With barely a month to the inauguration of an All Progressives Congress (APC) federal government, the street partying to celebrate the sweeping success of the nation’s most successful opposition party in history is winding down. Now is the time to tackle the challenges of success.
The question on our lips today is: can the APC survive the two tests of its manhood which lie in wait for it? Between May 29th 2015 and May 28th 2019, the incoming ruling party will be sorely tested with two challenges: (1) power sharing at the outset of its reign and (2) the struggle for the party’s tickets towards the end of the tenure. How will the APC fare?
The party’s supporters and enthusiasts will answer right away by saying the APC has already conquered the biggest obstacles of forging a successful merger of parties and unseating the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But it needs to be noted here that capturing power is one thing, keeping it is yet another.
PDP collapsed because it could no longer maintain the internal cohesion necessary for continuation as a ruling party. It had little or no problem with power sharing, but the integrity could no longer be maintained in the struggle for its tickets in 2015. If the APC wishes to last long as a ruling party, these two elements must be satisfied, in addition to good governance, of course.
There are some danger signals that, once you see them manifesting within the APC, then you can start a mental countdown to the end of its reign. One of them is political greed.
That was one of the factors that led PDP to failure. The Party thought that the larger its size the more invincible it would be at the polls. This was the factor that made former President Olusegun Obasanjo to ensure that the opposition was not allowed to stand on a firm footing. Eventually, many opposition party leaders dumped their parties, jumped into PDP and some of them even got prestigious posts at all levels. PDP was reduced to a free-for-all bazaar.
The upshot was that there were too many interests, and once they could not be satisfied, they automatically turned around to constitute internal opposition in the PDP.
If you check the history of the PDP as a ruling party, especially at the Centre, it was the PDP National Assembly members that stood in the forefront of opposition against the Executive Branch. The Presidency under Obasanjo fought and changed the leadership of the National Assembly led by its party men.
It was PDP Senators that prevented President Obasanjo from using the constitution amendment of 2004/2006 to grab an extra term of office. The APC only became a living threat to PDP when five states controlled by the Party moved over to APC. All these were traced to internal power struggles occasioned by too many selfish interests clashing against one another.
The APC is large enough to stand in the same danger, unless it opts to learn from the foibles of its predecessor in the presidential seat, the PDP. It must resist the temptation of preying on what remains of the PDP. It must also ensure it does not interfere in the affairs of the party.
Though a political party is like a church which never rejects new members, it must not give away coveted posts to opportunistic newcomers. In fact, the party should place all newcomers on probation for at least four years to prove their genuine commitment to the APC before they qualify for its privileges. Giving away plum positions to newcomers will create ill feelings among those who fought and endured for the APC to become the ruling party.
Rather than putting emphasis on increasing its size, the APC will do itself – and our democracy – a favour by firming up party principles and policies and keeping members within its ideological bounds through discipline and internal democracy. The PDP should also pay attention to creating a new ideological character for itself. What we need within the next four years is to able to choose between the party of the Progressives and the Democrats. Solid ideological grounding, not mere ephemeral size, is the only thing that will ensure the longevity of both the APC and PDP.
The second issue that will determine APC’s fate as a ruling party is how it manages its ethno-regional differences. Put it in another way, how it handles the political interests of its principal leaders: President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, and its erstwhile National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. That these two gents were able to forge an alliance that successfully saw off the mighty PDP is a great feat which has become a milestone in the nation’s political history. However, that is where the problem starts.
Right now, the APC is still a gang-up of seventeen states of the old Northern Region and four states of the old West Region, with one vassal state each from the old Eastern Region (Imo, whose fate is still hanging) and old Mid-West (Edo). The PDP has been completely shut down in Northern Nigeria, save for Gombe (and Taraba, which is still hanging).
The APC revolution in Northern Nigeria even put away the issue of “Middle Belt”. The Minorities of the North went with their Hausa/Fulani Majorities, just as the Southern Minorities (except Edo) went with their Igbo Majority neighbours. How will four states of the South West cope under the deadweight of seventeen states of the North in the APC? It is more like a master-servant partnership – what a partnership!
How will Tinubu continue to be the “National Leader” of the APC with his power bloc forming such a miserable minority in the partnership? Though it is agreed that Tinubu’s South West made Buhari’s victory possible (just as the South East did for President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011) how will that stand when an all-out power struggle ensues?
This question becomes even more germane when we realise that under our presidential system, the president is the Leader of the ruling party. Buhari is now the Leader of the APC. What becomes of Tinubu, since two captains cannot command one boat?
A lot will depend on the mental attitude that Buhari and his regional supporters are coming into this dispensation with. If they are coming with the old mindset of Northern domination and Southern dependency, then we are in for a rough ride, just as I have always warned. Will Buhari and his Northern support group resist the temptation of seeing this as a dispensation of the North having “snatched” their power back with their might?
Or have they learned from the history of their past attitude which made the idea of the North’s return to power unpopular in the South in the past sixteen years? Has Buhari put aside the mentality of North’s alliance with the West with which he once ran this country along with the late retired Major General Tunde Idiagbon, whereby the entire East and its Minorities were virtually shut out of national relevance? That was why they refused to vote for him, apart from the President Jonathan factor.
Buhari can still surprise many of his critics by seeing himself not just as Muslim/Arewa president or even as a president of a North and West alliance against the rest of the country. If he is able to carry every section of the country along, not only in the selection of top government officials but also in the distribution of the benefits of good governance, the entire nation will embrace him. His Party will also benefit. Everything now depends on Buhari.