L-R National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, President Muhammadu Buhari and a national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu

Executive Briefing

Since it became the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress has let down many of its supporters. Shola Oyeyipo suggests what the party should do to get its mojo back
It is not only the new year, 2018 that portends difficulties for the President Mohammed Buhari-led ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, the entire period that will lead to the conduct of the 2019 general election will be characterised by hurdles that the party must cleverly scale through.

First and very importantly is the burden of leadership. No doubt, there is no perfect nation in the world. Similarly, no leader is infallible. The Nigerian president is no exception. Leadership involves taking decisions that have various impacts on the citizenry, consequently, governments get knocks for unfavourable decisions and commendation for positive policies.

Experts are of the view that the Nigerian economy was going to experience a slow down. Unfortunately for Buhari, the responsibility for fixing the economy fell on his laps. He was rattled and appeared unprepared. There was also the need to tackle corruption, which is considered as the main problem confronting the country and to urgently address insecurity, particularly the Boko Haram in the North-east and resurgence of militancy in the South-south.

No doubt, there have been remarkable progresses in the anti-corruption crusade, especially interns of recovery. Measures have also been put in place to make stealing public funds difficult. Nevertheless, there are enough to criticise in the fight against corruption.
In the fight against terrorism, the APC government has done better than the government it replaced. The terrorists have not been defeated, but the government had taken the war to the insurgents.

In the aspect of the economy, things are beginning to change for better but many remained trapped in the poverty pit. For instance, going by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC), Nigeria recorded a 1.4 percent increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate in the third quarter of this year.

The Central Bank of Nigeria also recently noted that the nation’s external reserves rose to $38.2 billion, the highest in 39 months while the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report for 2018 placed Nigeria in the 145th position, which is 24 positions better than the 169th position the nation was ranked in the 2017 report.

While all these indexes are commendable because they indicate positive growths, since the emergence of the economy from recession in the second quarter 2017, the setback is that average Nigerians have continued to groan and complain about widespread poverty and lack. This obvious is an indication that these positive statistics have yet to have the desired effects on the people. Government must redouble its efforts, sustain the growth and reflate the economy to enable a trickle down effect.

This is by every means a big challenge to a party and government heading for general election in about 13 months. Aside the statistics, efforts must be made for Nigerians to begin to feel the positive developments by reducing poverty rate – by putting foods on the tables of Nigerian electorate, since the fastest way to a man’s heart is his belly. If the economy remains the way it is now till the election period, it will be difficult for the APC government to ask the people to vote for it again.

If the government succeeds in reflating the economy in such a way that it creates wealth for Nigerians, the next and most important action the ruling party must take is to mend the cracked wall within its fold.

Not a few political analysts have reckoned that the initial voice of unison that propelled the APC to electoral victory had faded. The party has been polarized. It is now a theatre of war between major power blocs. There is the Aso Rock Cabal (ARC); the Buhari Political Friends (BPF); the Bola Tinubu Group (BTG) and the Bukola Saraki Group (BSG).

These prominent members of the party have been contending for relevance and the effects have been most unpleasant on the party, because rather than place the collective interest of the party ahead of them, sectional interests have dominated the space among party leaders.

The above scenario has subsequently snowballed into another major knot that the APC has not been able to untie. It will be dangerous for the party to head into the general elections with a divided house. Except he party resolved its internal division, it will be difficult to speak with one voice. Not too long ago, the Peoples Democratic Party suffered a similar fate. Those who undid PDP are today in the APC. They may unleash on their new party what they did to the PDP.

The APC continues to violate several sections of its constitution. One of such provisions is Article 25 (A)(i) which stipulates that the National Convention of the party shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee and approved by the National Executive Committee subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission and at least fourteen days notice given to members eligible to attend.

Aside the National Convention which has become a subject of intense controversy, critics and opposition parties are of the views that there are evidences to show that the ruling party has been unable to hold other crucial meetings such as the National Caucus and National Executive Council (NEC) meetings that should precede the convention because of some unresolved disputes among the party bigwigs.

The fear has been that the fault lines among aggrieved top notch members of the party would resurface at such statutory meetings and therefore it was better not to hold the meeting than to provide the disgruntled members of the party with the opportunity to attack the leaders. This, many believe, explains why the leadership of the party has been wary about holding these important meetings. Nevertheless, until the ruling party successfully holds and survives these meetings, its chances of coming out united and strong before the general elections will remain very slim.

The party’s presidential primary will also constitute a big poser for the leadership of the APC. Already, the likes of the Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha; Kaduna State lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani and National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, have stated that there would be no automatic ticket. This, however, does not mean the president will not get the party’s ticket for the presidential race. Nevertheless, when the party holds its primaries, the grievances among the members will surely play out and it is likely to widen the division within their ranks unless carefully managed.

Disagreement among party members in some of the states, which flows from the earlier identified power blocs would also need to be addressed. For instance, in Lagos State, the National Legal Adviser of the APC, Dr. Muiz Banire has been at dagger drawn with the National Leader, Tinubu. Similarly, in Kano State, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has been in a fight with his former boss, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. These two states are some of the states that turn in the largest numbers of votes during elections, so if the issues are not addressed, it could have negative consequences on the electoral fortunes of the party in the near future.

The APC cannot also feign ignorance of the presence of a relatively more potent opposition in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In what is a big challenge to the ruling party, the PDP, coming from what appeared to be an intractable crisis, the former ruling party held its convention, elected a substantive chairman and is forging ahead with a move to reconcile aggrieved party members.

The implication is that the period when the APC rules without any formidable opposition is over because the PDP will expectedly give the government a good run for its money with stiff opposition.

In all, it is high time the leadership of the ruling APC settled down to work on how to form one united party where collective interest must override individual quest for dominance. If the party is unable to do this, then it is in the path to perdition.

It will be dangerous for the party to head into the general elections with a divided house.