APC in uneasy times with conflicts within and without
What seems the case is that the dominant political dispensation in the South West, that is members of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) will be watching with keener interest, every move of Northern politicians in the party. Both South West and the North are the dominant geo-political groups in the APC.
The party plunged into heavy weather of prolonged crisis after names chosen by leaders and put up to be elected as principal officers for the Assembly were outplayed at the June 9th inaugural plenary of the bicameral Assembly.
Instead of Ahmad Lawan, Bukola Saraki was returned as Senate President, while Yakubu Dogara emerged Speaker of the House of Representatives, overcoming the APC –approved nominee, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The APC also collected an unexpected punch from the PDP. To outwit his official opponent, Saraki was elected with the backing of PDP’s 49 senators and his nine APC supporters.
This also led to the election of Ike Ekweremadu Deputy Senate President. And APC South West caucus plus those of the North with which they had formed a working bloc in the party had rued for nearly two months, calling for the Deputy Senate’s resignation and bickering over subversion of the bloc intent on the floor of the Assembly.
The President probably understands that in a presidential democracy, terms such as party supremacy, ruling party, governing party, party-in-power, largest party and so on, being parliamentary in nature could only be used loosely for the country’s political parties. The APC seems bent on aping the PDP, which tagged itself “largest party in Africa of the Sahara.” The APC has 22 governors to PDP 14. Occupying the Federal Government, it however cannot dictate to state governments. In the Senate, the APC has a lean majority of 59 to PDP 49. The Senate fought for its independence by voting their choice, instead of imposed candidate.
The call for Ekweredadu’s resignation is futile, as long as his zone, South East, supports him, and would not recall him, which is why moves that would warrant nothing short of impeachment, again on the floor of the Senate, would be what can be used to send him out. That is unlikely, at least for now. Complaints are before the courts.
The police have been dragged in over alleged manipulation of the rules of the Senate used for the election. But given the tendencies prevailing in the APC, and the inherent workings of the Senate, ever protective of its image as the upper arm of the legislature, most of these may fizzle out in the long run.
Besides, in what appears a concession intended to calm frayed nerves and placate the South West caucus and its Northern supporters, Dogara made a u-turn at last Tuesday plenary of the House and returned Gbajabiamila as Majority leader.
Dogara had shined through the crisis with intelligence and tenacity, emerging, as a Speaker deserving of leadership of the Reps. It is not the same for Saraki, who seems a marked man.
The last has not been heard of intrigues in the Senate, and the Senate President has to play smart to survive. Nevertheless, President Muhammadu Buhari can work with this Legislature even with Ekweremadu.
The APC missed it on the day of inauguration. The party had won. It should have been on the floor of the Senate to claim their victory, and not be outside it while leadership of the Upper Chamber was being contested on a day and at the time of the contest.
The American Senate President is not as at now, a member of the majority party but the minority, although he can only vote if there is a tie to break it.
Ekweremadu’s presence on the leadership hierarchy of the 8th Senate saves APC and Buhari the tricky question of managing a tripod nation without one of its main legs- a political breaker.
South West feelings “Most Northern elite, the Nigerian subsidy barons, and other business cartels, who never liked Buhari’s anti-corruption political stance, are quickly backing up the rebellion against APC with strong support.
While other position seekers are waiting in the wings, until Buhari’s ministers are announced, a large section of the South West sees the rebellion as a conspiracy of the North against the Yoruba.“
This statement, part of a release by Chief Bisi Akande in the heat of the crisis, published first by the social media, thereafter attracting much comments from individuals and groups, including the Northern elders’ platform, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), nevertheless reflects the main thinking in most South West political circles, and possibly much of Southern Nigeria.
However, while the older generation of Yoruba/Awoist extraction may still be bogged down “over the cunning way” the North plays politics, younger elements of the caucus seem to prefer to move on.
They appear now persuaded of the need to “join forces” at the national level. Thus, it took the blunt old man, Akande, who had governed his home State, Osun, and served both as chairman for the South West-based former ACN and interim National chairman of the APC, to say it publicly.
For this reason, a number of younger Yorubas are now rather viewed like “rebels” by their political mentors and godfathers. Given the sophistication of political behavior in the zone, how this plays out in future elections will be intriguing.
And that is why a balancing act of sorts, perhaps, the best way to describe Buhari’s role in resolving the crisis and general approach to politicking in the APC, was well founded.
