The fine line between the Peoples Democratic Party and the newly registered All Progressives Congress is so thin that Nigerians don’t seem to see the difference between them. But the APC says it is different and better
| By Olu Ojewale | Aug. 19, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IT IS now down to the crunch. After the euphoria that greeted the registration of the All Progressives Congress, APC, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Wednesday July 31, the party has outlined a flurry activities to make it a force to challenge the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for power. To achieve this, the party has started on a two-pronged approach of enlightenment and membership drive.
On Tuesday, August 6, Bisi Akande, interim national chairman of the APC, set the stage for the recruitment when he called on President Goodluck Jonathan to join the party if the crisis in the PDP was too much for him. Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Akande said: “We don’t even close our door to the PDP. If Jonathan is tired of the crisis in the PDP, he is welcome in the APC.” Responding, Doyin Okupe, special assistant on public affairs to the president, said that Akande’s call was a vindication that Jonathan was credible and God-sent.
In a statement released on Thursday, August 7, Okupe said that the invitation to Jonathan was enough proof that the APC lacked the human resource needed to lead the country and would always rely on the PDP for leadership in all ramifications. “While it is not out of place for political parties to make overtures to those they believe have the capacity to assist them gain greater acceptability among the electorate, it is noteworthy that this invitation is being extended to a sitting president who was elected on the platform of another political party and whose unquestionable performance in the last two years has often been derided by this same political cynics,” he said, adding: “It is noteworthy that in extending its invitation to the president, the national chairman of the APC made reference to what he called “crisis rocking the PDP”; forgetting that the real test of leadership is not in running away from crisis but in resolving them firmly and fairly.”
Besides, Okupe said there was no crisis that was insurmountable in the PDP and described the APC leader’s ‘‘invitation’’ as a welcome development. Echoing Okupe, Tony Okeke, acting national publicity secretary of the PDP, said the invitation by the APC leader was a clear demonstration that the party lacked what it takes to govern the country. “The party has looked inwards and has realised the bitter truth that none of those in its fold has the required credentials, charisma and competence to be president hence they have been seeking to poach from the PDP,” Okeke said. However, a number of analysts have viewed Akande’s invitation to Jonathan as a mere joke, and accused Okupe of being bellicose. But some others have also been able to read between the lines that the APC might be looking for credible candidates to give the party a boost as it begins its recruitment drive.
This line of argument was recently given an impetus when, shortly after its registration on Wednesday, July 31, a five-member delegation of the party was despatched to Minna, Niger State, to meet General Ibrahim Babangida, former head of state, on Thursday, August 1. The APC delegation was led by Aminu Bello Masari, interim national deputy chairman and former speaker of the House of Representatives, who held a closed door meeting with the former military leader. The meeting, political observers say, was part of the plan of the new party to woo the retired general to its fold.
On his part, Babangida said the registration of the APC had opened up the political landscape for vibrant politicking. “With this development, we will now see more vibrant activities of political parties in the country. Every political party will now have to work harder to sell its candidates to the people. I have always been a strong believer of a two-party system. We will now have two strong political parties in Nigeria. It is a welcome development,” he said, without giving any hint why the party leaders had visited him. In any case, Babangida is, perhaps, the only Nigerian leader who has credit accounts in every political party in the country. Prior to the APC leaders’ visit, the retired general had said publicly that he was ready to be one of the party’s sponsors. But to what extent he wants to support the party remains unclear.
It was Umar Duhu, interim national vice-chairman, North East, who first hinted of the recruitment drive when he spoke in Yola, Adamawa State, shortly after the party was registered by the INEC. Duhu said that after the hurdle of registration had been climbed, it was now time for the party to begin a massive membership drive and enlightenment to bring in Nigerians to the party. Duhu, a former state chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, in Adamawa State, disclosed that the party, “which is the much awaited platform and alternative for selfless service, wants its presence to be felt at all levels,” adding: “You know, Nigerians were so enthusiastic about APC being registered; so we have to match our words with actions by reaching out to them. We want to establish structures across the country beyond ward level. We want to be the first party to have structures at unit level,” Duhu said. He further said that the defunct ANPP recently received about 300,000 new members, “who are now automatic members of the APC.” He said the party was confident of its chances in the 2015 general elections.
