Failure of APC, by Salihu Moh. Lukman

 Chief John Odidie-Oyegun, APC National Chairman (2014 – 2018), in the Foreword to the Manifesto of the party, with the title Our Vision for a New Nigeria, observed that ‘When this democratic dispensation commenced in 1999, the federal government that emerged did not tell Nigerians what its vision was for the country; because the party that formed the government had none. And without a vision, that party at the centre has led Nigeria from one crisis to another, lurching deeper into political anarchy, economic decline and social disillusionment. A decade and a half later, nothing has changed. That ruling party has neither concrete plans for the security and advancement of Nigerians, nor the wherewithal to do so even if it had one. Suffice to say that it had thrived on the maxim; Promise nothing, do nothing.’

Very ironic how, almost word for word, a decade since the emergence of APC as the ruling party in Nigeria, this aptly described the political situation in the country. The only slight amendment is, APC came with a vision, which was well articulated in the manifesto of the party. But having won the 2015 elections, the first casualty was the APC manifesto. It was discarded and like the PDP, the APC continued to lead ‘Nigeria from one crisis to another, lurching deeper into political anarchy, economic decline and social disillusionment.’ Nothing changed as the APC, despite all the plans it had ‘for the security and advancement of Nigerians,’ lacked ‘the wherewithal to’ implement its vision. With that, sadly, the APC ‘thrived on the maxim; Promise (everything), do nothing.’

Many of us in APC who supported the emergence of President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu believed that the exit of former President Muhammadu Buhari will provide the opportunity to recover the vision of the APC and return to the project of instituting progressive governance in the country. We did so with the full conviction that, at the minimum, President Asiwaju Tinubu will make Lagos success story a national reality. What is Lagos success story? For many of us, more than physical development, the Lagos success story is about being able to assemble a team of competent and visionary people who would manage the business of government. It is to the credit of President Asiwaju Tinubu that, as Governor of Lagos State, he recruited the team of successive leaders of Lagos State who have been able to develop the state.

The desire to have a leader who can prioritise the recruitment of competent and visionary Nigerians to manage the affairs of government was necessitated by the recognition that under former President Buhari that wasn’t a factor in the selection process of those who served as appointees of the Federal Government. Arguably, some of the appointees of former President Buhari couldn’t have been considered for appointment in States and Local Governments by visionary leaders. Without mincing words, certainly former President Buhari wasn’t a visionary leader. His main strength, which made him popular with ordinary Nigerians, especially in the North, was his assumed record of being intolerant to corrupt politicians. Without belabouring the issue, certainly, the tenure of former President Buhari between 2015 and 2023 didn’t come anywhere near meeting the expectation of his diehard supporters in the North with respect to fighting corruption.

Beyond the issue of being unable to recruit competent team of visionary Nigerians into government, the reality also was that former President Buhari wasn’t a team player. This is one reality that his military colleagues highlighted as far back as August 27, 1985, when they overthrew his government. The only time perhaps former President Buhari pretended to be a team player was during the merger negotiations that produced the APC and during the internal contest to elect the Presidential candidate of the APC in 2014. But once he became the Presidential candidate of APC in December 2014, he returned to his normal self, stubbornly resisting consultations and even violating some agreements he was alleged to have had with fellow party leaders to secure their support to emerge as the Presidential candidate of the APC.

One of such alleged agreement that has been a subject of public debate was the issue of his running mate. There are documented positions presented by leaders of the APC, including Chief Bisi Akande about agreement to nominate President Asiwaju Tinubu as former President Buhari’s running mate. But the dynamics that played out immediately after the emergence of former President Buhari as the Presidential candidate of the APC for the 2015 elections jettisoned such agreement based on the consideration not to present a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The compromise was that President Tinubu was allowed to nominate Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as running mate to former President Buhari ahead of the 2015 elections.

Nominating Prof. Osinbajo as former President Buhari’s running mate would appear to be perhaps the only thing President Asiwaju Tinubu was able to win from the tenure of former President Buhari. Attempts by President Asiwaju Tinubu to nominate people into the cabinet led by former President Buhari was rejected. Even the appointments of Mr. Babatunde Fashola, and Dr. Kayode Fayemi into the cabinet, who were close associates of President Asiwaju Tinubu, was done against the wishes of President Asiwaju Tinubu. Beyond President Asiwaju Tinubu, the truth was that hardly any leader of the APC had the privilege of influencing the decisions of former President Buhari both with respect to appointments into government and deciding on policy priorities of the Buhari Presidency. Individual leaders of APC were relegated to backseats and suddenly close friends of former President Buhari, who were not party members and were not even part of the election campaign that brought APC to power became the main drivers of the Buhari Presidency. With that, APC and its leadership simply became shadow partners.

