nPDP/R-APC and the balance of forces in the APC – Part 2
Continued from yesterday.
The party’s membership, generally composed of a formidable band of followers made up of the vicious, ignorant and discontented element, is often battle ready even as it is rattled. The party has become intimidated often with the acquiescence of public officials and sometimes with their active cooperation. The position of the party as enunciated in its manifesto regarding the popular clamour for the restructuring of the Nigerian polity vis a vis the strident embarrassing view of its helmsmen is a case in point. Whereas the party sold itself to the people on the platform of an unalloyed commitment to restructuring, its officials have expressed their venal opposition to that common weal.
Ironically, the party has been kept together by a balance of power which understands that the strength of the union is in checkmating its component parts by first holding the ground in each case. The CPC elements recognise that extreme conservatism may not bear fruits in a party of increasing menace or of a continuing threat to “peace and stability.” The ACN, on its part, knows or understands the limit of iconoclasm and so tempers its practised radicalism with realism even as nPDP’s strategic manoeuvres are restrained in their ferocity by the fear of a backlash of a campaign or promotion of it as the flagship gathering of the disenfranchised and dissatisfied within the APC. The party operates like one endowed with a mediocre mind and spirit. The noblesse oblige expected from it has been unfortunately misplaced.
Political parties, as incidents of the democratic culture, are formed to project or promote group interests within the context of their national reality. By their expressed philosophy or ideology, they are adjudged along the political spectrum as right-wing or conservative, leftist or progressive, centrist or liberal, etc. In extreme cases, ultra nationalists or fascists aggregate their views to form a party reflective of their diagnosis of the polity’s difficulties and their considered solution thereto. In effect, political parties are each a product of the world view of their membership or of their directing minds. Their attitudes, carriage or expression are often indicative of the group’s underlying body of beliefs, catechism or affirmation of faith.
In Nigeria, the giddy structure of political parties, as it has evolved, drives them inexorably into attitudes which render them almost impossible either in office or in opposition to pursue genuine national objectives. Their aide memoire or constitution is a mish-mash of ill-digested or incoherent ideas. Their commitment, for example, to private ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, of all enterprises engaged in manufacturing, distribution and exchange, etc, is sheepishly shared by all of them, especially the major political parties. So there is truly no difference in structure, poise and prognosis as between or among Nigerian political parties. This fluidity is practically exemplified in the ease and convenience which attend the change of play shirt or flag as politicians remorselessly announce their decamping from one party to another with unabashed glee or rude pomp. In mature political party systems, this feature is unhealthy or tacky. Each party ought to be distinctive regarding the shared values of its membership, its programmes, thrust or direction.
Whereas healthy intra-party rivalries between or among party caucuses are proper even as they are positioned not only to interrogate and thereby strengthen the party’s internal conflict management mechanism but also to ensure ultimate cohesion in strategy and tactics. Many examples of contests for elective and other positions among same-party members have been needlessly fractious or divisive. The Nigerian Senate leadership tussle which has defied rational solution is a case in point. The outcome of its full fall-out is yet in the womb of time. Further, the on-going scenario of carpet crossing rather than strengthen our democratic portfolio, rudely denies the actual locus of political sovereignty. It, in fact, blurs the difference (if any) in the ideology and praxis of the respective parties.
Dogmatism or doctrinaire ideology may seem no longer attractive or realistic political attributes. But democracy will continue to mean a change of government from time to time as if oscilliating between two sides with opposing philosophies. Ideologies are eminently positioned to drive principles to practical ends. The ruling party’s self-indulgent handling of serious national issues or of allegations of corruption and of other instances of malfeasance levelled against favoured or properly-projected members of the party is invidious and is a source of disaffection and of the weakening of the fabric of the party regarding discipline, the sanctity of the rule book, and the presumption of a moral highground. Little wonder the party cannot be even-handed in matters in which its members are equally damned or proportionately implicated. The rules do not apply the same way across board respecting party members as there are sacred cows whose infractions may be overlooked and not visited with sanctions, reproof or reprimand. Many instances of partisan grandstanding have tended to discredit the political process. These have unavoidably earned the party voter disdain or contempt.
There is a requirement for consistency and properly considered positions regarding any issue of policy. The present morass flowing from the volte-face of key leaders of the APC respecting the popular public clamour for the restructuring of the country’s political processes, etc has exposed the party to charges of an abysmal want of thoroughness, of chicanery or deceitfulness and of a bileful disposition. In its audacious, but now with the knowledge of hind-sight, free-wheeling or will-o’ the wisp manifesto, the party promised it would, if voted into power, “initiate action to amend (the) constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilties to States and Local Governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.” The peevish or irritable attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari to the idea of true federalism or the devolution of power to the nation’s constituent units dovetails contrastingly into the ambivalent or elliptical posture of his Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo regarding the subject matter. Both positions are indicative of an un-imaginable lack of co-ordination or sync, where it matters.
The emergence, last week, of a break-away faction of the APC stylishly code-named R-APC (Reformed All Progressives Congress) is sypmtomatic of the wistful or long-stymied energies and of ignored bristling tempers which have characterised relations inter se in the APC confederation which Oshiomhole is wont to curiously dismiss as “normal in a big party.” It is no longer a secret that all is not well in the camp. The combined team of nPDP and R-APC is reportedly poised to do battle with the rump of the APC. The lack of ideology is basically responsible for the major weakness in our political parties’ march to freedom or progress. The dynamic interaction of theory and practice is visibly missing in the approach and method of Nigeria’s “mega” political parties. The APC, despite its posturing as a populist party, is a petit bourgeois platform in which ideas are quixotically formulated and whimsically executed. The democratic mobilisation of peasants, artisans, workmen, etc conducing to a revolution from the “bottom up” is the general goal of many radical formations. But our parties are to be despised for their poverty of ideas regarding governance, its time-honoured ideals and the practical convergence of theory and praxis. Some have deemed the threatened action of the nPDP and R-APC to quit the behemoth APC as deserving of condemnation, as unethical and dangerous. They say it is threatening the destruction of the people’s confidence in our political system and calculated to bring it to disrepute.
This writer, however, insists that the events of the last few weeks culminating in the threatened dismemberment of the APC by no means exhaust the political decalogue. Many more upheavals are brimming. Usurpation of power, un-blushing and notorious partiality or favouritism, indolence and neglect, etc. are all violations of our collective sense of propriety. These and more are the forgive-less foibles of the APC; they have been foreshadowed in the 16-year reign of the PDP. They were the banana peels that fell APC’s predecessor in office. It is strange that history is repeating itself before our very eyes so blatantly or with open vulgarity. The balance of forces has happily ensured a delay or a blow-out of a violent explosion.
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and public affairs commentator.