The APC chieftain also disclosed that the party was in talks with some PDP governors, who had shown interest in becoming its members. “As at today, many governors are in talks with us. From the number I have now, we have at least 23 governors coming to APC. I am assuring the party members, particularly those that are just coming in, of equal opportunities,” Duhu said. Sources close to the party said that the governors and some members of the National Assembly who have shown interest in joining the party have commenced negotiations with the party hierarchy.
Part of the plans is for the APC governors’ forum, which is known as Progressive Governors’ Forum, PGF, to meet in Lafia, Nasarawa State, on Tuesday, August 13, after the sallah break, for mobilisation and registration of members. The forum would thus, evaluate what the new members are able to offer and make recommendations to the party leadership. “We will certainly use the meeting to design a roadmap for the party because time is no longer on our side. We need mass registration of members. We have to mobilise on our mission to salvage the nation’s democracy and economy,” the source said.
But so far, the party has yet to articulate its programmes on how to entice Nigerians to join the party train. But Akande has assured that the ideology of the APC was totally different from that of the ruling party and it would not be long before its manifesto is made public. “We have what you call a manifesto, which we have just written. But that manifesto needs a lot of fine-tuning. Not only that, it needs a lot of reduction into bullet points. By the time we reduce our manifesto into bullet points, it won’t be difficult for Nigerians to appreciate the ideology the APC represents. And that is the ideology of existing for the sake of the people and not for selfish aggrandisement of the resources of the nation to a few leadership. We are going to make that clear shortly. Going by the performances of our 11 governors in their various states, you would have seen that there is a difference between the APC and the PDP,” he said.
Indeed, the party has already produced a 29-page document, which it said, would chart a new course for a better future for the nation. The Audu Ogbeh-led 20-man manifesto committee stated that the APC mission would be anchored on the point that the task before the current generation is to build on the achievements of our heroes past, and bequeath an enduring legacy for future generations. In the pursuit of these ideals, the APC says its guiding philosophy would derive impetus from six principles of: “belief in, and the fear of God; upholding the rule of law; preserving national unity; pursuit of a just and egalitarian society; building of strong institutions; commitment to social justice and economic progress; and promotion of representative and functional participatory democracy.”
On the war against corruption and national re-orientation, the manifesto says the APC in government will muster all its political will to wage a strident war against corruption to avoid disastrous post-oil-economy. It highlights the action plan to plug all the leakages which give room and accelerate corruption, recover looted funds and cap and trim unwarranted allowances to public office holders. It says the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RAMAFC, will be mandated to review the unwarranted perks and allowances to public office holders in response to ravaging poverty, ensure strict surveillance of unremitted funds to federation account and guide at all times, the fleece of funds in liaison with other anti-graft agencies.
“We shall renegotiate oil deals, unveil the secrecy surrounding the ownership of 49 percent of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, query the over N50 trillion oil revenue which accrued to the federation account between 2000-2013 and recover billions of US Dollars which ministries, department and agencies, failed to remit to the federation account,” the manifesto says.
The APC promises to strengthen and make independent the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses, ICPC, as well as other anti-graft agencies. It also wants to repeal every law that inhibits their independence. “To actualize this, we shall make the appointment of the chairman and top officials of National and State Electoral Commissions public as enunciated in the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Report. On all election matters, the burden of proof shall rest on the commissions,” the manifesto further outlines.
The party promises to review public service rules and financial regulations which currently allow outrageous impropriety in public finances. “We shall embark on public sensitisation campaign and civic education against corruption in schools and town halls. We shall encourage civil society organizations, advocacy groups and whistle-blowers in the anti-graft vanguard.
On agriculture and food security, the party says it would embark on a massive and comprehensive re-organisation and revolutionalisation of the agricultural industry. The objective, it adds, is to sustain agriculture as the strategic engine and prime-mover of national economic development to feed the nation; to supply the raw materials for industrial processing and manufacturing; and to earn stable remunerative prices in the local and international market.
According to the party, its power supply programme would vigorously pursue the expansion of electricity generation and distribution up to 40,000 megawatts in four to eight years. The party will also work assiduously at making available power from renewable energy sources such as coal solar, wind and biomass for domestic and industrial use, wherever they are viable.
