By Rotimi Fasan
THESE are desperate times for leaders of the All Progressives Congress party that is struggling to hold together the house of cards that they clobbered together four years ago. Members of a rebel faction of the party led by leaders of the APC-controlled legislature, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogarra, are threatening to leave the party en masse by the end of this week. The crisis that may now be the undoing of the party has been long in coming.
The lack of party discipline that has characterized relationship between members of the party in the executive and legislative arms of governance, a failure that was already in full bloom shortly after the party’s electoral victory in 2015 could finally put asunder what unconscionable politics put together.
The crisis itself says much about President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure as a political leader. The chickens of his indifferent neglect of the vehicle that brought him into office are now coming home to roost and it is clear that he has little to offer the malcontents in his party beyond the same convenient measures on which the APC foundation was laid at inception.
Otherwise, the party leadership will not be offering ‘automatic tickets’ to member of the Reformed All Progressives Congress party. The R-APC arm of the APC has for a while now wanted out of the APC. It may this week indeed turncoat and take a final walk away from the hasty contraption tethering on its feet that is the APC. Adams Oshiomole, who as the newly elected chair of the APC, took over as landlord of the party has been fighting fire since he assumed office.
He has been making the rounds of the contending caucuses of the APC that are at each others throat. While his efforts may appear to be yielding fruit on one end, it is surely opening new wounds on other ends where he is accused of toeing the line cleared for him by both President Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
With the offer of automatic ticket which is meant to ensure that both members and leaders of the R-APC retain the ticket to contest for re-election into their present positions without any challenge from other party members, the Buhari/Tinubu/Oshiomole arm of the APC is in a sense offering ‘tenure elongation’ to members of the R-APC while simultaneously shutting the door in the face of other party members, particularly a few governors from the party hoping to spend their disengagement from the government house of their different states in the senate of the National Assembly, a much-desired semi-retirement facility for former governors.
This last-ditch attempt to persuade renegade elements of the APC from defecting has both desperation and convenience written all over it. It is a version of the kind of appeasement that can only make the R-APC appear like a favoured bride. This may not go down well with other party members that may view this as a reward for bad conduct- a compensation for indiscipline.
But who really are the disciplined members of the APC? Who are those members of the party for whom the party position is superior? Is it President Buhari who was no sooner elected president than he abandoned the party that brought him into office, more or less washing his hand off its affairs like a contaminated object from which everyone instinctively shrinks?
President Buhari who ought to have assumed full control of the leadership of the APC on being elected president chose to effect a standoffish posture and watched from the sideline as the Bola Tinubu arm of the party with which it would appear he was initially sympathetic wrangled with the Bukola Saraki/Yakubu Dogara arm, following the latter group’s hijack of the leadership of the legislature against the wish of their party, rightly or wrongly.
When he could have poured oil on troubled water he chose to play Mai Gaskiya, a Mr. Integrity that could only now tolerate the very people that made his presidency possible after three failed attempts. The house cleaning work that he could have done to give the APC a new lease of life, rubbing off on it a bit of his putative integrity, was passed over in favour of sanctimonious posturing.
Rather than rebuild the APC, the president chose to surround himself with a new crop of individuals, family and ethnic sidekicks that played virtually no visible role in his election. He scorned both Tinubu and Saraki, taking sides as the mood takes him in the battles that had pitched supporters of the two leaders against one another. At some point, Buhari with Nasir El Rufai as his arrowhead started cultivating a cult following of his own, away from the contending duo even while poaching on their support base.
For example, he formed a cozy relationship with estranged protégés of Bola Tinubu like Raji Fashola and Kayode Fayemi rather than reconcile them to their former principal with an eye to keeping the APC together as one political family. It was clear that Buhari was not interested in the survival of the APC- at least not beyond rhetoric. He was more invested in creating his own force within the party that would rival the other two leaders on whose arm he rose to power.
He has continued in that vein, content to push his anti-corruption credentials as its own end, until his re-election ambition started staring him in the face a few months ago. That was when he started courting Tinubu, inviting him to a flight in the presidential jet after getting his supporters to halt their attack of Tinubu.
But while he was succeeding with Tinubu, his government’s investigation and trial of Saraki went apace. Until the latter was discharged and acquitted by which time the mere breach in their party’s cloth had become a wide tear. That was when the president knew it was time to bring his political house together by scrambling together a so-called reconciliation team that led to him sacrificing the ambition of his long time supporter and former APC chair, Odigie Oyegun, to remain in office for his own re-election agenda.
Now Buhari is inviting Saraki to the presidential villa and holding reconciliation meetings with him. Perhaps it’s better late than never but this shows Buhari up as disingenuous, knowing when it is rewarding to hold his breath and tango with corruption. The outcome of the meetings is the offer of carrot by way of automatic ticket to Saraki and his followers who don’t seem to be taking the bait. They are skeptical of the offer from the APC and are already providing Bukola Saraki the excuse he needs to walk away from the APC offer. With or without him, they are saying, they will leave the APC. Shikena!