… POLITICS, PARTIES AND
(Published in The Nation newspaper of Saturday, March 19, 2022)
Fresh from his recent ultimately successful sojourn through the valley of the shadow of political survival, albeit through the skin of his teeth, the Chairman of the All
Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee and Yobe State governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni, has wisely chosen the path of reconciliation, compromise and peace in his battle of wits with his fiercely determined adversaries within the party. Hence his announcement on arrival from consultations with President Muhammadu Buhari in London that despite the Head of State sanctioning his continuation in office and maintenance of the status quo within the party pending its national convention slated for 26 March, all decisions taken by the Acting National
Chairman and Governor of Nigeria State, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, in his absence, remain binding.
While the contending parties will sit down to review and harmonize the membership
list of convention planning subcommittees, Buni stated, other actions taken
by Bello including the swearing
in of State party chairmen are sacrosanct. Another meeting point of the feuding groups is the agreement on the insistence of President Buhari that the National Convention must hold as scheduled after two initial postponements.
When he appeared on Channels Television to pronounce magisterially on the fate of Buni when the latter was on
his medical trip abroad, governor Nasir el’Rufai of Kaduna State, made very scathing and damaging allegations against Buni that necessitated the now abortive removal from office of the CECPC Chairman. Buni’s opponents were of the view that under the Yobe State governor’s leadership, the CECPC was unwilling to organize a National Convention allegedly for reasons of personal ambition and opaque agendas. This is why,they argued, that the committee’s initial six month tenure was running into two years
with no Prospect of any convention in
sight and with time no longer on the side of the APC given the schedule of
activities towards the 2023 general elections as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Perhaps convinced about the veracity of the allegations against Buni, President Buhari,el’Rufai intimated his Channels television audience, gave the nod for the former’s removal as CECPC Chairman with the Niger State governor taking charge. In apparently changing his mind and ordering the retention of the status quo within the party, the President was probably not unmindful of the possible legal implications of removing Buni or any other member of the CECPC without following due process. This was particularly after INEC had turned down a request to attend a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the APC summoned for March 17 by the then
Acting Chairman and six other members of the CECPC. The electoral umpire further noted that not only did Buni and the CECPC secretary, Senator Akpan Udoedehe, not sign the invitation for the NEC meeting as required by the party constitution, the commission would require 21 days notice before such
a meeting could hold to approve the date for the convention.
It is ironical that the same people responsible for the intra-party coup
that led to the sack of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NEC of the APC and the ushering in of the Buni-led interim leadership that was now assuming a seemingly permanent status are the same ones now baying for the Yobe governor’s blood even if not for unjustifiable reasons. Many people had questioned the legality of the irregular removal of the Oshiomhole National Working Committee (NWC) and warned that the party was making itself vulnerable to self-destructive legal suits by aggrieved litigious elements. It is thus no surprise that there are reportedly over 200 cases in courts across the country some questioning the legitimacy of the CECPC. What goes around comes around. Once the NWC had been removed once through means not in conformity with
the party’s regulative rules, the party
had entered treacherous waters of illegality capable of jeopardizing its very
Could Buni be accused of anything that others including his accusers are not guilty of? Probably not. A seeming iron law of Nigerian politics, a tendency reinforced in
this dispensation since 1999, is for political actors to struggle to win
state power and occupy public
office by all means and at all costs. Thus, not just in the APC but in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and even other smaller parties, we witness struggles unto the death by contending factions, groups and tendencies to seize control of party structures even in utter violation of stipulated rules and regulations to facilitate easy access to positions of state
Power. Not even the supposedly new breed presidential aspirants who teamed together to form the Presidential Aspirants Coming Together (PACT) in the 2015 general elections could put up a United front. They broke up in factional squabbles after failing to agree on a common candidate.
What is common to both the APC and PDP today is the specter of governors virtually seizing control of the parties mainly because they are the near sole funders of the parties. In the APC, a united front of governors that brought in Buni after Oshiomhole’s ouster is imploding as the intrigues intensify for the control of party structures at the National Convention. While the PDP enjoys better calm and cohesion right now having successfully held its National Convention last year, it appears to be the serenity before the storm as the party may likely witness a mother of all
battles over the zoning of elective positions particularly the presidency
at its presidential primaries scheduled tentatively for May. Here again the governors are at the forefront of the bid to
hijack control of the party.
Unless the political parties especially the major ones are able to break free of factional control and enthrone internal party democracy that empowers rank
and file party members, democracy in
Nigeria will be enfeebled and endangered. Although they tend to be largely run as informal political structures, parties are central to the political process. They provide recruiting grounds for membership
of the legislature and executive and thus have a key role to play in the harmonious functioning of the principal arms of
government. Again, the policy performance of elected governments will mostly be a function of the seriousness and quality of party organization and leadership. It is not by chance most certainly that unquestionably the most impactful and productive governments in
Post-independence Nigeria have been
those formed by highly organized parties such as the Action Group (AG) in the
Western Region in the first Republic or the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and People’s Redemption Party (PRP) in the Second Republic.
To some extent, the worsening crises of
underdevelopment in contemporary Nigeria manifesting partly in incessantly worsening energy costs, fuel price and electricity tariff hikes and the attendant deepening poverty, escalating unemployment and pervasive hunger can be attributed to the existence of parties that are unorganized, lacking in
Purposeful policy focus and unable to hold governments elected on their platforms to account. Let us take the APC as an example. When sitting governors are distracted with the task of running the affairs of their parties, how will they perform maximally as regards the more fundamental challenge of providing development-oriented governance to their
citizenry.? When he appeared on
his last Channels television interview, el’Rufai stated that APC governors would remain in Abuja until the party’s convention is held. That is certainly a luxury that a country with Nigeria’s onerous challenges today can ill afford. For nearly two years now, governor Buni has maintained a presence more in Abuja than in Damaturu where he holds an electoral mandate to preside over the Affairs of Yobe State. That is wasteful and counterproductive.
The tenor and quality of a country’s political life is a critical factor in the pace
and momentum of her development. Similarly, the character of her politics is also largely a function of the efficiency and efficacy of her party system. It is unlikely from all indications that new parties with the spread and
organizational solidity of either the
APC or PDP will emerge in the near future. The futility so far of efforts to forge what
has been described as a third force to
challenge these behemoths is an indication to this effect. The attainment of sustainable democracy that can promote meaningful development in Nigeria may most likely depend on the emergence of genuine reformists in both parties to champion the cause of internal democracy, steer them away from the hegemony of special interests and transform them into structures with clear
and strong policy focus predicated on coherent philosophical and ideological orientation.
If the sharp division within the ranks and other stakeholders within the APC forces that party to organize a free, fair and generally acceptable National Convention that leaves it in a more cohesive state, as it appears to be the emergent scenario, the rancor would have been a blessing in disguise.