2017 was, for all intents and purposes, a very eventful year for the governing All Progressives Congress (APC). As day breaks on 2018, ANDREW ESSIEN writes on some of the issues the party will have to deal with as it positions itself ahead of 2019.
The beginning of 2016, brought with it, excitements and expectations for party stalwarts and faithful who believed that after the hard fought battle that finally saw the exit of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from government especially at the centre in 2015, the “largess” may eventually begin to cascade down.
Unfortunately, that did not happen, occasioned by President Muhammdu Buhari’s stance that his administration will not be funding the party from government coffers as was the case when the PDP held sway. This was further compounded by the economic situation in which the country eventually found itself.
No thanks to the effects of the hard-felt claws of the recession that gripped the economy, the attendant shifts and turns in party politics brought with it, series of trials and tribulations. As much as the party could boast of several successes last year, the issues that bedeviled it also threatened to overshadow all the gains the party garnered over the years.
Interestingly, the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that was almost written off as dead, flickered back to life and went on to hold a national convention where leaders were elected to pilot the affairs of party.
This, beyond any reasonable doubt, is indicative that after all, the APC has a lot more work to do in appeasing the already disenchanted populace that overwhelmingly voted for it even as some diehard proponents of the party are grumbling with dissatisfaction at some actions and inactions of the APC government at various levels.
The war beats are even getting louder by the day as figures (questionable or not) are continually reeled out by the PDP of people coming to the party as a sign of unhappiness with the status quo.
2018, however, will be more crucial for the party and the government it formed at the centre and even at the states. It must right all the wrongs of 2016 and 2017 put together.
At the end of 2015, people gave the party the benefit of doubt being that it was the first time in the Nigerian political system that an opposition will upstage a boisterous ruling party. All that happened could easily be blamed on the previous government.
In 2018, there will be no second chances, as the party will have to ensure that its government lives up to the expectation of its fateful across the country. This means that the party itself, must heal the deep divisions that has beset it in recent times, forge a unified front and confront the opposition, not by mere rhetorics but by hard evidence of projects and programmes that is geared towards uplifting the often talked about “down trodden masses” in the country.
Issues the party will have to, as a matter of importance, deal with in the shortest possible time, analysts posit are, but not limited to:
For the success of every political party, its financial war chest must never be in doubt. The APC was hard hit with shortages of financial inflow, thereby hampering series of projects that needed cash outflow.
Stories of financial shortages were effectively reported. Another report surfaced as to why the party was experiencing shortages in financial inflows which was traced to the refusal of party stalwarts and bigwigs in the executive and legislative arms of government to honour financial obligations.
It was reported that party members in the current National Assembly stopped the mandatory monthly payments of N100, 000 for Senators and N70, 000 for members of the House of Representative since the party became enmeshed in crisis.
The report revealed that most of the present political appointees had not been living up to the expectations in payment of their dues since they were appointed, as enshrined in the party’s constitution.
Should the party be interested in making serious progress this year, this gap must be bridged, including the generation of series of income streams, sourced for the party to keep it floating and indeed, sailing properly even as the political stage promises to get more active in the year.
Interestingly, the PDP opened the stage by organising and indeed, executing a widely publicised national convention, even though the issues arising from the convention are still being sorted out to this day, with a faction threatening to operate a parallel party under the same nomenclature.
Conversely, Article 25 (A)(i) of the APC constitution states that the National Convention of the Party shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee and approved by the National Executive Committee subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and at least, 14 days notice given to members eligible to attend.
Against its constitutional provisions, the party did not hold its national convention as the case should be after every two years and 2016 was the end of the two-year period. The last time a national convention was held by the party was in May of 2014, in Abuja, where the current leadership emerged and the present constitution was ratified.
Another convention was later held in October of the same year where President Muhammadu Buhari won the party’s primaries to fly its flag in the 2015 general elections which he won, defeating the then incumbent, President, Goodluck Jonathan.
