APC, Softly, Softly, By Dele Agekameh
The current development in the National Assembly should provide the necessary opportunity and ammunition for the leadership of the APC to review and appraise its strategies, more so now that they have transformed from being in opposition to being the ruling party.
The National Assembly is back to work after a two-week recess the members embarked upon shortly after the Eighth Assembly was inaugurated on June 9, 2015. Immediately after the inauguration, the elections of the principal officers for both the Upper and Lower houses of the Assembly took place amidst controversies. While the controversy surrounding the election of Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy seems to have abated, that of the Senate President and his deputy continued to generate acrimony in the polity. Not even the behind-the-scene moves to find a workable solution to the impasse have yielded any fruitful result.
The process through which Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu emerged as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively have been faulted by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC). However, what seems to have compounded the problem is the coming on board of Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President. The bone of contention is that the ‘selection’ of Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President may have given the party to which he belongs, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) an undue and, probably, undeserved advantage in the emerging politics of change which the APC, as the ruling party at the centre, is desirous to enthrone in the country.
The PDP had monopolised power at the centre for 16 years, beginning from the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999. It held on to power until barely one month ago, specifically, on May 29, 2015, when it vacated the scene after it was ignominiously upstaged in the presidential election held on March 28, 2015. What the APC cannot understand is why Ekweremadu who had served for eight years in the same position was able to stage a comeback with ease under the new dispensation as Deputy Senate President. To many political observers, it means that nothing has really changed.
All through the years the PDP was in control at the centre, the party never gave any chance to anybody outside its fold to taste power or even come near it at all. Also, they never pretended to run an inclusive or national government. It was a winner-takes-all type of arrangement throughout its period of power domination. This is probably why, to the APC and its teeming supporters, the present arrangement in the Senate appears not only to be absurd, but also quite unacceptable.
The unfolding scenario has, so far, put the APC in a quandary. Although the party had to grudgingly accept what it could not change after a lot of fuss in the wake of the happenings in the senate, now the party’s anticipated panacea for achieving lasting peace has met a brick wall. In its attempt to resolve the logjam in the Senate, the APC had proposed that Ahmad Lawan, its anointed candidate for the post of Senate President and George Akume, his deputy, who had both lost out in the race, should become Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip respectively. But this has not gone down well with Saraki and his group who are skeptical that having the two rivals to the coveted Senate Presidency being so conspicuous in the Senate could pose the danger of a deliberate ambush by those in the leadership of the party who are opposed to the present arrangement in the Upper House.
With these developments, it is now very clear that all is not well with the APC, the rainbow coalition of political interest groups that succeeded in ousting the behemoth PDP at the centre in the last election. The coalition was spear-headed by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Other parties in the coalition were the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigerian Peoples’ Party (ANPP) and part of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). There was also a splinter group of the PDP known as the New PDP (nPDP), which was put together by some disgruntled but ambitious members of the then ruling PDP. The entrance of the nPDP with five serving PDP governors at that time as arrowheads, as well as a large number of PDP senators in tow, somehow, energised the coalition and completely altered the political equilibrium of the country.
It would be recalled that though the PDP had a sizeable number of heavyweights and moneybags, including a good geographical spread, nevertheless, the party lost the last election because of the absence of internal democracy within its ranks. This was the biggest factor that instigated the large number of defections from the party before the elections. The major complaint was that the party had indulged in the imposition of candidates for elective offices nationwide. Unfortunately, just a few weeks after the new President, Muhammadu Buhari, came to the saddle, the APC itself is embroiled in its first major test case as the ruling party.
Long before the National Assembly elections or selections took place, the APC had been engulfed in disagreements over who gets what. It is doubtful if any genuine move was, at any time, undertaken to harmonise all the contending interests in the party in order to forestall the ugly episode that later came to play in the affairs of the National Assembly. At any rate, the uproar that has greeted the elections at the National Assembly should not be allowed to destabilise the party.
In politics, there must be compromise and everybody must be carried along. Perhaps, if this had been done and/or carried out with sincerity of purpose, the mock elections conducted by the APC for the leadership positions in the National Assembly, which some of the members either boycotted or walked out of would not have been necessary. And if it was done as a last resort, unfortunately, it did not produce any amicable end to the raging disagreement as probably envisaged by the proponents. As a matter of fact, the current sad episode could have been avoided altogether.
Politics is a game of wits and opportunities. Saraki, and his supporters who were mainly from the PDP and a sprinkle of other senators, only outwitted his opponents when he saw the golden opportunity to actualise his long-standing dream. It is his emergence as the Senate President that had a collateral effect on the election that took place in the Lower House. And since the President in his wisdom has declared the election of Saraki as constitutional but that the party’s decision could have been followed, what it means is that Buhari has tacitly endorsed the election of Saraki as Senate President.
Whichever way this development is viewed by the leadership of the APC, there is a lesson to be learnt. The current development should provide the necessary opportunity and ammunition for the leadership of the APC to review and appraise its strategies, more so, now that they have transformed from being in opposition to being the ruling party.
It is certain that there are many contending groups and interests within the APC as a party. In the situation the party now finds itself, only wise counsel can help to douse the current tension that has the propensity to envelope the party and make nonsense of its hard-earned victory in the last election. The onus, therefore, is on the leadership of the party to properly harmonise the interests of the different groups under an acceptable formula that will ensure cohesion and lasting peace. Above all, the principle of give-and-take should be allowed to prevail. The way and manner the APC navigates the current stormy waters, would possibly determine its survival as a ruling party.
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