Buhari, protests and the prospects of APC

President Muhammadu Buhari. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO.

Reminiscent of the days late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha held sway in Nigeria, protests by different groups across the country, are gradually becoming the order of the day.

Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA), led by Daniel Kanu, overnight sprang from nowhere; the nation was thus introduced to the era of million-man march, orchestrated and encouraged by the military junta. At the same time, the imperious regime did everything it could to scuttle protests by the opposition voices like the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).

The protest march considered then to be the largest gathering in the history of Nigeria was in support of the military Head State, Gen. Sani Abacha against the wishes of majority of the people who were under the worst kind of siege ever. Lives were snuffed of by unknown gunmen; bombs exploded randomly across the country taking its wake lives. There was no end.

Then suddenly Abacha died and the country erupted in jubilation and celebration; spontaneously as if programmed, Nigerians in one voice heaved a sigh of relief. The celebrations were not for the death of a man but for the end of the stranglehold and suffering that they were made to pass through by the regime.

Buhari’s current vacation cum medical timeout in London was all that was needed. Precipitously and spontaneously Nigerians were reawakened to their rights to protests against the ills of the society and the wrongs going on around them.

The grumblings spread across the entire geo-political zones of the country. Everywhere is charged and primed for not just protest but also to explode.

Impunity, injustice, selective fight against corruption, marginalisation, disobedience of court orders, lopsidedness in appointments, have been adduced for the growing tension and frustrations in the land.

Protesters hold placards and banners during anti-government demonstration in Lagos, on February 6, 2017.<br />Dozens of people march on February 6, 2017, to protest against the prevailing economic hardship, high cost of living and government handling of economic crisis in the country. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Of note is the almost refusal of the presidency to send Justice Onoghen’s name, the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court who incidentally hails from the South South, to the Senate for confirmation as the Chief Justice of the Federation; the only opportunity the zone has had in 30 years and which development threatened the seamless transition at the apex court in over 50 years.

The South South, which has hardly been united on a course in recent time, for once rose in unity to speak with one voice demanding that the President must send Onoghen’s name to the Senate.

This condition has given more verve for activism in the country: #IStandWithNigeria; #OneVoiceNigeria; and even Save Nigeria Group (SNG) has found back its voice, along side the existing ones like The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), militancy in the Niger Delta, insurgency in the North East, Fulani herdsman menace, ethno-religious crisis in Kaduna, kidnapping among others.

And like the Abacha regime, the Federal Government has been deploying all means to thwart any organised protests against it. But in spite of the withdrawal of the decision of star musician, Mr. Tony Idibia aka Tuface, to back out, the nationwide protest took place as planned.

One of the founders of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili criticised the Federal Government for the measures taken to suppress Nigerians from pretesting.

Taking to her Twitter handle, @Obyezeks, she called on President Muhammadu Buhari to let Nigerians have the freedom to cry out their pains.

The former minister for Education urged the President and the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to listen to the people, empathize with them and rethink and rejig policies to ameliorate the sufferings of the people.

She said: “When the people of your land cry out in pain saying ‘lighten our yoke,’ you listen not repress … Ask God for wisdom to give them a good answer.”

For the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, protests would not solve the problems of the country; rather he appealed for understanding.

Typical of the blame game of the ruling party, Tinubu contended that the damage of the last 16 years couldn’t be repaired “overnight.”

The APC chieftain, who has at least two times, carped the government’s economic policies for the untold hardship brought upon the citizens, admitted that everyone is suffering and a victim.

According to him, the APC government is a product of protest with himself being in the forefront, but stressed that: “there is a leadership in the land, and you have to live with that for now. Protest won’t solve the problem, will it? Re-planning; being responsive; being able to engage the people so that we will see what the challenges are is the solution.

“We are not denying the fact that Nigerians are suffering and have the right to protest, but party and economy must be returned to shape. We are two years into the administration. To make those changes effectively and positively eventually, we have to be patient; we have to have the hope.”

“We sold APC to you, please hang on to it. There is nothing more effective that can drive you than hope and belief.”

