APC – Two years of suspense, insouciance
Three months after inauguration, President Muhammadu Buhari, made it clear that the traditional one hundred days in office was a foreign ritual not suitable to measure a democratic government in a third world country. Two years after it sacked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from office, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Federal Government is formed thereafter, have shown great dexterity in buck passing and excuses.
Ordinarily, May 29, 2017 ought and should serve as a period for midterm evaluation of how far APC and the Federal Government have fared in delivering on their mandates as a political party and government. It would be seen whether the makeup and philosophy of function of the party impacted on the performance of the government in office.
And in looking at the government, attempts would be made to x-ray the synergy or otherwise between the executive and the legislature, of which the APC provided a majority of members. With its dominance of the National Assembly, APC had all it needed to stamp its authority and change in the country. But did it? To evaluate its overall performance, it would be necessary to examine the contribution of party, legislature and executive respectively.
From March 28, 2015 to May 29, 2015 President Buhari had two clear months to fine tune his strategies for effective take off and institutionalization of his administration. Within those critical two months, party chieftains and president-elect savoured the feat of dethroning an incumbent President. In the euphoria of triumphalism, the incoming President continued to receive individuals and groups, posing for photo ops and splitting hairs over delays in accessing the handover notes.
That vital period for designing specific organogram and personnel quality and distribution for the delivery on the key policy thrusts of the incoming administration was lost. The loss of that great opportunity became crystal clear as the President read his inaugural address to the nation after being sworn into office as democratic president.
Apart from the area of security, particularly the fight against Boko Haram insurgency, it is on record that President Buhari failed to lay out a clear path or strategy for action. The President’s speech subtly mimicked the usual military era broadcasts that usually spell out the problems, but failing to disclose doable strategies.
For instance he said: “At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on… We can fix our problems.”
Looking back, what Nigerians need do to see the impotence of that initial presidential statement of intention is to keep adding the suffix “How?” at the end of every sentence in the President’s inauguration communication.
However, when it came to security in the Northeast, where the insurgents were waging unrelenting battle against the country the President said: “The most immediate is Boko Haram’s insurgency. Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory cannot be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued.”
As a retired military officer, the President had some native ideas on how to tackle the Islamic fundamentalists fighting for a caliphate in the Northeast. The fight against insurgents has recorded great victory on the physical level. The fight against spiritual Boko Haram has not even started.
The question that comes to mind at the government’s midterm evaluation is why did the President not point the way forward of how his administration intended to fix the nation’s problems?
In the first place, that President Buhari spent more than six months to select men and women from his political party that would assist him deliver on the promised change showed either his state of unpreparedness or tardiness of approach to governance challenges.
Cabinet Of No Colours
When eventually the federal cabinet was put in place after the Senate screened and cleared the appointees in batches, Nigerians were utterly disappointed by the collage of usual political faces that President Buhari spent six months to bring together.
During electioneering and in his inaugural speech, President Buhari had harped on three broad areas of emphasis by his administration. These include, security, fight against corruption and job creation for teeming unemployed Nigerian youth.
For the ministry of Labour and Employment, the president settled for a medical doctor and former governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige. Ngige tackled commercial banks against downsizing, threatening to unleash regulators’ clauses against defaulters, regardless of the fact that banks are overly private entities.
Allied to job creation is food production. The government stressed that diversification of the economy holds the key to its determination to bring about change in the way things are done in the country.
Audu Ogbe, who was allocated the Ministry of Agriculture, stunned the nation when he mooted the idea of importing grass from overseas to address the problem of herdsmen versus farmers’ clashes in the country. That was about the only policy statement from that ministry.
But what gave the Federal Government away in its halfhearted approach to job creation is the whimsical change it introduced as safety nets for unemployed young graduates. Instead of sustaining the YouWin programme that empowered young enterprising Nigerians, the administration of President Buhari experimented with N-Power, which is implemented through handouts of N30, 000 for work done. With complaints and hiccups noticed about the scheme, it is hard to know why the government trashed the YouWin programme, which enhances capacity and encourages entrepreneurship.
In the area of infrastructure, immediate past governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, was made a star minister in the administration. He superintends over Works, Housing and Power. Only President Buhari knows how far he expected Fashola to go in handling those three crucial ministries.
Apart from periodic sound bites, it is obvious that the nightmare, which power generation and distribution has become in Nigeria remains. To Mr. President’s credit, power is not top on the table of items that he promised Nigerians a quick turnaround, ala change.
In the fight against corruption, President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, rightly described developments in that segment as motion and no movement. It is in the fight against corruption that the confused approach by the administration becomes evident.
