Opinion | By Magnus Onyibe | 17. 02. 2022
There is nothing as frustrating as trying to introduce an idea that is considered to be premature. In other words, when the timing of a good thing, such as the registration of political party members by the ruling party at the center, APC is deemed wrong, and the subsequent plans to incorporate into the nation’s electoral system, the exclusive use of direct primaries by political parties for producing candidates for general elections, as encapsulated in electoral act amendment bill, 2021, (now vetoed by President Mohammadu Buhari) is also considered an anathema; then a case of double jeopardy arises.
Given how the concept of registration of APC party members nationwide and the resort to direct primaries as opposed to indirect primaries resonated amongst the politically conscious Nigerians who believe the introduction of registration of members and adoption of direct primaries could have deepened democracy in our country, (but which are concepts adjudged to be ahead of their time by the demagogues, as such ,the brilliant concepts got thrown back to the National Assembly, NASS for a rework; our country is bound to be gripped by tension as is currently very palpable.
As things currently stand, particularly in the ruling party APC, a case of “things fall apart” amongst members, (apologies to Chinua Achebe, the author of a famous book by that title) may be imminent.
The assertion above is underscored by the fact that it is becoming increasingly clear that the ruling party at the center may no longer have the capacity to hold together its legion of legislators that are in the majority in the NASS and 21 of the 36 state governors across the country, as well as faithful members countrywide; who appear to be determined to paddle their own canoes rather than continue to be bound by the herd mentality foisted by the influence of the personal Charisma of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Apparently, President Buhari is the glue that has been holding the ruling party together since 2013-15 when the merger of the four leading opposition parties, ACN, CPC, ANPP, a bit of APGA, plus a splinter group from the then ruling party, PDP took place. But the glue is now too weak in light of the fact that President Buhari has barely 16 months to vacate Aso Rock Villa’s seat of presidential power.
Evidently, the unity amongst the five legacy political parties that founded the All Progressive Congress, APC is being increasingly called to question as most of them are falling back to their individual and legacy ideologies.
And it affirms the reality that the APC has remained a political contraption peopled by members with divergent philosophies and ideologies, even after about 7 years of occupying Aso Rock seat of presidential power and nearly 8 years of its formation as a political party.
It is in the bid to avoid a descent to the current political cauldron in which the ruling party finds itself, that about two years ago the National Executive Committee, NEC got dissolved and replaced with a caretaker committee led by Mai Mala Buni, governor of Yobe state with John Akpanuduehehe as secretary. They were given the mandate to organize a national convention of the party within six months.But it has taken nearly two (2) years to achieve the objective which may be realized on February 26.
Since they received the mandate, the ad-hoc committee has had its tenure renewed twice with the prospect of organizing a convention remaining a mirage, (owing to implicit and complicit factors threatening to unhinge the party) until the February 26 date was eventually agreed.
The prevailing anomie in the party underscores the belief that long after the desolation of the crisis-ridden former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomole led National Working Committee, NWC; the ruling party has been managed by an extraordinary caretaker committee for nearly two years, yet the APC has remained in quandary.
Instead of dousing the fire which is like a molten magma that is boiling underneath a volcano that can’t wait to erupt; the crisis within APC seems to be degenerating in such a manner that the involvement of the caretaker committee can be characterized as jumping from frying pan to fire.
The clear and present danger is that a conflagration is being projected by party faithfuls and foes alike to engulf the party during or after the February 26 convention.
The reason for the sorry state of affairs in the ruling party is simply due to the fact that the spirit of unity of purpose that was the driving force for the politicians that came together to upstage the then ruling party, PDP in 2015, appear to have departed from the APC and it is currently replaced with disharmony that portend catastrophe .
That, in my judgment, largely has to do with the imminent exit (May 29, 2023) of the rallying force and alter ego of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari.
In light of the underlying circumstances, whatever the prism applied in assessing the situation, APC malady is being fostered by what can best be described as affliction of leadership miasma.
If nothing else, the telltale signs triggered by the controversial inauguration of the party’s state chairmen by the Mai Malla Buni led caretaker committee’s secretary Akpadunehehe in Abuja, on Thursday, February 3, has advanced the imminent disintegration of the party.