Given such circumstance, the party structures were rendered idle. The only thing that couldn’t be taken away from the party was the responsibility of nominating candidates for elections. Since former President Buhari was the main electoral asset of the party given his popularity in the Northern parts of the country, electoral permutations had to take its bearing from that. That made him to command both legal and moral authority. Unfortunately, being someone who is not a team player, ability of party leaders or its organs to influence his decisions and get him to take the right initiatives became remote. And gradually, meetings of party organs became irregular even when the rule of the party outrightly designated time frame for the meetings.

Consequently, the task of ensuring that elected and appointed representatives of the party deliver on campaign promises were simply left to discretion of individual office holders. And under former President Buhari whether individuals perform or not, they continued to remain in office. Some of the appointees inherited from the PDP government of former President Goodluck Jonathan were left in office. One of them, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, remained in office up to the end of the administration. Combined with poor selection of appointees, disregard for the party manifesto, all the three key campaign promises that made Nigerians to vote for the APC in 2015 were at best implemented based on what can be described as window-dressing initiatives. The three campaign promises were addressing the problem of insecurity, which as of 2015 was predominantly the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East; fighting corruption; and rebuilding the Nigerian economy.

While acknowledging that some initiatives were certainly taken by the administration of former President Buhari in these areas, it must be recognised that they fell short of meeting the expected outcomes. For instance, even though during the tenure of former President Buhari huge public investment were undertaken in procurement of weapons and military hardware, the desired outcome of defeating Boko Haram wasn’t achieved. Instead, in addition to Boko Haram in the North-East, crisis of insecurity spread to the North-West and North-Central with bandits running amuck kidnapping innocent citizens including young school children in their hundreds. Problems of farmers–herders clashes spread to the South-West. And in the South-East, there is the return of secessionist agitations by groups such as MASSOB attacking security personnel and innocent citizens. Since 2017, the situation has gotten worse resulting in wanton destructions and loss of lives of innocent citizens.

It is quite painful to admit that crisis of insecurity in the country today, is worse than it was in 2015. It has further deepen the economic crisis because many farmers have abandon their farms. Some of the gains achieved in agricultural production because of some of the policies of the Buhari administration such as Anchor Borrower and ban on importation of food items, which helped to incentivise agricultural production were eroded by the crisis of insecurity. The bigger disappointment was that most Nigerians, including many APC leaders expected that the campaign for restructuring the country, which was very popular in the country before 2015, especially in the Southern parts of the country, would be escalated to the level of debate around constitutional amendment. During the sixteen years of PDP rule, leaders of the party and elected representatives shied away from engaging the debate. Many APC leaders, especially those who came from the ACN bloc led by President Asiwaju Tinubu were very strong advocates for restructuring.

Besides, there are instances in the APC manifesto where the campaign to restructure the country was acknowledged, which convinced Nigerians that an APC led Federal Government could develop the needed initiatives to change the country. The closest APC came to with respect to meeting the expectations of Nigerians about restructuring the country was the recommendations of the APC True Federalism Committee led by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai in 2017. After generating what could have been regarded as internal consensus among APC leaders about initiatives required to address national challenges and reposition governments at all levels in the country, the party simply crashed and was unable to give life to the report of the Committee.

Simply put, after winning the confidence of Nigerians, the APC ended up not measuring up to the expectations of delivering the needed services to address national challenges. The general belief among Nigerians, including many APC leaders was that former President Buhari was the problem. Leaders of the party were unable to assert themselves and subordinate him to the control of the party, which was the big failings of the APC. However, it also needs to acknowledge that, clearly, the priority of most leaders of the APC would appear to be limited to simply winning election. The question of commitment to deliver services to address national challenges is never a priority. The only thing within APC that kept the hope of many party members about the potential to return to the founding vision of the party was that internal contest was very strong. With that, the advocacy for internal reforms to make the party stronger and leaders more responsive to national challenges was very robust. The advocacy for reform within the APC was responsible for virtually all the change of leadership that took place in APC.

