By Abdulwahab Oba
As we move towards the end of October, taking a peep into the end of the year 2017, we get just few inches away from what I predict will be a defining year for Nigeria: Year 2018. It may not be the election year, but expectedly, one needs no voodooism to decipher the direction Nigeria’s next political step would take would be determined largely in the first 180 days of the year 2018.
There is no doubting the fact that President Muhammad Buhari deserves all the accolades any one can muster for practically taking us out of the woods as a result of financial recklessness, politically brigandage and sixteen years of unfulfilled promises of the PDP.
Although political arrogance, corruption and pervasive insecurity provided the final impetus for the final burial rites of the PDP, the All Progressive Congress (APC) came on the Nigerian political landscape in 2014 with a bang, offering a freshness in ideas and ideology that was very different from what Nigerians had been fed with for 16 years under the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and eventually went ahead to win the election, sacking a sitting government in the process.
Whether that well deserved victory has been properly managed remains as controversial as which comes first between a chicken and its egg. What is, however, doubtful is whether the party can still muster such braggadocios again as we launch into the next election year.
Yet, it is not as if ordinarily the party should not have been able to easily replicate the 2015 magic, given that the APC today has one of the rarest brand ambassadors of integrity on its platform in the name of Muhammad Buhari, along with a strong fold of progressive foot soldiers. The only snag, and which I seek to humbly bring to the notice of the party structure is our inability so far to have conquered ourselves after conquering the city gate.
Knowingly or otherwise, the party has brought on itself an unnecessary burden that it has surprisingly not been able to remove and which might therefore accompany it to the next election cycle. These burdens were not there in 2015 and so could not have been measured to weigh its impact on electoral fortunes of a sitting government. Or, maybe I should rephrase that argument thus: the PDP lost the last general election largely because of impunity in the running of its structures, therefore if the APC allows the same attitude in its affairs, there is a negative possibility of an electoral misfortune.
Not because the APC has not performed or fulfilled its promises to Nigerians, no. The government has been able to effectively decimate Boko Haram terrorising the northeast. For once, the APC administration, unlike the PDP, has shown genuine concern to fighting the terrorists.
On corruption, this government has ensured that those who steal public money are made to return it, therefore, putting anti-corruption fight on the front burner of national discourse. Despite his health challenge, the president is mentally and spirirually agile to salvage our dear nation from “imminent economic and social disintegration”. As the president promised during the campaigns, “on corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference”. This has also been achieved.
My concern is really not about the performance of the party, no. But, in 2015, we ran in an untested water of cohesion and relationship when the APC won the election; there was just one enemy to face and slaughter during that period and it was the PDP. But after the groundbreaking victory, and the APC assumed office, the waves of the sea began to threaten the ship of state.
Unfortunately, those early days revealed the challenge the party has as regards its leadership structure, a challenge that was apparently hidden in the heady days of electioneering campaign. It was the absence of a strong and firm leadership that led to the crisis of the elections into the leadership of the National assembly which pitted the legislative arm against the executive, and which has unfortunately continued to trail every interface between the two sides notwithstanding pragmatic efforts being made to erase the development from memory by the duo of President Muhammad Buhari and the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
It was this challenged leadership that resulted in the ‘maltreatment’ of the nPDP members who were a strong platform for the electoral victory of the party. It is doubtful if the APC could have so easily defeated the PDP without the active collaboration of the nPDP. As the saying goes, a man’s enemy are members of his household; the nPDP members were members of the same PDP family until impunity set into the leadership structure of the party and the in-house members decided to join forces with the enemy. And truly they proved potent and delivered a devastating blow to the PDP.
It was this challenged leadership that led to the trial of one of the key figures of the party; the Senate President in what has now been demonstrated to be more of persecution than prosecution. As that matter is still before the court of law, one would not dwell much on it to allow the court reach its independent decision. But politically, the trial was a drain on the goodwill of the party.
It was also such challenged leadership that manifested in the party’s electoral loss in Osun state’s senatorial election. Osun, we must not forget, is a major stronghold of the progressives; indeed the only state that refused to vote for the PDP, in demonstration of its independence and strength, when the then ACN had a working understanding not to oppose then President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2009 polls.
Now that the template for political acrimony towards the 2019 presidential contest is already manifesting, especially with the recent pronouncement of former interim chairman of the ruling party, Chief Bisi Akande that President Buhari has not informed the APC about his second term bid, it is crystal clear that all is not well within the progressive family. Alliances might seemingly been rearing theirs heads.
APC leaders need, therefore, to rebuild the house before it falls. There are cracks, evidently, but there is nothing to show that they cannot be repaired. To me, even the very fear of losing the great opportunity to continue with the Buhari agenda in 2019, should be a pushing factor for the restoration of unity in the party. The party will need to handle the perceived uncompromising stance of the presidency, a necessary ingredient of fighting corruption and other malaise; making the office more open and accommodating of the several shades of platforms that make the Nigerian polity without sacrificing its core brand of integrity.
The party would also need to do something more drastic in taming the problem of our current economic downturn. It is heart-warming to hear President Buhari mention that we are on the verge of a recovery, but I dare say that we would need to move a lot faster on the road to recovery; making sure that our exit from recession moves from mere technical jargons to a testimony of changed living standard among the populace.
But only an early rally for unity can ensure this and safe the APC in the next election year. To do otherwise is to start a new political renaissance in 2019.