THE recent congresses of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have kept me thinking about how low we have gone in this country in many sectors. In an unprecedented manner, the political party which controls the Presidency, 60 per cent of the two chambers of our bicameral federal legislature, 24 of the 36 state governorship and Houses of Assembly, had parallel congresses conducted in 22 of its 36 state branches.
In some of the 14 states where the APC did not record parallel congress, it was because some of the aggrieved leaders decided to ‘sidon look.’ Surprisingly too, the forces behind 70 per cent of the parallel congresses are serving ministers.
What this signifies is that the plot to disorganise the ruling party is being plotted and directed from the Federal Government which is controlled by the same party. This is akin to partisan civil war. Each time one ponders over the developments in APC, it beats my imagination whether such level of indiscipline, disunity and apparent rudderlessness was possible in the two political parties which have ruled Nigeria since we adopted the American Presidential system of government in 1979.
In the Second Republic between 1979 and 1983 when we first experimented with the presidential system, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which was the party in power, had an arrangement that provided cohesion between the executive, legislature and the party, since they were all controlled by its members.
The NPN devised a caucus arrangement. Every Monday, a meeting in the Marina State House was held. Two topmost members from each of the chambers of the National Assembly met with the President, Vice President, two members of the Federal Executive Council and four party leaders to discuss government policies, programmes, projects, appointments and party issues. At that meeting, each of the three units presented perspectives from their branch on all issues put up for discussion. An agreement would be arrived at and each of the leaders was expected to go back and sell the ideas and decisions to their colleagues.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had a similar caucus headed by the president in the 16 years it ruled between 1999 and 2015. More importantly, the PDP never pretended about the convention that the president of the country, when he is a member, is the leader of the party. The president under PDP had always found a way to rally other party leaders behind a decision they felt strongly about.
The APC was formed from amalgamation of legacy political parties, all of which had electoral strengths in different regions of the country. It became a platform which was used to successfully push out a party that has been in power for 16 years. Since then, it has manifested the symptoms of a party which won power but is unable to manage the resultant success.
Members of the party who are in control of the legislature are most of the time not in agreement with the executive. The party leadership has been in slumber since the present government came to power. The party leadership has never been in a position to mediate between the executive and the legislature when there is disagreement. The President and his ministers have serious contempt for the legislature and no respect for the party organs. In fact, the party has struggled unsuccessfully for four years to set up a Board of Trustees. There is no proper consultation, engagement and discussion. What you have are different arms of government going in different directions with allegations that the executive arm which control all apparatus of state are deploying state powers to oppress and victimise other party leaders.
It is a surprise that the number four man in the APC administration could not participate in the party congresses from the local government level in his home state. Speaker Yakubu Dogara was so pissed off that he headed for the courts seeking for a declaration that the entire congress in Bauchi State be declared a nullity.
In the course of the APC Congresses, a court of record in Rivers State was sacked by thugs. Yet, the court has boldly given a verdict nullifying the crisis-ridden congresses in the state. A few lives had been lost in different places. Many individuals were maimed. And as at today, the APC has become a threat to the survival of democracy, even though, it should be the biggest stakeholder in the political process.
The biggest surprise is the loud silence that is coming from the leader of APC, President Muhammadu Buhari. It is an incontrovertible fact that the leader of APC is Buhari. Yet, with all the negative developments, the President has claimed that he will not intervene in party affairs. However, the presidential policy of non-interference does not extend to the decision that former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole is the official candidate of the Presidency for the national chairmanship at the coming national convention.
The silence of the president where it matters and when it is needed to maintain even peace, decorum, discipline and internal democracy in the APC has given rise to speculations that the president actually know about the parallel congresses and see nothing wrong in them. It is believed the perceived impending implosion of the APC is part of the re-election strategy of the Buhari group within the party.
Some have said the only pre-occupation of the president is his re-election in 2019 and that it does not matter whether there is peace in the party on whose platform he is seeking re-election. What all these translate to, therefore, is that the problem with APC is that of leadership. Where the party should derive strength, cohesion and unity, emptiness is the answer the members get.
The problem of the APC is lack of leadership, more than any other thing. When the president who should be the force pulling every other units together adopted the ‘Sidon’ look approach and decided to do no evil, see no evil and prevent no evil, the various other divisive forces begin to fester and prosper. The party has therefore refused to grow beyond being a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for removing the PDP and Goodluck Jonathan from office.
Up till now, members of the party continue to analyse all appointments made by Buhari in terms of which of the legacy parties is being favoured. It is widely believed in the APC that President Buhari favoured more the two legacy parties on whose platform he had unsuccessfully contested for the Presidency between 2003 and 2011 – that is the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Just recently, members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) in the APC re-organised themselves and expressed their grievances to the party leadership and the Presidency over the injustice, imbalance in sharing of offices and lack of discipline in the party.
One wonders whether President Buhari is actually enjoying the impending implosion in the APC on whose platform he hopes to contest the 2019 polls. Otherwise, how difficult can it be for the President to pull his weight, call Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Bauchi State governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar and order them to resolve their differences and work together? What will it cost Buhari to resolve the problem between Governor Umaru Ganduje of Kano State and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso? Except the president is, in a cavalier manner, calculating that the fight between these two political gladiators will help to decimate the Senator.
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Is it not expected that the president should be able to call his latter day protégé, Nasir el-Rufai, to order with a view to stopping the war of attrition going on between him and the Senators from Kaduna State? However, instead of being a conciliator, we saw the president on national television hailing el-Rufai for arbitrarily demolishing the house of a serving Senator who is also a member of the party. The “Bulldozer”, as the president hailed the governor, has continued to tear apart the unity of the party in that key North-West state.
In Zamfara State, two key Buhari loyalists, Governor Abdulazeez Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa have been at each other’s throat. Yet, the President seems to be waiting for them to destroy each other while the winner gets the trophy.
With all these scenarios in APC, President Buhari and his strategists still believe nothing will stop him from being re-elected. I guess the permutations are that the 2019 general elections would be conducted in the same manner the APC congresses were conducted. In that case, it will be a game for strong men, officialdom, confusion, unlawful deployment of state resources to achieve partisan objectives and other methods that are less than civil.
If the President wants to win next year’s election in a transparent, free, fair, peaceful and credible manner, we have to start seeing the sign that he is puttting his house in order. His party must be properly organized and the rancour there must be reduced to the barest minimum. He must stop behaving like a General who went to the war and won decisively, only to return home and stoked the battle in his backyard. President Buhari must provide political leadership in APC and rein in the centrifugal and centripetal forces tearing apart the ruling party.
If there is no peace in APC, the 2019 elections will be bedeviled with many crises. Prof. Attahiru Jega, former national Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) told President Buhari so at the Democracy Day lecture, though he chose to generalize his comment instead of hitting the nail on the head. However, it is clear that the only party whose congresses recently witnessed so much violence and indiscipline is the ruling party.
- Quassim writes from Abuja