After the party came into government, several other issues have needed redress which can only be achieved via the convention. This is the avenue to use in ratifying policies and programmes of the party; elect or remove national officers of the party; elect the presidential candidate of the party; amend the constitution of the party from time to time as the need may arise among other issues
Furthermore, the constitution provides that the National Executive Committee may summon an emergency National Convention at any time provided and at least seven days notice of the meeting shall be given to all members eligible to attend.
With several issues needing attention and because of how the party came into being, the APC may have to convene this “solemn assembly” so as to thrash impending ‘naughty’ issues before it so as to avoid going to war with itself when members feel aggrieved on any issue especially as 2019 beckons.
Rifts And Crisis
From the South to the North, from the West across the East, 2016 saw the APC, at both national and state levels, battling with so many issues with political analysts fearing that these crises, if not checked timely, may significantly weaken the overall fighting power of the party when the time comes.
From faraway Bayelsa to distant Kano, across to Gombe then Kaduna, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Yobe as the list goes on, the APC chapters in these states erupted in one form of crisis or the other. The leadership at the centre, added to the issues it was dealing with, had to intervene in all these troubled spots, even as it surprisingly went on to win elections conducted in some of these “troubled spots”.
After series of horse trading and going back and forth, the National Assembly seems to have finally gotten its groove back. The meeting was an attempt to forge a common front after the series of controversies that heralded emergence of the current National Assembly leadership with its leadership as currently constituted, after a bumpy and rocky start.
Senator Bukola Saraki, at the end of the meeting, had said that both parties told themselves the hard truths with the hopes of restarting a harmonious working relationship between the party and the Senate leadership. This was even as the National Chairman was optimistic that the meeting will address the “glitches” that were the case before now.
Chief Odigie-Oyegun had said that the meeting became necessary in order “to discuss house-keeping issues.” Even though it was late in coming, the meeting was better late than never as it would afford the two sides the opportunity to discuss issues that had hitherto affected smooth relationship between the party and the Senate.
Admitting that there were still rough edges to be smoothened, Oyegun said: “We determined and concluded that we must work closely together to address some of the glitches that still exist, the relationship between the National Assembly and the executive. We want to assure the general public that they will see results that will lift their spirit in the next few weeks and months to follow.
Leading a delegation of the House leadership to their own round of talks with party leadership which had also not been as smooth as it ought, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, a week after the Senate leadership stormed the party’s national secretariat, said that the process towards achieving progress in the party was not automatic, as deliberate steps will be taken by stakeholders to achieve same.
He, however, stressed that progress was inevitable, urging the leadership of the party to create a conducive atmosphere so that things can be put in perspective to chart a formidable way forward.
The exit of one of its founding members and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, is indicative of the options that may be explored by members who feel they are no longer in sync with the party’s trajectory.
Atiku, in his departure notes, had insisted that the party had deviated from what it stands for and was not carrying its members along in the internal workings of the party.
The APC, had, however, dismissed the issues so raised, as non- existent. It will have to, in the soonest possible time, work out what it had alleged when the situations arise, and they will.
Measures at entrenching peace across the length and breadth of the party must be aggressively pursued, as the party position’s itself in the New Year. A lot of APC members seem aggrieved and measures must be taken to bring them to the round table even as gains are recorded in the number of notable Nigerians who join the party.
APC Response Template
When he assumed office, the APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, in trying to remake and rejig the template on how to respond to issues as the ruling party, said a national workshop for all its spokespersons across the country would be organised, in order to meet the challenges of the time.
He also noted that speaking for a ruling party required high level responsibility and awareness, even as he pointed out that the way some spokespersons had responded to issues in time past, did not augur well for the development of the party.
This position will be vigorously tested in the days and months ahead especially now that the PDP’s image making department has received a boost with various reorganisation.
In fact, both parties have consistently “bombed” themselves with various statements on different national issues to the point that as 2017 ran to a close, many felt that the polity was overheated.
Holding Elected Members Accountable
The party would have to put measures in place to hold persons elected on its platform, accountable should they stray away from party manifestos and campaign promises. It should have to go back to the drawing board and reeducate its elected members on what the party stands for and hopes to achieve.
This is the way members of the society will take the party serious and have confidence in it even as the much talked about 2019 elections draw increasingly closer.
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