To address challenges in the transportation sector, the manifesto says that railways, waterways and road transportation are very important and germane to economic growth and development of the country. It, therefore, notes that the movement of people, goods and services in Nigeria will continue to be a challenge as long as the road transportation is not complemented with the railway. It thus, promises that the APC government will give railway system more impetus by placing it on capital expenditure.
In the area of education, the manifesto says the APC in government will carry out a thorough review of the education sector and tackle the main causes of the sectors’ decline, implement fully and enforce the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Act with emphasis on gender equity in primary and secondary school enrolment while also improving the quality and substance of the schools.
The party promises it would reinstate the now abandoned Teacher Training Colleges to train teachers, make substantial investments in training programmes at all levels of the educational system, re-introduce technical and vocational education nationwide by giving adequate materials support to such institutions. Further, it wants to energise the inspectorate divisions of education ministries nationwide, and offer free and qualitative primary and secondary education to all and up to tertiary level for women among others. The APC says up to 10 percent of the annual budget would be for the sector.
Regarding the health sector, the party hopes to make conscious efforts to enhance primary health care facilities across Nigeria and reduce costs and unnecessary pressure on secondary/tertiary health care facilities. In addition, it promises to increase the quality of all federal government owned hospitals to world class standard within five years. The document also indicates that the APC would provide free ante-natal care for pregnant women, free health care for babies and children up to school age and for the aged as well as free treatment for those afflicted with infectious disease such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
On mineral and steel development, the APC in government, it says, will invest heavily in solid mineral resources in all parts of Nigeria in a bid to create jobs, alleviate poverty and provide critical infrastructure. It will also encourage industrialisation in order to promote and accelerate economic and social development in the country.
Speaking on the APC manifesto, Osita Okechukwu, national publicity secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, hailed the document for making the war against corruption number one on its agenda. Okechukwu, therefore, called on the PDP to see that the APC is more serious about fighting corruption than it ever does. He said that the return of manifesto war in the national political discourse was healthy and would present the electorate with alternative view points to choose from.
Tijani Tumsah, the APC interim national secretary, has insisted that the party has the human resource to turn Nigeria’s economy around through the provision of regular power supply, creation of jobs, promotion of investment and industrialisation. According to him, the APC would use its programme of action to put the country back on track for effective utilisation of resources. Tumsah, who decried insecurity and level of poverty in the country, said the party was determined to put smiles on the faces of the downtrodden. He, therefore, urged Nigerians to support the APC’s programmes for a united and prosperous country.
That was also the position of Adebiyi Adelowo, a leader of the defunct ACN. He said: “The birth of the APC will be the rise and fall of many. Those who have been destroying our democracy will fall from their high places of evil, while those who stand for truth, justice and democracy will rise for the change from evil to good, from unemployment to job creation, from corruption and systemic collapse to accountability, security and stability. Adelowo said the party would restore the nation’s loss through corruption and ineptitude of the current leaders.
But a PDP leader has rubbished the APC manifesto. Olisa Metuh, former spokesman of the PDP, described the new party’s manifesto as “a very poor imitation, a bland parody of the manifesto of the PDP.” Metuh said that it was laughable that the opposition would think that victory, which only hard work begets, would now be cheaply offered them by chance and perhaps, media bombast.
“The leaders and members of the APC are entertaining themselves. The opposition are in their dream world. They are in deep slumber but will soon wake up to the stark reality that it takes more than noisemaking to defeat the PDP, the only truly national political party in Nigeria with impregnable structures in every polling booth, every ward, local government and every state of the federation. They will wake up on the eve of 2015 and see us once again in power,” he said. The PDP leader maintained that it had not only laid the foundation for a solid institutional framework for war on corruption but has over the years demonstrated its zero tolerance for the plague.
“Our government established the EFCC and the ICPC, equipped them with canine and molars to crush the backbone of corruption. As relative as their successes are, no record will ever deny their impact in the quest for a transparent polity. It suffices that the PDP has shown enough dispassion in fight against corruption and will continue to encourage all Nigerians, especially the opposition to do same,” he said.
On his part, Okupe said it was unfortunate that the APC was just putting together its manifesto. This, he said, was a mark of lack of seriousness. “Unlike the APC whose chairman confessed, was just putting together its manifesto and leadership structure, the PDP which produced the president has pursued and is currently executing a definite blueprint to take Nigeria out of the woods of economic stagnation and social deprivation, with verifiable degrees of success in the last two years,” he said.
