By Salihu Moh. Lukman
One of the leading authorities in public commentaries and no doubt objective analyst and columnist, Mallam Mahmud Jega, presented what could be regarded as the summation of public opinion regarding the reconciliation task given to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu by President Muhammadu Buhari in the back page of Daily Trust of Monday, February 12, 2018. Titled Tinubu might do a Goldwater, the summary is that everybody in APC is aggrieved with Mr. President, Tinubu inclusive and given that Tinubu’s grievances owes its origin to Mr. President’s inability to grant his demands, the fact of such grievances will negate Tinubu’s capacity to discharge the weighty responsibility of reconciling everybody.
I may not be able to contradict issues in Jega’s recollections of events in the All Progressives Congress (APC) today, however I am worried that combination of static analysis and inability to connect present challenges with our political history is limiting our horizon to perhaps time-based incidences whose orientation may only influence future occurrences only if the actors are the same. Given different sets of actors, we may not get similar results. This means the facts of those time-based incidences could not lead to generic conclusions. I will try and substantiate this shortly.
Before engaging the issues, let me highlight that Jega’s presentation bore the assumptions, rightly or wrongly, that Mr. President is at the centre of all the grievances in APC. Secondly, that these grievances in APC directly threaten the survival of the APC Federal Government under President Buhari. The circumstance we face in APC therefore is a case that calls for honesty by all aggrieved party leaders to tell Mr. President that they are also among those unhappy with him which is what the Goldwater analogy seeks to emphasise. Whether such opposition means the solution is for Mr. President to vacate his seat, Jega’s analysis couldn’t say.
Be that as it may, I will argue that Jega’s Monday, February 12, 2018 piece aggregate the sentiment of average Nigerians including most APC members and leaders. My position is that these kinds of sentiments are part of the problem and we need to always remember that around 2012/2013 when the challenge of merging smaller opposition political parties confronted us, our leaders, led by Buhari and Tinubu had to ignore them to be able to open up the range of possibilities that produced the APC. If you asked me, I will say that our nation and political leadership are, yet again, confronted with another challenge whereby, perhaps the same range of possibilities that produced APC in 2012/2013 needs to be reopened. The questions that would naturally be asked is having reopened them and APC emerged, were they closed? What closes them? What were the reasons for the closure? Who plays what role in facilitating the closure?
To my mind, answers to these questions would provide the lead regarding issues of what is it that we need to do to be able to align personal interests of members and leaders in driving the process of reconciliation in APC. I honestly don’t think, important as they are, details of disagreement are the fundamental issues that Tinubu or indeed anyone taking up the responsibility of reconciliation, either in APC or any other organisation (political or not) should be preoccupied with. If you ask me, to be preoccupied with such details is almost to conclude ab initio that the situation is hopeless.
For instance, how will the details of the disagreement between the APC National Chairman and Tinubu or between the National leadership of APC and Sen. Saraki and other leaders of National Assembly or between Tinubu and other Ministers from South West or, cascading it to our states, between Governor Ganduje and Sen. Kwankwaso, or between Mallam Nasir and other party leaders in Kaduna or between Governor Yari and Sen. Marafa, etc. help any form of reconciliation? Reconciliation founded on those details could only seek to deliver judgement and with Tinubu now as the sole Judge, everybody could estimate what may likely come out.
We can go on and on, I can bet it that if the details are to be the focus, the conflict in the party will be aggravated because as Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s argued very aptly in Barrel of the Pen that all the different interpretations
. . . have in common an awareness of the past and its interpretation and they go about it with fierce commitment even when hiding under slogans of objectivity and search for truth. But it is a truth, an objectivity, from the standpoint of one or the other (party). It is as if they both realise that the distance between the barrel of a gun and the point of a pen is very small: what’s fought out at penpoint is often resolved at gunpoint …
Instead of reconciliation, we would be left with more conflicts. I believe that the decision to commence the process of reconciliation in APC is an excellent one. I also believe that the task of reconciliation requires sober reflection and the capacity to honestly engage the issues in such a way that each party in a dispute situation is able to make some compromises. In other words, each party must be able to come to the negotiation table ready to make sacrifices. Part of the problems I see in all the analysis so far is the sophistry, which limits analysis to narration of faults of the actors in the APC politheatrics. Hardly have I seen anyone projecting the sacrifices actors and players, including Tinubu, needs to make in order to produce the kind of reconciliation Nigerians, or at least APC members, looks forward to.
