APC: Forget 2015 at your peril
The recent conduct of the All Progressives Congress (APC) congresses has exposed the deep fissures in the party. However, much the party leaders may pretend to the contrary, things are not looking pretty for the party in the aftermath of the congresses. The fissures have obvious implications for the party, party politics and the deepening of democracy in our country. This should worry all of us.
Grievances are not strange to politicians. After all, you cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time. We may be tempted to shrug off the grievances on the grounds that there is nothing particularly unusual about the howls of protests over the way the congresses were won and lost. Still, the party has to contend with and mollify its aggrieved members to stop greater damage to it. No mean or easy task, that. If these grievances are not properly and honestly managed by the party leaders, the party might find itself haemorrhaging with the aggrieved members driven into the warm embrace of other political parties.
The irony of this possibility must not be lost on us. APC came into being four years ago, made up largely of aggrieved members of the PDP, some of whom had been two-term governors, legislators, ministers and even president elected on its platform. Their grievances were not properly and honestly managed by the party leaders, hence their decision to ditch the party. Their first step was to form a faction of the party called new PDP, nPDP. It triggered the haemorrhage in the party when party unity mattered most – the build up to the 2015 general elections. And, old story, PDP lost the ground it had held on to for sixteen good years. Call it pity with a capital P.
It is an important lesson the APC might wish to ignore to their possible shock when it matters most. It is disappointing that four years after its formation as a major political party, APC is still a rainbow collection of the political parties that came together to form it in 2014. Its leaders have made no efforts, as far as I can see, to wield the disparate political power centres in the party into a formidable, cohesive and disciplined political party; the kind of party we need to strengthen the pillars of party politics and deepen our democracy. Their failure has put their party at cross roads and placed it where PDP was in 2014. It is not a nice place to be for the party with less than one year to the general elections.
It seems to me the leaders of the party unwisely choose to believe that the party is impregnable. So did the PDP leaders think in 2015. Taking people and things for granted is the equivalent of a mortal sin in politics. In a country with a fluid party loyalty, no one stays loyal to one political party for long. After all, the parties have no ideologies. An endless stream of politicians going forward and stepping back is an indication that what matters to the politicians is not party loyalty but the right royal mess of political pottage. They go wherever those interests drive them.
Over and above what was happening in APC even before its divisive congresses is the fact that our national political space seems redolent with the possibility of fundamental changes in how the business of politics is done. For one, the coming elections would not likely be a straight two-party fight between APC and PDP any more. The relay race between the two parties might be over. On the face of it, this would present us with the plurality of choices consistent with the tenets of multi-party democracy. But don’t forget the Nigerian factor. Nothing is ever as it seems.
APC and PDP should worry about two parties. SDP, an old party, is doing more than bestirring itself from years of being consigned to the land of the forgotten. It is opening its doors to aggrieved members of APC and PDP. It may turn out to be a refurbished party capable of playing a meaningful role in the next general elections in particular and our national politics in general.
Perhaps the new political bride in town might be Obasanjo’s new party, African Democratic Congress, ADC. The former president’s Nigerian movement birthed his new party. What is interesting about ADC is that it has only one political objective, namely to stop Buhari from getting a second term in office. It is a tough assignment but 2015 proved that surprise is second nature to the business of winning or grabbing political power.
Let no one think this is a joke. Obasanjo has consistently demonstrated his capacity for throwing sand in his political opponents’ gari. Stopping Buhari is his current political project. His battle with the president was joined when the latter rejected his advice not to seek a second term in office because in his view, his mediocre performance does not qualify him to seek a second term. He seems bent on showing Buhari who, between them, has the greater clout in the political decision-making processes in the country. My free advice to the APC leaders is to take him seriously. It is a favour they owe themselves. Anything new is always attractive to Nigerians.
Perhaps, out of all these current alignments and re-alignments of political interests and forces something good might break through the surface of the murky waters of our national politics. I am not naïve enough to expect we would be on a roll along the path of sustainable political and democratic cultures. I know that all these heightened activities all geared towards capturing or being in the power loop in the country in 2019 cannot cure our party politics of its inherent weaknesses. We would still miss the fundamentals of party politics as pillars of democracy. Party loyalty would still be a temporary tool of political convenience. The fluidity of party loyalty, or rather the lack thereof, which encourages people to ditch their parties for new ones is clearly deleterious to our democratic health. Party loyalty is essential to building any number of strong parties each of which could be a viable alternative to the others.
I am not impressed by the new way the game is being played. The mass desertion of the PDP after 16 years in power in 2014, opened the sluice gates in the ruination of our political culture. It is not in the nature of party politics that if an incumbent president fails to please all the powerful people all of the time, the only option open to them is to found a new political peopled by the aggrieved.
As noted earlier, in 2014-2015 the new political bride was APC. It came into being for the expressed purpose of stopping Jonathan from winning a second term in office. Obasanjo was one of the strongest supporters of Buhari in 2014-2015. He distanced himself from PDP, the party that propelled him to power for two terms by making a public spectacle of tearing his party membership card. He is clearly bent on making his new party do unto the president what APC did to Jonathan in 2015. Holy or unholy, a mission is a mission.
Obasanjo may win or lose his big political gamble. In less than one year from now, we would know who wins. But however the wind blows, it will throw the dust in the face of party politics and muddy the path to the evolution of party loyalty in our country. The obvious implication is that our political parties would become mere manipulative instruments in the hands of our powerful power brokers, acting not always with noble intentions. It is not the way to grow solid political parties in the service of the nation and the people. And it, certainly, is not the way to stabilise our democracy.
Give this some thoughts.
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