The yet-to-be registered All Progressives Congress needs more than rhetoric and blind opposition to unseat the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in 2015
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 8, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE All Progressives Congress, APC, is an embattled political association. When everything appeared set for the party to be registered, another party has come to challenge it, saying that it owns the name being used by the APC. A party which called itself All Progressives Party of Nigeria, APCN, has thus gone to court to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from registering the APC as a political party.
The APC had submitted its papers for registration by the INEC about three weeks ago. On Tuesday, June 25, it appointed interim national officers to run the affairs of the party in line with the INEC requirements. Three political parties namely the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, have teamed up to form the APC.
The INEC had refused to register the APCN on the claim that its acronym was in conflict with the acronym of the APC, which was equally seeking registration. But in a suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the APCN asked the court to restrain the INEC from registering the APC, saying that “the excuses given by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Abdullahi A. Kaugama for their refusal to register All Progressive Congress of Nigeria as a political party is in violation of Section 40 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.”
However, both the INEC and the ACN have dismissed the claim of ACPN as a non-issue. Kayode Idowu, the INEC spokesman, said the commission would not join issues with the group since it had taken the matter to court. He said INEC would make its position known in the court.
Lai Mohammed, the APC’s interim national publicity secretary, similarly described the group’s move as inconsequential. He claimed that the group was merely seeking attention. He alleged that the group could have been sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to cause distractions for the merging opposition parties. The APC had fought and won similar battles in the past with two parties using the same acronym with the party. But will those who don’t want the APC registered simply stop and allow the party to have a moment of peace to concentrate on preparing for the coming elections in 2015? Ayo Afolabi, spokesman for the ACN in South-West, said the party was battle ready to deal with any unforeseen moves by the opposition. “We are ready to get PDP out of power through the ballot box,” he told Realnews.
In the meantime, in line with the INEC requirements for registration, the APC on Tuesday, June 25, announced members of its interim national executive. The appointed officers are: Bisi Akande, former governor of Osun State and former chairman of ACN, as national chairman; Annie Okonkwo, a senator, deputy chairman, South); Aminu Masari, former speaker of the House of Representatives, deputy chairman, North; Tijani Tumsah, national secretary; Nasir-el-Rufai, former minister of Federal Capital Territory, deputy national secretary; Sadiyat Farouk, treasurer; Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary and Isa Madu Chul, deputy national publicity secretary.
Others are Osita Izunaso, a senator, national organising secretary; Niyi Adebayo, former governor of Ekiti State, national vice-chairman for South-West; Tom Ikimi, national vice-chairman, South-South; Abdullahi Aboki, a retired general, national vice-chairman, North-Central; Ayim Nyerere, national vice-chairman, South-East; Salisu Fagge, national chairman, North-West and Umaru Duhu, national vice-chairman and North-East. The leaders of the three merging parties and a faction of APGA, met in Abuja for several hours before ratifying the list of the interim officers on Tuesday, June 25.
Having scaled over that hurdle, observers say the main election into the national executive would be the test of fate for the party. For instance, there appears to be no role for Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and sponsor of the APC, and no role has been carved out for Mohammadu Buhari, a retired major-general and former presidential candidate of the CPC, whose presidential ambition in the 2015 election looks a forlorn hope considering the level of opposition within and outside the party against his candidature.
Getting a credible candidate to fly the flag, apparently, is not the major concern of the party for now. But the critical hurdle is getting acceptability outside the South-West where one of the merging parties has its stronghold. It may be a cumbersome task for the party to be a powerful force to dislodge the ruling PDP from office. The party has been helping itself by condemning every action of the PDP without viable options. For instance, the emerging opposition consistently condemned the government’s declaration of state of emergency in three northern states, without proffering any viable alternative. A more ferocious condemnation came from Mohammed, the then spokesman of the ACN. He said inter alia: “Imposing a state of emergency on the states that have been mentioned, like Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states will amount to shifting responsibility and unduly victimising the governors of those states, who have done perhaps more than the president, in dealing with the crisis, even though they are not in charge of any security apparatus.
“It is important to state here that the president virtually abandoned the states as they reeled under the effects of the Boko Haram onslaught. For about two years after assuming office, he refused to visit the states until the APC governors blazed the trail and left him with no option but to follow suit.” A lot of Nigerians disagreed with the party’s position and condemned the ACN for not proffering a better alternative.
As if that was not bad enough, Buhari himself went to town to say the government’s clampdown on the Boko Haram insurgent in the three states tantamount to declaring war on the north. “When the Niger Delta militants started their activities in the South-South, they were invited by the late President Umaru Yar’adua. An aircraft was sent to them and their leaders met with the late President in Aso Rock and discussed issues. They were given money and a training scheme was introduced for their members. But when the Boko Haram emerged in the north, members of the sect were killed,” Buhari said, adding: “Jonathan should vacate and give way to a competent hand to govern the country.”
