Finally, the cracks papered over by the All Progressives Congress since it took office have become a gaping hole where political lizards now recreate. Even if they still deny it, the statement recently issued by Asiwaju BolaTinubu, National Leader and prime mover of the alliance that birthed the APC signals that undertakers may soon be invited to inter the erstwhile party of promise.
It is doubtful that this current juncture came to anyone, including Tinubu by surprise. A master strategist and people’s manger that he is, the former governor must have, at some point before the agreement that produced the APC was “sealed, signed and delivered”, fathomed that there could be disloyalties capable of terminating the hope that the party held. But since ambition often encourages blind optimism, the strongman of Lagos politics apparently dismissed any break in trust between him and his allies.
However, only politicians who desire power at all costs could ignore the evident incompatibilities in the APC union. For instance, while the demand for true federalism had become synonymous with the Action Congress of Nigeria, one of the legacy parties that formed the APC, the two other parties- the All Nigeria Peoples Party and Congress for Progressive Change abhorred the idea. It was predictable that such a fundamental issue was bound to lead to irreconcilable differences at some point in this marriage of convenience.
The APC compounded its own problem by admitting disgruntled members of the Peoples Democratic Party for the same determination to win. Whatever the APC leaders were thinking when they admitted five former PDP governors and their followers into their fold in 2014, that action is comparable to laying your head to sleep after igniting fire on your own roof. Except that politicians sometimes degrade reason on the altar of desire, even the political infant could discern that the move by the former PDP members was not for love of country. The discontent that forced stalwarts like current Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and five governors out of the PDP can be traced to either of two things which I will suggest shortly.
The first is that some of them sorely wanted a shift of power to the north. One or two of them also wanted to be beneficiaries of the shift. When it became obvious that leaders of the PDP had sold their hearts to a second term for former President Goodluck Jonathan, proponents of power shift sought other platforms to actualise their dreams. The APC was handy!
Second, some of them could no longer stand the frustration of their exclusion from party control. Hawks around Jonathan had taken over control of the party hierarchy in preparation for the 2015 elections and since no politician likes to be inconsequential, the need to seek relevance elsewhere overtook the defectors. The APC leaders knew that these men were in pursuit of individual ambitions and discountenancing that has cost the party dearly.
But could that be because those who were putting the APC together were also not materially different, even if they told Nigerians that they were angels sent from heaven?
My suggestion is that politicians here are all the same, mostly power mongers without much interest in public service and the well-being of the people. That’s in addition to the legendary incompetence we are used to. In admitting these former PDP folks, my suspicion is that the APC leaders were either overcome by the desire to acquire power or too self-assured of their ability to outsmart the new entrants.
This neglect or presumptuousness is one of the reasons for the commotion that has gripped the party’s soul. It accounts for the APC’s inability to take advantage of its majority in the National Assembly in the interest of the nation; it is the reason why the party which swept through the elections like a tsunami is now spilt into three groups with no certainty for a reunion. This was the same unfortunate road that the PDP, a party which was the envy of all in 1999, treaded before its fall.
You then ask yourself the question why political parties travel on this path of self-destruct and implosion? Recent history of political activities in Nigeria will suggest the selfishness of political actors which increasingly leads to the disregard for processes and puts a death knell on internal democracy. Politicians consider themselves superior to processes set by their party and disrespect to the voice of the very people they represent.
It is taking people for granted that brought the PDP to its present sorry pass. And this ignominy is not so much about the loss of the 2015 presidential election as it is about the complete loss of its premier form. Nigerian politicians would rather die than lose elections but true democrats see the loss of elections as part of the process of national growth. This is why former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, needed no pressure to quit office after the Brexit event. But no one wants to lose any election here and to sustain the grip, politicians employ all sort of tactics and go to any length to fund their impunities and circumvent procedures.
On Monday, the two main candidates in the upcoming American presidential election had their first debate; in Nigeria, one or two candidates would have opted out, as happened in 2015 when Candidate Muhammadu Buhari shunned the debate with incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. This is because we have no respect for process without which, democracy can unfortunately not grow. Ghana, our neighbouring country, has conducted elections since 1992, with people winning and losing without fracas but for Jonathan to become acting president weeks after his predecessor travelled out for medical treatment, Nigerians nearly called a national conference. Our leaders are only ruled by personal aggrandisement. For instance, current tensions in the APC suggest an insidious positioning for 2019 amongst these rival groups, even when not a jot of the extant mandate has been actualised
A corollary to the foregoing is the frequent attack on internal democracy in parties. People manipulate delegate lists like it is alleged in the Ondo primaries and godfatherism and imposition of candidates thrive. Curiously, those who profess progressive credentials are also guilty of these malpractices. The case of Dauda Kako Are who was said to have won the APC ticket to represent Mushin 1 Constituency at the House of Representatives while Tinubu allegedly preferred another person is an example of the complicity of all politicians on this front.
Unfortunately, when political elephants tackle each other, the people take the brunt. Indeed, the Nigerian is today taking more than a fair share of trouble. A country that has accepted the reality of an economic recession does not need political fracas added to the level of social frustration as nothing is more combustible than an unpredictable political environment where the people are left hopeless and processes are abandoned.
This is more so when it has become the character of the famed Father of the Nation to keep quiet in the face of political altercations within his party. With such a disposition, President Buhari is unwittingly contributing to whittling down the confidence of people in our democracy. Issues like the appointment of leaders of the Senate, allegations of budget padding as well as this current Ondo crisis that leaders of the party could have sorted out within minutes of a people-centred, frank conversation, have become national albatrosses creating tension in a polity where depression has taken hold of the people.
But here is a reminder to leaders of the APC: the party won a revolutionary mandate on two fronts in 2015. Buhari, despite his age was voted President on his fourth take even as the party became the first to defeat an incumbent. Nigerians, no matter how they appear, are not foolish; they did not give that mandate lightly and the APC cannot afford to fail.