Three well-worn parties in Nigeria, the ACN, CPC and a wing of the APGA, had a makeover; refashioning themselves as the APC (All Progressives Congress). But the question remains: what exactly is progressive about this new alliance? Is it not like the cosmetic name-changing of NEPA to PHCN with no improvement in electricity?
Rather than being a progressive party, the APC is regressive. Indeed, it is a cruel joke to describe it as progressive. A party led by a former military dictator and a civilian dictator cannot be progressive. Can any right-thinking person actually mistake Buhari for a progressive? Would a progressive truncate a democratic government? Would a progressive muzzle the press? Would a progressive arrest and jail people without trial? Would a progressive call for rioting and bloodletting if he loses an election? Certainly not!
Whatever Buhari might be, he is not progressive. Instead, he is a dyed-in-the-wool antediluvian politician. At 71, Buhari belongs to the old-school of Nigerian leaders that see the country through black/white, North/South, Muslim/Christian spectacles.
A progressive politician does not champion ethnically chauvinistic tendencies in a delicately-balanced and highly-incendiary country like Nigeria. Buhari is on record asking Northern Muslims not to vote for Christian candidates. He also claimed, in the most mischievous fashion, that Boko Haram is a Southern conspiracy against the North. These are not the tokens of a progressive politician. A progressive seeks to unite the country; not to divide it along primordial lines.
On his part, Buhari’s partner, Bola Tinubu, is anything but progressive. There is nothing progressive about a man who chooses ACN candidates capriciously in his bedroom, installs his wife as Senator for Lagos State, and foists his daughter on hapless market-women as the Iyaloja of Lagos State. The biggest indictment of Tinubu as a non-progressive is the difference between what he achieved as two-term Lagos State governor and what his successor Babatunde Fashola has achieved. Undoubtedly, Fashola has put Tinubu’s record to shame.
APC is not an anti-corruption party. On the contrary, it is an all-comers’ party that welcomes thieves and crooks, including those of the PDP, into its ranks. As head-of-state, APC leader Buhari built a palatial guest-house in his home-town of Daura with public funds. He had no qualms serving a corrupt Abacha regime as chairman of the juiciest portfolio of all; the Petroleum Trust Fund. That became a citadel of corruption for Buhari’s subordinates. Worse still, over 90% of PTF activities were concentrated in the North.
APC’s definition of “progressive” is one where it is, to all intents and purposes, a Muslim party.
Neither can APC leader, Tinubu, be said to be an apostle of anti-corruption. Former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu described him to the National Assembly in September 2006 as a looter of public funds of “international dimension.” The same Ribadu later became Tinubu’s ACN presidential candidate. Tinubu was investigated for operating illegally nothing less than 16 foreign bank accounts while serving as Lagos State governor. His Alpha Beta consulting company has cornered multiple billion-dollar contracts in Lagos State. It even gets a commission on all revenue collected in the state.
The partners in the APC alliance are hostages of their past. At their marriage ceremony, they declared their resolve: “to form a political party committed to the principles of internal democracy.” However, only the gullible and those suffering from amnesia will believe this.
ACN is unapologetically anti-democratic. Its leader, Bola Tinubu, describes his politics as “Godfatherism,” claiming: “(this is) why Christians refer to God as their father.” Tinubu’s “Godfatherism” is anathema to democratic principles. It gave him the latitude to impose Ribadu as ACN presidential candidate in 2011, and then ditch him at the last moment through back-room deals.
Bisi Akande has been the party chairman of the ACN “forever.” The same goes for party spokesman, Lai Mohammed. The ACN avoids national conventions like the plague. Primaries are not held to determine its candidates for elective offices. They are selected, as opposed to elected, and then imposed on the party. Indeed, in a moment of exuberance, Akande declared that democracy has no place in the internal arrangements of the ACN. Hear him: “Anyone that is not comfortable with that should go and contest in another political party.” Why should anyone now believe that these same dictators have suddenly turned democratic, simply because it is now convenient for them to sing a different tune?
Similarly, Buhari’s democratic credentials are non-existent. As self-imposed Head of State, Buhari had no regard for human rights. Immediately he seized power, he announced that he would “tamper with” the press. Soon, the infamous Decree Number 4 was promulgated which made even the publication of the truth a punishable offence. Under this cover, Buhari jailed innocent journalists, including Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabo. He abolished civil liberties, promulgated retroactive decrees enabling him to kill Nigerians through jungle justice, proscribed civil society organizations and professional groups and exercised “absolute” power illegally.
