It was always inevitable that a kind of civil war would engulf the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) arising from the incompatibility and mutual distrust of the membership, whose only bond was the national disgust compelling all hands on deck to flush out the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. There just was no alternative or chaos would have descended on Nigeria.
That chaos would not have been sourced by #RevolutionNow, nor would the breaking point have been targeted at security agencies. After the re-election victory of APC in February/March 2019, the ovation in APC has not even ended. Yet, the campaigns for 2023 have started not subtly as might be expected but in fill gear. As a potent force, ethnic antagonism, along with circumstantial argument against zoning policy, is being deployed. Allegation of anti-South-West hostility, till a fortnight ago, unknown to Nigerians, was made by the Coalition of Northern Groups against ex-Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu. If true, the allegation, for Tinubu, could only be self-contradictory and embarrassing. The Coalition of Northern Groups accused Tinubu of totally opposing efforts to appoint a South-easterner as Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF) for President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term.
Targeting Tinubu for alleged anti-South-East political hostility should be well-understood. The man’s presidential ambition for 2013 is not hidden and cannot be denied. Coming from the Coalition of Northern Groups, the allegation will cost Tinubu the support of South-East for the 2023 race. Tinubu could only have hurt himself in that miscalculation. After all, the same Bola Tinubu, throughout his eight-year tenure, appointed a full-blooded Igbo, Ben Akabueze, as Commissioner of Budget and Planning. Even if reclusively, assumed the status of a mentor by getting the same Akabueze appointed by President Buhari as director-general, Budget Office of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a post Akabueze still occupies. The only argument may be that an ordinary commissioner in Lagos State or even director-general, Budget Office of Nigeria, is not as weighty as Secretary of the Government of the Federation. Better still, Tinubu could have recommended Akabueze as SGF, though, admittedly, Akabueze is not politically minded.
Meanwhile, Coalition of Northern Groups completely derailed in further accusing Tinubu of collaborating with his purported “friends” in Afenifere to stir up anti-Fulani sentiments and undermine Buhari. Afenifere? When necessary, I don’t spare Tinubu but will not accuse him of being a friend of Afenifere. In fact, Tinubu’s most vicious political enemies are in Afenifere, a gang of five or even less parading themselves as today’s cultural group. Feigning themselves as the voice of South-West, they are notorious for intermittent visits to Aso Rock for gratification. That was the pattern till four years ago since when they virtually stopped having access to Aso Rock, or, if any access at all, there had been no parting gifts or contracts. With their allegation of non-existing friendly ties between Tinubu and Afenifere, Coalition of Northern Groups merely goofeol and won sympathy for Tinubu. In fact, that allegation is as laughable as the claim of a traditional ruler in Lagos State among his friends that “Duro Onabule is a supporter of Obasanjo.”
Above all, details of the allegations of Coalition of Northern Group against Tinubu could only be sourced from the intimate discussions between two top-notchers of APC. That such discussions were pounced on to drum up allegations against a party to the discussions could only generate very very bad feelings between the two. It is notable that Tinubu has been so stunned, such that he could not comment on the allegation or the notoriously compromised media have never thought it fit to approach him (Tinubu) for his reaction. Accordingly, what we are witnessing in APC portends fire and brimstone leading to self-destruction of APC by the time 2023 is here. The only advantage is that the showdown is starting early enough and the road so clear “unto thy tents” for the warring sides.
For obvious reasons, the campaign for abandoning zoning in APC has already commenced with the release of nonetheless hurting shrapnel to the South from the North, indicating that hopes may be dashed for any southerner eyeing Aso Rock in 2023. And there is no secret about the target, hence, the direct hit of Tinubu for anti-South-East political enemity.
The first salvo was released in Lagos a few months ago on how to neutralise political godfathers in South (West?). the venue was supposed to be an evening social gathering. The lecture was meant to encourage political enemies of a particular political enemy. In any case, the firing storm landed at an assembly of dis-agreeables of an enemy who could be a stumbling block to the political ambition of a young Turk from the North.