Apart from creating awareness about the fight against corruption, there have not been institutional strategies to change the dynamics of official graft. For instance, while the government promised zero budgeting as a means of injecting transparency and prudence into government spending, the 2016 and 2017 annual estimates brought innovations in corruption by throwing up the word, padding into the nation’s lexicon.
Moreover, secrecy and whim have continued to drive fund releases to ministries, departments and agencies. The lack of transparency in budgetary releases and performance underscore the vacuity of plans by the administration. APC government has not demonstrated excellent brilliance in its outing within the past two years. Unlike what he did while serving as Governor of Lagos State, even the super minister has never undertaken regular periodic public communication of progress, challenges or initiatives by his ministry.
Still on methodology, the sting operation on residential quarters of some Judges by the Department of State Services (DSS) did not show a government that possesses the right chemistry and architecture for fighting a complex social malaise as corruption.
Nigerians were left to ask what probative value DSS, which by virtue of its establishment Act, lacks prosecutorial powers could ascribe to the exhibits it gathered from the mid night assault on the homes of targeted Judges.
Having taken the matter to Court, the Federal Government took away the placebo of shock treatment and psychological trauma as evidence of its determination to fight corruption. Was the token deep enough?
In the eyes of most Nigerians, the development proved that there is corruption in the Judiciary and that poorly paid Judges were living above their means. Yet, citizens were denied the opportunity to witness a good fight. It has been fight, without substance.
The consciousness against corruption has been elevated, no doubt, but is it sustainable? Confirmation of acting national chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, pitted the executive against the federal legislature, thereby throwing up the lack of consensus building with the administration.
One of the failing points that the Senate cited to withhold confirmation of Mr. Magu, was said to be his inability to give a summary of seized assets from the anti-graft campaign under his watch. Although Magu has continued to carry on with his functions as EFCC chair, the altercation between Presidency and National Assembly on the matter exposes the lack of a well crafted plan and scheme to battle corruption.
The shaky and hysterical manner in which the eighth National Assembly took off encapsulated the true nature of APC, its leadership and governance style. On June 9, 2015 the National Assembly opened for a new plenary following proclamation to that effect by President Buhari.
But instead of settling down for the onerous legislative business ahead, the bi-cameral legislature was thrown into bickering over who and how the floor functionaries were elected. Not only did the squabble betray the lack of purpose of APC, it rubbed off negatively on the ability of the party to deliver on its promises to the electorates during the campaigns.
At the height of the seeming cold war, President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who incidentally serves as chairman of NASS, was dragged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on a plethora of charges bordering on discrepancies on his asset declaration forms when he served as Kwara State governor 12 years earlier.
In the lower chamber, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, was coerced into bending the dictates of free choice to accommodate the designs of the party leadership. Although the rapprochement ushered in a semblance of normalcy in the Green Chamber, all pretences disappeared when the government presented its first appropriation bill.
As the adversarial relationship blossomed between a taciturn Presidency and fledgling federal legislature, accusations and counter accusation over, first, the whereabouts if the budget, and later the fidelity of the figures, raged.
The undeclared war revealed in great relief the inherent disconnect of the President from the niceties of democratic give and take, otherwise called lobbying. It was evident that President Buhari, did not want to engage the NASS leadership.
Yet, in the strength of collective responsibility, when the delayed budget failed to stream after six months, Nigerians started squirming about APC and its promised change. To make matters worse, not minding the delay, which the budget had already suffered, further time was wasted in consulting past NASS leadership to ascertain that processes and subheads were in line with what they used to be.
The aloofness of both executive and legislature had its impact on the economy. Not knowing what direction the administration was headed, most allies and trading partners of the country seemed to have recoiled from further investments.
Perhaps on account of the poor relationship between the executive and legislature, not much was heard about legislative oversight or progress in budget performance.
All what was said about zero budgeting and other grandiose epithets about transparency and change ended up as echoes. Reluctant to wake public memories about the ugly exchanges that transpired during the budget debates and passage, the legislature kept mute even as the executive shied away from stating the level of performance.
However, even when it took close to one year for the agenda to be adopted, in the aftermath of padding alarm by the former chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, that prodigious template was pushed to the backburner.
It happened that at each stop on the way within the mandate execution of the ruling party, there was needless distraction and schism. The contracting economic growth waved the red flag effectively to signpost the loss of traction by the government.
For instance, within the upper legislative chamber, such mundane allegations as purchase of bullet proof cars, possession of forged academic certificate, as well as, proxy posturing by some senators ate deep into legislative time.
As the chief executive got distracted by health challenges, President of Senate, Saraki, took a charitable and patriotic turn by resisting the temptation to take the executive-legislature schism too far. Although what seems to be an armistice has pervaded the government, NASS has achieved unity, thereby dispensing by its posture a scenario of no victor, no vanquished, in its engagement with the executive, leaving the masses to count their losses.
