2022 APC Convention Of Confidence And Conceit

2022 APC Convention Of Confidence And Conceit [MUST READ]

By Opinions | The Trent on March 30, 2022
Abdullahi Adamu
Abdullahi Adamu, the newly elected National chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC

Within the ambit of the extremely low standards and benchmarks political parties in Nigeria have set for themselves – with the seeming connivance of the Nigerian public – the convention of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, held last Saturday (March 26) was a raving success.

It was crystal-clear that prior to Saturday, the APC was sitting on a knife-edge, with the balance tilting towards failure and implosion rather than unity and harmony. All hell had broken loose shortly after the party won the 2019 presidential election as the APC transformed into a party perpetually at war with itself (apologies to Professor Emmanuel Ayandele, founding vice-chancellor of the University of Calabar).

The chairman who led the party to prosecute the 2019 electoral battles, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was ignominiously removed from office and a Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, CENCPC, headed by Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, was put in place to prepare the party for a national convention. The CENCPC was given a six-month timeline to conclude its special assignment, but like all facets of our national life when temporary becomes permanent and permanent morphs into temporary, the caretaker committee lasted 19 months.

Perhaps, the Buni-led committee would’ve remained within the ambit of a six-month revolving door until the cows come home but for the last-minute thunderous intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari who insisted that come rain or sunshine the convention must hold on March 26.

There can be no gainsaying that the APC convention succeeded and peaceably passed off only because of Buhari’s authoritarian involvement; additional proof being that all his handpicked candidates for the posts in the national working committee were – without exception – ‘elected’ by acclamation, with all names indicated in a ‘unity/harmonised’ list personally signed off by him.

It is amazing what success can achieve. Chieftains of the ruling party that seemed to perilously perch on the precipice of implosion just a few short weeks ago have suddenly gotten their groove back and are basking in the euphoria of their unexpected success. But is the peaceful outcome of the convention a case of the end justifying the means or the means justifying the end?

There are some who contend that having a unity/harmonised list of candidates goes against the very grain of democratic norms and mores, even as they concede that it is an accepted practice of the democratic process and enshrined in the constitution of the various political parties. Their main point of contention is that the practice prevents party members from directly exercising their freedom of choice which is a hallmark of the democratic form of government.

They equally argue that being a product of behind-the-scene power-sharing arrangement, it unfairly denies candidates the level playing field to showcase their competence and capacity for the positions they are aspiring to fill as well as promoting the narrow, selfish interests of political godfathers/oligarchs over and above those of party rank and file.

The other major school of thought concedes that while there’s a high price to pay in sacrificing the right of party members to determine who they want to represent or serve them – directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak – and that the society-at-large benefits the most from the sustainable ideas and decisions generated by the same frictions, conflicts and competitive spirit an indirect primary is seeking to checkmate, they nevertheless counter that even “a lean peace is more preferable to a fat victory.”

Truth be told, direct primaries – and even democracy itself – can best thrive with an enlightened electorate, for as eminent American journalist and teacher Walter Lippmann intoned: “No amount of charters, direct primaries or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people.” One major flaw with direct primaries – the huge costs aside – is that a person with the gift of the garb can easily con a mob with flowery speeches and Utopian promises, unlike his peers and elders in the party who know him inside-out.

Next to the illiteracy limitation is that of poverty. This is particularly important in a nation such as Nigeria with about 60% of Nigerians living below the poverty line. English philosopher and social reformer Bertland Russell poignantly posed this salient question: “If one man offers you democracy and another offers you a big bag of grain (aka ‘stomach infrastructure’), at what stage of starvation will you prefer the grain (‘stomach infrastructure’) to the vote?” Now, which of the two categories of electors constituted by a large pool of predominantly indigent and illiterate delegates and another constituted by a narrower group of fairly educated and knowledgeable delegates is more likely to creditably pass the Russell challenge?

If the best way to preserve party unity in a highly fragile and combustible polity like ours where the democratic culture is yet to establish deep roots is the indirect system, so be it; at least until we get to a point on the learning curve when direct primaries can be conducted in the highly fashionable American way. With the fatal consequences that befell the furry-skinned rat which followed the scaly-skinned lizard to leap into cold waters at the back of the mind, we must first and foremost adapt democracy to fit our local circumstances and needs.

Now that the APC has succeeded in conducting a peaceful convention and Buhari has finally actively positioned himself as the de facto ‘owner’ of the party with the unquestionable right to handpick candidates for elective positions (aka ‘consensus’), what next? I’m definitely not on the same level with the head and founder of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Primate Elijah Ayodele, who has a demonstrable calling in political prophesying. But I can analyse scenarios, draw reasonable conclusions and make well-considered predictions.

I predict – for now, at least – that the bloodletting we’re witnessing in the Tinubu political family is uncalled for. They are like the squirrel and the dormouse, both arboreal, ludicrously engaged in a do-or-die battle over a nut on a tree that neither owns. Tinubu is a political colossus but he’s going to get the Awo and Peter Odili treatment. The cabal in the APC would simply use his erstwhile mentees to mortally weaken him prior to unleashing their joker. The joker?

Former President Goodluck Jonathan would be lured back into the hustings as the APC consensus presidential candidate. The selling point would be that outgoing President Buhari wants to reward him for the unprecedented gentlemanly manner he conceded defeat via a phone call while the final count was still in the process of being collated. But the offer will come with three conditionalities. First, by handpicking Jonathan, they would be ‘fulfilling all righteousness’ by mailing the letter of rotational presidency to the South, while the spirit of the agreement remains firmly in the North. Second, that Jonathan accepts to spend only a term of four years in office. Third, he accepts outgone caretaker committee chairman and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, as his running mate.

Jonathan – with the eager prompting of the irrepressible Dame Patience – would gladly accept the offer for three principal reasons. First, he would be a consensus candidate who won’t have to pass through the fiery furnace of a competitive primary process. Second, he can’t even do more than one term because the constitution provides that he can only take the oath of office twice. Third, it affords him a golden opportunity to ‘complete’ his two terms in office and make up for the infamy of being the first and only incumbent head of government to lose an election in Nigeria.

The Northern cabal too would gain in two ways. First, it would mean that power would rotate to the North after four years, as against eight years. Second, it would eliminate bitter internecine wrangling over who the presidential candidate would be. This is because Buni from the North-East – the only real Northern zone that has never produced a president and Buhari’s favourite hunting ground going back to his days as military governor – would become the presidential candidate. Speak about killing many birds with a single well-aimed stone!

It remains to be seen whether Jonathan’s old stomping grounds of the South-East and South-South would unquestionably migrate with him to the APC and if the South-West would condone the public humiliation of their leading lights. Lots of ‘whether’ and ‘if’ but one thing is for sure: very interesting days lie ahead of us!

Tiko Okoye is Managing Director/CEO at Fortis Microfinance Bank PLC.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. 


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