The campaign to abandon zoning in APC is part of neutralising political godfathers. Ordinarily, there should be no zoning. Everybody should be able to test his electoral popularity. What is more, in the past, when the North was known to be keen on regaining political power, any idea of zoning was often ridiculed by short-sighted southerners as recipe for mediocrity in producing public office holders. The question now is: Will it not be a recipe for mediocrity for the presidency to be zoned to the South? Unfortunately, the reality in Nigeria is that only zoning can guarantee peace, justice and stability. Otherwise, with the voting strength so hopelessly lopsided, no part of the country could be sure of national leadership to the exclusion of the other and indeed others.
Partly, Nigerian constitution compels national spread, even if limited to two-thirds, for any potentially successful presidential candidate. That alone makes collaboration (if zoning is provocative) imperative. Accordingly, for political enthusiasts, interesting times lie ahead on the way to 2023. But any sympathizer or aspirant, especially in APC, must self-leash with that brilliant philosophy that “power belongs to God who gives it to whoever is so blessed.”
To be fair, Nigerians are not witnessing possible unilateral abandon of erstwhile mutually agreed zoning formular. Even in the PDP, the same history was recorded. Obasanjo tried to abandon zoning by perpetuating himself in office through third term but he failed. That shadow of breach of trust follows him till today in the image of integrity deficit.
Not learning from that political disaster, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015, went further down disrepute by demanding whatever agreement binding him to anybody or any group to give way. He fell flat. Not only the North tried to abandon zoning.
Thank God, ministers are here
Quite unusually, processes of producing ministers after the 2019 general election produced ups and downs we almost never experienced in the history of Nigerian politics. Therefore, it is a relief at last ministers took offices. All the same, there are lessons we could learn.
First, the idea of clearing the ministerial nominees as compelled by Nigerian Constitution could never have been meant to humiliate them by almost reducing them to virtually high school graduate applicants. Those honoured to take a bow and go were lucky. But the others were kept standing for as long as the senators desired. Or if some ministers re-appointed were dignified and discharged within minutes, why was the same respect not extended to other ministers similarly re-appointed?
In any case, in future, ministerial nominees or anybody being screened by the Senate must be made to sit while answering questions. A little bit of respect. These are not criminal suspects or even accused being interrogated.
The exercise also produced a disturbing feature in which some senators virtually routinsed the show, almost merely having their share of the questioning even if that meant repeating previous questions and/or engaging in unnecessary ramblings preceded by unnecessary pre-ambles. In some cases, it became mere grandstanding, completely unaware that the live coverage was being beamed to the outside world not only for Nigerians but also foreigners who might be interested in Nigeria.
For a repeat, many of the criticisms on alleged delay in announcing ministers were avoidable. The unprecedented idea of setting up a committee to allocate portfolios to ministers was ridiculous. In blunt language, it was unconscious abdication of responsibility and should be so made clear to Aso Rock. All over the world, it is the sole responsibility of heads of government to pick portfolios. The idea of setting up a committee to allocate portfolios in itself caused an unnecessary further delay of over a week before swearing ministers.
An unintended side-effect of surrendering power of allocating ministerial portfolios is that President Buhari lost all moral to either sack an incompetent minister in the future or even claim credit for excellently performing ministers.
Then, what really is going on? Ministers having no access to the President? Or ministers to be reporting to Chief of Staff or Secretary to the Government of the Federation? This seems to be an unprecedented constitutional convention. And especially for Nigeria aiming at the next level, this will further slow down the pace of governance. the journey itself took so long to take off, if at all it has taken off. Ministers are (and were) appointed by the President and to him and him alone are ministers accountable. The idea of shutting out ministers from the President is peculiar to Nigeria and could only be frustrating.
Particular ministries – Defence, Interior, External Affairs, Finance, Information, etc – are so important in modern age of jet speed development and require regular, if not instant, consultations with the President, such that diversion to other sources might prove disastrous in such emergency cases.