By Kingsley Ogbonda
The registration of APC, the merger of former ACN, CPC, ANPP and a section of APGA has predictably elicited comments from most of our political commentators. Advices have flooded the new party on what it should be. In the inundation it may lose some of the key messages on offer. It must not. It must pick all useful advice and seek wise counsel too. Nigerians, whose faith in democracy have been truly tested in the last 14 years of civilian rule, do want a real change. So APC must make a bold statement of its intent from the outset.
The PDP, almost entirely, in the last 14 years has been at fault for the colossal stealing, brigandage and waste to which the country is laid. I shall return to the role of minor parties in the misrule of Nigeria. On PDP, in the 14 years of the current ‘‘democratic’’ dispensation, it has provided Nigeria with three presidents. Its members in local, state and federal legislative bodies number 3:1 against other parties. Majority of the States, and the Federal executives have been exclusively of it’s irk. If the party had any intent, however slightly, of providing good governance, Nigerians would have been reaping the benefits of democracy.
The party has had power to transform the country for good; rather it has been exercising it perversely. Take the current example of its activities in Rivers State and Port Harcourt (Rebisi-land), my home State and town of origin. Out of sheer mindlessness, renegades and dimwits are on PDP’s order to turn the State into a theatre of the absurd. And the State is now in political and economic paralysis. President Jonathan and, particularly his wife with PDP’s power behind them are ensuring that the State is listed as lunatics’ zone.
Of course, Rivers State is only a minor example of PDP’s capacity to destruct. The whole country is a wretched sight, an open sore of the wound inflicted by PDP. If the party has been minded to transform Nigeria for good it could have. The power to achieve that has been in its grasp. But by sheer ineptitude it has dragged the country into a void. And Nigeria is now firmly in the league of failed states.
Yes, it is. Those who contest the fact may be reminded that the mere existence of all the nomenclatures of viable state does not mean the state is viable. Critically examine the effectiveness of each of the country’s apparatus and see how they fulfil their constitutional roles. How do Nigerians rate – their politics, judiciary, legislature, police, education, health, the economy and security? If you do the right maths and not PDP’s of 16 is greater than 19, you will find that Nigeria does not add up to a functioning state.
Though it is right to blame PDP largely for the country’s misrule in the last 14 years; others are not without blame for the crime of crass looting of public money. In their areas of political supremacy the ACN, ANPP, CPC etc, have not been completely above board in their management of public resources, and imbibed democratic ethos. Their governors are as conceited as PDP’s. They anoint candidates rather than allow open contest in choosing their prospective candidates for elections.
Opposition parties’ near silence on troubling national issues, like greed and stealing, were not mainly due to their small sizes, but because they were guilty of the same offences. If the oppositions were not afraid of PDP’s coercive tool – the EFFC, they would have been bolder in criticizing its gross financial abuse, poor service delivery and anti-democratic tendencies.
The short comings of the Nigerian opposition parties and their lack of visibility caused many to stay outside of the political process. The APC, the expectation is, will fill the constant void in Nigerian politics – lack of viable opposition party. Perhaps, it is fair at this point to say well done to its founders. Those familiar with the Nigerian democratic experiments will know that there have been many failed attempts in the past to form a mega opposition party or electoral alliances. Personal ambition, bloated egos and ideological differences were responsible for the past failures. That APC founders have managed to overcome those perennial problems is a testament to their political growing up.
Cynics may not be so enthused about APC because of some of its founding members: the ones with dubious democratic credentials. I, too, am weary of those characters. But it is not the time to be too sanctimonious. Progressives not happy with APC can form their ‘‘real’’ party of the masses. If the Nigerian progressives have one problem it is their inability to organise for change, and I add myself to that group. Unless excluded and in the absence of a better alternative, all progressives should consider gravitating towards APC.
A rather unimportant point, many years ago I got involved with the British Labour party through a militant-socialist friend. But Labour in the main is a social-democratic party. Fact is any mass party serves as a base for those with broadly similar ideological persuasion. Ultimately, by its actions APC (members) will say what it is. Whatever the thinking though, it should aim to be the Nigerian peoples’ party for real change.
The APC : It must make loud statements on how it proposes to tackle stealing in government. And Nigerians should hear them. Any seriously minded opposition party makes itself visible. It does so by criticising an ineffective, visionless government and offering better alternatives. It provides refuge for those disaffected by the non-performing government party.
The APC must create its Think-Tank, a reservoir of progressive ideas. Nigerians would expect as a serious opposition for its members in the Federal Assemblies to start asking serious questions of government policies and show that they are driven by public service and not fat salaries and benefits. They should employ information researchers to advise them.
APC governors, you must dispel the cloud of elitism surrounding you. Service delivery must be your new mantra. All past misdemeanours may be forgiven if between now and the next elections quick wins are picked. There are many of those. An example is security, which can be redeemed with the oddity dubbed ‘‘security vote’’. Let each governor pick two or three pressing needs of their citizens and zero in on them. If not fully delivered, provided significant milestones are reached between their commission and the next election there would be political reward.
The word – internal democracy, should not be weasel word. It must be real and resonate amongst party members. Members who conform to party rules and not the opaque ones, who wish to contest for an election into any of the elective offices should be allowed to make their case to party members and be genuinely voted for or rejected. This will prevent the delinquents and gangster types in Rivers State House of Assembly from getting into law making chambers. If there was a need to prove the tragedy of imposing candidates the bloody ‘‘street like’’ fight in the Assembly few weeks ago provided it.
The party must avoid mass recruitment of former PDP members. APC must act in the confidence that PDP is beatable without inheriting its ‘‘structures’’. The unity of PDP is based on unrestrained access to Nigerian money. A crude survey I carried out on unsuspecting citizens in Port Harcourt, Owerri, Onitsha and Abuja in March 2013 revealed that it is beatable and that Nigerians want a strong and authentic opposition and not cloned PDP.
Maybe, all of the above are unattainable. As one is constantly reminded Nigerians are in reverie, happy with live in servitude and easily seduced by few Naira thrown up in the air at elections. So with its best endeavour APC may struggle to motivate a lethargic population. Still, it is advised that the medicine of APC be administered. Even if it is only able to serve as a pain relief rather than a cure it would have been worth it.
Kingsley Ogbonda wrote from London
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