By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The discomfort of leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to the recent increase in the prices of petrol aptly showed how the leaders of the country’s ruling party have changed their style.
Just four years ago the party and its leaders were in the forefront of the opposition to the increase in fuel prices by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. However, this time around party leaders have been understandably mute, and where not, have even seemingly reversed their trenchant denunciations of the “fabled” subsidy in the pricing of petrol.
However, on Friday, May 20 Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, leader of the APC took it upon himself to engage striking labour leaders to call off the strike action that was declared by a faction of the country’s labour movement against the price increase. Indeed, the reality of the weight of governance has caused remarkable alterations in the style of the APC.
Undoubtedly, the most remarkable change that has affected the APC even if not conspicuously mentioned is the considerable reduction in the rhetoric of the former opposition party turned ruling party. As an opposition party, the party with its ever conspicuous spokesperson, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had a comment on almost every issue of governance.
But today, only few would notice that the APC presently does not even have a spokesperson. Since Mohammed transited into government as minister of information, culture, and tourism, his office as APC National Publicity Secretary has remained vacant. An attempt by his deputy, Mr. Timi Frank, to step into that position has been vehemently resisted by nearly every other member of the APC National Working Committee, NWC.
Five years ago, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, component of the APC played a fast one on the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, when its members in the House of Representatives conspired with renegade members of the PDP to foist Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker of the House against the PDP’s zoning policy that Mulikat Adeola-Akande from the Southwest should take the office. Tambuwal came from the Northwest. The ACN had at that time celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy.
Four years after the PDP paid back by collaborating with renegade APC members to foist the four presiding officers of the National Assembly, there has been no peace in the party. That coup in the National Assembly is at the centre of bad politics and could consume Senator Saraki causing collateral damage to the party.
For the first time in the country’s democratic history, the head of one branch of government is on trial on the allegation of corruption. Critics of the administration say the Senate President was targeted because he disobeyed the party’s imperceptible directives.
The PDP under President Olusegun Obasanjo also brought a Senate President to trial, but Adolphus Wabara had the grace to step down, a route Senator Saraki has refused to trudge and thereby putting the party through uncomfortable pressure.
The trial and possible conviction of Saraki pose other serious challenges for the APC as a ruling party. Fears that the party would lose the office of Senate President should Saraki be convicted have repeatedly been echoed by PDP senators who with their numbers say they will team up with Saraki’s supporters in the APC to shame the ruling party. It is a possibility that could inevitably put much more pressures on the administration in pushing its legislative agenda.
In fact, despite the seeming foibles of the Senate and House Committees on Appropriation during the just concluded budget exercise, the National Assembly was able to show how it could frustrate the administration using its constitutional control of the budget.
The prospects for the APC as a ruling party are also not helped by the seeming austere postures of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is no news that party officials have silently bemoaned the lack of funds to run the party given the reluctance to fund it using government money.
Another serious challenge that is quietly eating at the morale of party enthusiasts is what they claim as the infusion of PDP elements into the top hierarchy of the administration. That complaint came to light on May 10 during a public interactive session with ministers in Kaduna when one APC stakeholder in complaining about the delayed constitution of boards said that “APC is in government, but that PDP members were in power,” a euphemism to note the appointment of former PDP members in strategic positions of the APC government.
The minister of state for petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachukwu, who chose to answer nevertheless reassured the man telling him “that it is the work of people like you that brought us here” assuring him that soon the boards would be constituted and everyone happy.
But how soon that will be and how the dissonance generated by the APC in government can turn to justifiable delirium is another thing.