This is the challenge. My disposition is to argue that we are exactly back to where we started in 2012/2013. The big difference is that while in 2012/2013 we were acting as opposition party to PDP and Jonathan Presidency, today we are the ruling party with Buhari as President. It is a case that we are today virtually in opposition to ourselves, which is to put it mildly. In many respects, Jega and many of the analysts confirmed that. Therefore, if we are to proceed with the analysis with the aim of estimating the sacrifices that would be required to facilitate reconciliation in APC that would meet public expectations, what would be those sacrifices? What kind of reconciliation do Nigerians look forward to anyway?
At the risk of being misunderstood, I think it is largely about re-inventing the APC to make it a distinctively different rule-based party, with democratic structures and truly elected leaders at all levels and capable of guaranteeing justice at all times, first internally within the party and at societal levels through elected representatives that emerged from the platform of the party. The hard truth is that the opportunity to ensure that the APC presents a different political organising framework as distinct from what we have in the PDP and the legacy parties that gave birth to the APC was lost when the same political culture of candidates exercising franchise and through that virtually installing their surrogate as leaders at different levels also became the norm. Most of the conflict in the party today had its origin in that or at the minimum manifestly so based on those realities. Is the Tinubu-led reconciliation task going to be able to address that? If so, how can he handle the task to achieve that? If not, how do we focus him in that direction?
At the level of analysis, assuming, we are able to achieve a situation whereby candidates and elected representatives don’t control party structures, how can we guarantee that the absence of controls are not exercised irrationally and arbitrarily by fellow party members some of whom may even be aspiring candidates aiming at weakening candidates and elected representatives just in order to have the needed advantage to take over. Given an environment whereby membership of political parties is not founded on any ideology, these fears are real and present some dangers.
This is more the case because in the first place most Nigerian politicians do not subscribe to any form of political belief or values. To what extent therefore could Tinubu’s reconciliatory task be utilised to begin to move APC towards some values and ideology. No matter what anybody would say, to the extent that the task before Tinubu present this possibility makes APC to still command to comparative advantage. Other parties, including PDP, confronted by this kind of challenge, end up in our courts of law. Whether court judgements have settled the matter (reconciled parties) is yet to be seen.
It is very easy to come up with all these postulations, but the reality is that we are far distant, not anywhere near triggering a process of reconciliation in APC that can radically move us both as a party, people and nation towards those ideal realities, which Nigerians look up to. But that we are distant doesn’t mean we should not aspire to those realities. Instructively, Jega’s concluding remarks addresses this very issue when he argued that APC will never achieve organic unity unless its Oga at the Top changes his personal attitude towards the party, towards political institutions and towards political process. As a chronic optimist, I will not borrow the English phrase “until Hell freezes over” before President Buhari changes his mind about all five.”
My submission will then be if there is a standard measure for estimating levels of optimism of individuals, Jega’s chronic optimism will turn out to be lower levels of pessimism in relation to the optimism of some of us who dared the odds and join politics with our eyes wide open. And I will proceed to justify it by presenting instances where President Buhari had to change his ways. A good example is the fact that just before 2011 elections, he refused to accept even an alliance with Tinubu and the ACN but by 2012 he moved from a discussion of alliance to negotiating full political merger with Tinubu and leaders of ANPP and expand it to include people in APGA and later the New-PDP. I am sure we can present so many instances where President Buhari changed his position and on the basis of that proceed to express the confidence that his decision to appoint Tinubu to facilitate reconciliation in APC would lead to another changes in the ways President Buhari function both as President of the Federal Republic and as a leader and a very critical player in APC.
