A nation basically hollowed out by mediocrity and liliputianism Nigeria is today has the right to celebrate the coming re-emergence of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu. A British trained Sociologist with a bias towards Political Sociology as well as Sociology of the media must be the most welcome come-back kid in a country in such a circumstance. This would be because such a party leader is automatically skilled in framing the issues in spite of himself, that being where Nigeria is under the worst attack today. Even the topmost members of the elite who are expected to be inherently self-interrogating all the time rely on taken for granted meanings in their analysis of the key issues. The implication is that nothing gets problematised sufficiently in relation to the most important contexts of their issue-ness. And so, as it was in the beginning, so it remains and appears would be, world without end.
After about a decade in limbo, Dr. Ayu must have reflected and shifted positions here and there. Whatever the shifts, they are unlikely to include not being able to rein in bearers of the worst of excesses.
Above all, Ayu’s coming is sure to mark the re-taking of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) by the original nucleus that negotiated it. The PDP was an act of negotiated accommodation between t the conservatives from the National Party of Nigeria, (NPN), in the Second Republic; their radical counterpart from the progressives also in the Second Republic and the middle-roaders from the General Shehu Yar’Adua camp. These leading tendencies were what the names signified: the Alex Ekwuemes; Adamu Ciromas, the Bola Iges (who later pulled out); the Solomon Lars who became the inaugural Chairman; the Francis Ellas now late; the Ango Abdullahis; the Abubakar Rimis; Prof Jerry Ganas; Dr. Iyorchia Ayu; Sule Lamido and two other names that escape the memory immediately. These were the original nucleus of the idea of a mega party that could take over power from the military with an umbrella with nationwide coverage through zoning as a formula for inclusion.
Then the “IRA wing” which actually demanded for such a party as a condition for returning to the Barracks interrupted this process to supplant it with, to paraphrase someone else, residual militarism and messianic preferences. Whether Obasanjo’s 1999 – 2007 has been a blessing or not would continue to be a theme for engagement in contemporary Nigerian politics. What is completely sustainable is that while Obasanjo cemented national unity at the symbolic level – all tribes and tongues were in his government or cabinet -; industrialisation was out of debate; economic policy was outsourced to imperial designers and the party itself started to lose coherence till its disastrous crash in 2015.
So, Ayu’s coming can be called the return of the original shareholders, with implications for a more grounded rethinking of Nigeria, a job that has been seconded to the forces and interests most complicit in the Nigerian crisis itself. An informed party Chairman is a major stakeholder as the adviser-in-chief of a sitting president. The assumption is that a PDP president in 2023, should that happen, who is interested in national integration has a ready-made intellectual, ideologue and practitioner in Ayu.
It is not clear if Dr. Ayu will kill sycophancy or be swarmed by it. The level of the National Chairman of a hegemonic party ought to be above praise singers and sycophants at a distressful time such as this in Nigeria. Unfortunately, sycophancy is one of the most lucrative industries in Nigeria today.
A former lecturer, a former Branch Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) and a former Minister for Education should have something to put on the table on how to reclaim that most horrible manifestation of decay in Nigeria: education. A tree cannot make a forest but an Ayu is a tree with agency.
Lastly, the culture of informed debate is miserable in Nigeria today. A culture of shallow pontification is dominant, with all manner of experts making ridiculous claims. Would the PDP under Ayu step in to sieze the debating advantage by resuscitating the party’s ideological school in addition to a new manifesto on education?
All in all, irrespective of which tendency in the PDP facilitated his come back, it might not be totally out of sync to think that after experiencing a rise and fall, the PDP might be experimenting now with a renaissance for Nigeria. It is not because Ayu used to be or is still a radical activist. No. It is that Ayu is politically educated enough NEVER to do certain things that the typical Nigerian power elite does without bothering about implications of such for the survival of the system.
Intervention shall be watching from the sidelines!