The challenge ahead is one that confronts the APC. It needs more than a dose of the familiar antidotes. Depending on the constituency and consequence, the way these antidotes are procured and administered may also differ. But in all, it has to come with some willingness to apportion incentives in ways that major players feel their participation is not only a mere path to a win but a win in itself.
It is no doubt that intra-party feuds have the potential to cause great upset. Whether these challenges may lead to sufficient fractures that can slowly snowball into electoral reverses is another matter. The simple point is that such disputes, especially when they present themselves to the general public, give the impression of dysfunctionality in the party structure and leadership. This becomes even more complex where those involved are high-ranking party members.
The decision to dissolve the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was a timely intervention to rescue the party from imminent implosion. What also emerged, as the current interim leadership chaired by Governor Buni of Yobe State, suggests is that the APC is in dire need of a unifying figure. Seen by many as one of APC’s most tenacious sons, it is expected that Buni will use his experience and long-held relationships to harmonise the house and recoup all lost grounds. Expectedly, the overwhelming conversation is now about party unity but the most crucial task for the Buni-led committee is actually far from that. I must say that the level of acceptability of the committee leadership from all sides of the divide seem to suggest the level of confidence imposed in it. But to whom much is given, much is expected, they say.
President Buhari must be commended for intervening like the statesman that he is and I am delighted that several party leaders have echoed their willingness to obey the decisions reached. However, democracy is about numbers and any member of the party is as important as the other. The party must not allow itself to be distracted. Given the size and the growing diversity of interests that may be unfolding, going into 2023, party cohesion and party discipline are the main concerns that need to be addressed urgently. The victory expected in the next general elections has now been drawn into every minute and moment of the next six months, which is when the conventions are slated for. This impulsive period will continue to witness the constant lesson in political history, that parties are and will always remain diverse teams composed of a variety of players who coordinate and also collide. Therefore, the primary and most vital objects for Buni’s team are cohesion and discipline; let these two advances deliver the unity the party seeks.
Cohesion, which is probably the less complex of the two, is best attained through a cautious shared preference of reassuring positive incentives among major players. Discipline on the other hand may only be instilled via the instrument of the laws governing the party. However, going by the provision of Article 21 of the party constitution and a plethora of precedents, it is clear how subjective everything is to the rule of law. In particular, the APC constitution does not fail to mention the principality of fair hearing; and fair hearing is a convoluted area of law and jurisprudence that must be threaded with caution.
Furthermore, the contents of Article 21 (c) and (d) leave a lot to be desired by courts, especially in the realms of attorning the question of rights and constitutionalism on the parties’ organs; the bench will hesitate to relinquish such powers, as it always does. This impasse must be avoided at all cost. And to achieve that, the first commitment must be to revisit the workings of the party organs vested with powers and responsibility to listen to grievance and appeals, as provided for in the constitution of the party. If they were up and doing, we may not have found ourselves in this situation or at least, the situation would not have warranted the series of litigations and counters witnessed. Everything humanly possible must be done not to allow further wrangles that will warrant the courts usurp vital decisions and outcomes in this delicate contour. Pre- and post-convention, disagreements are bound to arise. They must be cautiously attended to with some aura of detachment from previously mismanaged dispositions, hence it does not go further to breed unwarranted multidimensional causes and effects.
Therefore, the Buni-led team has the arduous task of mustering every tact to pursue harmony, or a sense of it, by invigorating and making the best of what the ‘disciplinary’ organs of the party were meant to achieve. The long press briefings, texts and comments by some party leaders are as consoling as they are vague. While the content of these media statements sounded like the past has been foregone, the context seemed to strongly suggest the necessity to unearth the unsaid.
Another dimension to this task is to interrogate both existing and foreseeable agitations and distinguish them as the burners which should be given some degree of concession, which they believe they have not received thus far. This may be bound by some reassuring areas of stake. Such an interchange will not only help to assess how the party will fare through the coming months, but also the tenability of the outcome of the convention. Early engagements and subsequent responses to cautious offers and negotiations will also reveal, to a larger extent, how inclined the major players are to uphold and participate in augmenting and strengthening the balance and not drawing the party onto other diversionary tracks.
It is right to assume that stern deliberations have already began on where affiliations reside, going into the convention. The air of party harmony and cohesion will now dwell a lot on the nature of leverage and the degree of incentives to be proposed to various interest blocs. Identifying these incentives and defining a benchmark or what is agreeable is a herculean mission that must be figured out and accomplished.
In confronting the burners, it is also central to acknowledge that players and or groups are not equal among themselves. They perceptibly maintain distinctive preferences, even when the perspective to cooperate in order to preserve party successes is the same. Hence, any kind of reconciliatory throng will undoubtedly require some decentralisation of the process, which is among the foremost stratagem in enhancing the possibilities to effectively bargain, while lessening the appetite for rebellion.
The challenge ahead is one that confronts the APC. It needs more than a dose of the familiar antidotes. Depending on the constituency and consequence, the way these antidotes are procured and administered may also differ. But in all, it has to come with some willingness to apportion incentives in ways that major players feel their participation is not only a mere path to a win but a win in itself. Creating a space for relief and succour will undoubtedly balance the stakes. And handled prudently, the Buni-led team will not only surmount the debacle but also define, far into the future, where the APC will be. These events will certainly echo in our political history.
Abubakar Buka Kagu teaches law at Yobe State University, Damaturu. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org