Until sometime in 2013, our country ran a democracy with the trappings of a totalitarian state. Former military officers did not only take over the driving seat of political organisation, somehow they left us with one political party which not too long after it was established turned out a behemoth. That party for those who may not know is People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Civilians formed it quite alright but retired military officers who were rich and eager to bid forced exit from power farewell found a way to capture the soul of the party through cronies.
By that token the party became the hub of the big known political faces, business moguls and sizeable number of the country’s intelligentsia. Somehow PDP looked like the happening place and by common sense most political players found it the place to be. The PDP would not operate as lone ranger for the basic reason that our regulation prescribes a multi-party state, so there were other political parties but they were at best fragments of ethnic and minor group interests and aspirations. As would be expected these other parties were therefore limited by so many factors: numerical strength, finance and general acceptance.
Trust our politicians to seize opportunities, PDP took advantage of the moment and bestrode the land in strength. Little reason and vision was applied to the political ride. So at a point the journey began to get bumpy yet the party having a poor assessment of the people ran with the boast that it will rule the country for unbroken 60 years. The more they pushed their luck the more resentment grew among the citizens who felt they were railed against tin gods and not fellow humans chosen to superintend over their day to day affairs. While they tolerated the situation, they yearned for a time a new, strong political party with requisite capacity would emerge to challenge the PDP, win and possibly do things differently.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) took off under this climate. The minds behind its formation knew about the time and the idea that was fit for it. Citizens were not thinking about change in political players, they at least envisaged that with the way things were going, there existed enough factors to compel a change in the manner governance was being executed. Builders of APC knew the national mood and they wisely chose to ride it. They rode to power on change, dismissing an incumbent government along the way, something nearly everyone thought was impossible in this clime. There began hope, hope that was to be dashed even before the new party took off.
The party won power but every of its subsequent moves tended to show they never prepared for the aftermath of victory and nothing could be as dangerous in power games as this. Sharing responsibilities was and has remained an issue. On the day of inaugurating the National Assembly (NASS) in which the party had the majority, that morning the President called for a meeting to determine who gets what. What a political play. A faction was at the meeting when another went to the National Assembly complex, where, with the opposition, it produced the leadership for that arm of governance. The ripples remained with the party and the country for four years; even now it is still there.
NASS is threading too carefully in her dealings with the executive to the point it is about being tagged “rubber stamp.” We all are shouting but none recalls the seed was sown in the lack of preparedness that manifested in the beginning. It took President Muhammadu Buhari six months to constitute a cabinet at first and another three months in the second tenure. The President has been a recluse, but his aides term it his style but it has caused so much dissonance in administrative streamlining and order.
The conservative side in the APC makeup, to which the President belongs would have benefited much from the liberal progressive leanings of the South West partners in the alliance in APC, we have seen what the Vice President could do but all that went with the wind because of triumph of small minds in the APC fold. The biggest casualty is vision and the consequences for country are visible for all to see, it needs no repetition here.
Latest in the APC pain is what I term the Oshiomhole Debacle. It is the main issue now. For those who don’t know, last week two things of significance for the country happened from the APC camp: Governor Godwin Obaseki was stopped from running for second term by the party on spurious grounds and the Appeal Court upheld the suspension of Oshiomhole by his ward. Am not interested in the interpretation that may follow and other small details, but all of us should be interested in big consequences for the simple reason that what we see as small fire has capacity to inflame the country. It has capacity to retard democratic practice.
What is happening ought not to be at all if we took democracy and its principles seriously. Democracy is about capacity, mass movement, dialogue, disagreeing to agree, compromise and consensus. If we take these seriously there is no way Oshiomhole should be National Chairman of a big political party. He is temperamental and compulsive in talking. He likes entering the arena even as umpire. These are not suitable attributes for that position. Every good political manager would cultivate an incumbent governor, we don’t see that in APC; I don’t suggest to make tin gods out of them but creatively fix them in the calculation. It is surprising that a party leader who should offer protection to his member is the one making public show of his shortcomings, if any.
The revelation that infringement was committed in Edo and someone pushed ahead in circumventing rules is enough reason to ask whoever was the mastermind to resign (if he is occupying public position) and thereafter face prosecution and penalties. If it were in other sane places even the victory would be reversed. That matters of disagreements get out of hand in APC questions the place and ability of party elders.
It is a dent on the President. A President may not intervene openly but his behind the scene interjections are useful. Oshiomhole will fall, because the foundation of his legitimacy has taken a dent. His standing is diminished.
Except a miracle happens, Obaseki will give a good fight from outside. For Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the heat is coming. It will intensify. Except real elders step in, APC would be in for very rough times even before President Buhari ends his second tenure. Whatever it is, we must bear in mind this country needs between two or three strong national political parties.