Throwback — The Nigerian Professional Politicians’ League

Was going through my archives searching for a work document this morning and stumbled on this. I wrote it before the 2015 elections. I chuckled at how close to accurate the football analogies turned out.

The Nigerian Professional Politician’s League is in full swing now. The pre-season games of 2012 and 2013 are over and we’re already seeing brisk business being done in the transfer window. Very soon, the sweaty game, the hard tackles, the dribbles, the goofs and the superb goals will be all over us. The players are kitting up and coming out of the dressing rooms already.

Our very own Arsene Wenger, General Buhari who has won the trophy once before and has played in the top flight but he has since been unable to win any trophies (even being content with making champions league position without winning the league under Abacha) might just be participating again. Unlike Monsieur Wenger who has stayed true to Arsenal in the years without a trophy however, the General has moved to whatever political contraption he feels can deliver him the opportunity to compete in the top flight over the years, from ANPP to CPC and now APC. Like his Arsenal counterpart, he believes in spending economically to achieve quite significant results. Financial discipline is one of his strongest points.

Former perennial winners Manchester United have been in shambles this season under new coach David Moyes, even though he has had money to buy players and essentially the same players Sir Alex Fergusson won the league with in the previous season. Olusegun Fergusson Obasanjo also won the Nigerian Professional Politician’s League with the same PDP resoundingly over the years, until Obasanjo somehow designed (or shall we say fate designed) that Goodluck Moyes Jonathan would become the head coach of the PDP. Like Fergusson, Obasanjo is no longer involved in running the party, wielding influence behind the scenes. Fergusson has also been a bit more verbose after his retirement, even writing a book, while Obasanjo has only managed a series of letters (I’m discounting his civil war books).

And just like Moyes sacked Fergusson’s backroom staff and brought in his own (not a bad move in its own right), Jonathan moved in and removed Obasanjo’s backroom staff. However, it seems that Jonathan is plagued with the same ailment Moyes has — he seems not to know what to say, lacks the charisma to say it in an inspiring manner and generally make decisions that have not allowed his club deliver results their supporters are used to, losing ground to competitors who dared not dream of beating them in previous contests. Is Jonathan leading PDP to mid-table positions the way Moyes has done with Manchester United? That remains to be seen. As Moyes brought in an unneeded Feliani same way Jonathan brought in and stuck with for far too long an unneeded Tukur. Now he’s brought in Muazu who is expected to deliver magic as Mata is expected to in Manchester United. We watch with bated breath. However, it must be said that just like Manchester United has had and overcome rough patches in their history, PDP also has had serious crises which they have overcome and come out stronger in the past. This history counts and might still give them the edge eventually. The other truth is that Fergusson handed over a team fraught with problems to Moyes, but Moyes has managed to amplify those problems and make them his own. Same way Obasanjo, contrary to what his lieutenants like to paint, handed over a Nigeria whose many years of problems were far from resolved to Jonathan. However, Jonathan has managed to make those problems seem his own.

Then we have Bola Pellegrini Tinubu. Manchester City was called the noisy neighbors by the Manchester United faithful and no one can argue that the then Action Congress with the likes of vociferous Lai Mohammed and now El-Rufai in APC are very noisy indeed, with their speech dominated by “oppose, condemn, disagree,” and other choice words synonymous with these. But just like Pellegrini did with the City side, Tinubu has succeeded in transmuting the noisy neighbors ACN into APC which is a real threat to the PDP. He has gone around shopping for star players and even taken some from PDP to beef up his team. However, one wonders if he will be as good a man manager as Senor Pellegrini is. For star studded teams are fraught with the problem of the egos of the stars that make them up. Tinubu of the Action Congress whose word was law would find that General Muhamadu Arsene Buhari still wants to win trophies and will not take directives from him in the APC. The stars he has brought into the team like Atiku, Saraki and Wamako might just form a player’s cabal against him and kick the coach out to either become the coach or accommodate a coach who is more amenable to their aspirations. Also, how he will manage to run a party that includes Atiku as a chieftain and El-Rufai who called Atiku all sorts of uncouth names in his book remains to be seen. And all these players want to be the Man of the Tournament, I wonder who will step down for who and how they will manage this in the APC and still focus on the task of wresting the trophy from the PDP. We wait to see.

One also wonders if the All Progressives Congress will be like Manchester City. Manchester City did not win the trophy the first time they challenged for it after spending truckloads of money to get the star players. They however did not rest on their oars, they just kept trying until they won and have kept at it until they are easily the best team in Europe now. Will APC have this same tenacity to stay together and keep challenging if they don’t win the center in 2015? Will their star players stay or will they take transfer opportunities and decamp to the PDP? It remains to be seen.

Final note on this. Only players, the referee and in some cases the fans in the stadium affect the outcome of a match. These are the people that make actual effort to be part of the game. Staying at home and watching the match from the safety of your television means you do not influence the outcome of the matches in any way. So, ensure you are an active participant either as a member of a political party or a registered voter in the coming elections. The same way fans are ruthless with players when they play rubbish, ensure you put your politicians under pressure. Discuss the way the politicians play and analyze the play and be involved in moulding opinion on the play as you do for your favorite teams in the premiership.

The referee can make or mar the game. Our own referee INEC must ensure that teams play according to the rules and employ all the practical methods to monitor the play and deal decisively and impartially with players that flout the rules. Use your yellow and red cards when and where necessary. Referees have to be as fit and work twice as hard as the players to monitor the game. Our INEC cannot afford to be lazier than the political parties they intend to regulate. Also, it shouldn’t be like the Nigerian League where the home team provides the welfare of the referee. Let’s benchmark against the premiership where the referee is truly independent of the teams and is therefore in a better position to be objective.

May the best team win.

A Beautiful Mind