PERSPECTIVE – Understanding APC’s indigestion


Sonala Olumhense
I quote the 2014 Manifesto of Nigeria’s ruling party (APC): “Since the historic merger that resulted in the birth of the All Progressives Congress, APC in July 2013, our intention has been to develop a set of guiding principles based on the needs of all Nigerians on how to collectively chart our future as a people and our destiny as a nation…

“In the past, political manifestos in Nigeria were hardly different from mere platitudes and general statements to which parties could not be held accountable. The APC Manifesto is different. We have clearly stated what we will deliver to Nigeria when elected into office. Our focus is on six priority areas: National Security, Good Governance, Human Capital Development.”

The party then disclosed three “Rs”: Relief, Recovery and Reform.
Of Reform, it said: “We believe that the APC’s Vision for the nation will restructure governance in a way that kick-starts our political economy so that we can begin to walk the path of our better future.”
I have previously written of “The Fall of Buhari, and the APC,” in which I explored how it has deviated from its Relief and Recovery pretensions.

As party leader Muhammadu Buhari flails away at his second term, it is evident that the party’s failures beam a very urgent attention on that third R: Reform, with prominent Nigerians bemoaning danger and calling for political restructuring.
Among them, the one by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which has rankled the administration, is widely-known.

But you know you have a serious problem when the nation’s Number One citizen says there is no problem but its Number Two warns that unless the cracks are addressed, the nation might break up.

Speaking at a church service to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th Independence anniversary last week, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was categorical about the problem, using a Biblical story as a peg.
“Fortunately for [Nigeria], our walls are not yet broken, but there are apparent cracks that could lead to a break if not adequately addressed,” he said.

That church service was not attended by Mr. Osinbajo: The speech was read for him by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who was appointed by Buhari three years ago. They are the two who sit on either side of Buhari at official meetings.

Buhari countered through spokesman Garba Shehu: “This is to warn that such unpatriotic outbursts are both unhelpful and unwarranted as this government will not succumb to threats and take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it at a time of the COVID-19 health crisis,” Shehu walks a tightrope, and he is to be pitied; it sometimes appears as if it is his government.

“Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the President’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of a health crisis,” he said.

But the pandemic under which Buhari seeks shelter has only become a factor in 2020. The APC Manifesto was published six and a half years ago at a time it was convenient to vilify and demonise the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) he sought to replace.

And so the Manifesto said: “The consequence of trusting power to a party that does not have the genuine interest of Nigeria and Nigerians are clearly manifest in our political and economic predicament today; tens of thousands of innocent Nigerians have been killed due to government neglect of security; poverty and unemployment have multiplied due to the perverse economic policies, corruption has been taken to new levels while health, education and job opportunities are all in free falls, the question on the lips of most Nigerians is: is there a federal government in Nigeria?”

In answer, it described that government as: “A government that thrives on chaos, corruption, impunity, injustice and the systematic exploitation of ethnicity, religious sentiments and other primal instincts to divide and rule Nigeria. It is no wonder that at no time since the period of the Civil War have ethnic and regional sentiments been as raw as they currently are. Nigeria can, and must do better.”
In other words, when Buhari says that his administration will take no decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians because of COVID-19, that is further self-serving propaganda because in his first full term he showed no interest in the subject.

What is even more disturbing is that the 2014 National Conference backgrounded the formation of APC and fertilised its philosophy. When you consider that Buhari would later repudiate his Covenant With Nigerians, his First 100 Days Pledge, almost every campaign promise he made in 2015, and that his government has breached or broken every performance commitment since he took office, it is not difficult to see why failing to honour his restructuring pledge has followed. It is just another casualty of the cynicism of his administration.

But my worries are deeper than that, and they relate to the foundations of the current leadership. In every leadership, the leader provides the heart or the head, sometimes even both.

If he provides the heart, the operatives learn that even if he is not present or does not study the minutiae, his standards must not be trifled with. If he provides the head, with an ability to wade through tomes of material and detail, they learn not to vitiate the steel he expects in implementation.
Coming into Nigeria’s current nightmare, many of us expected Buhari to supply the heart of the effort to rescue Nigeria from the PDP. But this is a nightmare that has now ventured into six years, with Buhari appears to be retreating deeper into the distance.

At first, it was Minister of Information Lai Mohammed who did the interpretation of Buhari’s mind to Nigerians. He was so effective at it that at Buhari’s first anniversary in May 2016, he told State House correspondents how much he admired the Minister.

“One of the men I pity is Lai Mohammed,” he said. “Every day he is on TV explaining our performance or lack of it.” In recent times, Mr. Mohammed seems to have lost the task of mysteries and magic to Mr. Shehu.

While the APC Road Map is only 20 pages long, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is 153, the Ahmed Joda Report 800, and the National Conference Report 899.

But in 2018, Buhari honestly confessed that he is a very slow reader.
And yet, the Ahmed Joda report had sent to him 30, 45, 60, and 90-day recommendations of various dimensions. The National Conference report has over 600 resolutions.

Perhaps the reading habits and inclinations of this government have yet to catch up with its boasts and it really doesn’t understand what we are talking about?

[This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials.]
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