Hashtagharsh truths for APC By Steve Osuji


TO bite the bullet:There is no other way to do this than to administer a harsh, if not brutish therapy to the malaise afflicting the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The group is obviously suffering the scourge of an unexpected good fortune or shall we call it a sudden deluge of over-abundance. As noted on this page (“APC: The pains of success,” Friday, June 12, 2015), the ruling party obviously lacks a strategic core. For a party made up of a motley crowd of membership, it needs a core of multi-ethnic thinkers, brainstorming day and night, reviewing the past, dissecting the present and projecting into the future. Yes, 10, 20, 40 years into the future or as long as the party seeks to exist. A corps that can look the party leadership in the face and speak truth to it is lacking and that leaves APC, looking like a fractured market women association with so much noise and hysteria renting the air and beclouding clear thought.

One recommends here, Mr. Audu Ogbeh’s recent interview (Sunday Punch June 28, 2015). There is hardly a more reticent, a wiser voice in Nigeria’s politics today. He attributed the rumpus in the APC to an absence of a Board of Trustees and lack of proper consultation. Yes a BoT with eminent and honourable members is okay but a think-tank is necessary in addition. Routine party palavers that would have been sorted out through basic intermediation has festered into a free for all ego feud and personalised acrimonies.

Just as was the case before the PDP debacle and eventual crash; at the height of its calamity, a thousand members would proffer a thousand reasons why the party was inexorably headed for a great fall. Hardly anyone dared to tell President Goodluck Jonathan the harsh truth which was: that the cause of PDP’s problem was simply and squarely, Jonathan’s second term bid. Nobody in his circle dared tell him that his abject lack of honour would be the ruin of PDP. And those who told him (as this column did, and stridently too) were considered enemies of the state. But the grandest delusion of all is that till this moment, a PDP committee headed by Sen. Ike Ekwerenmadu is still hard at work seeking the reason PDP failed! Well the answer, again and again, is primarily, a lack of honour on the part of ex-president  Jonathan. And here is a poser: would PDP have failed if it fielded for instance, a Sule Lamido or Ibrahim Shema as presidential candidate?

Same scenario may be playing out in the APC today; no group can look the party’s chief visioner in the face and make him realise that his seeming overbearing personality may be harming the party now.

At the root of the trouble rocking the National Assembly (NASS) and threatening to bring the party to perdition is the perception that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu seeks to wield an absolute control over the polity. The unspoken angst is that he ‘delivered’ the president, he nominated the vice president and he sought to install the Senate president and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Whether right or wrong, this is the perception out there. The import of this and of course, the fear of members would be that if allowed, Asiwaju would exert an overly supreme control over the polity.

With this in mind, it was easy for Senator Bukola Saraki, another turk of Nigeria’s power game simply rallied ‘aggrieved’ elements both within and without the party to resist this supposed Asiwaju dominance. This is simply at the heart of the brouhaha currently raging in the APC and any resolution not based on this premise would be an exercise in shadow boxing.

Which way forward: who leads APC?It must be noted that for the first time, Asiwaju is encountering stiff challenge and resistance to his leadership since his ascendancy to the apogee of his political power. All through the AC and ACN years and up until April 28 this year, he had largely called the shots and had his way. Now, it’s a different ball game; it’s national politics now with all the intrigues and intricacies and especially so for a party that is still at best, an SUV. He must therefore, learn to share power, he must learn to wield power more graciously and most quietly. He must learn the art of quiet strengths. His power and influence now lie in their mutedness.

Having helped immensely in killing the PDP dragon and ‘installing’ a  president of Nigeria’s desire, he has earned his place in history; he must be care full now not to unearn it. His best strategy now is to to backtrack, lead from the rear and allow the president to be in front. By virtue of the power and authority imbued his office, power locus has shifted; it is therefore trite to note that the de facto leader of any ruling party is the president and not the ‘party leader’. In fact, he is now president and party leader.

The party must never be seen to be contradicting its president; not publicly, not even when he is wrong. That would diminish both the party and president. But this is what APC did when it would not toe President Buhari’s line of not interfering in the NASS election ab initio.

The fallacy of party supremacy is exactly what it is.A ruling party can only be as supreme as its president allows it. Or can a party be openly supreme to a president. It is trite again to note that, there is party, there is the constitution, there are national institutions and there is national interest. We must situate this party supremacy in the context of all these centrifugal forces. Party power or supremacy, we must admonish, can only be effective in the context of quiet suasion, dialogue and negotiation. It hardly has any force to work by fiat, letters and ultimatums.

Since the NASS debacle, a section of the party has lapsed into vilification and disparagement of APC members who would not submit to ‘party supremacy’. This is unfair and it’s recipe for breeding bad blood and catastrophe for the party.  Atiku Abubakar, for instance, is suddenly despicable evil and Bukola Saraki has grown horns overnight? Even our elder John Oyegun faces unkind blackmail. But when when these people were courted and enlisted in the battle to kill the PDP ‘monster’, they were ‘angels’; when they threw in enormous resources and delivered there various states and zones, it was cool. And now they insist on having a say in the sharing the ‘booty’, they are monsters?

Buhari: how to groom a dictator There has also been a sustained badgering of President Buhari to wield his powers and ‘rein in’ the ‘errant’ NASS members. We must be careful what we ask for. We are asking the president to exercise direct control over NASS (in spite of his better judgment) by interfering in who becomes principal officers in the legislative tier of government. Is this not against the grain of democratic principles?

Have we forgotten the mess former President Olusegun Obasanjo made of the PDP and the NASS during his days? Is this what we want in 2015? It is not political inadequacy or weakness for Buhari to have removed himself from the NASS imbroglio so far. On the contrary, it is a masterstroke that will earn him more respect from the NASS members and this is the kind of change Nigerians voted for.

Many have criticised Saraki very harshly for working with PDP members and throwing up Ike Ekweremadu as deputy senate president. Galling as this may be to APC members, this may well be the greatest move APC has made even though by default. With north as president, southwest as vice president and middle belt (Yoruba) as Senate president; allowing the southeast deputy senate presidency in a multi-party arrangement could have turned out the most strategic move of the APC if they had played it well and appropriated the mistake.

If only for the reasons that we need to unite the country, we need to spread the party further afield, we need to start preparing for the next election and we need to expand APC further into Igbo land. Besides, what manner of party would APC portray itself to be if at the end of the day there is no Igbo principal officer in the NASS? What would it look like if Yoruba had vice president and speaker while southeast and south-south has no position of note? Apart from the purposes of ceremony and protocol, deputy senate president is merely a symbolic gesture that is worth nothing in the scheme of things.

Unknown to many, by the current arrangement in the NASS, APC is a stronger party, it has suddenly grown bigger in clout and more national in spread and outlook. Besides, another election will soon be here; APC must think long term. APC must convince Nigerians that the much-vaunted change is inclusive, expansive and not even about spoils and offices but about delivering value to the people. Just by the way: 30 days in office and it’s a harvest of bickering from the APC government!