The All Progressives Party (APC’s) constitution in Article 7 (viii) under Aims and Objectives talks of: “To promote and uphold the practice of internal democracy at all levels of the party’s organization.” But since the party’s congresses across the country, it seems the very ethos of promoting and upholding internal democracy is a farfetched prospect. Perhaps, this informed a former National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, to sound a note of caution at the Democracy Day lecture in Abuja that the nation’s democracy was under threat.
Jega’s decision to brooch the worry of the absence of internal party democracy in the parties including the APC at a gathering which had President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, as well as other important personalities in the country, should not be taken lightly.
The centrality of elections in a country’s democratic maturity all over the world has been assessed on how it has conducted its elections in a transparent and fair process in accordance with the rule of law and international best practices. And the indication of that process does not begin from a top bottom approach, rather from down upwards. It is in this regard that there is the need for political parties to adhere to the principles and practice of internal party democracy. But regrettably enough, this has always been observed in the breach in Nigeria across all the parties.
According to Itua Paul Okhaide in his Quest for Internal Party Democracy in Nigeria, Nigerians are agreed that internal party democracy does not only affect the credibility of the elections, but also the quality of leadership, governance and economic development. This is closer home than can be imagined. But sadly, party birds of prey often prefer to feast on the viable and best from emerging, therefore, one of the reasons for the poor governance equation in the country especially after 1984. This brings me to the upending of democracy in the home state of Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister to date, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s Bauchi. For a state that holds such historical significance to be counted amongst the democratic decadent states in the country beggars common sense.
At the heart of the Bauchi APC fracturing is the insistence, his traducers say, the emperor-like mien of Governor Mohammed Abubakar to the exclusion of other political top brass like Speaker Dogara. To clearly appreciate the fragile affairs of how the administration of Governor Abubakar works, one has to count the number of those – elected or appointed –that have had to throw in the towel not for the cause of seeking higher office, but elastic limits that have been stretched more than they can bear.
A rundown of those that have bolted from Governor Abubakar’s cabinet include but not limited to: Samai’la Sanusi, Special Assistant, Investment; Mohammed Jibo, Special Assistant, Students Affairs; Tahir Ibrahim Tahir, Senior Special Assistant, Scheduling and Shehu Barau Ningi, Commissioner for Budget & Planning. Others are; Mansur Musa Yisin, Deputy Caretaker Chairman, Tafawa Balewa LGA; Mallam Mansur Isah Yelwa, member Bauchi State Government Qur’anic Recitation Competition Committee; Yusuf Mohammed Jumba, Chairman/CEO, Bauchi State Budget Monitoring, Price Intelligence and Procurement Agency; Alhaji Shehu Sanin Malam, Special Assistant, Political. The most telling resignation is that by the deputy governor, Engr Nuhu Gidado. According to his terse resignation letter, he said, “Ordinarily, I should have remained up to the end of the tenure, but, with the current dampened spirit and waning zeal as it relates to my official engagements, my continued stay will not be fair and truthful to you as my brother and leader.”
For close observers of the politics of Bauchi, the resignations were not surprising as the governor sees governance as his exclusive preserve, therefore, the fractured nature of the APC in the state.
One must give it Speaker Yakubu Dogara, the other lawmakers of the National Assembly and chieftains of the party to wit; Senators Sulaiman Nazif, Isa Hammah Misau, Muhammad Muhammad, Dr Ibrahim Lame, Hon. Ibrahim Zailani, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, Captain Mohammed Bala Jibrin, Hon. Mohammed Aminu Tukur, and Hon. Maryam Garba Bagel that have come together to ensure that the legacy of the great patriarch of the state is not rubbished on the altar of the inordinate quest by one man to be the sole source of political authority in a metropolitan state like Bauchi.
It is significant to note how they have conducted themselves in a cultured and endearing manner by seeking constitutional means to resolve the breach of party democracy unlike in some states that have become theatres of conflict and physical confrontation. The aggrieved members of the APC have resorted to judicial intervention to redress the abuse of internal democracy by the governor and the party in the state.
More than going to court, the intervention of President Buhari is pertinent in a state that has continued to cast its lot with him since he started the race for the Presidency. But given that change is the only constant and the not-too impressive development index in the state, only a united APC front can guarantee a return of the number votes in previous elections for the party. So, does it not make sense that the president should, as a man of integrity, ensure that party cohesion is maintained by urging not just the Bauchi state governor but all other state chief executives on the platform of the APC to guarantee a free, fair and credible congresses.
Already, the loud disgruntled cry of the nPDP, one of the key groups that forms the APC, is a pointer that the road to 2019 is not paved with gold for the party and the urgency of the time is such that a level playing field for all power brokers should be brought about now.
While the days of the long knives are by no means near ending, the most important thing for all the groups jostling for power should be the desire to provide purposeful leadership for the people of Bauchi state and this means the willingness to make concessions and rein in ambitions.