APC, wits’ end and an about-face?

APC’s leading members were so confident of the capability of the party to deliver on its ‘change’ promise that one of them said ‘stone us if we do not perform after two years.’ PHOTO: Reuters

When the All Progressives Congress’ National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdulahi was reported to say that ‘a manifesto is not  a four-year programme, hinting thereby that the implementation of the laudable APC manifesto  is  not time-bound, he made more than a little mockery of himself and his party. He asked Nigerians to ‘hold us (the party and its governments) at all levels accountable for every promise  contained in our manifesto  (but) we  only  urge  them to be fair (because) a manifesto is not  a four-year programme.’

Really? Of course, nobody can question long-term vision or plans but the only reason a party sells its plan or manifesto is to convince the electorate of what it would do within the time-frame allowed it by the law should it win office.

If this statement came from a low-level member of the APC, dismissing it as one of extreme ignorance of its import would be enough. But, from the spokesperson of the party, there is cause for concern because it puts in doubt the credibility of the ruling party. With two and a half years gone and not enough to show for its large promise of ‘change’, less charitable observation would be that the APC is preparing the mind of the electorate for the acceptance of a less than impressive first term.  Well, if Abdulahi’s statement was, indeed, the position of his party, let it be said directly that it is not acceptable to the Nigerian people. There can be no changing of the goal post in the middle of the game.

It is strange to hear a party, fully aware that the life cycle of an elected government is four years, as is the intendment of Sections 64(1) and 135(2) of the extant Constitution, put out such a statement. Of course, this term is renewable for any government but only upon good performance. It is therefore laughable that a party would offer to the voting populace policies and principles of action as would largely require more than  four years to fulfill. That would be seeking to win by subterfuge. Indeed, notwithstanding the widely held view that government is a continuum, it is also wisely recommended that every administration embarks on policies and projects that it can reasonably complete within its life.  That is one way to avoid disruptive policy changes and wasteful project variations or even outright abandonment that, altogether, shortchange public interest. It is reasonable therefore that a political party makes only such promises to the people as it can deliver in four year as it may not return to power after the first term.

A manifesto is the official, authoritative statement of the intention and plan of action of a political party. It is the social contract document by which the electorate can assess a party for electability at all, and if voted into power, for delivery on its promises. If, as the saying goes, a man is only as good as the promise he keeps, a party is also only as good as its manifesto fulfilled. To claim midway into the four years granted by the constitution that its manifesto ‘is not a four-year programme’ detracts from the credibility of APC.

Section 23 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria lists ‘integrity’ as one of the ethics of this nation. The core of integrity is credibility. APC did not raise this lacuna during its campaign across the length and breadth of this country. It did not tell the voters that its manifesto would require more than one term to fulfill. The party literally begged to be given an opportunity to prove its ‘change’ slogan.  Besides, many of its present top public officers made governance appear ‘a piece of cake’, so to speak.  Then governor of Lagos State and now minister of power, works, and housing said in July 2014 that the only way for Nigerians to have stable electricity is to vote out the sitting PDP government, adding that ‘a serious government will fix the power problem in six months.’  President Muhammadu Buhari once asked rhetorically: “Why do I need to go for foreign medical trip if we cannot make our hospital functional?”

A people tired of the poor governance and grave misdeeds of the then incumbent government gladly granted APC’s request but obviously on terms allowed by the constitution.  To turn round now to serve a not-enough-time-to-perform notice  simply lends  credence to  the  view that this party was  ill-prepared for  the job it so assiduously sought.

APC’s leading members were so confident of the capability of the party to deliver on its ‘change’ promise that one of them said ‘stone us if we do not perform after two years.’ Well, it is now more than two and a half years in government and the APC government is yet to convincingly walk its talk.

Happenings within the party strongly indicate that APC is merely a special purpose vehicle cobbled together to win power and to advance personal or narrow sectional interests. Pray, what and where is the ideological soul of this party? What specifically are its pan-Nigerian fundamental and irreducible minimum core values?

Very much like in the party it has replaced in power, the ruling party has been at war with itself as APC’s leadership has failed to resolve intractable discord between the executive and the legislative arms of its own government.

APC’s public officials swore to discharge their respective duties ‘to the best of… ability, faithfully, and in accordance with the Constitution.’ Numerous examples abound of violations of this sacred commitment by its government functionaries at various levels of government. Section 17 (3) (b) stipulates that ‘the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that conditions of work are just and humane…’ However, workers under APC governments are inhumanely denied their just wages for anything from two to 11 months, again, in breach of the spirit of the constitution.

APC, at campaign time, was long on promises as contained in both the aims and objectives in its constitution and the promises in its manifesto. It committed itself, among many others things, to ‘promote true federalism in the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, to ‘institutionalise, maintain, and foster representative democracy, discipline and strict observance of Rule of Law in the Federation of Nigeria.’

In its wide-ranging manifesto, APC promised the Nigerian people it would, if voted into office, ‘initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit’; ‘begin widespread consultations to amend the Constitution to enable States and Local Governments to employ State and Community Police to address the peculiar needs of each community’; ‘ensure full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act so that government-held data sets can be requested and used by the media and the public at large, and then published on regular basis’.  Sadly, not the APC and its government have been anything but committed to the re-birth of Nigeria. Only last week, the Senate, which the party controls, threw out all plans for restructuring the polity and making Nigeria a functional federation.

The party pledged to ‘bring permanent peace and solution to the Niger Delta and other conflict-prone areas such as Plateau, Taraba, Bauchi, Borno and Abia in order to engender national unity and social harmony;’ to ‘create additional middle-class of at least 2 million new home owners in our first year in government and one million annually thereafter’; ‘to ‘generate, transmit and distribute from current 5,000 – 6,000 MW to at least 20,000 MW of electricity within four years and increasing to 50,000 MW with a view to achieving 24/7 uninterrupted power supply within ten years, whilst simultaneously ensuring development of sustainable/renewable energy’; and to ‘embark on a National Infrastructural Development Programme as a Public/Private Partnership that will ensure the (a) construction of 3,000km of superhighway including service trunks and (b) building of up to 4,800km of modern railway lines – one third to be completed by 2019.’ How much of these has been done is there for all to see!

The party promised to ‘increase the quality of all Federal Government-owned hospitals to world class standard within five years; ensure timely payment of retirement benefits for all pensioned senior citizens…’ ‘target up to 15 per cent of our annual budget for this critical education sector whilst making substantial investments in training quality teachers at all levels of the educational system;’ and ‘enhance teacher training and improve the competence of teachers.’

These are just some of the items in a long list of promises. How well APC is performing is there for all to see. But long-suffering Nigerians are still waiting for reasons to believe change has come to Nigeria.

Carried over from the unhappy days of PDP-led government, teachers remain some of the poorly treated professionals under the APC governments at all levels. Retirees bent with age still die on queues awaiting accreditation to prove they once served their country and retired honourably.

In the area of security, kidnappers, robbers, herdsmen now have a field day in those parts of the country not harassed by Boko Haram insurgents, in spite of the best efforts of the security agencies.

Now, it is good that a major opposition party has achieved a settlement of its internal discord albeit by judicial order instead of a mature give-and-take political resolution from within. It can only be hoped therefore, that the opposition would present more robust, focused and patriotic challenge to keep the APC on its toes.

Suffice to say that Nigerians should be told in clear terms that the party has reached its wits’ end should not seek to justify a dubious attempt at an about-turn. The APC as well as its governments at the three tiers, must deliver on their promises or earn their condign reward at the next election.

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