About a year to the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari has taken several steps towards putting his party, APC, in proper shape to come out victorious in the oncoming polls, again. After successfully torpedoing the PDP from power, the APC has been embroiled in a crisis as a result of the management failure of its leadership, which has left it disunited and fiercely factionalised.
With the PDP taking a well-deserved rest and unable to function as an opposition party in an apparent fatigue from sixteen years of misrule, the APC has taken up the dual role of both the ruling and opposition party. In order to reverse what some concerned APC members consider an ugly trend, Buhari has finally stepped out of the shadows, having been severely criticised for shirking his responsibility of providing purposeful leadership to the ruling party.
In a bid to unite the APC towards the next election, a move that may not be unconnected with his second term aspiration, Buhari is beginning to assert his leadership over the APC.
Realising the futility of a second term kite being flown by a handful of very incompetent APC governors, whose terrible records of performance in their various States would be a blight on his ambition, Buhari’s first step towards achieving unity and cohesion within the rank and file of the APC in order to march into battle with the same force as in 2015, was to appoint veteran politician and strategist, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, who also goes by the honorific of “national leader” of the APC, to chair a reconciliation committee.
As a typical Nigerian politician and member of the state resources-dependent ruling establishment since 1999, Tinubu jumped at this tempting offer to negotiate a few more jobs for the boys and possibly settle some scores with his political adversaries within the top echelon of the ruling APC, as a panacea for stability and guarantee of a second term ticket for Buhari.
What the Asiwaju of Lagos kingdom does not realise is this is one assignment he cannot undertake successfully and which may actually lead to his demystification as a politically invisible strategist.
In a presidential system of democratic government, the various elected public officers on a party platform, from president to councillors, are the leaders of the party.
This leadership thrust is not to meddle in the internal democratic structures of the party that produced them but their ability to evolve policies out of their party manifesto and fulfil campaign promises in order to satisfy the electorate with enough dividends of democracy, in fthe orm of improved welfare and security (physical and fiscal).
The failure of the elected APC public officers, particularly at the executive arm of government at the three tiers, to substantially meet up with their obligations in the social contract they entered into with the people to improve their economic wellbeing, social welfare and security, is largely responsible for the crisis in the APC.
Party members are products of the larger society, who are also feeling the pressure of excruciating poverty and deterioration in the standard of living just like every other Nigerian. In a federation like Nigeria with a strong centre, President Muhammadu Buhari is the biggest culprit in this failure of APC leadership to meet up with its obligations in the contract entered into with Nigerians to better their lot.
As the supreme leader of the All Progressives Congress, President Buhari has not been able to deliver on the promise of “change” by the ruling party as a result of a combination of a the dishonest disassociation of his presidency from some important aspects of his party’s manifesto and his failure thus far to fulfil his own campaign promises of fixing the economy, ensuring the security of lives and property and fighting corruption.
On the political front, Buhari has failed to lead the APC from an assemblage of politicians and other interest groups with card carrying membership whose aim was power grab from the PDP, into an ideological platform of a progressive political party wherein the economy forms the basis of political engagement.
The quest by partisan politicians to benefit from a government they helped get elected is legitimate within a democratic setting. Similarly, disagreements on how these benefits should be dispensed are also legitimate.
However, the kinds of benefits that most Nigerian politicians are used to are direct patronages from government in the form of well remunerated duplicitous political appointments, contract awards with inflated monetary value and cash gifts under the pretext of security votes, all at the expense of the lean state purse.
The over-reliance on this illegitimate form of direct patronage as a reward system for political loyalty by elected public officers at all levels is no longer sustainable as a result of a combination of factors such as increased greed for primitive acquisition and the ever increasing army of professional politicians who are economically dispossessed and have now crowded the political space looking for the available crumbs to survive on.
The failure of Buhari as the leader of APC to replace the illegitimate and corrupt patronage reward system that is increasingly unsustainable because of the inadequacy of Nigeria’s earning from 2.3 million barrel of oil sales per day oil, with a robust system that pragmatically aligns politics and the economy for the purpose of legitimate wealth creation and shared prosperity for both the state and citizens.
A departure from this system of political patronage that manifests itself in the form of a parasitic relationship between partisan politicians and Nigeria’s common patrimony under the leadership of Buhari, would have given a positive meaning to the change Nigerians hoped for when they voted him into power.
Achieving this lofty ideal of wealth creation will be for a visionary leader to galvanise all energies and talents of his countrymen by providing proper infrastructure to support individual business enterprises, while securing for them a sizeable share of world trade through the instrumentality of a realist and economic focused foreign policy.
This will launch Nigeria into the league of enterprising nations of the world that are fiercely competing for world resources to grow their individual wealth and resource base. Unfortunately, Buhari has deepened the age long system of patronage that corruptly rewards cronies with government jobs, contracts and cash that illegitimately enriches a few, while leaving the majority in penury.
With only a few benefiting from this unsustainable system and beneficiaries appropriating all benefits in a most primitive manner, discontent among the majority of party members and consequential unfavourable public perception as a result of poor performance is inevitable.
Nigeria’s political process is heavily dependent on political parties. Political party structures are pivotal to securing a spot on the dining table of the national cake. With a comatose economy leaving government as the major source of survival, there is the mortal combat over the soul of the APC party structure, as whoever controls the structure determines who will fly APC flags at the various levels and stages of elections.
Therefore, this mess created by President Muhammadu Buhari in the APC is not one Ahmed Bola Tinubu can solve. In a presidential system of democracy, the buck stops on the table of the president. His successes or failures rob off on the image of the party he leads.
Just as President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal went a long way to shape the liberal ideology of the Democratic Party did President Olusegun Obasanjo’s neo-liberal economic concept of “government has no business doing business” resulted into a conservative PDP.
Muhammadu Buhari’s sectional tendencies in favour of his strong base of supporters, drawn mainly from his Muslim northern Fulani section of the country has given the APC the image of a far right political party. Like PDP’s neo-liberal economic policies that enriched a few oligarchs and impoverished the vast majority, APC’s far right politics has favoured a few with privileges of birth than the vast majority with a disadvantage of birth.
Expectedly, majority of Nigerians have become disenchanted with APC’S far right politicking as they were with the excesses of PDP’s unbridled corrupt capitalism. The solution to APC’s problems is for Buhari as the leader of the party to begin the process of reform and dismantling of his far right political structures to give way to an inclusive purposeful leadership for all in line with the original promise change.
Failure to do this, members including Bola Tinubu should take bold steps to retrieve their party from Buhari and urge him to step down after his first term to give way to a reform minded leader of the party, who will keep faith with the manifesto of the APC.
Such a leader would properly articulate policies and programs using the rich manifesto of the APC as a basis that will focus on improving the welfare and security of the lives and properties of the people. If these critical steps are taken, the trust of Nigerians will once more be reposed in the APC with its chances of victory at the 2019 general elections greatly enhanced.
Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through [email protected]