If the Electoral Act currently arrested in a dangerous partisan spat allows for merger of political parties at this stage of the electoral circle, the two parties most likely to merge without offending their basic identities, character and vision are the PDP and APC. Their new party could be called Congress of Democrats for Peoples’ Action for Progress and Development (CDPAPD). The new party’s symbol will be an umbrella held up by a broom. Currently, the colours of the symbols of the two parties are identical, so there will be no need to change them. Nigerians know next to nothing about their manifestoes to lose any sleep over harmonization. PDP’s was written about twenty years ago; APC has about four or five versions. A Joint Harmonization Committee can produce one manifesto from two virtually identical manifestoes in two hours. Their constitutions are also almost entirely identical. Slight differences can be ironed out by the very people who wrote them, within an hour.
Just think about it. The new mega party will straddle and dominate the nation entirely, a logical end to a process began by an elite that sees politics basically as a means of resource accumulation and power to do with it as it wished. The PDP and APC already look so much like each other, having freely exchanged prominent members in their thousands since 1999. Tolerating limiting boundaries make very little sense. They will be spared the agony of fielding candidates whose only distinguishing mark is their platform. They will save massive amounts of resources they will otherwise use against each other to create tense election atmosphere, raise election gangs and compromise the electoral process. There will still be opposition from more than eighty other parties, but even a coalition of these will not represent any threat against a party that has the federal and state governments, state and federal legislatures and more than enough resources to ignore a feeble opposition made up of parties that have been registered to scrape a little money for political margins around election times.
No one is saying the new party will not have problems but it will have enough history and experience of fixing problems to deploy in dealing with them, even if they will just change their basic elements and resurface soon. For instance, it will have to deal with the issue of who will fly its flag for the president towards certain victory. It has a number of choices here. While it may not be lacking in ambitious aspirants, virtually all of whom will promise to do a better job than President Buhari, the party may lean towards giving the incumbent the ticket out of respect for the hallowed tradition that all presidents must have two terms. There will still be a few that will push back against tradition and history, but are a number of ways these can be contained. First, everyone will be guaranteed no prosecution for corruption under Buhari’s second term. Investigations will dry off. Those who will not accept these assurances may be granted a request to have all suspicions of corruption under and around the Buhari administration meticulously documented and prepared for prosecution, then handed over to third parties who may make them public in case of breaches. Then, a blanket assurance can be given to all mandate-holders for return of their mandates, except in a few cases where governors coming out of second terms want to be senators. Saraki will return as Senate President. Ortom and Tambuwal will go back as governors.
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VP Osinbajo’s position may be threatened as the PDP elements demand for the number two position. The zoning nightmare may come back to haunt Atiku, Makarfi, Kwankwaso and all northerners. Tinubu will not have a say either as candidate or nominator-in-chief, being Muslim and APC. Governor Wike or Senator Ekweremadu will be front runners, but chairman Secondus may also have a say here. The VP will be a very powerful person as age and health may compound the laid back style of leadership of President Buhari. Atiku will have to struggle a bit against VP Osinbajo for the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the mega party. All party positions will be shared out on the principle that everyone now belongs to the same party, but interests have to be accommodated. In a state with APC governor, Party chairman will be PDP, and vice versa. Powerful or troublesome interests that cannot be accommodated in an arrangement that leaves matters basically unchanged can be promised ‘A’ grade ministries and agencies of government at all levels. Those who cannot be persuaded to accept what is offered will be free to spend the next four years, at least, in political and economic wilderness. It is almost certain that there will be a big fight over the dismantling of the tiny clique that has wielded awesome powers under Buhari. A compromise may concede to the president a different clique, since he has never been known to operate without one.
In terms of basic philosophy, there will be enough phrasing in existing documents to champion a nation committed to democratic ideals, a liberal economic system that prioritizes growth and reduction of poverty, a restructured federal system that gives every Nigerian a greater sense of belonging, and a more secure nation. Vagueness and inspiring language are essential in drafting policies and governance priorities. Restructuring, for instance has become a politician’s nightmare as Nigerians now insist on details. So some imaginative phrasing will be needed to address devolution, constitutionalism, fiscal federalism, new federal arrangements, state police and the ethnic question.
Policies on fighting poverty also require deep knowledge of past failures that litter the minds of the growing poor and leave very little room for new ideas and titles. Goals and targets could be mentioned, but there will be much value in the absence of clarity on implementation and measurement mechanism. Improving security will need some bold and spectacular promises, giving the scale of the problem. This is where the lessons from the past come in. The bigger the problem, the less you address its solutions in great details. The deep relationships between poverty, corruption and rising levels of insecurity, for instance, are best avoided in policy documents, as even authors may lack sufficient knowledge about them, and leaders who will most likely run corruption-infected governments will be uncomfortable with specific policy commitments.
So what is so wrong about all this? We are allowed to wish, no?
Jamila Abubakar wrote this piece from Abuja