Politics, especially the Nigerian brand, is not meant for saints and the upright. Most times, the propelling motivation for an average Nigerian politician may not be altruistic. Sometimes the driving force remains within the prism of self preservation and aggrandizement.
So, it is within this purview that one may attempt to view the ongoing ‘rofo-rofo’ developments in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) where centrifugal and centripetal forces are finding spaces for expression which may result to a calamitous end if not managed with requisite political dexterity.
Like I wrote in the past, the scenario which condemned the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which prided itself as the largest political party in Africa with an ambition to rule Nigeria for at least sixty years, to an opposition party today is shamefully playing out in the ruling APC.
Interestingly, the main actors are more or less the same. The result?
Well, this depends on action taken by those currently controlling the lever of power. For the APC to avoid the same fate that befell the PDP in 2015, its leadership must handle the situation differently.
The formation of the R-APC by some disenchanted leaders of the APC was meant to create division and confusion within the ranks of the ruling party. This bears dangerous semblance with that of the NPDP which coalesced into other opposition elements to terminate the PDP’s six decades power control illusion in 2015.
Following the insistence of the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on returning to power in 2015 in contrast to the gentlemen agreement he was alleged to have entered into with northern power blocs, seven northern governors opposed to his ambition resolved to dump the PDP.
Chaired by the former Niger state governor, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, the dissenting governors, under the aegis of G7, perfected plans to team up with the progressives to teach Jonathan and his cohorts some bitter lessons.
While Aliyu and the the then governor of Jigawa state, Alhaji Sule Lamido, resolved to stay back and watch developments in the PDP, five others left to form the N-PDP which aligned with the bourgeoning APC to oust the PDP.
Those governors who helped to sweep Jonathan’s PDP away included Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers State), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto).
Similarly, scores of lawmakers, including the incumbent Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, together with their followers joined forces with the governors to send the PDP packing.
Though those who led the connivance against Jonathan at the period would want us to believe that the pivotal force driving them was national interest, the discerning know that the personal/group interest of most of the members of the N-PDP was central to the resolve to collapse the PDP.
The proclivity for injustice and imposition of candidates on members by the leadership of the party, its abhorrence of the rule of law and other vices, both at the state and national levels, helped to push-out those politicians with modicum of decency from the party.
The decision of the leadership of the PDP then to close the political space with the slogan of ‘no vacancy in Aso Rock’, which precluded other presidential aspirants from jostling for the party’s presidential ticket, was the last stroke that broke the camel’s back.
Fast forward to 2015. The APC, which clinched power on the strength of the generally avouched integrity and forthrightness of its candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), is regrettably treading the same path that eclipsed its predecessor.
Power hungry Buccaneers, who are feeling ostracized by the ‘change’ government have vowed a replay of the past. The principal motivation in the whole political storm within the party could only be posited in the quest for self/group preservation.
But what’s wrong with a politician trying to exact personal/group interest especially when the constant denominator in politics remains ‘interest’? Certain political blocs, especially those of the N-PDP and the old Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), formed by the President himself, are aggrieved-whether wrongly or rightly.
Because their grievances were not adequately resolved, especially by the leadership of former APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, they felt the best way to exact their own pounds of flesh was to cause the downfall of the ruling party at the 2019 general elections.
Buba Galadima, an erstwhile ardent follower of the President and a major actor in the formation of the APC, had cried his voice hoarse in the past alleging that some critical members of the CPC were not being patronized with appointments. But the Oyegun leadership, like its counterpart in the pre-2015 PDP, ignored him.
Similarly, the leadership of the N-PDP alleged that one of their arrowheads, now Senate President, was being hounded and humiliated.
They also alleged that they were being left out in the scheme of things, same way the South-west complained against Jonathan’s administration, the Oyegun’s leadership failed to lift a finger!
Lawmakers who are at loggerheads with their state governors complained that the state chief executives were skewing the grassroots against them especially when they hi-jacked the state party machineries at the ward and state congresses, the Oyegun leadership looked the other way.
The President himself acknowledged this fact in his response to the defection of lawmakers in the National Assembly from the APC to the opposition when, in a statement released on his behalf by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, he stated “As the saying goes, all politics is local. We understand that some of the distinguished and honourable lawmakers have issues with their home states, especially on zoning which bars some of them from seeking another term in their constituencies.”
So, by the time Comrade Adams Oshiomhole took over the leadership of the APC, incidentally at the twilight of the 2019 general elections, there have been groundswell of discontentments in the party. Holding the aggrieved back and rebuilding trust among them would be a Herculean task for the new APC leadership.
Analysts hold that the handling of the Farmers/herders crisis in the country by the government caused a lot of discontentments in the polity and this also contributed to the exit of some members from the ruling party. Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, one of the arrowheads of Buhari’s second term advocacy, dumped the APC because he felt the government was not doing enough to stop criminal herdsmen from killing his people.
It therefore appears that most of the itinerary politicians moving from one party to other are political predators who are willing to go into alliance with any group that could cater for their personal or group interests whenever they are threatened. Of course, they could described as men bereft of definite political ideology.
However, there are worries in certain quarters as to whether the APC could weather the storm and return the President in 2019.
Pundits posit that the ruling party must change tactics and engage more in consultations and horse-trading for it to survive the impacts of the gale of defection staring it in the face. They maintain that many more members of the APC, who feel they cannot find space within the party, would defect in a few days. This is notwithstanding the fact that the ruling party may also welcome new entrants within same period. Politics is dynamic.
The negotiation with key aggrieved members in this instance must involve the President, who unarguably is the leader of the party.
While the President could maintain his stand of allowing democratic norms and the rule of law prevail, there are certain politicking he should get involved in so as to build confidence and sense of belongings among his party’s faithfuls.
Appointment into offices are like bounty of wars that must be shared among the foot-soldiers who made his victory possible at the polls.
Those political veterans should not be allowed to go hungry while ‘technocrats’, who contributed next to nothing to the President’s electoral victory, are feeding fat.
To this extent, Oshiomhole’s directive that all ministers should inaugurate the boards of their parastatals immediately would be the starting point. This will create the sense of belonging that these aggrieved persons have been longing for.
In states where there are disagreements, the party’s leadership should intervene and ensure amicable resolution of disputes. Where disputes are left to fester, there is the possibility that the gladiators would be digging trenches and this is unhealthy for the President in particular as the day of reckoning beckons.
The current APC chairman, no doubt, inherited a party at the brink. But his handling of the bourgeoning conflicts in the APC would determine whether he will succeed or not. Thankfully, Oshiomhole is not alien to management of conflicts; he is a veteran of struggle having fought the godfathers in his state to be governor for eight unbroken years. This is not discountenancing his vibrancy as an ex-Labour leader.
The APC chairman should be advised that combativeness and tough stance will not win the day for his party. He should be reminded that every vote counts in a democracy. Even when the people defect, describing them as being electorally irrelevant is not conciliatory.
Oshiomhole must change tactics as many of those purportedly decamping to the opposition today may have reasons to rescind their decision even before the general election. But when they have been described in uncomplimentary terms, such decision may be too hard to take. Like the saying goes, no permanent friends in politics but permanent interests.
So, for the ruling party to survive the political predators within its fold, its leadership must be suave, discerning, conciliatory and adept in political horse-trading. With the adoption of ‘give and take’ approach, the road to the precipice in the 2019 polls could be averted.