Opinion: R-APC and the rest of us – By ANTHONY KILA
The lingering crisis in the APC, the ruling party in Nigeria, that led into the formation of a formidable parliamentary and political group now called Reformed All Progressives Congress and consequent defection into the Peoples Democratic Party are the chronicles of a death long preannounced and one has to be amazingly distracted or fantastically naïve not to see it coming.
The questions then are who did what to prevent the dismemberment? Who did what to accelerate such an implosion? Most importantly, what does this development mean for the country and for Nigerian voters?
The causes and elements the break-up gathered, took shape and eventually erupted right in front of all of us, and they are so clear that ordinary readers of pages like this piece should require no one to explain how we got to this new political phase of our national partisan lives.
Tola Adeniyi, a doyen of column writing in Nigeria and President of the League of Nigerian Columnists, however insists that a columnist must always give their explanation on an issue and the great Ray Ekpu agrees with him so we shall take time to revisit the causes of the break-up of the APC.
Let us start by warning that though there are a lot of similarities, what we are witnessing today is not the same as what we saw about four years ago. The PDP that broke up and resulted into the formation of n-PDP that later metamorphosed into an important part of the APC was a monolithic element whilst the APC was coalition of different forces.
As history and political science have taught us, a major consequence of having a political coalition in government is the need for a bespoke leadership for such a formation. Such formation tends to be either that of a strong party managed by strong party leaders that hold the government of the coalition alive and to account or a strong head of government who either by practice or by election and or acclamation is also the leader of the coalition.
In the case of the APC, one bespoke option could have been that of a strong party chairman and party executive council that holds alive the government and the coalition by liaising with the legislative arm of government, leading personalities and various components of the coalition to ensure consultation, deliberation and representation.
Another bespoke option could have been a strong passionate, partisan and participative President that holds the coalition together by balancing and satisfying sectorial, ideological and identity interests of the coalition whilst ensuring popularity and consolidation of the party through performance and dialogue with the general public.
In practice, the APC chose and showed none of the two manifestly advisable options. Rather, they opted for the opposite of the two possible options. The APC tried to rule the country through a weak party structure that seems totally uninfluential in terms of governance, policies and appointments into offices. The party was seen and said to be an underfunded, generally inactive and sometimes reactive structure led by good but uncharismatic and uninfluential chairman in the person of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who amazingly tried to stay as chairman even when it was clear to even his most ardent supporters that his lacklustre reign was over.
To compound the situation, the APC also presented a detached Presidency that woke up to party affairs only when it was rather too late. When one thinks of President Buhari and his party, what often comes to mind is the saying of the marsh that stands aloof; acting as if it were not the river’s kin. Even Buhari’s most devout followers will agree in their hearts of hearts that the President could have and should have done a lot more in terms of governance and partisan politics.
Some key result of a coalition government managed by a weak party and an absent president is the erosion of popular support, malcontent amongst party chieftains and dismemberment.
Kayode Ogundamsi was the first notable Buhari enthusiast to publicly voice his concern about the ability and vigour of the government and the coalition, and after him came many others; before them, we took time on these pages to criticise the new ruling party of the way election of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives were handled and we warned them of the possible consequences of such bad management. With the formation of R-APC and defection into the PDP of many of the members, fears of friends of the APC and hopes of foes of the party have come to fruition.
As for the rest of us, we the citizens, our best option is to make the most of the chaos. Contrary to what many think, chaos, competition and confrontation amongst ruling class are good things. In the absence of clear ideological differences, most politicians are part of one political party or the other just to get elected. The same way one picks, uses and gets off a taxi.
We the people need to identify our own plan and interest, we need to be self-conscious even self-centred. When we have chaos, competition and confrontation amongst politicians and parties, they will tend to listen more to voters’ needs and speak more to voters’ concerns. We the voters need to be more proactive; please, don’t believe them when they accuse one side of changing parties, they all do it and will continue to do so if need be. Please, don’t believe them when they say the good ones are on one side and the corrupt ones are on another side; now we know they can all move back and forth. Don’t be fooled by those promising you of being different or fresh. Being new is not a value per se. We need to look for those that can do the job.
As a people, we need to remember that we are the ones employing these politicians and we must make sure we give our support to only those who are competent enough to do the job of managing Nigeria and humble enough to listen to us. Punch
Anthony Kila is a Jean Monnet professor of Strategy and Development and currently Centre Director at the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies