: A study of the Rise, Development and Consolidation of a Nigerian Power Elite’’ you rightly diagnosed the different perspectives to the problem and came to the conclusion that the problem of Nigerian ruling class has its root in the formation and foundation of Nigeria as each ethnic and religious group contributed to the emergence of this ruling class of which the Hausa-Fulani segment, the most potent of them all, has had itself singled out and maligned for Nigeria’s leadership failure. Your argument as summarized and submitted at page 126 of the book is that for Nigerians to defeat this power elite, “patriotic social and political forces must first analyse and understand the roots of their power and in concert, act decisively to dismantle their vital sources of nourishment. The Nigerian ruling class, of which the Northern oligarchy and its clique known as the Kaduna Mafia are among its most coherent Northern expression, have used their control of the state to accumulate enormous economic resources for themselves.” According to your thesis, this class supported by their foreign backers has used this economic power to acquire state power and manipulate social and political dynamics of Nigerian society and maintain absolute control of the society. The solution, according to you must be that Nigerians “must be educated, mobilised and organised to similarly form alliances across such artificial boundaries; alliances based on concrete class interests aimed at restoring their human dignity in a free, just and human Nigeria. You emphasized that “more than anything else, the resolution of Nigeria’s class contradictions is the most effective way of permanently resolving the Kaduna mafia and all other Mafiosi or the bourgeois control problem which breed nothing but corruption, economic decay, poverty, ethnic hatred and religious intolerance.” This is your submission sir, and I agree with you.

Now how are you going to practicalize this erudite thesis made over 35 years ago? To me, just as Marx postulated that philosophers have interpreted the world the problem is how to change it, so in the same way I ask you: quo vadis? What is to be done? And this question points us to the earlier position that your emergence at this period of Nigeria’s history is for a purpose. That purpose is to practicalise your thesis by helping to educate Nigerians with the sole object of changing Nigeria. The argument would be: what can a single individual as a party chairman do to realise the object that is so clearly diagnosed as a national problem in the above stated thesis you made some 35 years ago? An argument such as the above stated appears sensible if the critical role of a historical individual is dispensed with but certainly germane if march of history as imperceptible movement of social evolution is noted and acknowledged as potent dynamic force. The same way a lone Islamic cleric, Uthman dan Fodio became a radiating force to lead a revolution that overthrew the indigenous Hausa states and supplanted them with non-indigenous settler-rulership so also the revolution that will change Nigeria into a free, democratic and just state and society will be led by an individual like you. Who would think the American patriots organised as ‘Sons of Liberty’ formed in 1765 in the 13 American colonies and led by Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and many others whose resistance to British colonialism sparked off the 1776 revolution? So, Mr Chairman should not fall into the trap of those who argue that there is nothing an individual can do. First, Mr Chairman should recognize that PDP is in dire need of leadership and he should provide it regardless of whose ox is gored. It should start with the zoning question the absence of fidelity to which has done incalculable harm to the party as was the case in 2015 when some Northern leaders pulled out to join All Progressives Congress to defeat PDP in 2015 general elections. The present dissembling of PDP with the issue of zoning will hurt the party more if it is not adhered to simply because the geopolitical group it favours appears weak to assert their right?  Most of the Northerners (Atiku, Tambuwal, Saraki, etc) were the very people who sabotaged PDP by pulling out of it because the party did not zone its presidential candidacy to the North. In 2019, they came back to PDP and were offered the ticket with Atiku flying the PDP Presidential flag against President Buhari. APC has zoned its presidential candidacy to the South but PDP Northern bigwigs think that they can work magic by prevailing on PDP to give the Far-North the ticket to pitch a Northern candidate against APC Southern candidate, and hopefully win because, according to them the North has the demographic advantage over South. But they are making a mistake because if PDP sabotages its zoning formula there will be a groundswell of popular revolt against it from the entire Southern region to bury such PDP Northern candidate in the debris of its fallen edifice. So, Mr Chairman be the agent of change you preached and still preach in your seminal thesis at the University of Jos unless of course you did not actually believe the verity of that submission. Meanwhile, just know it that 2023 is pregnant with foreboding that signposts that a change of gargantuan proportion may happen in Nigerian leadership question and old things will pass away and all things made new. Change is in the air and I implore you to feel the pulse of it, the imminence of its birth and the sheer weight of its potency. Be the vessel through which it will come and you would have fulfilled the prophecy which that your seminal essay, ‘Kaduna Mafia: Towards a Revolutionary Resolution of the Mafia Problem’ signposted in 1987.



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