From its current standpoint, Okupe said it would be very difficult to know what the APC stands for in terms of definite agenda. “What do they have that is better than that of the PDP? They have no official manifesto; rather, what we hear from one leader is a sharp contradiction from what we hear from another,” he said. For example, he said Muhammadu Buhari, former head of state and presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, as a leading figure of the APC, delivered a lecture in London in which he alleged that he spoke against restructuring of the Nigerian federation, resource control, sovereign national conference and other core demands of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.
Similarly, he revealed that Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, was at a similar event more recently, where he listed out the APC’s proposed programmes on power, agriculture, and rail transportation that were not in any way different from the contents of the transformation agenda of the PDP. Okupe thus argued that since 60 per cent of the party’s leaders were from the PDP it would not be difficult to regard the party “as PDP 2.”
Indeed, some Nigerians have not seen much difference between the PDP and the APC. One of such persons is Ndu Bernard, a businessman in Lagos. He said he had not seen much difference from the two parties’ programmes except that the APC is much tilted to ethnic and religious politics. Besides, he said that the APC could be likened to putting an old wine in a new bottle.
Deji Fasuan, a retired permanent secretary and public commentator, said that the APC “has every opportunity to bring the long-needed changes to the country.” He advised the party to commit itself to arresting the present drift and poverty in the land. “The IMF is reported somewhere to have said that one per cent of the population of Nigeria has taken over 75 percent of the resources of the country while less than 10 per cent of about half a million graduates roaming the streets of Nigeria can never hope to get employment and tragically most of them have not been trained to be self employed,” Fasaun said.
He called attention to some industries that had relocated to other West African countries in the past 15 years, and urged the party to work on means of getting them to return to Nigeria through the provision of necessary infrastructural development especially power. “The restoration of power to industries should be a priority for employment generation. This should be the immediate focus of the party when it assumes leadership of the country come 2015,” Fasuan said.
He said the only way Nigerians would take the party serious is when its leaders eschew personal interests for the larger interests of the party. “The main thing here is that personal ambition should be subject to national interest. In the context of today, a joint ticket of the north and the south is certainly desirable. Of course, this has always been the case,” Fasuan said, adding that this is the “only way the party can make appreciable headways in securing the much-needed victory in the elections.”
Buhari has said the APC was determined to push out the PDP in 2015 elections. “The APC is focus-driven to push the PDP out of power by 2015,” Buhari told members of the Democratic Emancipation Movement who paid him a courtesy visit in Kaduna, on Tuesday, August 6.
The former head of state had contested the presidential elections in the 2003 and 2007, when he was the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, against Olusegun Obasanjo and the late Umaru Yar’Adua, both candidates of the PDP. In 2011, Buhari contested against President Jonathan on the platform of the CPC, now a third of the new APC.
But it appears that Buhari is not yet done from the presidential race. But he said whether he would run in the 2015 poll or not would depend on whether the APC wanted him or not. “My decision will be tied to the constitution of the APC. If the party chooses me as its candidate, I will contest. If the members do not consider me, I will not contest but I will still support the party. My decision to run for 2015 will solely be that of the party,” Buhari said.
It is, however, unclear the role Tinubu would like to play in the party. So far, the sponsor has kept that close to his chest. But what seems to be clear is that the party is looking for a widely acceptable candidate to lead it to victory in 2015, and it appears that Tinubu does not fit that role because he is largely seen as a regional leader.
In the meantime, the APC’s first major test is its participation in the gubernatorial election in Anambra State, which comes up in November this year. So far, the party has said the poll would dominate its agenda in the next few weeks. It wants to put in place a formidable team to work for its success. But whatever the outcome of the election, the party would remain as one to other elections. “I discovered that by being so divisive, we made ourselves very vulnerable. So, the best way to survive and for this country to stabilise is to come together,” Buhari said.
The APC is the product of a merger of ACN, ANPP and the CPC. Some former members of the PDP are also part of the project. But what will interest Nigerians most is how these rainbow colours with different agendas will work together for a common cause. And also whether the party leaders who are known for their dictatorial tendencies would be magnanimous enough to allow internal democracy to thrive in the new party, or will it be business as usual? It is anybody’s guess.