After a prolonged ride on the high horse, the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have finally eaten the humble pie. It set up a committee on “True Federalism” amid the cacophonous clamour for the restructuring of the country. The move appeared forced. The party, in truth, was not interested in all the talk about restructuring. Many of its chieftains sneered at the call and, in some cases, labelled its advocates as those who lost out in the 2015 elections and are yet to come to terms with the reality of their loss.
Some others pretended not to know what restructuring was all about.
The anti-restructuring disposition of the party came as a surprise to many. Those who were familiar with what the party espoused at birth thought that restructuring would form its article of faith. The party, in its original and undiluted form, was supposed to be a conclave for progressive elements. Those who pushed it unto the public domain were mostly avenging angels of democracy. They were people who were accustomed to mounting the podium and pontificating to no end from the elevated platform. They sounded sanctimonious and acted it too. They came away as the only Nigerians who knew how to make the country work. Before they converged in the APC, a good many of them had romanced with political parties like the UPN, PRP, SDP, ACN, CPC and the like. Their attitude to politics bordered largely on the holier-than-thou. When, therefore, they congregated in the APC, they left many with the impression that Nigeria would, through the party, rediscover itself and even reinvent the wheel.
It was on the basis of the party’s purist posturing that its promoters shunned the 2014 National Conference organised by the PDP-led government of President Goodluck Jonathan. They felt that Jonathan and his crowd were not the right people to put Nigeria on a sound democratic footing.
On the strength of what we knew about those who peopled the APC at the very beginning, it was taken for granted that the party would, if given the opportunity to govern, embrace progressive politics. It was expected that the party would bring about positive changes that would transform Nigeria’s political landscape in a manner that has never been done before. That was why the party rode to power on the wings of populism. But it suffered a major drawback without knowing it. The APC, after its initial saintly pretensions, was infiltrated by men and women of opposite political inclinations. In the desperate bid to wrest power from a seating government, the party threw its doors wide open for one and all. It became a free market with ideas clashing freely and some tumbling down the precipice. With that, the party got polluted. Yet, it continued to pretend that all was well with it. But its variegated colours have since begun to manifest. The first casualty was its loss of a sense of direction. There are as many persuasions as there are stalwarts of the party and this has made it practically impossible for it to go to town with its original ideals. At the moment, the party is bereft of both ideals and ideology.
Its rainbow configuration notwithstanding, the party, on ascension to power, had its job almost cut out for it. The Jonathan conference, which it shunned had produced a report that captured the very essence of what elements in APC had been clamouring for over the years. The 2014 conference report was a radical document. It was ambitious. It proposed a new Nigeria anchored on equity, equality and justice. It mirrored all that those who called themselves progressive politicians have been asking for. Indeed, the 2014 conference report was a fitting document for an APC government. It was thought that the party would pick up the document and reshape it, where necessary, and run with it.
Surprisingly, the party shunned the document like a plague. It did not only do that, it became resentful, if not unreceptive, of any talk about giving Nigeria a new structure. Suddenly, a party whose promoters had always wanted a restructured Nigeria developed cold feet. They became apostles of the status quo. In the party, we have come to appreciate the fact that reality is a late dawn. The party appears unsettled by the reality of governance.
For Nigerians who know the issues, APC has surprised, even embarrassed, everyone. But it would not be allowed to get away with that. And so, the rest of the people who know what the country stands to gain through restructuring would not let the issue fade away. They returned it to the front burner. APC had tried to dodge the issue or circumvent it. But the more it did that, the more vociferous advocates of restructuring became.
Perhaps to save its face, the party decided to romance with something called True Federalism. It set up a committee on that headed by Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State. The committee has come up with a report, aspects of which border tangentially on restructuring. Like the 2014 conference report, it has called for the delisting of the 774 local governments from the Constitution. It also recommended the establishment of state police, among others. However, whereas the 2014 report recommended the creation of more states, the APC committee wants some states to merge.
We may not worry about the finer details of the el-Rufai committee’s report. What seems to matter here is that the APC has eaten the humble pie. It bowed to pressure and, therefore, gave us what looks like a document on restructuring. It is a grudging concession. That was why the committee threw up a clearly vexatious recommendation like merger of states even when it knows that this is a huge joke with temporary entertainment value. Yet, it chose to entertain us all the same. They know that it is better to give us something to argue about than to ignore us completely.
We understand the joker here. But we are not taken in by the antics. The APC intervention in this matter is intended to divert our attention. It is intended to make us believe that the party is not against restructuring; that it has, indeed, embraced restructuring by setting up a committee that has come up with a report, regardless of its content. But the fact of the matter is that the report is hanging in the air. It is not meant to be domesticated. There may not be any plan to make it real. The entire exercise might just be a ploy, an attempt to divert attention. It could also be a campaign tool. As things stand, it may be difficult to accuse the party of being against restructuring. If anyone does that, the party will quickly retort and draw attention to its report on True Federalism.
But what useful purpose will this document serve? Not any one that we know of at moment. We do not know of any scheme aimed at implementing it or making it work. It may just be allowed to gather dust, having been shelved away in one corner of the party’s secretariat. If the APC gets away with this, it would have succeeded in leading us by the nose. It would have succeeded in running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. The document, in its final analysis, may become our own version of what Meja Mwangi, the Kenyan novelist, calls carcase for hounds. It may just be mere carcass in our hands.