Buhari, internal/external wrangling and good governance All through the crisis, the President, supported by national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun stood for peace, canvassing party supremacy. Such was his declared stand for Supremacy, that he seemed unaware that the National Assembly is an independent arm of government. He had virtually bulked his initial stance to allow the legislature a free hand and to work with whomsoever they chose as their officers.
The President probably understands that in a presidential democracy, terms such as party supremacy, ruling party, governing party, party-in-power, largest party and so on, being parliamentary in nature could only be used loosely for the country’s political parties. The APC seems bent on aping the PDP, which tagged itself “largest party in Africa of the Sahara.”
The APC has 22 governors to PDP 14. Occupying the Federal Government, it however cannot dictate to state governments. In the Senate, the APC has a lean majority of 59 to PDP 49. The Senate fought for its independence by voting their choice, instead of imposed candidate.
In the House, the party has a better working majority of 225 to PDP 125 with 10 for the fringe parties (Labour, APGA and Accord). The Reps also slugged it out, with Dogara overcoming Gbajabiamila narrowly with seven votes.
Buhari’s stance on party supremacy was simply calculated to secure peace within the party by ensuring that the interests of the South West caucus (read especially former Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu) are taken into consideration in order to carry the caucus along.
The President held meetings with the APC caucus in both the Senate and House during the nearly two- month bickering. It is significant that, Tinubu, chieftain, both in his South West base and at the National level visited the President at Aso villa last Tuesday, breaking his long silence over the Assembly “coup” by canvassing 100 days “honeymoon” for Buhari.
He had hardly left the Villa when events suddenly turned upbeat for both the legislature and the party, when Dogara made a u-turn to name Gbajabiamila Majority leader in support of the party position.
Crucially, it now seems doubtful if the promise of good governance by the Buhari administration is satisfactory to yearnings of the South West (the entire South included) without readiness to perform some restructuring of the federation.
The President’s “honeymoon” view expressed by Tinubu could even extend beyond 100 days in the opinions of much of the region, as long as the government gives clear indications that strategic decentralization of existing age-old institutions, agencies and practices, is taking place.
Delay seems likely unhelpful to the administration’s image and public regard as vehicle for change down south. The South West opinion of this, like most of the South remains opposed to that of the North.
The North (Buhari primary political base) responds to any effort at decentralization of federal powers from the centre as move to marginalize the region.
They had viewed any reference to restructuring as if it were a plague, affliction that would take away their rights of access to the national patrimony.
In turn, the South considers this tendency as parasitic; that the North, so used to drawing unearned privileges and opportunities at the federal government, would rather the status quo were perpetuated and the rest of the regions held down. This divide, may pose problems the administration tends to play down, while pursuing good and ethically sound governance.
The President, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and a number of state Governors of the APC, and even the PDP, have sought to set the tone of good governance by declaring assets and properties.
These are not being done publicly, making them lacking. There is even no evidence that these declarations will be repeated after their tenures, again compromising them.
They are cutting their salaries in percentages, actions that are merely populist, not impactful for the administration’s anti-corruption posture. The impact of State governors cut of their salaries would, for example, not go far.
They have legions of allowances they simply collect aside monthly pay. Neither their salaries nor allowances are taxed. When a Governor goes on local tour, even to his home community, he collects allowances. He collects allowances for foreign tours. Some even collect allowances for private foreign visits from their state coffers.
Most of the 36 state chief executive take away monthly pay is higher than the approvals of the Revenue Mobilization and fiscal Commission (RMFC) for the President on his directive. A governor often decides what he is paid; the state Assembly constituted principally by his stooges and side-kicks, chorusing their approval. This even includes their security vote.
Most state governments, especially Lagos State are active drivers of the tax process. The Lagos public had erupted in protests a number of times over the government tax drive. Some people in the state are said to resort to withdrawing their deposits from Banks these days in protest against the government 10 percent tax of interests on deposits.
As Nigerians await the Buhari government to start fully off, they are asking questions in the streets like, “After probing of corrupt people, what next?” “How much has the government so far realized from those APC leaders say are now returning stolen money based on anti-corruption crusade?” “Which of Buhari’s campaign promises will he deliver on?” “How will the government down-size ministries, departments and agencies without retrenching people?” “How is Buhari going to stop public officials from stealing government money?” “How will the country’s revenues collected centrally at Abuja be used for projects without officials stealing them?” “When will the National Assembly members cut down on their allowances?”
As at now, government remains the most profitable, if not the only lucrative business around. The privilege of untaxed and uncontrolled harvest of government goodies could never be checked by good governance or leadership by examples only. The fight to be elected into government or for government appointment would not be checked. The structure has to be tinkered with.