By Aaron Artimas
At the height of its awesome popularity in the past, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had taunted Nigerians with the declaration that it was going to rule for over 60 years. But, barely 10 years after that egotistical chest-thumping, the party seems to be miserably driving down to an intensive care unit, as it continues to bleed through the massive loss of its key members across the country. To worsen matters, PDP suffers acute supremacy problems and confusion, pushing it to the crossroads of several political options that may dim its future. Worst still, its nightmare is deepening by the internal struggle for total control by some spoilt opportunistic elements who are bent on appropriating total ownership of the party. Now, PDP’s woes and debilitating headache should freely hand over a wonderful opportunity and lessons to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC); will they take it? This is the major question straddling the party (APC) at the moment.
The APC, a child of circumstances, was cobbled less than 10 years ago by some opposition parties desperate to unseat the PDP, which had tightened its grip on the necks of Nigerians. The parties, CPC, ACN, ANPP and a faction of APGA, reasoned that the only way to remove PDP’s stranglehold on the national political system was to join forces and fuse into a formidable force to decimate its rival. One of the arrowheads of that revolutionary movement was the then CPC Governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Umaru Al-Makura, a close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari had left the then ANPP, following some disagreements, to form the CPC, under which Al-Makura became the party’s only elected governor. However, in a twist of fortune, President Buhari joined the then ANPP governors of Yobe, Borno and Zamfara to construct a new structural alliance with five ACN South-West governors and the then APGA governor of Imo, Chief Rochas Okorocha.
INEC gave the new APC formal recognition on July 31, 2013. Later that year, APC grew in leaps and bounds, following the tsunami that hit the PDP, resulting to the defection of five PDP sitting governors and 49 National Assembly members across party lines. The rest, they say, is history. Today, APC is not only the leading and ruling party in Nigeria but also continues to bleed the collapsing PDP and the remnants of other political parties.
As the saying goes, “Every impressive success story comes with it own challenge.” Since its dramatic entry into Nigeria’s political milieu, APC has produced four national chairmen, two from the South-West ACN and two from the Edo ‘new PDP’. As things stand today, the party is managed by a caretaker committee following the leadership crisis that rocked the party, consuming the last chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in manner that clearly denotes a struggle for supremacy, the same paralysing problem bedevilling the PDP. Even as the APC ship is sailing steadily at the moment, there are evidently some signs that it faces dangerous and violent waves ahead, if it fails to recruit strong hands that can bravely face and navigate the storms. This is necessary, considering the tumultuous inflow of new members into the party.
Within the last six months, APC has received quite a large number of high-profile defectors, including, governors, senators, representatives and former top political appointees. With this positive development, APC could indeed pride itself as a truly national party, especially considering the fact that most of the new entrants are from the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones previously regarded as core PDP states. This is where APC leadership challenge lies.
Both parties, APC and PDP, are engaged in the process of birthing new leadership and repositioning their parties. They have since commenced congresses at the wards, local governments and states. Expectedly, these developments have heightened the quest for the election of the national leadership of the parties. At the latest count, no fewer than 10 powerful leaders have declared their interest in the national chairmanship of the APC. Among them are former Governors Tanko Umaru Al-Makura, George Akume, Abdulaziz Yari and Modu Sheriff. No one may dispute that these men and the others are eminently qualified to lead an expanding and formidable party like APC. But there are many issues to consider by the party members to arrive at the most appropriate person to lead a steady and rancour-free party.
A lot has been said about the real owners of the party. In other words, the party was founded by some people who had a real vision of what they wanted in a political party and what course it should take to achieve its goals and objectives for Nigerians. This is the crux of the matter. It is indeed pertinent to note that, since its formation in 2013, APC has been led largely from the South, while it maintained an unwholesome and unjustified view or impression as a northern party. A large part of the North-Central and, by extension, the Middle Belt region, remains loathsome or distasteful of this fallacious designation, mainly because the party had not taken deliberate efforts to appreciate their contributions and give them a sense of belonging. If APC were to remove this irritating notion, it needs to make huge inroads not only to the South, but also the so-called Middle Belt, as a way of tackling the dichotomy within the North in order to make every part of the North to identify with it.
Based on the foregoing, it makes greater sense and reason to contemplate or accept the chairmanship aspiration of Al-Makura as most appropriate. His leadership will address many issues and assuage many feelings. Al-Makura’s leadership will not only ensure justice and fairness to one of the merger parties, CPC, but also justify the support of the North-Central, which gave overwhelming support to the APC in the last two general elections. In particular, Nasarawa State, under Al-Makura, had consistently given the party over 90 per cent of support. Besides, in a highly bigoted polity such as ours, every political arrangement ought to make deliberate efforts to ensure justice and fairness to everyone. It should be noted that there already is a massive inflow of members into the party from states like Benue, Kogi, Niger and the Federal Capital Territory, which is the core area of Al-Makura’s influence. As a popular figure from this area, his leadership will attract many prospective members frustrated by the declining fortunes of the PDP. On a personal level, Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura is seen as a team player, a jolly good fellow and an experienced party leader who created an enviable record of propelling CPC, then a very minor party, to win the governorship seat of Nasarawa State. This means he has the clout to propel APC to a truly national party. He is the only person who has the capacity to consolidate on the humility and adroitness brought to the party by the outgoing caretaker committee of the party, led by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni.
•Artimas is former public relations officer, APC Taraba State