SUNDAY NARRATIVES: Contemplating Future Political Alliances
LOOK before you leap is a popular admonition for those who are wont to act, without first weighing the possible, long-term consequences of their actions. It speaks to a wide segment, if not all of human actions, that we may not rush into taking decisions that are likely to have far-reaching implications at a latter date. The reason why individuals, groups and organisations need to look carefully before they leap is to save them from feelings of guilt and regrets.
What we are talking about could involve business partnerships, or even political associations, entered into by individuals and groups. If the motives for coming together are not clearly defined and the terms poorly spelt out because those involved are in a hurry; or if the business is entered into in anticipation of gains that are not altruistic; or, if an unsuspecting person or group is conned into a relationship by an untrustworthy partner who would begin to establish new rules midstream, things might go awry, leaving sour taste in the mouth.
To hit the nail on the head, this is what I suspect to be happening in the All Progressives Congress (APC), today’s ruling party. It appears the partnership has suffered some strain. Whether the owners admit it or not, it will not be out of place to assume that some top leaders of APC are ruing the day they voluntarily surrendered their hard-earned legacy party certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as a pre-condition for the licensing of the bigger party into existence. To further hit the nail, I am particular about the former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), variant of the APC. At the conception of the merger talks, the ACN was not just a variant, but was the fulcrum upon which the levers were placed to activate some motion.
The journey of ACN into APC was not a smooth and easy one. In fact, the coming into being of the ACN was even more tasking. After the 2003 general elections, Lagos was the only surviving state of the six Southwest states that formerly belonged to the then Alliance for Democracy (AD), one of the three parties that commenced the political journey in 1999. Perhaps, a little history will throw more light.
In the transition programme of 1998/99, the Southwest could not find quality partners to work with in the other zones, because of the standards it had set for itself. It went into talks with owners and leaders of the other two associations that were primed to become political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Peoples Party – and returned home empty handed. The reason was that there were too many Abacha (Sani) men all over the place; fictitious characters whose presence were grim reminders of the nightmare Southwest encountered between 1993 and 1998. The late Abraham Adesanya, Cicero, Bola Ige, Ayo Adebanjo among others led the zone at that time.
One of the qualifications for registration as a party was a visible presence in all the geo-political zones of the country, but here was the Southwest and its Alliance for Democracy, not having remarkable presence outside the zone. The implication was that the AD was on the verge of being denied registration and participation in the elections. But Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar and his government knew that without the Southwest participating, that transition would not happen. Apart from deserving to be pacified for the loss of MKO Abiola, the Southwest had been the incubation centre for pro-democracy activism. You cannot discuss democratic rule outside the Southwest, not just in 1999 but also, ever since the colonial days. Therefore, INEC under that transition government had to bend backwards and allow the Alliance for Democracy to participate in the political transition.
But by 2003, the AD had crashed. No thanks to some hegemonic wrangling within and the rampaging Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by its former emperor and president, Obasanjo. Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states were swallowed by the PDP. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, then governor of Lagos was the last man standing. He was the only one who managed to rescue one state from the PDP. The State of Aquatic Splendour thus had some zest to think and work ahead.
After surviving that onslaught, Tinubu and his followers decided to rebrand in order to remain relevant for the future. Towards 2007, the Action Congress (AC) became successor to the AD. With this, 2007 became fiercer, because the AC needed to reclaim what was lost to the PDP. Lagos was the battleground and Tinubu the strategist. Year 2007 turned out to be quiet rewarding, as apart from winning Lagos, Ekiti, Osun and Edo were returned to the fold at various dates via election petition tribunals. Bolstered, owners of the party decided to again rebrand, so that a more fitting appellation would announce it as a national party; thus, Action Congress of Nigeria was proclaimed.
With Obasanjo out of Aso Rock and having no need to use his party for more conquests, ACN got a breather to roam more freely in the Southwest and beyond. In the process, it gathered more energy towards 2011 elections and was encouraged to embark on journeys into alliances. Concerted efforts were made, but in the end, the ACN and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), then owned by General Muhammadu Buhari could not hit it off. Everyone was looking behind the shoulders, not sure whether to trust the other. Apparently knowing that it was futile to confront the PDP from their weak points, they just gave 2011 a try. ACN fielded former boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, while the CPC fielded Buhari as presidential candidates. It was indeed a futile effort.
As 2015 drew close, and the PDP continued to display lackluster performance, and its presumed candidate, Goodluck Jonathan appeared vulnerable, the opposition parties decided that, come what may, they had to work together and dislodge the PDP.
That was the journey that brought about the APC. Now, there are challenges in the party. The situation in the National Assembly is not pleasant at all for the party, and particularly for Tinubu and his followers. In spite of the sacrifices that were made and the understanding reached at the formation of the party, it appears that after they reached the Promised Land, there are foxy attempts to redraw the formula and water down the fervency of the original spirit that ignited the coexistence.
The concern here is not about who is right or wrong, because each side presents a very good argument to support why they are behaving the way they are doing. The concern is about what the situation in the ruling party could portend for future of political alliances. The APC was hailed as the first major breakthrough in alliances since colonial times when Nigerians began to form parties. Parties have always been located in the regions, even before independence. That was reinforced after independence and each attempt to form coalitions in order to form government at the centre met with suspicion and mutual distrust. In the First Republic the ‘battle’ to have controlling shares of seats in the Federal parliament was fierce among the regional parties. They were never able to coalesce successfully with backstabs and treachery. It was the same thing in the Second Republic, when at best there were gang-ups to form a federal government.
Particularly, there had been a history of distrust among politicians of the Southwest and their counterparts of the Northwest. They don’t see eye to eye and had never partnered in the manner we have seen in the APC. But all that is now being put to real test. There is palpable feeling that the contribution of the Southwest in enthroning APC and Buhari is being discounted, albeit systematically. Bisi Akande, interim leader of the party cried aloud recently, that what transpired in the NASS was targeted at the Yoruba. Even though Frederick Fasehun, leader of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) had tried to pooh-pooh that assertion, the truth, which Fasehun himself knows is that the Southwest is being weakened psychologically. It is not that Fasehun does not know, but I think he prefers to spank ‘errant’ Tinubu for taking a cherished treasure of the Yoruba to dash others.
‘All politics is local’ and the way Nigeria has been from the beginning, every region guides what it has jealously, no matter the temptation to form alliances. It used to be a tripod, but has been broken into six geo-political zones. No zone can take another for a ride, and the APC must realise that. Otherwise, they will be winning a temporary victory, but burning the umbilical chord that links the Northwest and Southwest, as Tinubu purportedly told Aminu Tambuwal, the former Speaker and one of those rumored not to be supporting Femi Gbajabiamila for Speakership.