APC: 365 days’ burden of political missing links
With the first one hundred days in office, through a deft combination of sentimental media appeals to public emotions and political subterfuge, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), succeeded in deflecting public scrutiny of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The common refrain was that it was outlandish to begin to assess the government of a third world country with the same parameters as older developed democracies.
Riding on the usual goodwill of Nigerians, the ruling party went ahead to detail how the mess left behind by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government of former president Goodluck Jonathan, would take time to clear. But as every clever student knows, the first thirty minutes in an examination hall, usually indicate how far s/he could go in attempting the questions positively.
However, nothing showed how unprepared the new administration was to face the socio-economic challenges, as the six months vacillation in constituting the federal cabinet. While the president hurried to G7 meeting in Germany, leaders of the industrialized nations to whom he presented the much hyped shopping list, must have wondered how in the absence of cabinet ministers, he was able to raise those issues.
Perhaps, President Buhari’s disclosure that former president Jonathan shocked him with the concession phone call, revealed that either he did not believe in the possibility of a different outcome in his fourth contest of the presidential poll or that he believes that it was better to get the power first before talking of what to do with it.
Whatever may have convinced the new ruling party that it was better to invest precious time mainly in clearing the PDP mess, while development partners and investors were kept in suspense, only the party and the presidency could tell. But it became obvious that 365 days could not be dismissed the same way Nigerians were cleverly panned away from public scrutiny of what the administration was up to or its methods, in its first hundred days in office.
As things stand, the first term report survey has not been patronizing, regardless of how loyal partisans want to paint things. Leading chieftains of the party, particularly former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Senator Bola Tinubu, in their separate goodwill messages to Nigerians on the occasion of the first Democracy Day under the APC administration, dwelt on the need to sustain hope.
In his public intervention, the former Lagos governor told Nigerians that one year into the Buhari administration was not an auspicious time “to lament, murmur or give in to despair.”
“It is time to summon once again the political and social courage that we well know and that well knows us. We need to push forward and to urge government forward to do that which it must to achieve this great generational feat,” Tinubu noted.
However, given his previous attempts to assist the federal government in the area of public communication and empathy, Tinubu’s message represented a forceful attempt to repair the reputational damage being done, particularly to the fund of goodwill from countrymen and women on the party.
Not only did the former governor publicly upbraided the Minister of State for Petroleum, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and the substantive minister by association; he also tried to explain the sudden increase in the pump price of the premium motor spirit and intervened in the slovenly strike organised by a faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Although some commentators noted that Tinubu’s solo effort to parley labour was the first time an individual would approach labour on behalf of the government, others tagged the intervention an affront to the Buhari administration, saying that the former governor wanted to wipe off the dark spots left by the president’s unyielding opposition to dialogue.
On his part, the fourth republic vice president declared that “despite its limitations and challenges”, democracy remains the best form of government anywhere in the world, stressing that freedom of choice was “one of the most important ingredients of the democratic system of governance.”
Many observers believe that Atiku was being patronizingly generous in his evaluation to have awarded a pass mark to Buhari\s first year. The Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos Catholic Archdiocese, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, did not want to paint a glossy or rosy picture of the situation of things in the country under Buhari. The prelate advised the president to rejig his cabinet, arguing that “only very few of them know what they are doing.”
Coming on the economy, which was agenda number two in Buhari’s job schedule, Okogie reminded the president that after one year in office “the people are still grumbling; indeed, the hardship has even doubled…Do all that is necessary to revamp the economy before things get out of hand.”
Sources disclosed that Okogie’s position resonated with what Tinubu had wanted to achieve through back channel representations to the president to consider a cabinet reshuffle. The source disclosed how the former Lagos State governor rooted for Oladele Alake to be appointed as Information and Culture minister, while Lai Mohammed retains his position as APC spokesperson.
Whatever be the correct interpretation of the situation in the APC, the situation in the country does not tally with the expectations of the citizenry and that gives the impression that the government has failed to make a remarkable first impression. Personnel selection hiccups apart, the policy reversals early in the life of the administration placed it a terrible light regarding its state of preparedness for the promised change.
After months of grandstanding, the president has agreed to designs to make the forex flexible. The sack and reinstatement of vice chancellors of some federal universities stand out as signs of governance irresolution of the present administration.
Stop Saraki Distractions
TO an extent, the decision to make trouble with the legislature over the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as president of senate helped to restrain APC and the presidency. In the stop Saraki campaign, APC allowed petty politics of who gets what to distract it from the main job of governance.
As the trial of the senate president went underway at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the possibility that it was programmed to achieve a political purpose became widespread. And while the trial lasted, the hotchpotch in the 2016 budget further exposed the missing links of politics in the ruling party.
Although there was nothing concrete to show that the subtle division within the APC caucus in the National Assembly precipitated the budget confusion, the matter left another dent on APC and its ability to manage its electoral triumph over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
With the frequent adjournments, Saraki has been made to have the last laugh over his traducers and naysayers as he clocks one year in office as well. Whether his detractors would continue their quest to challenge the outcome or give in to the urgent need to serve their constituents is left to be seen.
