The general polls of 2019 may be several months away, but the twists, turns and convolutions that mark the build-up to the dispensation, actually bring it closer to home and the present. More significant are the rapidly changing fortunes of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which by its status of incumbency on the seat of power, cannot hide from active, public scrutiny of its circumstances. And the signals it is offering Nigerians as well as the rest of the world, who are interested in the country’s democracy, give much cause for concern. It would seem that in spite of its well-honed mantra of bringing change, the party cannot effect such a dispensation, by rising above some of the discredited features of the country’s traditional political culture.
Events of the past week – especially in the National Assembly which featured an unprecedented gale of defections of hitherto APC Senators and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is proving to be definitive for the future of the ruling party. For one, the majority status hitherto enjoyed by the APC in the two chambers of the National Assembly has either been totally vitiated or at least compromised, leading to less than rosy days for the rest of the life of the present administration.
However most poignant in the developments which the Nigerian public associates with the APC remains the recent plots involving the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki and the Deputy President of the Senate Ike Ekweremadu. While the pendency of the defections was in the air all through the penultimate week, last Tuesday saw both officers as victims of separate bizarre attempts to prevent them from attending Senate plenary, as their official convoys were stopped allegedly by Police officers. Meanwhile according to undisclosed sources, several luxury Toyota Coaster buses were strategically positioned at the Abuja Transcorp Hilton Hotel to convey APC Senators to the Senate in a group, with the purpose of commencing plenary and effecting an impeachment of both Saraki and Ekweremadu, both of whom would not possibly be in the chamber at the time of the legislative heist. As per the plot, the impeachment of Saraki and Ekweremadu would be followed by the election of the Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan as new President of the Senate, who would adjourn the chamber and proceed to stem the defections by APC Senators – through any means possible including inducements with mouth-watering offers.
However, all of that agenda was blown-sky high when Saraki outwitted the plotters of his fall, as he beat them to the Senate Chamber, officiated as the presiding officer and adjourned the house – two clear days ahead of the scheduled Thursday, when the recess would have commenced. His success in outwitting his traducers boosted Saraki’s status and emboldened the defecting Senators.
Meanwhile the remnant of the APC Senators had to be consoled with an audience with the President at the Villa, along with whatever goes with it including the promise of automatic return to their present positions come 2019. However how that promise will be fulfilled is a matter for another day given the present state of politics in the country.
Of particular interest is the scope of leverage which the contemporary leadership community of APC wields on the party structures nationwide as well as accommodation it enjoys with the Nigerian voters. For instance, much as the newly elected Adams Oshiomhole led leadership of APC may opt to push under the carpet, the welter of in-house crises of the party in virtually all the states of the federation, the truth is that they may be underestimating and therefore misreading the depth and spread of the cracks in the APC unity fabric. Against the discontent that bred the gale of defections, the APC leadership has so far provided tepid responses; an indication of a gesture of surrender to the consequences of the party’s undeniable, serial failure in governance.
For instance, President Muhammadu Buhari, through his spokesman Garba Shehu, simply wished the defectors goodbye and success in their future endeavours. For Ita Enang, who is the President’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Affairs, the defectors have no problem with his principal but their respective state governors. So have other voices of the APC leadership offered responses that are indicative of the degenerate state of the body fabric of the party, as it proceeds to the definitive year 2019.
However, of most significance to defining the state of the APC in 2019 is the maverick interventions of its newly elected National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole. From all indications he seems to have come into office with a visceral aversion for all that his predecessor John Odigie Oyegun stood for. Where Oyegun adopted the posture of a bridge over troubled waters – which the APC actually represents, Oshiomhole intends to build walls to compartmentalise the party assets into the good, bad and ugly elements, and deal with each according to his terms. Oshiomhole’s recent excoriation of two serving ministers – Chris Ngige of Ministry of Labour and Productivity as well as Hadi Sirika of Aviation is instructive of where he is heading to, even as the positives in the ultimate dividends of his enterprise remain doubtful.
For now, the silence of President Buhari would imply his consent over Oshiomhole’s enterprise in trying to restore party supremacy, starting with the serving ministers. However, the question is what happens when the honey moon among the top level power structure of the APC wanes and the need to enforce party supremacy over all, including the President and a notional party leader like Bola Tinubu comes up? After all, the APC Constitution makes all party members including the President, subservient to the party’s Executive Committee under the leadership of Chairman Oshiomhole.
In another vein the assertion of supervisory role by Oshiomhole on all party functionaries and holders of elective public offices has a silver lining that the country should exploit. Given the undeniable lack-luster performance of the APC government in the past three years, Oshiomhole should within the remaining months of the administration’s life, stampede its leading lights to deliver on the dividends of democracy as promised the country during the campaigns for power and office.
For the purpose of recall, some of these promises are the growth of the economy, restructuring the country towards more devolution of power to the states as well as fostering transparency and accountability in governance. Oshiomhole’s brief in actualizing these promises is clearly cut out for him. His delivery of same, Nigerians await longingly.
Meanwhile it is not out of place to expect that the PDP is reading the unfolding cadence of events and remains poised to exploit any fallout from the self-destruct macabre dance of the APC towards 2019.