APC’s descent into clannishness
Nobody expected that all would be perfect in the All Progressives Congress (APC), after it hurriedly coalesced in 2013, and when it was apparent that occupants of Aso Rock were not too concerned about retaining the office. But many thought that the very reason and manner of its emergence and the groundswell of goodwill that greeted it would mitigate the resort to self-help and the rat race that characterizes party system in this clime.
When people thought it was difficult to forge the kind of alliances that brought it about, the APC pulled a surprise. Some had dug into Nigeria’s political history, to justify why the north and south west never agree politically, thus, that an alliance between the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and others, particularly from the north was a no-go area. But the stakeholders denied themselves, to prove bookmakers wrong.
It was also unheard of, that a coalition of struggling parties could rally round to unseat a ruling party that has governed for 16 years. So, the APC did not just join forces; it contested a very crucial election and formed government. But what the party has done with its victory is so far, not what onlookers and even insiders bargained for.
Now, everyone knows that our politicians are not so charitable to invest so heavily in power game without expecting returns. Even though the APC is yet to unveil its campaign expenditure for 2015, we all know that a lot of resources went into it. Those who doled out such funds did so because they wanted to leverage on their investment to access more funds. We also know that government is the major source of riches and the richer our politicians, the more they are able to dominate.
However, in the campaigns, APC promised change, which was to lead to a more accountable and transparent government, different from the one they just ousted. We knew that could not just happen. And since there was no forum to explain the new order, members took it as another campaign promise that will need time to fulfill. After all, a number of other promises have been rescheduled till when the economy gets better.
That set the stage for self-help. The first major trouble was how to manage the party’s less than absolute majority in the National Assembly. If the figures were to be poorly managed, the opposition with its sizeable number could be tempted to cause some harm. That was exactly what happened on June 9, 2015. The party had gone into government with the same divisions it brought from outside. Blending did not take place and smartness took over. And there were losers and gainers. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and one of the leading lights in the APC got bruised in the jostle for space, as his favoured candidates were shoved aside both in the Senate and the House. The man licked his wounds and kept quiet.
On the occasion of its first 100 days in government, when the party was supposed to showcase its brilliance and deft performance, the APC was full of excuses. Tinubu did not abandon the party. He was the one who canvassed for 100 hundreds of honeymoon for the government, even when it was clear there was nothing to exhibit.
From there, it was time to appoint persons to assist Buhari in the delivery of campaign promises. The first set of appointments did not take into consideration the diversity that assisted the party to form government. The President was simply on his own, as he appointed men with whom he had aspired to be president since 2003, shunning other legacy partners. The most worrying was the choice of persons from one geo-political space. The secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir Lawal, confessed at a thanksgiving, that if not for Tinubu, he wouldn’t smell that office, because lobbyists from the north wouldn’t hear of it. That meant that even if Buhari wanted to spread to other parts, there are those around him who wouldn’t let him.
Forming government was another task for the party. The president first boasted that he would not appoint those who had godfathers, because he did not want those who would influence his government negatively. What he meant was that he did not want those who would influence contracts and compromise his ministers. There are not too many godfathers in the party. Apart from Tinubu, there is former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who had invested in their party and would naturally want to be rewarded, and the surest way was to allow him and other investors to nominate persons to be appointed into choice ministries. Choice ministries include: power, petroleum, works, finance, education, transport, and a few more. The party is also expected to benefit from these choice ministries, so that monies are carefully warehoused to run the secretariat and prepare for the next general election.
When the appointments were made, finally in November 2015, stories were that Tinubu was again rebuffed. We were told that his nominations were rejected and to add insult to his injuries, some of the foot soldiers he singlehandedly groomed and exposed politically, were appointed into the Federal Executive Council (FEC) without his input. But there was no whimper from Tinubu. He showed great maturity and continued to support the president and their party, at least in manner of speaking.
The train went to Kogi, where the APC joined other parties to contest the November 2015 governorship election. The party candidate, late Audu Abubakar and his vice, James Faleke were close to victory when Audu suddenly passed on. It was one emergency both the constitution and the electoral act never envisaged, but it was also one development that could have shown APC’s adroitness at managing crisis. Alas, the party failed woefully. When it was clear that Faleke could have inherited the office of governor, which would have expanded Tinubu’s political ‘empire’ outside the Southwest, some spin-doctors went to work. The party had all the space to ‘promote’ Faleke, but it dithered and the result was that the party went to court with itself. Even though the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of Yahaya Bello, the party had wounded itself and in politics, some do not forget when they are injured. But again, Tinubu never betrayed his losses. He was still a good party man, apart from when he took up issues with minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, who at that time was in the habit of saying too many opposing things at the same time. As party leader, Tinubu berated the man for not showing diplomacy in the way he dished out hurting policies. Some thought Tinubu overreacted, when he could have conveyed his thoughts using party channels, or going to the Presidency and talking things over. At that point, there were signs that the Asiwaju was getting close to saturation point. He had taken enough and could no longer pretend.
He got there last week, when he took umbrage at the national chairman of APC, John Odigie Oyegun, for his unprofessional meddlesomeness in the Ondo governorship primary. The primary was another opportunity to show which version of APC would gain upper hand. Instead of going to Ondo as one bloc, we are told APC went there with at least three blocs. There is the Tinubu bloc, the Abuja bloc and a third bloc of APC members who are looking for where to invest ahead 2019. And this is where the national chairman comes in. Without apportioning blames, a national chairman should be seen to manifest neutrality. It should not be rumoured that he is taking sides in a game that is as serious as party primary. And there are things that should not be associated with that office, especially coming from an insider in the caliber of Tinubu.
The APC has recorded very low marks in the management of its affairs, since day one in government. The party leadership has failed to exercise supervision over itself and its government. Loss of confidence in itself, as shown in such public utterances by its leadership, is a worrying trend. Yet, Tinubu must be commended for speaking out. Let others speak and put the issues on the table. APC is too important to be handled clannishly.