In the light of the crises threatening to take the wind off the sails for the two leading political parties in the country, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), DARE ADEKANMBI examines the essence of party system in a representative democratic government and the public image of the parties as well as what they are not doing right.
“Parties are an evil inherent in free government, but they do not always have the same character and the same instincts. There are times when nations are tormented by such great ills that the idea of total change in their political constitution comes into their minds. There are other times when the disease is deeper still and the whole social fabric is compromised. That is the time of great revolutions and of great parties” (Emphases, ours).
The characterisation of political parties above was by a notable French diplomat, Alexis de Tocqueville, in his famous book, Democracy in America and quoted in Toyin Falola and Bola Dauda’s book, Decolonising Nigeria (1945-1960): Politics, Power and Personalities published in the United States in 2017.
Although the statement was made in 1851, it was as though the diplomat foresaw the current situation in Nigeria’s political ecology. The country’s two competing parties, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are greatly distressed from internal combustion.
And if the current troubles in the parties are anything to go by, then Tocqueville’s description may be a fitting epitaph on the gravestones of the either or both of them. And possibly from the ashes of whichever of the parties that goes down, a new party may spring. That will be the time foretold in the Tocqueville’s statement thus:”that is the time of great revolutions and of great parties.”
But should the cataclysm not lead to the death of either of the parties, it may probably open the gate for the needed reforms to be carried out by its grandees.
The governing APC and the opposition PDP are being quaked by purely internal conflicts of interests, especially as the conflicts touch the permutations and cutthroat schemings towards the all-important transitional presidential election in 2023.
Unfortunately, the schemings have continued to weaken the already wobbly structures of the country’s democracy so much so that 2023 in itself has started to sound like doomsday.
But how did the parties arrive at their troubled spots or was crisis deliberately programmed into their formation to make them malleable tools in the hands of crafty politicians?
PDP and its war without end
In the week just gone by, the lid was lifted on what has long been observed as bottled up implosion within the PDP. Seven members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) threw in the towel, claiming they could no longer work in a toxic environment and calling on the national chairman, Uche Secondus, to resign.
There had been no love lost between Secondus and the NWC members. The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who literally muscled his way through to have Secondus installed chair of the party, is said to be interested in being a running mate to a northern presidential candidate in 2023. There are strong indications that the PDP will likely field a northern candidate. Leaders of the party feel it will be immoral to pick a southern candidate because the last president of the country from the party came from the South. But there are those who think otherwise. President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, will be completing eight years by 2023 and as a result, power should naturally oscillate back to the South.
As part of the 2023 game plan, the guttural voice Wike is open to Secondus, who hails from Rivers, being replaced to stave off any contamination to his aspiration. The governors of the party are also divided along pro- and anti-Secondus line, with only a minority of them supporting the embattled chair.
But Secondus, who is the 15th chairman of the party since its formation on August 4, 1998, has shown more than passing interest in retaining his job after his term expires in December this year. Hence, the continuing tension in the party.
To watchers of the developments in the party, Wike’s visit to former vice president, Atiku Abubakar recently, where they claimed Nigerians are waiting for PDP’s return in 2023, sealed the fate of Secondus. Atiku is still eyeing the presidential ticket and everything is pointing in the direction that a northern presidential candidate is what the umbrella party will come up with.
As the intra-party crisis rages on in PDP, the fortune of the party has suffered terribly with a number of its governors dumping the party for the APC. After the 2019 elections, the fortunes of the opposition had risen with its winning Oyo, Bauchi, Zamfara, Adamawa and Imo states, almost equaling the number of states controlled by the APC.
The feat had brightened the chances of the party for the 2023 until it suffered a plummet. In addition to losing two of the five states it won in 2019, PDP lost Cross River and Ebonyi whose governors, Ben Ayade and David Umahi joined the rival APC, mouthing internal crisis in the party as the reason for leaving.
APC and the transition dilemma
For the ruling party, there is not let up in its internal headache over succession plan. This has further accentuated the fault lines between the two major tendencies in the party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by APC’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) of President Buhari.
To observers, there is a deliberate move by some elements within the party against the former Lagos State governor who is scheming to fly the party’s flag as its presidential candidate. A support group for him has been going round the country to advertise what they call his democratic credentials and show why he is the best man to get the ticket.
A reliable source to Sunday Tribune that the recently concluded revalidation of membership in APC was targeted primarily at ensuring a level playing field in the party. It will be recalled that APC was hurriedly coupled together in 2013 to wrest power from the PDP in the 2015 elections. As a result, Tinubu deployed his political machinery and resources to oversee the registration of members.