That is because that event exposed the wide cracks in the party in the states across the country which are the negative fallouts from the crisis-ridden party congresses that produced disputed executives across the country driven by power play between seating governors and their predecessors who are currently mainly senators hell bent on sharing power with their successors that as new leaders are equally intent on dominating the political environment .
The aggrieved members of the party are dismissing the exercise of handing certificates over to the purported executives who they allege are favored by the national caretaker committee, and therefore refer to the process as sham and exercise in futility.
They are even pointing out that they are already in court challenging the outcome of the congresses.
And the presentation of certificates to their opponents while the cases are in courts amount to contempt of court by the party.
The vile comments by aggrieved party leaders from states across the country reflect the anomie in the ruling party.
Meanwhile, PDP governors are also said to be in quandary as to whether or not to adjust their position about their presidential candidate in 2023 coming from the south-a position which they had earlier taken. The reason they are having a rethink is in the light of the prevailing political dynamics in the country, whereby the southern governors from both the main opposition and ruling parties, (shunning partisanship) are together in the clamor for a Nigerian president of southern origin in 2023.
But with the existential reality tending not to support the insistence of southern governors that a southerner must take over from President Buhari in 2023, (as there seem not to be a ‘presidential material’ from the PDP formidable enough to challenge the yet to be identified APC candidate) they appear to be incoherent.
While the main opposition party, PDP is grappling with its internal conflict of whether to settle for a southern or northern presidential candidate that has the capacity and ability, the ruling party at the center, APC has been unable to rise above the storm after it went through the first stage of FORMING after which it should go through the process of STORMING before NORMING , STABlLlZING and MOURNING .
These are the entity formation stages propounded by Bruce Tuckman which I referenced in earlier media interventions where I projected that the ruling political party would face the current challenges of putting its house in order; having been postponing the evil day by not holding its convention where all the interests of the multiple political parties that merged with the sole mission to defeat then ruling party, PDP would have been synthesized.
In the essay,l identified the crisis that the APC would inevitably contend with and which could make or mar it.
Right now, the APC does not appear to have healed itself.
That much hint was given by the outgoing leader of the party, President Buhari when he stated in a chat on NTA recently that the PDP may retake political power at the center from the APC if the leaders do not put their house in order.
President Buhari’s explicit and declared concern elicits the natural question: is APC in death throes? Is it entering a MOURNING level of group formation and development stage as espoused by psychologist, Bruce Tuckman?
Should we expect many more booby traps like the one that nearly got sneaked in and which is the introduction of membership registration exercise and the exclusive use of direct primaries as the sole process of producing candidates which could have given some states major advantages over and above others; and which is contrary to the existing rule contained in the constitution of the political parties whereby delegates are chosen via indirect primaries and makes delegates from all the states of the federation nearly equally proportional, irrespective of whether they are from tiny states like Ebonyi or Zamfara and huge states such as Lagos and Kano?
Clearly, February 26 would be a moment of truth experience for the ruling party at the center as it comes a face-to-face with its demons which it had been afraid to deal with.
Remarkably, the APC after its formation in 2013-15 via consolidation of five opposition political parties, has been suffering from abnormalities that l would like to characterize as Abnormal Growth Syndrome, AGS (cross carpeting of governors and legislators to swell its ranks ) which has compelled it to have the brain of a toddler in the body of a giant or the brain of a genus in the body of a dwarf, depending on who is making the assessment.
Ultimately, the ruling party’s convention scheduled to hold in less than two weeks time , (even still in a tentative mode as l write ) would determine whether the party has been able to scale all the stages of the entity formation phase, except the MOURNING stage and get transformed into a giant with a huge brain like that of an elephant or end up being a dwarf with a pear brain, of a Lilliputian hue.
That is now the big issue occupying the haunted minds of the apparatchiks at the helm of affairs of the ruling party at the center, APC.
The negative effect on APC psyche of the imminent exit of president Buhari from the political scene on May 29,next year reminds me of the way the spirit of God departed from Samson-a man imbued with colossal physical strength by God after Delilah, a whore shaved his hair, which was the secret of his power, as told in the Holy Bible.
