By Ochereome Nnanna
AS we begin our historic journey into the new, pre-election year with its promised political tumult, I wish to congratulate the All Progressives Congress (APC) for its great success story so far. When Senator Bola Tinubu of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), his partner, Major General Muhammadu Buhari of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the National Chairman of the defunct All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, started the merger moves that spawned the APC, few who were conversant with Nigeria’s history of failed mergers expected the venture to come to this juncture where APC is almost co-equal rival of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
We now have, on paper, a classic dominant two party system. It is safe to assume that when the presidential election comes up early next year, it will be a straight fight between the PDP and APC, with most of the minor political parties going into alliances with either of the two majors for the coveted prize.
At this juncture, the momentum is still on the side of the APC. The traffic is still heavy from PDP to APC, with occasional trickle in the opposite direction. The PDP has leaned out. It has never been this lean. The PDP of today is much smaller than we have ever seen of it. It is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same. It is an advantage in that the volatile molecules in its midst have moved away, and the party is in a much better position to maintain a disciplined front if the new leadership proceeds with maturity. It is a disadvantage because it is no longer evident if PDP will win a credible, fair election were the polls to be staged tomorrow. However, the party’s prospects are very positive because it is still the ruling party, with the gamut of incumbency factors solidly lined up behind it.
The APC, on the other hand, has a much bigger challenge. Apart from managing its huge successes and uniting the factions created by the new accruals from PDP with its old faithful, the APC is yet to undergo its ultimate litmus test: a rancour-free election of candidates, especially the substantive national executive council, presidential ticket, governors and state and federal legislators. While PDP is likely to have a relatively easy ride on this count, the APC must work hard to prevent large-scale decamping back to the PDP, especially in the states of the former G5 PDP governors. PDP may be waiting in the wings to take back what was theirs.
The APC must now shine or perish. It must proceed to convince right thinking Nigerians that it is a better alternative to the PDP that has ruled the nation since the dawn of the renascent democracy in 1999. It must demonstrate this both in terms of politics and governance. The APC is a much more diverse political entity than the defunct ACN and CPC, where one man called the shots based on his personal political interests. APC is led by a college of leaders. Therefore the party must come up with a system of power sharing that is based on democracy and consensus. Any experiment in imposition will let all hell loose.
We are waiting to see if APC will continue to mimic PDP by zoning party offices. Or will it make a difference by simply throwing contests open for the best candidates to emerge through the wishes of the generality of members? If we wake up to hear that the presidency, for instance, has been zoned to the North or West or elsewhere, then it shows the Party has nothing different to offer than PDP.
Making governace difficult: APC must also retrace its steps from
the ill-advised strategy of making governance difficult for the PDP as its own idea of opposition.
Rather, it should demonstrate how the nation can be more effectively governed in vital areas such as the war on corruption, transparent handling of the finances of the nation and prudent management of the economy. It must prove that Nigerians are safer in the hand of APC than PDP, rather than always threatening violence and its states being seen as the main centres of terrorism, crises and insecurity. If they are able to do this, Nigerians will see the party as a promising alternative and will be glad to transfer power from PDP to APC come 2015.
But what we are seeing appear to be more in consonance with the old agenda of some disgruntled northern leaders to make governance difficult for President Goodluck Jonathan after they failed to grab power back from him in 2011. It is this agenda of deliberately creating crises with a view to attracting media sympathy that Governor Rotimi Amaechi is staging from time to time in Rivers, while the PDP Federal Government responds by helping itself to some impunity using state uniformed agents.
It was the same agenda that Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila deliberately deployed by calling the Deputy Majority Leader of the PDP in the House Representatives, Hon Leo Ogor “Minority Leader” when it has not yet been conclusively proved that PDP is indeed now the minority party in the House. As a lawyer, Gbajabiamila should have known better since the courts have imposed vital injunctions pending final verdicts that will make clear which party is the top dog in the NASS.
The APC is likely to lose more face if it succeeds in getting it members in the National Assembly to scuttle the federal budget and block the approval of the Service Chiefs and the screening of new ministers over the Rivers crisis; a crisis in which both Governor Amaechi and his political foes in PDP are equally culpable. The Rivers crisis is a normal political muscle-flexing.
Assuming that the APC has the clout to cripple legislative activities in the National Assembly, it would be sacrificing the legitimate duties of the parliamentarians on the altar of political power struggle in one of our 36 states. It would be forcing the federal parliamentarians to abandon the duties for which they were elected simply because of a political crisis Amaechi started by undemocratically removing an elected local government chairman in Rivers State.
Previous official assignments
It would be a different ball game if, for instance, President Jonathan’s ministerial list arrives for confirmation, and all APC senators rise in unison to oppose all the nominees that are facing investigation for stealing public funds while they were in their previous official assignments. That would be a laudable move that would show APC is against corruption.
If APC continues with the strategy of trouble-making as a means of demonstrating opposition, it has to bear in mind that no responsible government will sit back and allow troublemakers and anarchists to take over the public arena. The law enforcement agents will do their job, especially when supporters are directed to resort to “self-help”. The continued sabre-rattling by Buhari, Junaidu Mohammed and Nasir el Rufai, threatening violence and bloodshed unless their political interests are met will never help the new mega party.
Nigerians must resist the antics of these uncivilised politicians. APC should rein in its hotheaded members immediately because this is the time to market itself to Nigerians as a better product than PDP.
Trouble-mongering and threats are counter-productive as marketing tools.