I do not know whether history is about to repeat itself. But there are clear signs that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is courting internal dissent, the type that reduced it to a wingless ruling party in 2015 even when it had majority membership in both chambers of the National Assembly.
Then, the APC wanted to dictate to the Senate and the House of Representatives who their leaders would be. The imposition failed, leaving the party disjointed and disunited. The internal crisis festered, leading to a sour outcome in which it lost both the Senate presidency and Speakership of the House to the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Four years after, the APC, certainly, has not learnt from history. And we are told that those who do not learn from the lessons of history are bound to repeat its mistakes.
As was the case in 2015, the leadership of the APC has anointed those it wants to occupy the Senate presidency and speakership of the House. But there is a tendency within the party that is not properly disposed to this arrangement. They want the party’s leadership to drop imposition and allow members of the two legislative chambers to choose their leaders themselves. There is no clear sign as yet on how the matter will play out. But as an indication that all will not be well with the APC arrangement, various interests and segments of the party and of the country are agitating for one position or the other. While the North East wants the Senate presidency, the North Central has its eyes on the speakership of the House. This is in spite of the fact that the leadership of the party is disposed to having the position go to the South West.
I noted here recently and it bears repeating that the zones that produced the President and the Vice President have no business with the offices of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House. The two positions should be left for the other four zones. In other words, the North West and South West should not jostle for any of these two offices. Fortunately, the North West is not aspiring to any of them. But, unfortunately, the South West is doing otherwise. One of its own is aspiring to the office of Speaker and we are told that the ruling party has adopted one of them for the position. I consider this an affront to the four zones that have neither the President nor the Vice President. The APC must be well guided here. If it fails to do so, the error could decimate and decapitate it further. If the party is interested in harmony, the least we expect from it is to take steps that will not jeopardise its future.
As I have noted before in this column, I insist that the APC must be mindful of its plan to leave the South East out of the power equation. The party will be making a costly mistake if it engages in that gamble. Rather, it should spread its dragnet with a view to seeing whether it can make appreciable inroads into the South East. Giving up on the zone is defeatist. A national party cannot afford such complacency. Apart from working on the South East, the party has even a more Herculean task in ensuring that it does not implode. The best way to get out of this impending cataclysm is to allow the elected representatives of the people to decide how the leadership of the two chambers will emerge. If the party’s leadership were smart, it would do more of lobbying than trying to impose a leadership on the National Assembly.
But there is a more telling angle to the set-up. Those who are seeing beyond the present horse-trading have zoomed their binoculars into the dark alleys of 2023. They suspect that what APC is trying to do now is a pointer to the way it will share power in 2023. For analysts, that explains the sudden and unexpected intrusion from some elements in the North on the 2023 presidency. It is taken for granted that the two political parties that matter, the PDP and APC, will zone the presidency to the South in 2023. It is also taken for granted that the South East will be given the opportunity to produce the President of the country just as it was done for the South West in 1999. Strangely, however, there have been some coded voices from the South West trying to say that the zone will also compete for the office of the President in 2023. I have said it here severally that the South West aspiration in this regard is misguided and will not see the light of day. The zone cannot expect that the coast will be made clear for it to produce Nigeria’s President a second time when the South East is yet to get the first opportunity. Anybody imagining that, as I said in this column earlier, is an anarchist.
Back to APC’s plot. Feelers from certain quarters indicate that the party is working on an arrangement that will make the North to retain power in 2023. The calculation by APC is to effectively shut the South East out from the party so that it will not compete for the presidency in 2023 on its platform. If that should happen, the race for the presidency under the APC arrangement would be between the North and the South west. A situation like this, they reason, would put the South West in a disadvantaged position since it will get no backing from the South East and South South. This will automatically put the North in a better position to clinch the party’s ticket and possibly win the presidential election to the consternation of the South. It is suspected that the lopsided zoning arrangement, which the party is plotting now, is expected to eventuate in the 2023 plot that we referred to.
The APC arrangement, if it is true, is likely to be replicated by the PDP. The APC plot may leave us with a situation where the PDP will throw open its presidential race to both the North and the South. If this should be the case, we will have two strong contenders for the office of president, namely the South East and the North. An arrangement such as this will obviously give the North an edge over the South East since the South would have been fragmented. Again, the outcome of such a contest will favour the North. This is the mischief coming from unexpected quarters. It is the recipe, which those who do not wish the country well are preparing.
But if we are still playing politics in which political parties struggle to take advantage of one another, we will expect that the PDP will fully throw its weight behind the South East aspiration by ensuring that the zone produces its presidential candidate. But the arrangement can only work if party faithful shun zonal sentiments and put the success of their party above narrow, sectional interests.
So far, zoning at the presidency has stabilized Nigeria to a reasonable extent. Part of the reason why the North plotted against President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 was because it wanted to catch up with the South in terms of the number of years it has occupied the at presidency. Based on that, the south quietly conceded the presidency to the North. The tables have to turn in 2023. We do not expect anything less from the north. Those singing discordant tunes are merely testing the waters.