With the tenure of former President Buhari coming to an end in 2023, the question of who will succeed him became the major issue. Some of the associates of former President Buhari attempted to manipulate the party into adopting a so-called consensus Presidential candidate. Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, as National Chairman supported the plot to impose a Northern candidate, Sen. Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan. Perhaps, the problem of imposition of candidates became a major challenge in the party since the 2019 elections when practically serving Governors became overbearing and the situation got out of control, especially in Imo, Ogun and Zamfara States. Although not having a serving Governor, the situation also got out of control in Rivers State. As a result, except for Ogun State, the APC lost the election in these States.

The post-election dynamics that followed the 2019 elections created uneasy atmosphere in the party. Inability of the party leadership to prioritise issues of reconciliation among party leaders was largely responsible for the dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee (NWC) in June 2020. In place of the NWC, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of June 25, 2020, appointed a 13-Member Caretaker/Convention Working Committee led by a serving Governor of Yobe State, His Excellency Mai Mala Buni with the sole mandate of organising a National Convention to elect new leadership within six months. The Caretaker, however, once it settled down began to scheme and manipulate the extension of its tenure. It took some hard-fought internal contest to force it to organise the National Convention that elected the leadership under Sen. Abdullahi Adamu in March 2022, more than eighteen months after the dissolution of the Comrade Oshiomhole’s NWC.

Part of what must also be acknowledged as a very big challenge, which is responsible for the current reality facing the APC, or if it is to be put correctly, the failure of APC, is the overbearing control of the Governors over the party. It must be admitted that at the formative stage of the APC, the conception of having an organised bloc of Governors was more about ensuring the programmatic development of policy synergy among APC states. The thirteen Governors who were the founding members debated this in Lafia, Nasarawa State on August 14, 2013, and resolved to formalise the Progressive Governors Forum with established Secretariat that would facilitate programmes to engender the needed policy synergy among APC States. With that activities of the Secretariat became the fulcrum driving the Forum. The challenge of developing policy synergy among APC states, ordinarily should be the responsibility of party leadership and its organs.

To achieve that, effort was made to develop supportive initiatives, which include a monthly meeting between Governors and the party’s NWC. That was relatively successful under the leadership of Chief Oyegun. For instance, the decision to setup the El-Rufai Committee on True Federalism came out of the initiative of the PGF Secretariat, which was deliberated by the monthly meeting of Governors and APC NWC resulting in the decision of APC NEC to setup the El-Rufai Committee. Although all these certainly are part of the positives of having a strong organisation of Governors within the party, the politics of asserting the hegemony of Governors however became the dominant reality. To the extent that the hegemonic control of Governors within the APC was used negatively to produce the reality of imposition of candidates, which became the source of endless conflicts among party leaders, represent one of the failings of APC given that part of the logic of the change campaign associated with the party is to end imposition of candidates.

Of course, it also needs to be recognised that the hegemonic control of Governors bloc in APC was made possible due to the inability of other interest groups within the party to organise themselves and effectively contest the rising authority of Governors in the party. One of such interest that could have done that and effectively checked the influence of Governors in the party is the bloc of National Assembly members. Achieving that would require complementary initiatives beyond the legal structures provided in the National Assembly. It is doubtful if that was given any consideration.

Other interests that needed to be organised are blocs of women, youth and persons living with disability. Although even in APC Constitution, these groups are formally recognised, the capacity to function as organised groups based on which they make demands around policy issues, appointments into governments controlled by the party and sponsor candidates for elections is weak. One of the obstacles hindering capacity to organise these groups is often argued to be funding. Part of the drawback in Nigerian politics is the inability to creatively mobilise finances for political activities. In fact, this is also a major challenge, which the APC as a political party has been unable to resolve. The major source of funding for the APC is the high cost of nomination forms for elections.

Related to the problem of funding is the issue of accountability. Apart from meetings of statutory organs of the party not taking place, financial accountability in APC is zero. The party doesn’t operate a budget and leaders don’t have clearly defined conditions of service. The party doesn’t have campaign funds and make almost zero contributions to campaign finances for candidates of the party, except for what was done in 2019 under the leadership of Comrade Oshiomhole. During the 2019 general elections, candidates of the party at all levels received financial support from the party.

