By Zainab Suleiman Okino
The tension arising from governing APC’s multifaceted crises got to their peak last week when the Secretary of the Extraordinary Caretaker and Convention Planning Committee, James Akpanudoedehe had to call in security personnel to protect personnel and property at the party national secretariat.
That same week, embattled opposition PDP was dogged with internal strife over the leadership of the party, a trait that has become synonymous with the party since inception in 1998.
The parallel events have thrown up debates about Nigeria’s leading political parties’ workability, sustainability and viability. Conversely, if the political parties whose main goal is to produce leadership at all levels, are not working well, can democracy, nay the country work well for the purpose of its existence? Such is the scepticism that characterises today’s Nigeria, that it takes stoicism and strong will not to lose hope in our form of democracy and the country in general.
The house of commotion that has become the lot of our leading political parties is nothing other than struggle for power or relevance, conflict of interest and survival and not for the sake of instituting good governance or finding solutions to the country’s myriad of challenges.
The APC came in a blaze of glory; it was perceived as a credible alternative to the badly-behaved PDP in their 16-year old rule, but the APC, in over six years has not fared any better. If not, how has a party allowed a sitting governor to serve as a caretaker chairman for upward of 18 months by the end of this year having taken over on June 25, 2020. Mai Mala Buni, the governor of Yobe state assumed office as caretaker committee chairman of the APC after the dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC) by its National Executive Committee in a bid then to save the party from internal implosion.
Recall the controversial era of erstwhile chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and the court decision that booted him out of office. Gov Buni was sworn in by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, after President Buhari advised all litigants to withdraw their cases from court. At that time the APC used the police to bar the then acting NWC led by Arc Waziri Bulama’s entry to the party’s National Secretariat. Buni’s six-month tenure has been renewed two times, even as tempers are rising over his motive for overstaying. The party glossed over its constitutional provision under section 4, article 17 which states that “no officer in any organ of the party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently”. As illegal as allowing AGF Malami in contravention of the party’s article 29 which is against any member from being sworn in other than “an appropriate principal officer of the party”, Malami still swore-in Buni at the Presidential Villa.
Recently, the Yobe State governor cum super chairman started a reregistration/revalidation exercise reminiscent of the PDP days, when braggadocio and intimidation of perceived ‘weak’ members held sway. He (Buni) got away with it. Against the backdrop of legal interpretation and minority judgment in the Akerodolu victory which questioned the eligibility of Gov Buni to hold both elective and party positions, chieftains and stakeholders of the party became more agitated and feared the worst could happen to the party like the Zamfara case in 2019, when the party lost a legal battle despite winning the governorship election. One of the Supreme Court justices in a minority decision maintained that “Buni violated the constitution, when as a sitting governor, still acted as chairman of the APC by submitting Akeredolu’s name to INEC for purposes of the governorship poll”.
Then came the issue of ward congresses across the country which have left the party more divided. So far, the party has received petitions from at least 14 states. Lagos and Osun states had messier congresses even as Governor Oyetola and his former godfather/benefactor, Rauf Aregbesola are at each other’s throat over the control of the party, while in Lagos, a group dissociated itself from the ward congress, which they claimed disenfranchised them in the name of consensus. As pot-shots are thrown at the party leadership from left, right and centre, it did not come as a surprise last week that the party had to call in DSS and police to secure its premises and staff.
The caretaker secretary Apkanudoedehe in an interview with newsmen said police were at their premises “to strengthen the leadership of Governor Buni, the caretaker chairman of the APC. What do I mean by that? When you have a security report that we are privy to, it is incumbent on our part to strengthen it so that we can protect you and the property of the APC. APC cannot be embarrassed because it has the national government. So, we must take measures to forestall any happening. We cannot under-estimate security reports. You cannot play down on it. You have a security report, you can’t take laws into your hands. You don’t expect us to call thugs to defend the secretariat of the party”, he said.
As embarrassing as this statement is for the party, it is actually a reflection of the sorry state of the party today: Buni needs to be protected from his own party men and women; police and DSS had to be called in to strengthen the chairman’s leadership in a democratic setting and party members had to be intimidated and harassed by its leadership for asking hard and legitimate questions? How unfortunate!
APC is such a good student of history it has not just imbibed and learnt PDP’s ropes and tricks; it has surpassed the PDP in less than half of the PDP’s rule.
For the PDP, trying to survive the last straw holding it together, despite giving the party chairman, Uche Secondus soft landing, after days of hot air and grandstanding, the party is still in trouble. Secondus has been in power for over six years and does not have an impressive record, yet it took the party chieftains so long to wake up from slumber, and asked him to step down barely four months to the end of his tenure. Did they have to wait to lose at least three sitting governors, many ex-governors, ministers and two speakers and more before taking the action they took last week? And you call that a political party?
The APC and PDP are acting as if Nigerians have no alternatives, but you can’t blame them. Before INEC axed 67 political parties, they were at best appendages of the ruling party, playing ignoble role of lining up behind the leading party, at the eleventh hour of election time, and get rewarded in return. So when people talk of a third force to replace APC and PDP, you’d wonder whether the members will be from Jupitar and not Nigeria.
If a new party comes into being today, these same characters in APC and PDP will rush to populate it, once the party is accepted by the voting populace. This happened in 2015, 2019 and in the current build-up to 2023 in favour of the ruling party, the same way PDP had enjoyed such support in the past.
Professor Attahiru Jega said this much the other, when he called on Nigerians to embrace PRP, the party of the poor, and reject the two leading parties, to which Sule Lamido (a potential member of the PRP) had since punctured. Therefore, where is the hope that Nigeria will emerge from PDP and APC’s stranglehold and still be democratic. A revolution? I don’t think so; Nigerians are too comfortable to go into the trenches for any ideals they believe in.
One thing is sure though. You can’t deceive all the people all the time. Something must give. As the people rose against the PDP in 2015 and supplanted it with APC, so will they rise against the duo someday.
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