Buhari’s statement was seen as uncharacteristic of a statesman who has been a military head of state of the country and still wants to lead the country in a democratic setting. His choice as a candidate of the APC promises to alienate Nigerian voters from casting their ballots for the party. But that also shows that the APC has a lot of work to do if it intends to unseat the ruling party as it has promised. Speaking early in the month, the former head of state, who contested the presidency three times, told the gathering of party loyalists that the coming together of the opposition parties under the APC would ensure that the PDP is pushed out of power in 2015.
He said: “The issue of merger has been on since 2007 by people who are serious about saving the Nigerian state. We are coming together to get PDP out of sight. This is absolutely necessary because the system needs to be stabilised. There is the need for us to come together, go back to our constituencies and save Nigeria democratically. This means that we have to make sure that the system conducts a very credible and free and fair election. And we are going to win the 2015 election.”
That has been the line of campaign of every member of the new party especially in the past few months. Lending his voice to the determination of the APC to get the ruling party out in 2015, is Femi Fani-Kayode, former minister of aviation under the Olusegun Obasanjo regime and former member of the PDP. In a recent interview, Fani-Kayode warned that if the PDP should remain in power beyond 2015, the country would be the worse for it. He said he joined the APC because he believed that the fortunes of Nigeria would be better served in the hands of progressives represented by people like Tinubu, Buhari and others.
The former minister accused the government of President Goodluck Jonathan of allowing things to degenerate since 2007. “First, 80 per cent graduate unemployment and 70 per cent of Nigerians are living below the poverty line. In terms of power generation, we were into 4,500 megawatts daily in 2007; today, we are lower than that. Foreign Reserves in 2007 was $47 billion, today we have about $45 billion. It has not progressed in spite of the crude oil sales. In Excess Crude Account, in 2007, we had $24 billion, today we have just $7 billion. We talk about foreign debt, it was zero foreign debt. It was paid off from $30 billion to $zero in eight years. Today, we are now back in debts to the tune of $9 billion and we are still borrowing. The economy is not growing as much as it was in 2007. They are claiming five or six per cent, fine. Then, it was growing at about eight or nine per cent. It is the same minister of Finance; she would confirm what I am telling you. So, what are they celebrating? Four or five years later, we have gone backwards, we have not progressed. Now, if you want to tell me you have progressed, look at your foundations and tell me how you have built on it. They had a legacy, a foundation, which was quite a solid one in 2007. Whether you like Obasanjo or not, his performance, was a pretty good one, the records speak for themselves. Did they build on it? The answer is no.”
Fani-Kayode said allowing the PDP to remain in office beyond 2015 would be too disastrous for the country to contemplate because it will make the situation in the country worse than that of Republic of Zaire within a year, in terms of the economy, security and safety. He argued that Nigeria should not be left in the hands of those who could not guarantee safety of lives and properties. “We cannot leave Nigeria in the hands of those who are not sensitive to our security situation and under whose watch many are being slaughtered on a daily basis, under whose watch the North has been literally on fire, and under whose watch Christians and Muslims are now very suspicious of one another, under whose watch the economy is crumbling by the day and we have so many people that are unemployed and suffering in our country. We must not allow that to continue to happen. If it happens after 2015, it may become irrevocable,” he said.
Ogbonnaya Onu, former governor of old Abia State, and national chairman of the ANPP, expressed the conviction that the merger with other opposition political parties would enable the party to control more states in 2015. “This merger has strengthened the hands of our governors, success in future elections can now be better guaranteed. The merger is equally important that in states where we have reasonable presence, we can now win elections,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State, on Tuesday, June 25, expressed similar optimism that the APC would win the 2015 general election. Addressing members of the merger committee in his office in Lafia, Al-Makura said it was important to work as a team to ensure electoral victory for the new party. “With the synergy and brotherliness shown by the merger committee, the merger would succeed and the APC would win all the forthcoming elections,” the governor said.
Perhaps, for global effects, Tinubu was in Britain on Wednesday, June 12, where he told the British parliament in London, that the APC would salvage the country from its current retrogression and corruption. He said he and his colleagues in the APC were ready to sacrifice and use democratic means to wrestle power from the ruling party. Tinubu also promised that the usual acts of impunity and disregard for the ballot as demonstrated in the recent Nigeria Governors’ Forum election, where he said, the loser claimed victory, would not be tolerated by the APC.
The APC chieftain, who unveiled the blueprint of the new party to the British audience, said the APC government would, in its first four years, pursue an aggressive plan to lift at least 20 per cent of Nigerians living in poverty out of that level. To eliminate poverty in the land, he said, the APC would introduce the first national social security scheme under which Nigerians who are above 60 years old would be entitled to monthly stipends from the federal government.
He disclosed that the APC government would provide primary and secondary school pupils, one meal a day. The measure, he said, would help to confront the extremely high incidence of malnutrition and other hunger-induced medical conditions among poor children and thereby eliminate the recruiting grounds for illegal activities.
Moreover, he said, the APC would stimulate demand to help boost local businesses in poultry, bakery, juice and packaging industries. “This will employ millions of graduates and non-graduates. Then, we can start to talk truly about the dividends of not just democracy but of impactful leadership.”