The reality, however, is that party leaders function more as surrogates to candidates and elected representatives. Problems of party leaders extorting candidates and aspirants is also very entrenched in APC so much so that elected representatives produced by the party turned out to be emperors. Instead of party leaders regulating elected representatives, elected representatives are the lords and masters of the party.

It is not by accident that meetings of party organs are not taking place. It is deliberately designed to ensure the hegemonic control of elected representatives over the party. And it is just to get the party to continue to serve as a special purpose vehicle for elections. Issues of policy negotiations to meet the expectations of citizens is not a priority. The expectation of many of us in APC is that President Asiwaju Tinubu being a seasoned politician and someone who was in the frontline of the campaign for democracy in Nigeria will provide the needed leadership to respond to our national political challenges. The expectation is that being one of the leaders who led the merger negotiations and as someone who has been consistent with the claim of being an Awoist, he will prioritise building the party.

Again, President Asiwaju Tinubu’s claim of being an Awoist convinced many Nigerians that he is a liberal politician. The consideration of ideological leanings of political leaders is certainly taken for granted even in APC. Although during the debate around the party’s manifesto, there was the understanding that the APC will be a social democratic party and the thrust of the party’s manifesto is oriented based on that, the reality is that the party was unable to orient its leaders and its governments to implement social democratic initiatives. If APC governments were to be social democratic, the priority will be on Education, Health and Social Services. That being the case, it would be reflected in the budgetary allocation to these sectors. The closest is the initiative to introduce the Social Investment Programme under the Buhari administration.

The crisis of corruption associated with the Social Investment Programme and clear lack of commitment to anything close to social democracy by all APC governments at all levels represent one of the failings of the party. Instead, with hardly any exception, since 2015, all governments at all levels controlled by the APC operated based on the practice of business-as-usual. Problems of corruption, insecurity and economic crisis have gotten worse. Crisis of high cost of living, rising unemployment and high level of poverty are becoming unbearable. The nation is on the edge of social outburst. Unfortunately, the APC, even under President Asiwaju Tinubu is turning out to be unable to respond to the problem of high cost of living, rising unemployment and higher levels of poverty and mitigate the hardship facing ordinary Nigerians.

The bigger calamity is that President Asiwaju Tinubu is turning out to be an extreme right-wing leader and not a liberal capitalist. The speed with which he declared that petroleum “subsidy is gone” even before settling down as President and the inability to have a clear policy plan to cushion the effect for vulnerable Nigerians clearly highlighted the ideological leaning of President Asiwaju Tinubu. Combined with the policy of floating the exchange rate of the Naira against major international currency clearly defined the extreme right-wing credentials of the Tinubu administration. For an import defendant nation to withdraw subsidy and float the exchange of the Naira without any clear responsive policy plan to boost local production is simply decidedly anti-poor. The reality whereby the value of incomes of citizens has been eroded should have been expected and at least some initiatives to grow the earning capacity of citizen should have been introduced.

Unfortunately, all we have is grandstanding by the government so much so that they are now trapped back in the subsidy debate. The reality is, given the value of the Naira today, the landing cost of one litre of imported petroleum motor spirit is certainly more than N700. Given the relatively low income of citizens any attempt to increase it beyond N700 could trigger social unrest in the country. Involuntarily therefore, the government is taking the additional cost without being able to admit that its decision to withdraw subsidy on petrol has failed. Desolately, the President Asiwaju Tinubu government is living in denial. How long can it continue to deny that subsidy is back?

The worse case is also taking citizens for granted, which is responsible for the current foot-dragging over minimum wage negotiations. For a government whose leader, President Asiwaju Tinubu, who is on daily, if not hourly, appearing on national TV stations to declare commitment for “living wage”, it is simply unbecoming to allow any stalemate in minimum wage negotiations with organised labour. Quite worrisome is the fact that the government recklessly allowed a strike action without being able to pre-empt it. The government should have taken every necessary step to win an agreement with organised labour before the expiration of the ultimatum. Given worsening condition of living in the country, the last general strike must have been the easiest strike organised by labour in the country. In fact, the government should thank its stars that organised labour was able to limit the strike to only work stoppages. Had it been escalated to street protests; the story would have been different.

