WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
Not so long ago, PDP was the force to reckon with in Nigeria. It was completely in control of all that needed to be controlled: the reach, the power brokers, unfettered access to the till and of course, the money. It was practically impossible to imagine the possibility of the party ever losing out of power – no wonder the party’s taunting of a 60 years reign slogan.
But the once acclaimed largest political party in Nigeria and Africa as a whole fell from grace following its defeat in the March 28, 2015 presidential election in Nigeria. PDP failed the test of political party character when it leaders across the country became power drunk, enough to think they hold the bread and the knife and could cut as they chose.
PDP did not lose out only because Nigerians rejected the party but because the party switched to a self-destruct mode; it derelicts from it goals and founding objectives. Like a lost dog that refuses to hear the whistle of the hunter, the leading members of PDP deliberately abandoned reasoning and restraint as they chased away the party’s best brains, sacrificing meritocracy on the altar of mediocrity and “shambolism”.
The outright abandoning of internal control, discipline and the ideals of democracy killed PDP. The party watched as some of its leaders and stalwarts were moving out of the fold enmass to strengthen the already intimidating opposition. PDP became vulnerable and demystified.
Then, came the incumbent ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Sometimes in May 2013, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and a part of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) – all strong political parties in various parts of the country – held their respective conventions to ratify a grand merger that led to the floating of the All Progressives Congress (APC). A well chosen name that reflects the progressive root of its birth.
Expectations were high after the historic ascension of APC. Nigerians expected to see a political party committed to real national development, signal by total probity and accountability to the public, and by creating massive and feasible infrastructural, economic and social renewal and development.
A party that would recognise merit above any other qualities; a party that would indeed allow its members nationwide to play their roles as stipulated in the party’s rules and constitution. Nay, a party of principle.
While the President at the center together with some of his cabinet is quite living up to the expectation of delivering efficient governance to the nation, the party mechanism has altogether derailed from what it was expected to be and what it looked like in the early days of its emergence.
A factor worth recognising is the fact that the merger was strong enough to unseat the erstwhile almighty PDP but was not strong enough to build an enduring, successful political base. One thing I am sure was missing from the outset was real unity of purpose among the parties to the merger. The binding motive appears to be the desire to become strong enough to win elections, otherwise, there would have been devices such as regular retreats to forge a common ground in principle towards an enduring coalition; that did not happen.
Down the line, it started dawning on us that all was not rosy as some individuals and certain groups were apparently more interested in using the platform to access and exercise power and are more than willing to allow the disintegration of the structure if need be. We have seen the likes of Buba Galadima who was thought to be part of the soul of the party, but who today, is freely dangling a knife at the throat of the party; yet, he is just but one of the very many.
But the real revelation began in the build-up to the 2019 elections when party stalwarts, those who are supposed to be protectors of the party, started showing their real colours. Shockingly, APC started losing hold in states where it ought not to, all because those who are privileged to oversaw the affairs of the party wilfully refused to allow party rules, internal democracy, of course, established protocols and common sense to serve as guidance.
As at today, what ought to take center stage in the party’s activities – and to be fully resolved – are how or what happened in Zamfara, Rivers, Imo, Bayelsa, Oyo and Ondo state and across many constituencies in the last elections never to repeat and what must be done to prevent such a avoidable situations. But the party seems not to have an inbuilt mechanism to do that – or could it be a case of the party leadership wanting? APC is not appraising those monumental and future-defining events but is rather creating more divisions and cracks within the party.
How could a party that prides itself on the famous principle of party supremacy lose out hundred percent in all elective positions in Zamfara, a state that is for keep; a state where loyal party members and electorates had done a great job of delivering all elective positions to the party, yet APC lose out because of infighting that was suppose resolve; or perhaps, because of the failure of the party’s leadership to live up to its responsibility with regard to the state. It is indeed, confounding that the APC national executive allows the Zamfara case to degenerate to the point it is and yet no one till now is answering for the avoidable loss.
Take another instance of Rivers state were APC was barred from participating in all elections for elective posts other than the presidential election; all for the same reason: the failure of the party to live by its own laid do rules. Again, the party had to sacrifice Oyo state for the same reason. And there was the case of Imo state that was lost initially because some of us, including the national leaders of the party had to insist that a certain preferred candidate fly the party’s flag in the state. After the lose, the party has not deemed it necessary to set up a serious committee to review the catastrophe that played out in all these states.
