By Edwin Madunagu
One feature of Nigeria’s electoral politics, also predating Jonathan’s presidency, is that pre-election struggles within parties to select candidates (called primaries) are, at least as fierce as main electoral contests between parties.
The struggles within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are the fiercest for several reasons, including the fact that the party, just like the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) of the Second Republic (1979 – 1983), is essentially a conscious and deliberate coalition of several regional, religious, ethnic and “economic-interest” groupings – with various levels of bourgeois consciousness. The PDP remains, as it was at birth, a party of “strange bedfellows”, simply providing the largest platform for sharing the “national cake”.
Every crisis within the party either ultimately reduces to the problem of sharing the “national cake” or is in origin a problem of sharing the “national cake”. Other ruling class political parties in existence including those which are mere caricatures of PDP have their own sets of features. Of these other parties the more prominent are, of course: the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party (LP). But we are remaining with the PDP for the moment – for that is where this national malady (“struggling for seats in a sinking boat”) is now concentrated.
As soon as President Goodluck Jonathan campaign posters appeared on January 2, 2013, the “bubble” burst in his ruling PDP. The fundamental struggle, as we see it now, is between those who want the president to stand for re-election on the party’s platform (call them Group A) and those who do not (call them Group B). The second group exists in subgroups that cannot – at least for now – called factions. There is, however, one clear subgroup in the anti-Jonathan camp: the subgroup that wants “power” to return to the North.
Another subgroup, those that want “power” to shift to the Igbo ethnic nationality (in the Southeast), is weak since the majority of the campaigners for “Igbo presidency” are, for now, with Jonathan. The battle, again for now, is not fought over this strategic question, that is, Jonathan’s re-election, but over concrete tactical issues.
The tactical issues (which everyone knows are tied to the strategic question) include, at this point in time, whether the party executive in Adamawa State should remain in office or be dissolved – in short, which group (A or B) controls the party “machinery” in the state – and who to anoint as the Chair of the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT).
A third “front” is the fight over the implications of the court nullification of the election of the party’s National Secretary. Group A has, in its leadership, the president himself, the National Chair of the party and a faction of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) while Group B is led by PDP state governors, an ex-president and the other faction of the NWC.
The proposition on the ferocity of pre-election, intra-party struggles (primaries) and the proposition that these internal struggles are fiercest in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and has to do with the question of whether President Jonathan should contest again or not may be illustrated with the “tactical” issues mentioned above.
On Sunday, January 13, 2013, a few days after the party secretary was removed from office, some party elders from Adamawa State, led by Umar Ardo, addressed a press conference in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja. In that conference, Ardo affirmed that the crisis in the party was triggered by calculations and projections on the 2015 presidential election.
“It is all about 2015; anybody that tells you anything contrary is not sincere”, he said. Referring to the intervention of the PDP state governors, Ardo said “they (that is, the governors) want to impose one of them as the presidential candidate of the party in 2015 and that is why they are defying what the people and president want”.
As Ardo was speaking, another group that goes by the name Nigerian Renewal Group and describing itself as “consisting of young professional men and women members of the PDP”, came out with a stronger statement, but along the same line as that of the elders.
Their verdict: “it is an open secret that the crisis in the PDP has been contrived by the governors in the attempt to control the NWC (National Working Committee) and dictate to the National Chairman. Their intention is to position themselves for office as president, vice president or senators after completing their tenure. But why can’t they pursue these legitimate ambitions without employing crude, strong-arm tactics?”.
They then added this Nigerian “flavour”: “When Bamanga (PDP Chair) became governor of Gongola in 1983, most of the present governors were toddlers or in primary schools. The old man deserves some respect”.
Continuing its indictment of the PDP state governors, this pressure group, led by Mansur Usman, said: “In their various states, the governors hold the political and economic aces. They install local government chairmen, hand-pick members of the state legislature, influence the election of members to the National Assembly and cajole the president to pick their cronies as ministers.
Not done with the enormous influence and financial resources they control in their states, our governors are also jostling to remote control the party at the national level”. The group warned that one of the consequences of not “clipping the wings of these governors” would be the “disintegration of our great party”.
The Governors’ Forum, they are convinced, “has become a vehicle for confusion” and a threat to “good governance and democracy”. The group intends to approach the courts to declare the Forum illegal.
This is a narrative in the “struggle for seats in a sinking boat”. The indictment of the PDP state governors by the Nigerian Renewal Group, a group within the PDP, is a very strong one. None of the elements of this indictment would be strange or unfounded to any observer of contemporary Nigerian politics.
But, then, the governors and other “internal” opponents of President Jonathan – and there are many of them – have their own equally strong and plausible indictment of the party faction headed by the President and party chair. What do you make of a situation where each of the two opposing sides in a party struggle has an equally plausible indictment of its opponent?
The fact is that they are both operating outsides the framework sketched in their party constitution. I would not say “in violation of the spirit of their constitution” because the PDP constitution does not have a single “spirit”. Each faction of the “founding fathers”, “elders” and “board of directors” of the party reads its own ‘spirit” into the document.
More concretely and directly, every active faction of the leadership of PDP knows that it cannot advance its cause by sticking to the party constitution or – indeed – the constitution of the country. And this is one defining feature of incipient fascism or anarchy: inability to obey one’s own rules.
In its Saturday, January 5, 2013 edition, The Guardian carried a front page report entitled “North ready to chase Jonathan out of power in 2015, says Arewa patriots.” The body of the report was that a group called “Concerned Arewa Patriots” (CAP), and led by Mallam Maiyaki Idris, said in Kaduna the previous day that since President Jonathan had “flagged off” his 2015 campaign, his group would mobilise northerners to beat him at the presidential polls in 2015.
Idris argued: “North ought to hold political power, but the North now is nothing in Nigeria. The economic power is the West, whether you like it or not. Take the statistics of the banks in this country, the financial houses, the corporate organisations; tell me who manages and who owns them.
The commercial activities in this country are in the East. In my own village, we have energetic boys, but even if it is anything it is from the Igboman that I get it. We northerners have come to a stage where we should sit down and reason and work as one, irrespective of religion and tribe.”
Maiyaki Idris therefore throws us back to pre-1963 Nigeria when the country operated essentially as a tripod: North, West and East – with North further reduced to Hausa – Fulani, West reduced to Yoruba, and East reduced to Igbo, as the author implicitly states here.
Gone is the long process of geopolitical restructuring that started in 1963, with the creation of the Midwest Region, and continued up to the 1999 unofficial re-division of the country into the current 36 states and six geopolitical zones. Political power for the North (Hausa – Fulani), economic power for the West (Yoruba) and commercial power for the East (Igbo)!
So, where are the South-south peoples? Where are North-central peoples? Satellites? Internal colonies?
• To be continued.