By Tijani Abdullahi Markafi –
As the National Caucus and National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) meets in Abuja on 30-31 October 2017, top on the agenda will be the need for urgent reforms in the area of Party discipline, finance and organization. Also, the party will need to agree on an effective the reward system for party stakeholders on account of being members of the party in government.
During the 2015 elections, Nigerians – young and old – who voted enmasse for APC were certain that President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership would save the country from the throes of the misrule of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
In fairness to the new administration, it addressed itself to the onerous task of rebuilding the country and delivering on election promises which were largely hinged on curbing corruption, restoring the economy and security of the nation.
However, there are different perspectives on the extent to which it has successfully tackled these challenges. While spokespersons for the government are beating their chest how successfully interventions have positively affected the situation, opposing elements are unimpressed. As in this kind of situation, the truth lies between the two extremes. But what is not in doubt is that, in addition to plugging government revenue leakages, the administration has made significant progress in repairing the nation’s battered image through its fight against corruption and insurgency, three of the most pernicious demons it inherited. It has also scored high on rehabilitation and reconstruction of the insurgency-ravaged North East.
In addition, the environment for free speech has remained unfettered, an area in which the Buhari administration has not been given enough credit.
Despite clinching the presidential and 24 governorship elections, while maintaining majorities in the National Assembly, APC, led by the serene Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has not thrown its weight around in the manner of Third World dictatorships. It has relished defections in the last two and half years from geo-political zones, such as the South South and South East where the APC was not strong in the past.
While there have been tensions in the party, it must be conceded that APC was formed by a collection of vibrant opposition parties who bought into the objective of upstaging an entrenched political party (PDP) which boasted to rule for the next 50 years.
It would be naïve to expect such tendencies to disappear overnight and drop their respective interests. For isn’t politics the struggle for relevance, power and interests, however disguised?
PDP has never claimed to be the cohesive assemblage of politician. However, this did not prevent it from holding on to power for all of 16 years!
Even in the most sophisticated democratic system, you will always find in-fighting, unwillingness of some powerful interests in the party to toe party lines on even the most delicate issues. There will always be persons who are unwilling to subjugate their individual political ambitions to party preferences. Top party chieftains will always complain – personally and through proxies – of being sidelined in party affairs. As show of frustration, top party chieftains, aggrieved over party positions/decisions, will always sulk or withdraw from party activities.
Thus, the coup in the National Assembly elections; the protest votes in the Osun West Senatorial by-election; the staying away from party activities by powerful members from some parts of the country; and withdrawal of financial support to the running of the party at the national level are to be expected.
So are the persistent calls by disgruntled members of the party who have lost out in the internal politics of the party for the ouster of the national APC leadership. However, as its leaders converge on Abuja the National Caucus and National ExecutiveCommittee (NEC) meetings, they need to think reflect on whether the removal of say the National Chairman will necessarily end the upheaval. Won’t amendments to the party’s constitution to do with discipline and finance offer better prospects for harmony in the party in the end?
In any case, has the APC-led government given the APC National Chairman due courtesy in governance? Indeed, party leaders need to engage the government on the following issues:
• Greater inputs of the APC national leadership into appointments into political positions in government and distribution of political patronage to strengthen party loyalty and motivation of party faithfuls.
• The need for increase in the pace at which persons whose political loyalty is not to APC are removed from political offices, to create room for APC members. The is need for an urgent review of all appointments made by the immediate-past administration, with a view to making sure that all appointees understand and work in line with the APC’s Change Agenda.
These are more likely to lead to better functioning of the Party’s national leadership and ultimately rob off on the lower chapters than divisive personnel changes.
Even in the face of mudslinging, blackmail and baseless allegations directed at him, the APC National Chairman’s goal of providing leadership and ensuring a focused, united, strong APC is unwavering. Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has successfully balanced the interests of the powerful blocs within the APC.
Perhaps if the PDP had such cool-headed leadership, it would not have been brought to its present knees.
The Party’s National Working Committee (NWC) under his leadership embarked on very successful consultative meetings with APC governors and the Party’s National Assembly caucus. The consultations have resulted in very positive outcomes, amongst which the resolution of the legislative-executive impasse that led to the passage of the 2017 national budget. There is now a monthly meeting between the Party’s NWC, governors and the leadership of the National Assembly. Resolutions from these meetings resulted in the inauguration of the Party’s committee on restructuring, addressed some financial issues within the party and aided ongoing reconciliation efforts in the party.
Race to 2019
The tussle for the control of the party is the result of different political power blocs posturing towards the 2019 elections. Even though President Buhari has not publicly declared that he will not seek re-election in 2019, political alignments are unfolding.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s actions or inaction towards core party affairs has not helped matters and could pose a serious problem if he seeks reelection in 2019.
It is quite possible that part of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun’s problem is trying to align party decisions and actions with the “body language” of President Muhammadu Buhari. However, while this may be healthy for the administration of the country, this would naturally go against the grains of those with presidential ambitions.
If the seemingly orchestrated media campaign to “remove” the APC National Chairman before the completion of his four-year term guaranteed by the APC Constitution succeeds and stooges of any of the contending camps are installed as a replacement, will this enhance – or jeopardize – the chances of APC in 2019?
The time for President Muhammadu Buhari to signal his intention to contest the 2019 presidency is now. That will largely lay to rest the political scheming by the other contending camps. In fact, the APC administration requires more than a four-year term to repair the damage caused by PDP’s 16-year misrule.
– Markafi is an All Progressives Congress (APC) Chieftain. He sent in this piece from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.