As Christian readers would recall in the Bible narrative, Samson, the very powerful man raised by God to deliver Israelites from bondage in Egypt got enchanted by Delilah, the Philistininian woman of easy virtue who was used to entice the hitherto invincible Samson into revealing the secret of his power, which is that his hair must never be shaved off. While Samson slept, Delilah shaved off his and his enemies, whom Delilah had delivered him into their hands, gouged out Samson’s eyes to further incapacitate him. As the story goes, Samson had to pull down the pillars supporting the auditorium where he was turned into a beast of burden, a caricature of his former self, and object of derision after the spirit of God departed from him.
By so doing,he inevitably ended up killing everyone including himself.
Can the APC that is currently a house of commotion owing to the multiple conflict points stemming from the disparate ethnic, regional, and religious tensions afflicting it be likened to the narrative about Samson and Delilah whereby Samson pulled down the roof of the auditorium with multitudes when his back was pushed against the walI and in the process killed everyone including himself ? Would the likely unraveling of the ruling party at the center during or immediately after the scheduled February 26 convention scatter it; and is APC about to get its comeuppance, and by extension, would it have a cataclysmic effect on the polity?
The questions above are derived from the fact that the political upheavals of the dimension of internecine war that is fast gaining traction in our country’s political space, as those who pull the levers of power within the APC party, seem to have drawn the battle lines, which is quite foreboding.
Would election 2023 be conducted with Electoral Act 2010, or the amended Electoral Act, 2022 awaiting presidential accent?
Is the 2018 scenario whereby the proposed reform of the electoral act was suspended on the ground that it was too close to Election Day to embark on amendments, about to be re-enacted?
The initial threat was the decision of the National Assembly, NASS in2021 to adopt direct primaries as the sole process for political parties to produce candidates for general elections in the ongoing electoral act amendment exercise. And the counter decision by President Buhari that the time is not ripe, hence he vetoed it became a sore point. While it was a potential tension point that was waiting to explode, NASS capitulated on the matter without the presidency breaking out in sweat as was speculated.
And even as the president has been served exactly the food that he requested from NASS and the condiment, as he likes it, has been used in preparing the dish that has now been laid on his dining table, president Buhari is yet to consume the meal.
As such the general election that has been programmed since the return of multiparty democracy in 1999 to hold every four years, of which the preceding activities that are due to commence this year, still remain in abeyance because the electoral bill that would make it happen, is yet to become an act law without the assent of President Buhari , who is yet to lift his presidential finger to append his signature to the document that has been on the drawing board since 2018; and currently laid on his desk since the beginning of February this year.
Ideally, at this point in time, all the legal, financial and logistical framework for the next general elections to be held barely 12 months from today should have been signed, sealed, and delivered. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that is the umpire has been expressing concern. But as we say it in local parlance, it can not shout!
lNEC can not afford to raise its voice louder because most Nigerians believe it is more or less a parastatal of the presidency,despite its professed independence. In reality , if INEC leadership gets out of line, it may be clobbered in the head by Aso Rock. Hence mum seems to be the word.
While the disquiet reigns, and the multiple political parties that formed the ruling party, APC are increasingly becoming multiple centrifugal forces threatening to pull the party, and by extension our country asunder,the ruling party, has practically been unable to rise above the storm that birthed it through the consolidation of five opposition parties-CPC, ACN, ANPP, APGA and splinter of PDP in 2013-15.
The truth is that the malady has been long in coming as the APC which has been variously characterized as a Special Purpose Vehicle, SPV was bound to disintegrate if certain fundamental issues were not adequately addressed.
Although the decision about who would be the party’s presidential flag bearer would not be made at the forth coming convention, the contest for the leadership positions within the party is likely to be very fierce as the potential presidential candidates would be engaging in shadow and proxy fights.
And an ugly outcome may be the beginning of the end of the ruling party which would by next year be eight(8) years at the helm of the political affairs in our beloved Nigeria and half of PDP’s sixteen (16)years reign.
So can the ruling party at the center, APC be said to be on tenterhooks?
That is the question begging for an answer and a puzzle which may only be resolved before or after the curtains fall on the convention if it is held on February 26, 2022.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.