Owing to the fear of warehousing the registration documents and other materials in Abuja, the leadership decided to have them in safekeeping with Tinubu in Lagos. Since then, the documents have been in Tinubu’s care. Buhari, in line with his avowal to ensure the party is rebuilt on a proper footing, threw his weight behind the revalidation exercise so that Tinubu will not have undue advantage over other interested presidential aspirants in the party.
Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, is also rumoured to be interested the nation’s top job should the pendulum be directed to swing in the direction of the South in 2023. As chairman of Govornors Forum, Fayemi is said to be banking on the support of his brother governors as well as the CPC elements that are not favourably disposed to the Tinubu ticket.
The leaders of the party from the South-East are not sitting down, watching the South-West position itself for the ticket. They are also said to be making serious moves to clinch the ticket. In fact, the defection of David Umahi, is aimed at strengthening the chance of the zone, which hitherto had only one APC governor, Hope Uzodinma.
All the scheming from the South is subject to the readiness of President Buhari to allow power to rotate back to the South, since presidential power will have resided in the North for eight years by 2023.
Outside of the APC, the party has been heavily chastised for the manner it has handled the economy six years on, leaving a tale of woes, massive job losses, galloping inflation, poor performance of naira against major international currencies, the damning verdict that made the country the poverty capital of the world, among others.
APC’s image schizophrenia also extends to the worsening security situation with terrorists and bandits holding the country by the jugular. Going by the results of the 2015 presidential election, many Nigerians who preferred Buhari to Dr Goodluck Jonathan did so based on the former’s promise to bring his military background to bear in handling the security situation. But rather than subside, terrorism has festered and spread to other parts of the country hitherto considered a safe haven.
Tinubu, in a statement entitled Becoming the Party We Were Intended to Be, in March this year, admitted that the APC has been unfaithful to its ideals as a progressive party. Speaking against the backdrop of the dissolution of the National Working Committee of the party by the National Executive Committee meeting president over by President Buhari, the former Lagos governor said:
“An honest person must admit the party had entered a space where it had no good reason to be,” though he dismissed those predicting the disintegration of the party and its “imminent demise,” saying such predictions were “premature and mean-spirited.”
“The trouble is not that we would forfeit our collective existence, but whether we were in danger of losing our collective purpose. In some ways, this possibility is of greater concern.
“A political party that has lost sight of the reason for its existence becomes but the vehicle of blind and clashing ambitions. This is not what drove the APC’s creation,” Tinubu said.
The six and half a dozen perception
But is there any difference between APC and PDP? The answer to this question has been eliciting various reactions. But the common denominator is that there is basically no difference between them, except the difference in their names and logos.
A former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Oyo State, Adebayo Ojo, who is a chieftain of the APC, agrees with those who see no difference between the two parties.
“There is no difference between APC and PDP. When some people say they are progressives, I ask them to tell us who among us has not made progress in their life. Surviving the year 2020 is a progress and those who witnessed 2021 are by implications progressives.
“The parties are not based on ideology. There are good people in PDP and there are bad people in APC. Just as saints exist in PDP, there are also saints in APC. Parties are mere platforms to get power, such that if one platform is not available to one politician, he can use another platform. When PDP was not available to Dr Olusegun Mimiko as Ondo governor, he used the Labour Party,” he said.
Chairman of the Advisory Committee that midwifed the 2014 national conference, Senator Femi Okurounmu, has his reservations about the two parties, asking “Have we not seen the performance of APC and PDP since 1999? Can’t we see to where they had led the country and the fate that has befallen the peoples of Nigeria and Nigeria itself? Do you think a leopard can change its spots?
“This is a government by people who no longer seek after the interest and the welfare of the people who voted for them. They are only seeking power for their own selfish interest. When people are seeking power only to make money and accumulate wealth at the expense of the people, when the welfare of the masses no longer concerns them, what does it matter if they keep rotating themselves? How does that improve the welfare of the masses?
“There is no difference between the two. The political persons in power today, whether they are in APC or PDP, are all the same. If you look at the membership of both parties, hardly will you find anyone who has not been in the two parties at one time or the other since 1999.
“They have just been moving from one party to another, looking for where their fortunes will prosper more. So, they are not governing because of you and me or to see to our wellbeing. They are looking for which of the two contraptions called parties will favour them more in terms of their ambition to make money. That is my own opinion.
“Nigeria was not like this in the 60s and 70s. The country has been getting worse and worse. Nigeria was not like this when we had the Action Group and the NCNC and even when we had the UPN, PRP and so on. Nigeria has been getting progressively worse. It has been like a curve that has been going down.
“The Nigerian experience has been from bad to worse. That is why we need a new generation. The young people should not shy away from responsibility. When a country is in the kind of situation that it is at the moment, it takes a new generation of committed youths to change things. We need our youths to rise up now,” he said.