However, not many are taking his counsel seriously because of the extent of deterioration in the living standard of Nigerians and the fact Tinubu himself has publicly expressed his frustrations over the economy.

“He has to play the role of a leader and stabilizer hence the manner he is talking. We know he has been sidelined and that he is doing everything possible now to get the South West back as one united front so that the zone can become forceful and useful electorally, ahead of the 2019 presidential poll,” a stalwart of APC in the zone claimed.

The source asserted that some of the machineries, which propelled the revolt and protests against the erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration that eventually saw to the ousting of the PDP, have resurfaced, with virtually every segment of the society complaining.

The agitations and protests are geared towards a greater or rather a better Nigeria for all irrespective of class, ethnic background, religion or political leanings. They are the offshoot of failure of governance to meet their basic needs and the absence of a virile opposition party to call the government to order.

At the defeat of PDP, there was general hope built around APC. This hope was built on the premise of lofty ideals and promises of grandeur country for the people. But 18 months down the line, Nigerians are frustrated and their hope is forlorn.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar

The hope of reviving a vibrant opposition party in the country ahead of the 2019 general elections is getting dimmer with the PDP falling deeper into crisis; activist and other voices being blackmailed into retreat by the regime.

A weakened PDP means complete absence of opposition in Nigeria’s democracy, as no other party in the line-up possesses the muscle to benchmark the ruling APC. Nigerians appears stuck with the APC in the 2019 elections not necessarily on the basis of the sterling performance of the ruling party but for lack of choice.

Having cowed the opposition, they may not have any one to oppose them since they have all gone into APC; and the grumbling and fighting is now from within. The implosion that will follow may be cataclysmic.

The ruling party itself is battling to regain its previous form and charm. The foundation upon which the APC was formed in the first instance is their bane. The key actors and the stakeholders are holding on to their different taproot. The offshoot is floating.

The contest is within the APC. The CPC is still cohesive; Legacy group appears intact while the New PDP is presently in a romance dance with CPC pending the shape of development at the trial of its leader and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

Nonetheless, the in-fighting between the Legacy group and the CPC is going to be fiercer as 2019 draws nearer.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubarkar and Tinubu are united by a common goal – how to outsmart the CPC especially the cabal holding people hostage in the presidency and ‘install’ their own.

If they join forces, they would succeed given the enormous resources at their disposal, the structures in place, their goodwill as well as their tact and intelligence in the political terrain.

The question however is how they hope to sort themselves out over the presidency. As one APC member argued, “when they get to that bridge they will definitely part ways because it has been their ambition.”

It is argued that the harder the Buhari’s administration tries to resolve the challenges before the country, the more the problems manifest and the harsher the conditions for Nigerians deeper.

Bola Tinubu

“Mr. Buhari thought he could solve the problems of Nigeria but unfortunately he has since discovered that he could not. My advise to him and the APC is for them to have a rethink over the recommendations of the 2014 national Conference where great ideas and solutions on how to resolve the crisis facing Nigeria were recommended,” Dr. Eddy Olafeso, national vice chairman of PDP South West, stated.

On the illness of the president, the national vice-chairman said it is unfair to wish Buhari death. “I wish him very quick recovery because it is to no body’s advantage if Buhari dies now.

Indeed it would not be in the interest of the North for the President to die given the consequences of the loss of the presidency to the South a second time after late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua incident.

Besides, there are fears of security backlash akin to the security problem that followed the defeat of Buhari in the 2011 presidential elections. This perhaps may have informed the call for prayers over the health of the President, by many people across political, religious and ethnic divides.

Atiku for instance, charged Nigerians of all faiths to pray for Buhari for quick recovery and safe return to steer the country to her next level of greatness.

“Each of us go through times when we are not feeling in top form, we deserve the care and support of one another in trying times. The last thing we need in those times is mockery or ill will,” he said.

In addition, he pleaded with Nigerians to desist from rumour mongering, stressing instead that such energy should be channeled into beseeching God to strengthen Buhari and the first family.

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