Despite the importance of the Jonathan National Conference, the top news item for this week has been the tour by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) around the country to woo so-called Group of Seven (G7) Governors of the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP). In a write-up he titles “APC and the Challenges Ahead”, scholar, historian and researcher Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa (email@example.com) shares his observations on the new Nigerian opposition, going down history lane and warning of the pitfalls of the past and of the future. Enjoy.
Nigerians have consistently agitated for positive change as it seems it is Nigerian elite consensus to ensure the country lag behind other less endowed nations. In the last fifty three years, most of those countries have progressed faster than Nigeria. In Asia, the nations of South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and even Vietnam that were far behind Nigeria at independence are no longer third world countries, but developed. Several reasons have been advanced for this failure, but the consensus is that the Nigerian leadership has failed. And now that the opposition groups are converging into one party just to take power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the relevant question to ask is: Are they any different?
In 2011, the main opposition parties tried to form an alliance to confront the PDP, and agreed to work together. There was even a harmonized manifesto of this alliance which was drafted by a committee with representatives from the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Chief Olu Falae-led Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP). There were intense negotiations between the ACN and CPC to adopt General Muhammadu Buhari as their joint presidential candidate.
According to Nasir el-Rufa’i, Generals Babangida and Gusau as well as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar were “acting as interlocutors and honest brokers to nudge both sides to a deal,” which ultimately collapsed. ACN’s Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu told Nasir later that “the ACN team had already left for Lagos, feeling angry and slighted that once again, [as] Buhari and the CPC had failed to fulfill their promise to table an acceptable resignation letter by 2pm that day”.
The purported letter was to ensure the resignation of Pastor Tunde Bakare from the Vice Presidency to pave the way for an ACN nominee should the alliance win the 2011 Presidential Election. The failure of this last ditch effort by the two parties to actualize the alliance gave “the PDP free reign to rig the elections not only in parts of the North (to get Jonathan 25% of the total votes cast at all cost), but even in the more difficult South West where the ACN virtually abandoned its candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, in favor of allowing the PDP to win”. The exception was Osun State where Ribadu won, but he lost even in Edo State where his good friend Adams Oshiomhole was the sitting governor. According to el-Rufa’i: “The most positive interpretation of many observers was either that Asiwaju Tinubu negotiated a deal with Jonathan and the PDP, or sent clear messages to ACN supporters to vote any way they wished. Either way regionalism and religion trumped competence and common sense.”
Since the entry of General Muhammadu Buhari into politics there has been a consistent strategy to reduce him to a “Northern Muslim” champion, despite all his efforts which included, in 2011, choosing a vociferous cleric as a running mate. el-Rufai observed that during the 2011 Elections “a small group within the CPC leadership took capricious decisions that cost the party dearly in Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Niger, Kaduna, Kebbi, Gombe and Taraba States”. Do we need a conspiracy theory to explain why the General scored over 13 million votes and yet his charisma and political savoir-faire could not win him more than one state governor in the whole of the Northern states? One is really surprised the handlers of this episode never ruminated on the life of late Mallam Aminu Kano and how the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) before it were able to confine him and his radical parties to only Kano and Kaduna States.
Asiwaju Tinubu survived Obasanjo’s onslaught against AD Governors in 2003. He used that position to launch his successful political career as an astute politician when he chose a competent successor and then captured four states in the South West from the PDP, by hook and by crook. He has learnt from the late Chief Pbafemi Awolowo who, by 1983, had realized that he could not win Nigeria with only the South West and reached out to a group of Northerners particularly the late General Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua. The significant issue here is that in the South West there is only one dominant political leadership that is articulate, focused and progressive. Is there any such group in the North?
The North West (the most similar Northern Zone in homogeneity to the South West, Hausa/Fulani vs. Yoruba) was almost politically monolithic with six PDP Governors by 2011, the highest of any zone in the country. But did the zone have a common goal even within the PDP, or even a leader like Tinubu? Did they have any unity of purpose to b able to negotiate anything with anybody? Now that three of these Governors (Jigawa, Kano and Sokoto) are in nPDP, three (Kaduna, Katsina and Kebbi) in Old PDP (oPDP) and on (Zamfara) in APC, is that any good for the zone? Where is the cohesion to match Tinubu’s South West and show a sign of seriousness to negotiate a zonal, or Northern, future?
Some of the spokespersons of the APC claim that it is a people’s party. But what are the antecedents of the legacy parties (ACN, ANPP and CPC)? ACN is known for rubber stamping of candidates without primaries. Fraud in the ANPP was legendary. A CPC Member of the House of Representatives once told us that most of them bought their nomination from their corrupt party kingpins. Are those not PDPian traits imbibed by the legacy parties and carried over to the APC? Only a naïve politician will ever believe that with this merger all the stalwarts in these parties have become angels. The APC is further compounding its contradictions with the simple message that anyone who is Jonathan’s enemy is an automatic asset. What if that person is another Jonathan in spirit or even worse than Jonathan?
For APC to be an alternative to PDP, its opposition must be based on principles not sentiments. Just because a governor or two of seven are posing that they are against the PDP Federal Government to cover their incompetence and corruption, and to safeguard future Senate Seats or EFCC attacks, they should not be considered champions. The party must search for credible people, not tyrants. These contradictions could lead to the failure of APC because one cannot demand high moral standards from an opponent while compromising such standards in one’s own party.