By Ochereome Nnanna
THERE is no doubt about it – the registration of the All People’s Congress (APC) is very well received and acclaimed.
The dominance of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had become worrisome and a threat to our democracy. The nation had already become hostage to a ruling party which, in spite of its many disappointing showings over the past fourteen years, boasted it would be in power for sixty years (though it is not clear to me the calculation used to arrive at that number).
With the coming of the APC, those who wish for change both at the state and federal levels can look forward to a brighter prospect for it. Indeed, going by its current strength vis-à-vis the PDP (11 compared to 23 states) the APC is a greatly handicapped underdog.
But based on the novelty of its emergence the euphoria factor is on its side. Its supporters have reason to hope that the flux in the PDP will result in great dividends for the APC.
The Interim spokesman for the upstart party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, boasted that by the middle of July, the number of governors populating the APC would have risen to 23. It has not happened. Whether (and when) it will happen, no one can tell.
The PDP is no stranger to internal crisis. In fact, what is happening to it now is a child’s play compared to what it has gone through in the past and emerged stronger. For instance, in 2005, former President Olusegun Obasanjo went as far as ordering a fresh registration of PDP members with a view to keeping a large section of his opponents (supporters of his Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar) out of the party. Governor Orji Uzor Kalu left the Party, formed his own Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) and used it to win two states in the 2007 elections. Atiku contested for the presidency on the platform of the Action Congress (AC).
In spite of this, the party continued to maintain its dominance in all elections, which obviously led the main opposition parties to settle for this merger option.
The PDP is an accomplished election-winning machine, and that is why most of the time, those who run away from it after each crisis find their ways back, sometimes braving great opposition, as Orji Kalu and Atiku Abubakar did. Each time its critics and opponents predict doom for the PDP it comes back stronger due, mainly, to its enormous incumbency and ombudsman advantages.
The APC has an uphill task before it can gain the confidence of its members and admirers as a party that will survive its teething problems as the PDP was able to do. As I noted in an earlier write-up, the APC is still a party of strange bedfellows. Perhaps, the only thing that currently unites its merging components is the common desire to dethrone the PDP. Beyond that, there is little common ground.
Historically, the merging parties do not belong to a common root. The Northern wing of the APC is basically the old All People’s Party (APP) made up of the General Sani Abacha loyalists and deserters from the PDP, such as Alhaji Aminu Asari. The APP became the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) and later split when General Buhari left and formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) when some ANPP leaders decided to work with the PDP administration in a quasi-“government of national unity” after the 2007 polls.
These Arewa components of the APC come with the typical northern mindset of pushing for the continuation of the current centralised federalism with the North in charge of the presidency and the South providing the Vice President. General Buhari also strikes the posture of a man who will fight corruption; an attribute that may not endear him to many of his fellow leaders when the struggle for the presidential slot heats up.
The South arm of the APC is mainly the former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Historically, the Western regional vision of Nigeria’s federalism is based on the Awoist ideology of decentralisation of power.
They call it “true federalism”. The Tinubu political machine showed they meant business when they created the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA’s) in Lagos State, opting to endure the withholding of the federal allocations due to the local councils during the Obasanjo presidency.
The challenge before the APC now is to decide once and for all, whether to go with the Arewa view of centralised federalism for Nigeria or settle for the Western/Awoist model which Tinubu and his followers prefer. Solving that issue will be a major ideological milestone for the APC because it will close the chapter of a discordant root and grease internal bed-fellowship.
By far the most challenging obstacle for the party is the emergence of its leadership. Yes indeed, there was little friction when the interim leaders were agreed by the joint committee of the merging parties. These are just technocrats.
The main headache will be when the LEADER of the party is considered. That is the man on whose table the buck comes to a final stop; the man who gives the last order and delivers the casting vote when crucial decisions are taken. Will it be Buhari the leader of the minority CPC or Tinubu, the largest shareholder”? Or will one section produce the leader while the other produces the presidential candidate?
Bearing in mind that if the presidential candidate wins and becomes president of Nigeria he will also be the leader of the APC, which of the divides in the party will be willing to give away this prized position?
Of particular interest to Nigerians is the person who will stand as the presidential candidate of the APC in 2013. The party cannot afford to present an unelectable candidate such as Buhari, who has become stigmatised by his loss of three presidential elections to the PDP.
He has not done much to improve on his drag factors that led to those losses, such as his perceived parochialism, religious extremism, lack of reach outside the North and lack of bridges across Nigeria. And yet, it is obvious that Buhari’s main attraction to enter the merger is for him to have a better fighting chance for the presidency.
APC has to go out of the box for the fresh, inspirational X-factor candidate for president. Some of the hot names it might consider are: retired Col. Abubakar Umar, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Gov. Rochas Okorocha and even Gov. Rotimi Amaechi.
But will Tinubu and Buhari be willing to make the unusual sacrifice required?