APC: Tormented by absentee leadership, inertia
Make believe, lethargy; these are two words that best describe the general political tendency of All Progressives Congress (APC). And nothing exemplifies APC’s sluggish and seemingly ineffectual leadership than its failure to organise a midterm convention.
Prior to President Muhammadu Buhari’s return from three months’ medical travel to Britain, APC camouflaged its inability to come together for the much needed convention with the claim that it was not proper to hold such a crucial party function in the absence of its leader.
But most Nigerians that heard of APC’s plan to hold a National Executive Committee (NEC) on April 25, thought the party was about to break the jinx. Coming shortly after the apex court ruled in favour of Senator Ahmed Makarfi’s National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), many believed that the former ruling party’s come back must have spurred APC out of its legendary lethargy.
Did APC disappoint Nigerians when it postponed the mini convention and chose a NEC meeting? It did not. Ever since it came to the echelon of political power in the country, APC established the fact that it excels in make-believe and exclusion.
President Buhari could be said to have started it all when shortly after the historical concession call by former President Goodluck Jonathan, he started going solo in the paranoid belief that all his party men and women were reeking of corruption.
Also riding on the pre-election make-believe that he was a clean and strong fighter of corruption, the President pushed the narrative sarcastically on APC faithful that victory was won on that single subject of his anti-corruption stand and integrity quotient. In that frame of disdain, the President did not bother to articulate the weightier matters of the mandate, including making crucial appointments, nature of needed legislations and sustaining political cohesion within the party.
Fruits Of Isolation
The first fruit of Buhari’s aloof leadership was the near calamity that befell the party at the National Assembly, when APC spited its majority and left the minority and vanquished PDP to dictate the pace of 8th NASS.
As if his absconding from leadership responsibilities did not do much damage to the image of the party, the President appropriated the appointment of ministers, shunning the input of stakeholders, particularly the party leaders. It happened that the same way the President kept party faithful waiting on June 9, 2015, when he proclaimed the kick off of the 8th National Assembly, was how APC suspended its mini convention earlier fixed for April 29, 2017.
National chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had while briefing journalists on the preparations for the mini-convention disclosed that though it was not expected to be an elective one, the NEC meeting of April 25 would ratify the April 29 convention date.
State governors elected on the party’s platform had met, in what was seen as a bold attempt to bypass the lethargy of the APC NWC, fixed April 29 for the midterm convention. Later, citing inability to source funds for the convention, the party postponed it indefinitely.
Pending Crucial Matters
THE inability of APC hold the mini convention left many crucial matters regarding the cohesion and structural strength of the party on the pending tray permanently. Some of the unresolved issues within the party that the convention ought to address include, nominating candidates to fill existing vacancies in the NWC, caused by death, appointment and resignations.
Amid that chasm, which mitigates the effective working of the party machinery, APC begun a membership registration, which most stakeholders saw as an attempt to exclude some members, as happened in PDP when former President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to weed out members loyal to his running mate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
But riled by such negative imputations, Oyegun came out to give clarifications. The national chairman explained that the nationwide registration was not a fresh registration, stressing that it was specifically for new members.
However, despite Oyegun’s timely intervention, sources within the party and the Presidency, confided in journalists that the party was really uncomfortable with some members, adding that some leaders are merely bidding for time to reorganise the party “to suit a future political plan.”
What laid credence to the secret plot, which also explains the leadership inertia within APC is the fact that only the convention could look into a series of amendments suggested for the party’s constitution by the Constitution Review Committee (CRC). Made up of 10 members, the CRC had pushed forward a total of 85 items for amendment, which it suggested would improve the party and ascribe wide ranging sphere of authority to the NWC.
Some of the recommended amendments suggested by the CRC led by Muiz Banire, include power to discipline any member no matter how highly placed, as well as, replacing the Board of Trustees with an advisory council. Banire and his colleagues reportedly pointed out that since the party is a corporate person, it does not need a BoT, and as such an Advisory council would not be expected to give the NWC directives.
The NWC was also, going by the CRC recommendations, expected to be the organ to organise primary election for Presidential, governorship, national and state assembly, as well as, council aspirants. Perhaps, it was the apprehension that some members of the party were so powerful as to override the NWC that caused the discomfort of the presidency and by extension, the NWC about the convention and its likely fall out.
APART from July 3, 2015, APC is on record as not having held any other NEC meeting. APC governors have tried to take initiative and drive the party in the direction of activity and participation. The party leaders, mindful of body language, do not want to move faster than is comfortable to the leader.
A compound estimation of issues recommended for amendment in the APC constitution shows that the Presidency was keeping a lot out of public space. The feigned insouciance of President Buhari, who is the leader of the party, appears a clever decoy to hide ambition for a second term in office. And given the fact he mounted the saddle with the gross assistance of some heavy weight political actors, he did not want to do things that could give his ambition away before the time, so as to ensure that strong hands do not spoil the structure and make things very challenging.
That Chief Oyegun was able to weather the storms in the party these past three years is testament to his correct interpretation of the body language of the party leader. If not so, the direct attack by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was a clear indication that his days as national chairman were numbered.
One veritable feature of President Buhari’s political makeover and triumph after three past failed attempts at the presidency is the assistance of Tinubu and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Dread of these men, or at best the moral challenge of sitting with them while nursing a secret agenda, must have necessitated the absentee leadership of the party.
When therefore the APC governors through Nasir el Rufai, announced their intention to wade into the inertia of the party leadership, what they could not place a finger on was the clever ambush set up by the leader, a former military officer.
But the governor governors offered to “help galvanise financial support to enable the party fund the NEC meeting and mid-term convention,” even as they pledged to meet every fortnight with the NWC to engender smooth working relationship between the various leadership caucuses to strengthen the party.
While they pledged to give the Oyegun NWC maximum support, particularly through funding, the governors noted that the work of rebuilding the party was arduous. The issue of fund paucity could also be seen as a further proof of make believe by the leader to show his reluctance to use government resources for political causes. It is therefore hard believe that a ruling party that has cabinet members and members of different legislative houses should be begging for N700m to conduct a mini-convention.
Perhaps, the President feels he is done with the platform, having declared in 2011 amid tears that it was over for him in electoral contests. But having left the party to totter in decrepitude, it does not speak well of APC and its leaders that it has become a breaker of its own laws through failure to hold a midterm convention. After all, section 25 (A) (i) of its constitution mandated the party to hold the convention “once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the NWC and approved by the NEC subject to statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and at least 14 days notice to members eligible to attend.”
Recently, a prominent member of the party, Atiku Abubakar, disclosed how the President abandoned party faithful after victory. But the former vice president was saying what has remained an open secret, but a sad commentary on the failure of leadership and stunted political ideas of APC. And so saying, Atiku became a prime witness to his party’s ineptitude and unpreparedness for the task of leading the country.
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