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ISSUES | All Peoples Confusion (APC) – By Obi Nwakanma

By Obi Nwakanma  

President Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, swept into office exactly a year ago on the powerful promise of change. Change that would turn Nigeria from an awkward, self-indulgent nation, to a serious, productive, prosperous, and just nation. It is nearly a year – in point of fact, just less than six weeks shy of a year exactly when President Buhari swore the oath of allegiance to govern as president and defend the constitution of the republic, and lead Nigeria, doing good by all as president.

Change came to Nigeria, many claimed, with Buhari as president. I do recall asking in the “Orbit” in the midst of the campaign whether Nigerians knew exactly what kind of change they were asking for. It was clear that Nigerians were tired of sixteen years under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at the center. It had been wasted years for many. Personally, the PDP, and Nigerians came to call the party, “People Deceiving People” had actually lost traction. It had moved from the ideas fashioned from the first meetings in Z.C. Obi’s office in the Western House on Marina Street, Lagos, where the PDP had actually been formed late in 1998, to something awkward and dangerous. Alex Ekwueme, who burnt a lot of tyre between Enugu, Lagos, and Abuja, as once testified to me by his friend Dr. Simeon Okeke at the Chancellery of Dr. Agwuncha Nwankwo’s Eastern Mandate Union in Enugu, most certainly must have not recognized the party he spearheaded, down the line.

Dr. Ekwueme virtually sketched the party’s founding ideas and its philosophy as a right of center political organization. Aside from its centrist economic and political views, the PDP wanted to place itself as an inclusive, nationalist party that had broad representation. The kernel of its economic policies was the free market and privatization. Its political thrust was traditional, pro-west, and unoriginal. But it had the beginnings of a structure. However, it was hijacked too soon in the fray. I was present at the Jos convention of the party in 1998, sitting next to Chuba Okadigbo, and behind whom was Bamanga Turkur, for whom I remember specifically receiving a call from the CNN and handing him the phone, to confirm that General Obasanjo was trending in the polls that night. Later, early that morning at about 2:00 am with Newsweek’s Marcus Mabry, and Isyaku Ibrahim, Dr. Ekwueme’s Presidential Campaign manager and financier, at Lawrence Onoja’s home in Jos, we got information about the movement of money to the party delegates from mysterious quarters, and as it turned out, it was the final seal to Ekwueme’s presidential ambition under the party. The party Ekwueme founded had been stolen from him, and handed to people who had no idea what it was all about. In 2003, after Obasanjo’s first term, Ekwueme again challenged him, and lost yet again.

Thereafter, Ekwueme himself, now intolerant of the situation, challenged his own party, calling out an “All Party’s coalition” against the PDP to confront the party. Obasanjo’s era in Nigerian politics from 1999 to 2007, witnessed the height of political assassinations, kidnappings, ethnic violence and rebellion, particularly with the rise of separatist groups like the Niger Delta Militia, MASSOB, the OPC, and the rise of Boko Haram. Many state governors founded and funded private armies. Unsolved killings, political violence, and extreme corruption came to mark the political era from 1999 to date. The depth of corruption led to wide public outcry which led to the enactment of the bill establishing the EFCC in the National Assembly. It just happened that the EFCC was itself undermined when it was placed under executive oversight, rather than made independent.

In sum, the current crisis of Nigeria did not begin from Jonathan in spite of increasing attempts to retail that lie, it began with the transition that brought in Obasanjo. It was a fundamentally corrupt process and it was staged and managed by his military cohorts who have retained the shadow power over Nigeria. The two presidents with non-military backgrounds, the late President Umar Ya Ardua, and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, were actively undermined by strategic interests placed in place to subvert them. Two forces, both global and domestic were always at play, and they have remained so in the Nigerian story.

First, Yar Ardua who tried to make a difference was sick, and he knew, as much as those who brought him knew that he was fighting against time. He lost the battle to illness and to time. At his death, Goodluck Jonathan, a little more than a political neophyte and seen no more than an inconsequential minority politician from the Niger Delta stood in.

First, he fought a fierce battle of succession. Then he fought for his own legitimacy. It was all part of the plan. Those who had backed him against the more ambitious Dr. Odili, thought that he was malleable, and could very easily be teleguided from the distance. That was Jonathan’s greatest selling point: his apparent humility; a dog-like loyalty to his master, whoever that might be. Jonathan was simply to be the hand of Esau. But once elected, Jonathan proved himself soon adept at breaking away from his old masters, and carving a path for himself. He began to pull away, and to establish his own grounds. In choosing independence, he alienated some of his key backers, and he made dangerous concessions, for his own security, to some dangerous interests. He was on a learning curve, and by his second term, he might have proved a more deadly political adversary against some of the more entrenched interests that he had gradually alienated. But his moves also compounded the Nigerian question, to the point that by 2015, these interests had moved decisively against him, mobilizing in all directions to oust him.

Nigerians were ready for something different also. As the politician Ibrahim Mantu recently said in an interview published in Premium Times, of his party the PDP after sixteen years of in power: “People were already tired of PDP. PDP was suffering from hangover, fatigue. Sixteen years in power uninterrupted is not easy in a country like Nigeria. Then, PDP became over drunk with power. We were staggering. We missed our road. We were no longer respecting the people. Virtually everywhere, APC votes came from PDP members who were angry with the party.”

A coalition against Jonathan, led by Bola Tinubu formed around Muhammadu Buhari, and their message was change. This coalition organized the APC, and campaigned on change. They railed against Jonathan’s inability to secure the release of the Chibok girls, and rightly so. But Buhari and the APC are yet to release the girls and defeat Boko Haram as they promised Nigerians. Not only that, the current budget confusion in the National Assembly demonstrates that Bihari and the APC may yet out-perform the PDP, but only in the areas of incompetence and corruption.

The APC has yet to demonstrate to Nigerians that it can govern: within three months of assuming political power, Nigeria’s poverty index shot through the roofs; there is greater insecurity with kidnappings and violent robberies; the massacre of Shiites and the abduction and killing of a colonel of the Nigerian Army in Kaduna suspiciously as revenge puts a damper to any promise of security; the rampage of the pastoralist Fulani who are killing people as they move along and the increasing threat of retaliation by affected communities especially following Agatu, and the arrest of 76 people in Awgu who rose in defence of their community is fueling increasing distrust in this government’s capacity to guarantee equal security to Nigerians; fuel scarcity never seen before has gripped Nigeria; state governments cannot pay public sector workers, the private sector is comatose, the entire economy is in a spin, and Nigerians are now crying out in agony.

Increasingly, the APC’s promise of change has taken a really ironic and lethal meaning: it is looking like destructive change, and it is change properly seen in the inability of the APC to even pass an appropriation bill in the National Assembly. The party has moved from its claim to being a rallying force of change to being the “All Peoples Confusion” – and it is morning yet.

 

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