A Nowhere Party
Party faithful are divided on the question as to whether a fair bargain and competition preceded the election of APC leaders.
The amalgamation of three erstwhile opposition political parties gave rise to what became All Progressives Congress (APC). Although the name and acronym of the party reflected the three legacy parties-All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)-there were splinters from All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
At inception, APC had an interim national chairman, Bisi Akande, who was before the merger the national chairman of ACN. But during the first post merger convention, former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, from the defunct ANPP, was chosen by consensus as the national chairman. That consensual endorsement angered some stalwarts who quit the party in protest. But others, not having direct stake in the leadership contest, stayed behind, sulking silently.
The enthronement of party leadership was seen as a donation to the defunct ANPP, since CPC and ACN had taken the Presidency and Vice Presidency positions. But it lost sight of the late comers that moved in as political mercenaries from the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Also known as nPDP, it was these latest joiners in the APC machinery that aided the defeat of PDP. As such, they angled for visibility and prominence in the goings within the party and the government that it formed. It was therefore the attempt to sideline them and keep them as political refugees that impoverished APC of cohesion, governance strategies and political tactics.
Having therefore seen the designs to obfuscate them and perhaps, leave them impotent of political stature, the nPDP rallied round members-elect of PDP in the National Assembly to ensure command and control.
The polarity or balance of power ensured that APC could not make any visible impact collectively in Nigeria’s political economy for the past two years. While CPCACN controlled Presidency mobilised for action, the nPDP controlled NASS, subtly excluded in decision making, threw up a counterbalance.
Denied of political energy and logistics, as well as, lacking in political sagacity, the ANPP controlled National Working Committee (NWC) of the party remained powerless to act as a clearing house between the executive and legislature. Benumbed by this trident, it was not possible for the government to communicate its plans in tangible deliverables, because each of the power centres seemed to work in isolation and or even cross purposes with each other.
Stuck in the unstated impasse, the only feasible point of convergence was buck-passing and blame for the ancient regime. The little flashes of brilliance displayed in the fight against insurgency and corruption ended up as strenuous exercises of outsiders manning certain agencies or commissions.
That was why when the economy was roaming aimlessly and the naira tumbling uncontrollably, the common refrain was that the President should set up an economic team despite the presence of a full cabinet. What is more, the lack of nexus between party and arms of government exposed the lopsided and mediocre composition of the cabinet.
Instead of a team, party, legislature and executive carried on as if they existed for and by themselves. Contemporaneously, the Progressive Governors Forum failed to seize the golden opportunity to reverse the languor.
At a time when internal reexamination could have been done to smoothen out areas of intricacies, the notion was dismissed on the altar of the legacy fissures and alleged attempt to tilt the balance of power towards an arm of the ACNCPC combine.
Former Lagos Governor, Bola Tinubu, has never claimed ownership of APC, but there is no denying the fact that body language of most bigwigs in the party is geared towards ensuring that he does not appropriate powers not given to him.
In that vein also, fourth Republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has not come out to declare his interest to contest the 2019 Presidential election, but certain motions and movements within APC tend to anticipate that likelihood with serious gesticulations to torpedo such ambition.
Was there a written or gentlemanly agreement undertaken in December 2014 prior to the Presidential primary that President Buhari, if he wins should do just one term in office? There is nothing in the public domain to suggest the existence of such agreement, but the unease with APC, coupled with clandestine campaigns for President Buhari’s second term, help to compound the absentee status of APC leadership.
In the final analysis, the shady performance of APC and its government in the past two years could be traced to the foregoing. But a chieftain of APC, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, maintains that rating the government’s performance in office should take into consideration the factors on the ground at takeoff.
Okechukwu said: “There are those who scored Buhari below average brushing aside the material conditions, which heralded the election of Mr. President. And those of us who mirror what can be dubbed the Buhari Social Revolution (BSR), upon which we scored him above average.
“The general consensus and what is very outstanding is that both sides of the divide, agree that Mr. President, means well, is a patriot, and transparent.
However, like every silent revolution those who scored him low wittingly or unwittingly couldn’t locate the Buhari Social Revolution, which in actual sense is the Rock of Gibraltar for Nigeria’s Resurgimento. Resurgimento in every ramification as certainty on public affairs is gradually being enthroned, unbridled corruption being tamed, Boko Haram and other forms of insecurity being contained and construction workers returning back to work. It is bye-bye to impunity.”
However, Nigerians view governance and political leadership within the period ranging from May 29, 2015 to date, in this manner: There is room for improvement, if the major players are prepared to operate with free mind.