One of the leading authorities in public commentaries and no doubt objective analyst and columnist, Mallam Mahmud Jega, presented what could be regarded as the summation of public opinion regarding the reconciliation task given to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu by President Muhammadu Buhari in the back page of Daily Trust of Monday, February 12, 2018. Titled Tinubu might do a Goldwater, the summary is that everybody in APC is aggrieved with Mr. President, Tinubu inclusive and given that Tinubu’s grievances owes its origin to Mr. President’s inability to grant his demands, the fact of such grievances will negate Tinubu’s capacity to discharge the weighty responsibility of reconciling everybody.
I may not be able to contradict issues in Jega’s recollections of events in the All Progressives Congress (APC) today, however I am worried that combination of static analysis and inability to connect present challenges with our political history is limiting our horizon to perhaps time-based incidences whose orientation may only influence future occurrences only if the actors are the same. Given different sets of actors, we may not get similar results. This means the facts of those time-based incidences could not lead to generic conclusions. I will try and substantiate this shortly.
Before engaging the issues, let me highlight that Jega’s presentation bore the assumptions, rightly or wrongly, that Mr. President is at the centre of all the grievances in APC. Secondly, that these grievances in APC directly threaten the survival of the APC Federal Government under President Buhari. The circumstance we face in APC therefore is a case that calls for honesty by all aggrieved party leaders to tell Mr. President that they are also among those unhappy with him which is what the Goldwater analogy seeks to emphasise. Whether such opposition means the solution is for Mr. President to vacate his seat, Jega’s analysis couldn’t say.
Be that as it may, I will argue that Jega’s Monday, February 12, 2018 piece aggregate the sentiment of average Nigerians including most APC members and leaders. My position is that these kinds of sentiments are part of the problem and we need to always remember that around 2012/2013 when the challenge of merging smaller opposition political parties confronted us, our leaders, led by Buhari and Tinubu had to ignore them to be able to open up the range of possibilities that produced the APC. If you asked me, I will say that our nation and political leadership are, yet again, confronted with another challenge whereby, perhaps the same range of possibilities that produced APC in 2012/2013 needs to be reopened. The questions that would naturally be asked is having reopened them and APC emerged, were they closed? What closes them? What were the reasons for the closure? Who plays what role in facilitating the closure?
To my mind, answers to these questions would provide the lead regarding issues of what is it that we need to do to be able to align personal interests of members and leaders in driving the process of reconciliation in APC. I honestly don’t think, important as they are, details of disagreement are the fundamental issues that Tinubu or indeed anyone taking up the responsibility of reconciliation, either in APC or any other organisation (political or not) should be preoccupied with. If you ask me, to be preoccupied with such details is almost to conclude ab initio that the situation is hopeless. For instance, how will the details of the disagreement between the APC National Chairman and Tinubu or between the National leadership of APC and Sen. Saraki and other leaders of National Assembly or between Tinubu and other Ministers from South West or, cascading it to our states, between Governor Ganduje and Sen. Kwankwaso, or between Mallam Nasir and other party leaders in Kaduna or between Governor Yari and Sen. Marafa, etc. help any form of reconciliation? Reconciliation founded on those details could only seek to deliver judgement and with Tinubu now as the sole Judge, everybody could estimate what may likely come out.
We can go on and on, I can bet it that if the details are to be the focus, the conflict in the party will be aggravated because as Ngugi wa Thiong’o argued very aptly in Barrel of the Pen that all the different interpretations
,,, have in common an awareness of the past and its interpretation and they go about it with fierce commitment even when hiding under slogans of objectivity and search for truth. But it is a truth, an objectivity, from the standpoint of one or the other (party). It is as if they both realise that the distance between the barrel of a gun and the point of a pen is very small: what’s fought out at penpoint is often resolved at gunpoint …
Instead of reconciliation, we would be left with more conflicts. I believe that the decision to commence the process of reconciliation in APC is an excellent one. I also believe that the task of reconciliation requires sober reflection and the capacity to honestly engage the issues in such a way that each party in a dispute situation is able to make some compromises. In other words, each party must be able to come to the negotiation table ready to make sacrifices. Part of the problems I see in all the analysis so far is the sophistry, which limits analysis to narration of faults of the actors in the APC politheatrics. Hardly have I seen anyone projecting the sacrifices actors and players, including Tinubu, need to make in order to produce the kind of reconciliation Nigerians, or at least APC members, look forward to.
This is the challenge. My disposition is to argue that we are exactly back to where we started in 2012/2013. The big difference is that while in 2012/2013 we were acting as opposition party to PDP and Jonathan Presidency, today we are the ruling party with Buhari as President. It is a case that we are today virtually in opposition to ourselves, which is to put it mildly. In many respects, Jega and many of the analysts confirmed that. Therefore, if we are to proceed with the analysis with the aim of estimating the sacrifices that would be required to facilitate reconciliation in APC that would meet public expectations, what would be those sacrifices? What kind of reconciliation do Nigerians look forward to anyway?
At the risk of being misunderstood, I think it is largely about re-inventing the APC to make it a distinctively different rule based party, with democratic structures and truly elected leaders at all levels and capable of guaranteeing justice at all times, first internally within the party and at societal levels through elected representatives that emerged from the platform of the party. The hard truth is that the opportunity to ensure that the APC presents a different political organising framework as distinct from what we have in the PDP and the legacy parties that gave birth to the APC was lost when the same political culture of candidates exercising franchise and through that virtually installing their surrogate as leaders at different levels also became the norm. Most of the conflict in the party today had its origin in that or at the minimum manifestly so based on those realities. Is the Tinubu-led reconciliation task going to be able to address that? If so, how can he handle the task to achieve that? If not, how do we focus him in that direction?
At the level of analysis, assuming, we are able to achieve a situation whereby candidates and elected representatives don’t control party structures, how can we guarantee that the absence of controls are not exercised irrationally and arbitrarily by fellow party members some of whom may even be aspiring candidates aiming at weakening candidates and elected representatives just in order to have the needed advantage to take over. Given an environment whereby membership of political parties is not founded on any ideology, these fears are real and present some dangers. This is more the case because in the first place most Nigerian politicians do not subscribe to any form of political belief or values. To what extent therefore could Tinubu’s reconciliatory task be utilised to begin to move APC towards some values and ideology. No matter what anybody would say, to the extent that the task before Tinubu present this possibility makes APC to still command to comparative advantage. Other parties, including PDP, confronted by this kind of challenge, end up in our courts of law. Whether court judgements have settled the matter (reconciled parties) is yet to be seen.