APC leaders burnished their “progressive” credentials by threatening to throw the entire country into chaos if INEC did not register their party. Once registered, they proclaimed their unique definition of progressive by calling on their members in the national assembly to block the passage of the 2014 national budget. Presumably, this would have really made Nigeria progress even faster. The party made the grandiloquent promise to: “offer our beleaguered people a recipe for peace and prosperity.” However, their jaundiced way of achieving this was by undermining the nation’s security by asking that new service chiefs should not be confirmed in the Senate.
Buhari’s strange recipe for promoting national peace and prosperity is by ensuring that: “the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood” if APC loses the 2015 election. That would really be progressive. When he lost in 2011, his “progressive supporters” went on a rampage, looting and killing. Today, this APC party of peace and prosperity cannot seem to conduct simple ward congresses without violence. In Ondo State, one Bosun Adegorola was shot dead and 15 others seriously injured during the APC ward congresses in the state. In Ogun State, two separate APC factions held parallel congresses, leading to two different executives in all the wards in the state.
The APC is a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode. It has imported the trouble-makers of the PDP into its ranks, and they have promptly become trouble-makers in the APC. They are now engaged in a battle for supremacy with the older APC members. In Kwara State, for example, older members of the APC are engaged in guerrilla warfare with PDP defector Bukola Saraki. In Kano State, daggers were drawn between former Governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, and PDP defector, Musa Kwankwaso. The upshot of this was the defection of Shekarau to the PDP.
These fights in APC ranks are duplicated right across the country. Almost everywhere, the APC is engulfed in brush-fires as these so-called progressives are engaged in a free-for-all. Of course, the biggest of these ridiculously progressive fights is yet to come. When it is time to choose its presidential and gubernatorial candidates, this coalition of strange bedfellows can be expected to implode.
Nigeria is a secular state. The polity maintains a delicate balance between Christians, predominantly in the South; and Moslems, predominantly in the North. This has led to the convention whereby if the president of Nigeria is Christian, the vice-president is Muslim; and vice-versa. The formation of political parties on religious lines is proscribed in Nigeria. Nevertheless, APC’s definition of “progressive” is one where it is, to all intents and purposes, a Muslim party.
All the “timber and caliber” of the APC, occupying the key positions of the party, are Muslims. Muhammadu Buhari, the party’s leader from the North, is Muslim. So is Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the party leader from the South. Bisi Akande, the National Chairman is Muslim. Aminu Bello Masari, the Deputy National Chairman, is Muslim. Tijani Musa Tumsah, the National Secretary, is Muslim. Nasir el-Rufai, the Deputy National Secretary, is Muslim. Lai Mohammed, the National Publicity Secretary, is Muslim. Sadiya Umar Faruq, the National Treasurer, is Muslim. Shaibu Musa, the National Financial Secretary, is Muslim. Abubakar Ledo, the National Youth Leader, is Muslim. Muiz Banire, the National Legal Adviser, is Muslim. Bala Jubrin, the Deputy National Auditor, is Muslim. Sharia Ikeazor, the National Women Leader, is Muslim.
In the multi-ethnic, multi-religion Nigeria of today, there is nothing progressive about this. As a matter of fact, it is downright retrogressive. There is no single Christian holding a national office in the APC. Christians are relegated to the zonal offices. For example, Tom Ikimi is the National Vice-Chairman, South-South; while Otumba Niyi Adebayo is National Vice-Chairman, South-West.
When Buhari conducted his “progressive coup d’état” in 1983, overthrowing an elected democratic government to become head of state, his deputy, Tunde Idiagbon was also a Muslim. Worse still, both of them were Fulani given the fact that Idiagbon’s mother was Fulani. This fake progressive agenda is yet again in the offing. The party is testing the water and is already in crisis because of the determination to field Buhari as presidential candidate and Tinubu as vice-presidential candidate.
This kite of a Muslim/Muslim ticket will not fly in the Nigeria of today. People argue that it worked in 1993, when a Muslim/Muslim Abiola/Kingibe ticket prevailed. However, 2015 is not 1993 and Buhari is not Abiola. Abiola was educated in Christian schools and he endeared himself to virtually all strands of Nigerian society with his generosity. Buhari, on the other hand, is known to be a narrow-minded Muslim who is essentially a Northern champion. That credential cannot suddenly disappear now that it has become imperative for him to seek Christian and Southern votes in the quest for political power.
The mere notion of a Muslim/Muslim ticket is already tearing the makeshift fabric of the APC apart. Should the party remain bullish in this regard, the Christian hewers of wood and drawers of water within its ranks can be expected to declare: “To your tents O Israel!” Already, turncoats like Femi Fani-Kayode are already making plans to ditch the new-fangled party over this very issue.
Femi Aribisala is a pastor and popular social commentator. He wrote this piece for Vanguard Newspapers.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.