SUNDAY NARRATIVE: APC’s Game Of Shanchi
IN my mind, nothing captures the ongoing power game in the All Progressives Congress (APC), like the Game of Death narrated by Cyprian Ekwensi in one of his small storybooks, Passport of Malam Illia. Illia, the central character, needed to take a beautiful wife, Zara, but to do that, he had to eliminate 11 other contenders. Locked in a dark room, they sawed and chiseled at one another with sharp swords.
Illia, the last man standing, won the prize, but he was naïve enough not to deal a fatal blow to his last contender, Mallam Usman, described as being an “enormous man, big jawed and long-toothed.” Though, he won the prize, Illia did not have the peace of mind to enjoy his prize. Usman ensured that he destroyed what he could not get. It became a long, hot chase until Illia avenged himself. Shanchi means fight to death.
The APC situation may not conjure the vividness of the excerpt captured above, but the two are quite close. There is prize to win and you must win and keep it firmly. If you leave your flanks open, the enemy will come at you, not to massage you, but to destroy you. In the other case, it was a beautiful woman, but this time we are talking realpolitik. A good number of Senators have travelled this way; they came, saw, but didn’t last.
Two weeks ago, while I looked at 100 days of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, my take on the performance of their majority led National Assembly was that, that arm was yet to settle down to work. Specifically, I said they had spent more time on recess, because the seat of the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki was still too hot to settle in.
And I used the analogy of receivers of stolen goods, who are always unsteady and looking behind their shoulders, to illustrate the situation in the Senate. And I said it was so because the original owners of the stolen items are on the prowl to recover them.
It is no longer news that Saraki and his group played a fast one on his party, when he conspired with fellow senators of the PDP camp to distort what appeared to be the mainstream agenda of the APC to select the leadership of the NASS. Before the inauguration of the National Assembly on June 9, different camps within APC showed interest in fielding members for NASS leadership positions.
The party felt it could intervene and narrow the contest in order to reduce tension and rancor. It managed to narrow the interests to two, between Saraki and Ahmed Lawal, after George Akume had agreed to step down. The party wanted to further narrow it to just one, but that did not go down well with Saraki, who felt he had mustered enough energy to pull the required numbers when it gets down to voting.
In Saraki’s absence, the party carried out a mock primary to shortlist contestants for both arms of the NASS. It was the same defiance in the Lower House, where Yakubu Dogara (now Speaker) and his group refused to be cowed by the same powerful interests from the Southwest to surrender his ambition.
That was the setting prior to June 9, when the NASS was to be convoked. The APC was a divided house; 51 APC Senators were apparently tricked to attend an event at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, in the morning hours they were supposed to be at their inauguration.
Again, Saraki, employed uncommon wiles to smuggle his way into the NASS, to join 49 or so PDP Senators, to enact an inauguration, the kind that was never seen before anywhere. He beat others to their game, but went so far to bargain away the number two seat to the PDP. Today, as Saraki is the number one man in the Senate, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu is of the PDP. To some in his party, if they could manage to accommodate him, having the PDP occupy the number two seat is a haram. Those who do not want Saraki on that seat, the Lawan group, ably supported by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s camp of the APC have promised to work very hard until the man is dethroned.
What happened last Wednesday is the typical African folktale; the witch cried last night and the baby died in the morning. The Code of Conduct Tribunal has slammed a 13-count charge against Saraki, bordering on anticipated declaration of assets, refusal to declare some assets and living beyond his means as governor, way back to 2003. You do not need to be clairvoyant to know that those who are against Saraki are legion; and they mean real business. They want to smoke him out of the hole and take him hostage.
The propriety of the style being employed to hound Saraki is what is a little curious here, not the charge sheet from CCT. It is barefaced and the desperation is even more profound. For a government that has less than 10 working days (September ending) to send a list of ministerial nominees for final clearance by the Senate, where Bukola Saraki still presides, the feeling is whether this government really wants to move the country forward. Perhaps, the plot is to battle the Senate President at the CCT on one hand, while similar efforts are intensified in the NASS to destabilise and have him surrender power?
Why have Saraki’s opponents decided to go through the Code of Conduct Bureau and its tribunal to get at his jugular? These two institutions take directives from the Ministry of Justice and office of the Attorney General of the Federation. As we speak, there is no minister in that ministry, apart from the Permanent Secretary, who takes orders from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Could Buhari be the one stoking the fires, after he had told Nigerians that he was not interested in who occupies whatever office; that he could work with anybody? Could it be the APC faction that lost out in the contest for seats in the NASS that is behind all these? Whoever is working so tirelessly behind the masquerade, there ought to be better ways to show seriousness, on the part of a government that proclaims change. Nigerians were shocked initially, when Saraki and his group ‘stole’ power, but majority has since attuned to that reality.
Nigerians want the slow APC government to enjoy relative stability, gain traction and move the country forward. It has been said that the party is far from being good enough, but the process of fine-tuning has to be ongoing. Forcing Saraki out of the way by hook or crook will not make the APC perfect overnight.
Another round of battle in the NASS cannot do Nigeria any good. An unstable NASS will mean an unstable polity, which profits no one, except President Buhari, whose preference for sole proprietorship has become legendary. The man has again confessed, last week, of his phobia for teamwork, in his latest volley that civil servants do the work, while ministers make all the noise. In other words, the Senate can remain unstable for as along as it deems. And that will be perfect excuse why Buhari cannot have a FEC this September.
During the campaigns, Buhari told Nigerians that his anti-corruption war would draw a line between ‘old’ corruption and the ones after he must have assumed office. Being a beneficiary of campaign funds that were not appropriated in the budgets, Buhari knew what it meant to go wild on the war; it could be hydra-headed.
But no sooner had he been inaugurated than the story changed for him and his party. They then want to peg their anti-corruption fight within former president Jonathan’s years in office. Now, they have gone way back to Saraki’s 2003 assets declaration. No stress.
But let Buhari and his handlers know that he cannot probe Saraki’s acquisitions between 2003 and 2011, without first going after the Implementation Committee on Federal Government Landed Properties, which may have transacted some business with Saraki and his companies during the tenure of Olusegun Obasanjo.
The late MKO said you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence. You cannot fight corruption without tackling the fundamentals that make it so easy for a sitting governor or president to have so much access to cash, hundreds and hundreds of millions.
Fighting corruption in a highly infested environment like Nigeria is just like participating in a Shanchi game, we are eager to see the last man standing.