Somehow, developments of the last one year since the emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu highlight the crisis of our democracy. As it is, there is no need to pretend, APC as a political party capable of aggregating the interest of Nigerians has been lost. Like the PDP and all other parties in the country, membership of the APC doesn’t confer any advantage of influencing decisions of elected representatives and governments it controls. Painfully, the APC is now implementing extreme right-wing policy and President Asiwaju Tinubu has turned out to be a leader who is intolerant to those who could disagree with him. If after one year, President Asiwaju Tinubu could succeed in shielding himself from being accessed by people who could tell him the hard truth, it is only logical to conclude that he is intolerant. Combined with the way and manner he subverts internal agreement to impose Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as the National Chairman of APC, it simply means that he is not committed to the democratic development of Nigeria.

With such reality, it behoves on patriotic Nigerians to return to the trenches of the campaign for democracy and pick the debris from APC’s failure in the last nine years. In doing so, those of us who have been privileged to rise at different levels of APC’s leadership must do so with absolute humility and recognition of all the factors that have destroyed the APC. Perhaps, we need to accept the correctness of the campaign against the APC that many leaders of the party, including former President Buhari and now President Asiwaju Tinubu, only agreed to come together for the purpose of grabbing power, which was not associated with the needed commitment to deliver services to address national challenges. Sadly, with the mission to grab power, they ‘promise (everything) and did nothing.’

This challenge begs the questions, how do we create a political organising strategy that goes beyond just winning elections or grabbing power? How can we have a party, which if it wins the Presidency, the President, whoever he will be, will be subordinated to the party? How can we create a party in which there will be multiple power blocs and leaders of the party will have the needed capacity to facilitate negotiations and agreements, which will be binding on all members and leaders of the party? How can we have a party that will have the capacity to mobilise all the funds it needs to run the affairs of the party, including funding the elections of all the candidates of the party at all levels? How can we organise a party whose leadership at all levels can have the same conditions of service correspondingly with public officers at that level?

We can go on asking all the valid questions. It will be defeatist to expect anyone to provide the answers. Only those patriotic Nigerians who are ready to return to the trenches of democratic struggles to resume mobilisation and negotiations to move Nigerian democracy beyond the current lethargic state, can begin to provide answers to these practical questions. The negotiations to produce an alternative political platform, which can move Nigerian democracy forward must prioritise the development of a functional political party structure based on ability to answer some of these practical questions should be the consideration. Part of what must be guarded against to avoid the pitfalls that destroyed the APC is to shun the old opportunistic political warriors who are serial contestants and aspirants to every election since 1999. The arrogance about having access to financial resources must be redressed based on skillful fund-raising strategy. In any event, how much money did former President Buhari had for APC to defeat the PDP in 2015.

No doubt, President Asiwaju Tinubu has challenged Nigerians to think outside the conventional political box. APC members and leaders, and indeed all patriotic Nigerians committed to democratic development of the country, are being challenged daily to ask the question what is the value of being associated with a political party if all that it does is only to field candidates for elections. The way and manner both former President Buhari and President Asiwaju Tinubu have managed affairs of the country without consulting party leadership and structures in the last nine years made a mockery of democracy. The survival and further development of Nigerian democracy must not be allowed to be limited to the discretion of individual leaders, no matter how powerful they are. Patriotic Nigerians and democrats must resume the business of national mobilisation to produce an alternative democratic platform to APC and all the charades of registered political parties. We must summon the courage and believe in the power of possibility.

Just like we succeeded in pushing the military back to the barracks and defeating the PDP in 2015, it is possible to create a politically viable and truly popular democratically alternative platform that can put the APC in its rightful place and overcome the current extreme right-wing adventurously unplanned leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu. The beauty of being a democracy is the freedom it offers to engage in political contest. Patriotic Nigerians must practically and loudly convey the right message to President Asiwaju Tinubu, the APC leadership and Nigerian politicians that our democracy must be transformed beyond the current ugly state of ceremonial elections, which ends up producing leaders who continue to act like emperors and dictators who rule the country worse that military governments.

Nigerians must be mobilised to rise above dishonest politicians who only manipulate their way to power and reduce citizens to the status of conquered people. Democracy will be worthless if the result is only to elect civilian overlords. That can only be checked if we produce a functional political party, with committed leaders who submit themselves to processes of negotiations in all its ramifications, and agreements contracted that are binding and capable of regulating the conducts of elected representatives and governments produced at all levels. Nigerians are not conquered people!

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