For many of us in APC, the challenge of resolving many intractable problems is a lifetime one. In any event politics is dynamic, so also new forms of problems would continue to emerge at different points. The task of resolving conflicts has to be integral to political party structures. The big failure of the 2012/2013 merger negotiations that produced the APC was the inability to ensure that there is a dedicated structure at all levels of the party that process members’ grievances fairly. The question is how do you setup such a structure such that the presiding officer in a matter is not the accused? This is difficult especially given that the accused are most likely going to turn out to be elected leaders or representatives at different levels. The answer lie in how the party is able inject Max Weber’s concept of rational authority into workings of its structures such that members of the party who are respected by every functionary on account of which they could be listened to are legitimised to handle such task.
Herein lies the value of Tinubu in this whole process. It is true that by his action or inaction he definitely would have offended many and would have been similarly offended by many. Without sounding patronising, he is certainly one of the few in the party today that cannot be ignored. Mirroring on the need for sacrifice by all actors, Jega’s, and similar presentation require that we answer the question, what kind of sacrifice should Tinubu make in order to inspire all other party leaders and members who are actors in current travails of APC to make commensurate sacrifices? Could Tinubu’s sacrifices be sufficient to elicit minimum expected sacrifices from President Buhari in order to guarantee the kind of reconciliation Nigerians are expecting? Assuming Tinubu is able to appropriately and adequately define the sacrifice he needs to make, would such sacrifice be sufficient enough to for instance to attract commensurate sacrifice – from Governor Ganduje and Sen. Kwankwaso, Mallam Nasir and other party leaders in Kaduna, Governor Yari and Sen. Marafa, etc. to cohabit in APC with minimum rancour?
A major factor in determining the quality and quantity of sacrifices from Tinubu and all other party leaders inclusive of President Buhari will be whether it is their own personal dispositions or public expectations that will dictate it. The methodological framework to be adopted by Tinubu in handling this task will be a major factor. A more inclusive and participatory framework, however defined, so long as it enables Tinubu to simply project what party members and Nigerians want would help. Do so would also require that Tinubu is able to to assemble very competent team that would be able to translate proposals and demands into actionable recommendations to Mr. President and the party. Without doubt Tinubu has what it takes to deliver this.
Can Tinubu accept to work with such a framework? Perhaps, a strong reminder will help. Almost everything happening in APC today played out in PDP between 2011 and 2015. Is it the rebellious disposition of our representatives in the National Assembly? Remember the tenure of Tambuwal leadership of the House of Representatives and the mass decamping of representatives in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Is it the rebellion of PDP Governors from G7 to the decamping of five Governors? We may not have Governors in APC openly rebelling today but there is a lot of manifest unhappiness at the way things have been managed since 2015 almost to the exclusion of Governors. Is it about the culture of imposing or even inability to replace party leadership on account of not being sure of the capacity to impose? Check vacant positions in the party leadership from the national to states, local governments and wards.
How Tinubu’s reconciliatory approach addresses all of these would be the determining factor. As a member of the party with access to most of the critical players in the party, I will limit myself at this level to simply focusing the debate to the issue of sacrifices our leaders including Tinubu need to make in order for APC to produce the kind of reconciliation Nigerians expect. It is basically about returning APC and all the leaders back to the negotiating table. It is about reconciliation that should re-invent APC to make it a distinctively different rule-based party, with democratic structures and truly elected leaders at all levels and capable of guaranteeing justice at all times, first internally within the party and at societal levels through elected representatives on the platform of the party. Other issues, given the opportunity, will be taken up internally within the party and hopefully directly with Tinubu’s Reconciliation Team.
Salihu Moh. Lukman can be reach through firstname.lastname@example.org
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