While regretting what he called ‘lack of foresight by the current leadership,’ Tinubu said the progressives in the APC would use the power of the ballot to oust the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the coming general elections. “I do not support the Jonathan government but I oppose anyone seeking its premature, illegal end. Let this government end at the appointed time. But let it end through the ballot box. Then I shall say good riddance,” he said.
If the APC leaders think that the PDP can be easily shoved aside in the near future, it would be a costly mistake. Shortly after Tinubu’s presentation of what he called the blueprint of the APC, the PDP through Olisa Metuh, former national publicity secretary of the party, condemned his presentation as a letdown. “It was a letdown yesterday as the leader of the ACN, Bola Tinubu, stunned an international audience with the emptiness he unveiled as the emancipation package of the APC. It is an agenda grossly lacking in essentials, in fundamentals; deep in cosmetics, devoid of originality; laced with half truths and outright lies and grittily divorced from the substance and incidentals that ginger national growth. It is a basket of promise filled with shells,” Metuh’s statement read.
In a similar fashion, Bode George, former deputy national chairman of the PDP, described the new party as unserious. “They say there is Igbo representative and they bring out Rochas Okorocha. Another says he is Yoruba leader. Who made him the Yoruba leader? Tinubu says he is going to carry Yoruba people and join General Muhammadu Buhari to rule Nigeria. I know General Buhari fairly well. I know his character, his demeanour; his personality runs every inch at absolute distinct variance to this man in Bourdillon Road, called Tinubu. They are like oil and water and they cannot mix. That union will be the greatest disaster this nation will ever witness. The joke of it, on the lighter mood, is that they say they are APC. APC medicine expired many years ago. Nobody uses it anymore,” George said.
Apart from being associated with expired drugs, the APC, observers have said at different forums that the new party has not been able to articulate its plans on how to tackle major problems bedevilling the country like the economy, corruption, unemployment and security. Said an analyst: “After all, many of those in the APC have traversed the entire party corridor. Many were pioneer members of the ruling party and only left when handed the short end of the stick. It is an uphill task convincing the electorate that the APC is any different.”
Another problem standing in the way of the APC, according to analysts, is that with the PDP controlling the federal executive, the federal legislature, 23 of the state governments and more than two-thirds of the local government councils in the country, all those in such various positions could muster enough power and resources to get the party re-elected in 2015. “It is left for the APC captains to prove that the battle is not for the mighty and the race for the swift,” said an observer.
That notwithstanding, Anthony Kila, an analyst, said that Nigerians have greeted the formation of the APC only for the sake of having an alternative party capable of truly competing with the ruling party, and thereby force both parties to give their best to the country. He therefore warned: “To whom much is given, much is expected. As a new formation a lot of people are looking up to it as an alternative to the ruling party. The APC owes the citizens of this country a lot more than they seem to realise. It is not enough for them to play politics as usual. Judging by the way they have gone about their business so far, those managing the affairs of the APC do not seem to realise that they owe Nigerians not just politicking for power, but a real and proper display of how things can be done differently from how it has been done so far,” he said.
Some of the analysts, who afforded Realnews their opinions, asked the APC to toe the line of the defunct Action Group, AG, and the Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, in the period leading to the nation’s independence when parties were based on ideologies. At the time, the AG was reputed as the best organised in Africa because it had a policy paper on every issue. The Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, which came after was said to have built on that in the Second Republic with the famous four cardinal points programme. But can the APC take up the challenge and build on it? Afolabi said that Nigerians would not be disappointed. He pointed out some of the developments being recorded by the ACN in Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Edo states as enough proofs to show Nigerians that the party means business. “We are ready. We shall show Nigerians that we have plans to tackle problems of this country,” he said. Afolabi said reports that some PDP governors and legislators had joined the APC were not propaganda, and that Nigerians should wait until the party is registered.
Echoing the same sentiments, Auwalu Dahiru Saleh, a member of the House of Representatives from Bauchi State, said the APC would be different because it had learned from the mistakes of the ruling party. “PDP started as a very good party and did well for the people. But they threw away their focus along the way. What happened in PDP for the past twelve years will serve as a lesson for us to look at and implement better policies and programmes for Nigeria. And I think the APC will do better, and their formation will give Nigeria a better place to live than what we are having now,” Saleh said.
He said Nigerians should not look at the fact that a good number of them left the PDP to join other parties for selfish reasons but for the sake of democracy and to serve people better. “Well, you say all these people were in PDP which is true, because at a point, the party was doing well, but as time went on their differences in opinion, ideas and other things began to appear, and these created different diversions. They left the PDP for parties like the ACN, the ANPP and the CPC. Most of the people in the opposition are there because they were at loggerheads with what the PDP is doing. That is why any party that comes up wants to fight the ideology of the PDP. When Nigeria was yet to be demarcated as regions, we had the first prime minister of this county who came from the North East region, and the legacy he left behind since over 50 years ago is still in existence,” Saleh said.
If, indeed, the APC is serious about wrestling power from the PDP government, it would need more than rhetoric and reveal its plans to tackle all the major problems that have made the nation poor in the midst of its abundant resources.