It is clear that the party stalwart are becoming more interested in what they get form the processes and the party and are more than willing to sacrifice the interest of the party if it means they would not have their ways. However, a common theme in all these losses including the latest, painful loss, Bayelsa state is that the party’s leadership appears to not bothered about legal implications of its actions and inactions. This undoing stems from electoral guideline that recognises party flag bearers only when the signatures of the National Chairman and the National Secretary are appended to applicable nomination forms without giving any consideration to legal input within the party. The Zamfara and Bayelsa losses expose clearly shows the party does not consult, or perhaps adhere to its legal team which could have noticed name discrepancy or non-complying party primaries that can easily be disputed by the opposition.
Amidst all these yet-to-be-resolved issues is the sudden struggles by those who seem not to be bothered by structural challenges facing the party. This latest maneuvering to take over control of the party structures and machineries have begun to create alignments and re-alignments that are both detrimental and injurious to the corporate goals of the party. Party leaders and movers are beginning to move to opposite ends of the pole to satisfy individual goals. How do we expect leaders who are already building bases for disjointed relationship to work cohesively in the next two years?
The reported desire to remove the party’s National Chairman by a group within the party and more or less, another entrenched desire to keep him by another group, is in every way a ticking time bomb on which the party is sitting. Removing the chairman is not the point here, but rather about the instability and the damages the process would potentially incurred to the party to add to what is on ground.
This is one time the party must be wary of external manipulations geared toward weakening the party as we get closer to 2023.
I am not a pro-Oshiomhole; but if the chairman must be removed, the party must not ever make the mistake of allowing enemies of the party to take over the structures of the party. APC must realise that within are likely those with strong allegiance to the likes of Atiku Abubakar, Saraki and others.
It is a fact that there are divisions in the party as a lot of members are dissatisfied with the way the party has been running overtime. The is the increasing perception that the party has been taken over by a few and that positions have been distributed among the clique. In the build up to the 2019 elections, thousands of party faithful paid exorbitantly to purchase the party’s primary tickets to contest for various positions but many of these primaries reportedly failed to hold in most states, and till today the party leadership has neither offered any explanation nor make refunds to affected affected party aspirants.
Before matter will get out of control – as was the sorry pre-2015 PDP case – now is the time for APC to begin the process of genuine reconciliation to pacify all aggrieved members. Otherwise, the fall of PDP would be a child’s play.
The party leaders cannot afford to sit on the fence any longer. The President must, for the first time, rise to salvage the party. Across quarters, the president has been accused of not intervening over party matters; but in fairness to the president, he can only intervene under the right forum which thankfully, the acting National Secretary of APC has triggered a NEC meeting slated for March 17, 2020. Beginning with the party chairman removal saga; a reminder for us is that the simple legal fact is that once the court pronounces the chairman of the party suspended, the Ag. National Secretary automatically possesses the right to summon a NEC meeting and this time, to inviting the president as the overall leader party and most importantly securing his invitation.
Hence, at this point all the parties including the anti- and pro-Oshiomhole groups, and those on the fence should consider the meeting as the best route to resolve the pile of problems in the party. The presence of the President and the Vice President should guarantee control, and thereby for once put the matter to rest. If Oshiomhole is then removed, so be it and if he is mandated to retain the seat, so be it. Whatever adoptions and ratifications as outcome of the meeting must be fair and binding to all parties. A follow up mechanism after the meeting must also be activated to ensure a through reconciliation process – and not just one of those winner-takes-it-all outcomes. Only then, can the party safely put all rancor behind it and forge ahead for future battles.
But whatever the outcome is, more important to the survival of the party is that we must recognised that respect for party supremacy has waned tremendously within the party and the imperative to dispense all measures to restore it. For as long as those who were responsible for the party’s troubles in Rivers, Zamfara, Ondo, Oyo, Imo, Bayelsa and other are considered as sacred cows that cannot be touched and the party’s National Chairman, whoever it is, is not strong enough to enforce rules that would protect and sustain the party’s image and goal all over the nation, the party should be ready to forge a common front for real battles in coming election years.
At a time when the party ought to be reveling on the opposition’s inability to re-organise its house and also to enjoy some momentum occasioned by the superb performance of the President and the non-ending crisis rocking the fold of the opposition across the nation, APC seems to be on the damned path that destroyed those they mock today. I strongly believe the party still has a window of opportunity to not only be salvaged but to resolve all pending grievances from the first part congress till date.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!