But the politics of the scramble for the senate presidency has exposed the underbelly of internal scheming in the ruling party. For instance, within the period of the mass mobilization of public opinion against Saraki, most northern politicians recalled how the former Lagos governor, Senator Tinubu, supported the middle belt to produce Senator Iyorcha Ayu as the President of third Senate, not out of political philanthropy but to make away for the emergence of the late MKO Abiola as the presidential candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).
“This realization made the north to play as a team, because in the machination to position a senator from Northeast as another president of senate, were seen a ploy to choose where the next presidential candidate would emerge,” a source from Northwest disclosed.
He added that the support provided by Senator Magatakarda Wammako and others from the Northwest for the Saraki presidency was ostensibly to “assert the political rights of the North.”
Scramble For 2019 Presidential Ticket
The flip side of the first 365 days of APC and Buhari presidency, showed the eagerness of party chieftain to position for the presidential race in 2019. The implication of the scramble for the presidency is either that it has become common knowledge that the president would not go for a second term or that he has shown lack of grasp of the main issues that propelled public acceptance of the change mantra.
Small talks within the party revealed that apart from the fact of his easy command of 12 million votes, the president was not chosen based on his manifesto or programme. As some influential members of Buhari’s inner caucus continued their subtle plot for his second term, those who thought otherwise gloat on the declining public acclaim for the president to make alternate arrangements.
Having come to that pass, would these foot soldiers instigate the use of federal might to checkmate these ambitious elements in APC or continue their underground schemes in the hope that there would not be an open challenge against the president at the party’s presidential primaries in 2018 should he decide to run again?
This is where the unfinished project of APC structural organization comes in. When would the so-called Elders Committee be set up? What happens to the Board of Trustees as enshrined in the party’s constitution? In what shape would APC be found after the next one year? Who would move and what would trigger the move? What if Buhari decides against a second term, would the open field cause a clash of ambitions to threaten the party’s fragile cohesion?
Southeast Political Abracadabra
WHAT to do with, and to the Southeast geopolitical zone; have always been part of the headache of promoters of APC, especially from the North. While those who want to make new friends for Buhari give the impression that the president was eager to do political business with the zone, the past activities of chieftains of the party in the area have not made things easy.
The search for credible arrowhead for APC in the Southeast has continued since September when the president chose his cabinet. The absence of Southeast in the National Assembly caucus of the party, and sundry reports that most of those carrying the party’s flag in the zone never worked conscientiously for Buhari’s electoral victory, add to the puzzle.
There are also claims that some of the opposition elements in the APC actually betrayed the president during his All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) days, including those that solicited for financial gratification during party primaries. It was against the background of the search for a credible anchor to engage the Southeast that shortly after the former president of senate, Ken Nnamani, had an audience with the president at the height of the budget impasse, that some APC chieftain in the zone started warming up to him.
President Buhari is said to be favourably disposed to Nnamani, given the role he played in truncating the third term ambition of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, which caused power to return to the North in 2007.
To push towards 2019, some leaders of APC from Southeast, last week, scheduled a meeting with the president and talked Nnamani into the need to lead the delegation to the Villa. However, while the Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, was brought into the picture, other leaders, including the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha and Minister for Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, were reportedly left out of the plan.
As the APC leaders finalized plans for the meeting, the former senate president was given the impression that the national leadership has agreed that he should lead the strengthening of APC in Southeast. On the strength of the proposed meeting, Nnamani was said to have been approached by a billionaire from Anambra State, to put words across to the president to rethink the proposed cancellation of the privatization process of the Eastern Electric Distribution Company (EEDC).
Unknown to the delegation some party chieftain that got wind of the proposed visit had informed the president that Nnamani was yet to registered as a member of the party, arguing that it would be odd to grant the delegation audience. Sources added that former Anambra State governor, Senator Jim Nwobodo, whom the party leaders in the zone used to decorate tables, was infuriated at the sudden turn of events.
While the delegation of the so-called political leaders of Southeast arrived the Villa, Okorocha, who was being blackmailed with the claim that he was planning to contest the 2019 president, was also billed to meet the president alongside other state governors. With all these, the meeting with the president was made very brief such that before they could get done with introductions, State House operatives were opening the exit door for them.
Some APC leaders that were left out of the meeting with Mr. Presidency were making frantic calls describing the delegation as “political highway men that were out to reap where they did not sow”, wondering how a non-APC member should be leading bonafide stalwarts to meet with the leader of the party.
If the party leaders wanted to con Nnamani, unknown to them, the former senate president had his own plans even when some APC chieftains allege that he was part of a new political party yet to be unveiled. Tension is brewing in the zone over the visit to Villa.
The former senate president told The Guardian that though he was yet to quit his political sabbatical, he was well disposed to encouraging a bi-partisan approach to solving socio-political challenges of the zone.
On his part, Okorocha has been denying any ambition to contest the presidency again in 2019. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemedo, the governor distanced himself from posters announcing his joint candidacy with Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State for the 2019 Presidency.
Governor Shettima has also petitioned the police to unravel the origin of the campaign posters, which he denounced as the handiwork of mischief makers. Against the background of the rumored second term ambition of the president, those who are associated with similar ambition fear that untoward actions may be taken against them.
The next one year promises to be intriguing for the ruling party.