While it will be defeatist to continue to explain our political realities given the role of PDP and how the survival of its tenure relied on falsehood founded on language of abuses, vulgarity and hate, the regime of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be producing new sets of lies if we are unable to take certain basic steps to terminate the life of some falsehoods in our politics. For instance, is it possible for a party to remain electorally strong without internal mechanism for dispute settlement and conflict resolution? Can a political party really afford to ignore its leading stakeholders and move to decimate them on accounts of considered acts of intransigence? Can we even justify any claims as to whether the emergence of APC and its electoral victory in 2015, means that associated issues of authoritarian party leadership, unaccountable management, alienated membership, etc. have been resolved?
It will be delusional to imagine that APC, in its five years of existence has succeeded in resolving all associated political party management problems created during the sixteen years tenure of PDP. Part of the basic steps required to terminate the life of all falsehoods associated with party management will be the humility of party leadership to be able to accept weaknesses, shortcomings, acknowledge that errors are committed and take responsibility to correct situations. As part of discharging such responsibility, viable and enduring reconciliatory processes need to be developed.
The need for viable and enduring reconciliatory processes should be integral to the workings of the party because every electoral contest whether at the level of producing party leaders or candidates during primaries will naturally create dispute situations. What is required is the capacity to mandate a dedicated team with the required skills and knowledge to facilitate reconciliation immediately the need arises.
Current events in APC, especially after the primaries, present some disturbing realities. In particular, situations in Imo, Ogun, Rivers and Zamfara are to say the least unfortunate. Across all sections of party leaders at national levels and from these states, egos have hit rooftop. Avoidable stalemates have been created resulting to all manner of abuses, vulgar and hate speeches directed at fellow party leaders. In Imo and Ogun, it has resulted in situations where serving Governors are fielding and supporting candidates to succeed them in different parties while they are Senatorial candidates of the APC. In Rivers and Zamfara, there is the threat of the party not being able to field candidates for the 2019 elections.
Ordinarily, this reality will be adjudged to be injurious to the growth and development of the party. To the contrary, to the extent that the party is able to painstakingly engage the situation in all the states (Imo, Ogun, Rivers and Zamfara), resolve them and contest the 2019 elections as a united party, it is very healthy. The big challenge is whether all the actors in the disputes across all the states are willing to shift positions. This will be contingent on how much sacrifices each disputant is ready to make in the interest of the party and its electoral victory.
Perhaps, it is also important to underline the fact that the strong currents of disputes internally in the party (APC) reflects the fact that there are contests. It is no longer the case whereby the President or the National Chairman could simply just impose their positions on fellow party members. In so many respects, it could be argued that there is more liberalism today in APC than it was under PDP. On account of such liberalism, the powers of governors are being contested. We could debate the significance of such a contest and its capacity to expand internal democratic space within the APC. However, the big challenge is to ensure the institution of efficient management capacity to regulate contests and resolve conflicts as they emerge.
One issue that is equally important in the discussion of current electoral challenges facing the APC is the extent to which leaders of the party will begin to move away from living for today and working for a better tomorrow. So long as our party leaders are living for today, the probability of unresolvable conflicts would be high. Somehow, it is important to remind our leaders in APC that in truth APC only came into being on accounts of ability of leaders of our former opposition parties to succeed in exposing the greed of the PDP and its leaders around living only for today.
The big limitation of living for today is the inability to produce legacies. Not even the party, PDP, can be said to be a legacy produced by its past leaders. Evidence, President Obasanjo comically and publicly tore his PDP membership card, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was in and out of PDP a number of times, many former PDP National Chairmen and founding members have left the party, etc. In matters of governance, having led both at federal levels and many states, outside records of infrastructural decay, poor citizens’ welfare indices, corruption, etc. it is difficult to highlight any governance legacy.
Related to this therefore is the question of to what extent are leaders of APC working for a better Nigeria of tomorrow? For instance, if former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and their PDP teams have failed to make Nigeria better and therefore left no legacy, to what extend are APC leaders supporting President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC team to work for a better Nigeria with legacies that would survive generations of Nigerians? Are current leaders of APC inadvertently laying the foundation that could make President Muhammadu Buhari and other party leaders to leave the party tomorrow?
The biggest and most important legacy President Buhari can give to Nigerians will be a vibrant, strong and democratic APC. So far, he has been able to, together with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other party leaders of our old legacy parties, inspire the merger of old opposition parties and the electoral victory of 2015. Governors of the old opposition parties – eleven of them at first and later increased to sixteen – were the foot-soldiers of the merger negotiations. Some of the principal actors in today’s disputes in these four states – Imo, Ogun, Rivers and Zamfara – played leading roles as Governors. The current National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was part of the team of Governors who facilitated merger negotiations leading to the formation of APC. Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, currently DG of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, who is one of the actors in the dispute in Rivers was also one of the Governors who facilitated the merger.
Across board, each of the actors would have contributed in one way or the other towards the emergence of the problem. No one should feign infallibility. Such falsehood only facilitated the exit of serving elected public officials out of PDP. No one should equally elevate fallibility to the level of criminality. In other words, it is important to caution actors against passing absolute judgements based on grandiose plans to emerge as the only winners of the current conflict. In particular, the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole need to be reminded that the resolution of the current conflicts across all our states is a test of whether his leadership will rise above the profile set by PDP and the immediate past APC leadership. It will be a mark of failure if for any reason APC go into the 2019 elections divided especially in the four states of Imo, Ogun, Rivers and Zamfara.
Current challenges facing the party following the primaries, in so many ways, would signpost the opportunity waiting for the emergence of a stronger APC post-2019 elections. This is only possible if appropriate steps are taken within the party to resolve all the conflictual situations. Imagine scenarios whereby the party leadership with Governors in all the APC governed states are united behind one Governorship candidate. All the legal challenges threatening the participation of APC candidates in Rivers and Zamfara will simply close once there is resolution.
Part of the unfortunate reality also is how unfairly President Buhari is being treated in the circumstance. When the scope of dispute goes beyond individual leaders and becomes rebellious against the party and the President is being invited to endorse decisions and candidates against his party is unfair. Somehow because one of the lies in Nigerian politics is that party members must be 100 per cent loyal, we are all being cowed in silence. Our leaders and party members must have the right to fight against injustice. But the sanctity of the President to serve as a leader of all and belonging to no one need to be respected.
In the end, what everyone in APC – both members and leaders – need to recognize is that APC must be a work-in-progress. Leaders would be fallible, operations of the party would produce problems, democratic credentials of the party will come under threat and internal contestations would lead to conflicts. It is important that steps are taken to prevent situations whereby fallibility of leaders fed their egos, ineffective party management get entrenched and undemocratic practices erode spaces for membership participation at all levels of party and national elections become attributes of the party.
As party members, we need to proudly engage these issues and at the risk of offending our leaders, volunteer perspectives that could challenge them to do things differently. This is necessary condition for the party, its leadership and members to be able to act as agents for a better tomorrow. Strong internal contestations, institution of democratic frameworks for managing and resolving conflicts and facilitating reconciliations were missing elements in PDP since 1999 and all our old legacy parties. Processes of its institution in APC needs to be engaged and given life to as indication of positive membership and electoral contests and competition. This should be our APC of tomorrow and the model Nigerian political party of the future. It is simply taking politics in Nigeria to the next level..
Lukman, the director-general of the Progressive Governors Forum wrote from Abuja
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