NASS leadership, litmus test for APC

apc-imo-campaignTHE most critical factors that worked against the erstwhile ruling party outside the armpit of corruption, insecurity and economic mis-direction are impunity and flamboyant disregard for internal democracy which peaked with President Jonathan’s endorsement of the Jang 16 governors’ NGF over the 19 governors of Ameachi’s.

That was the height of PDP’s impunity. It was this same impunity that led to seven serving Governors walking out of the Party’s mini convention in Abuja and the eventual evolution of the nPDP. 

Nigerians watched how leaders and members of the All Progressives Congress made party to become the choice of Nigerians and at the end of the election, that aspiration, which in a way represented the aspiration of Nigerians for a better Nigeria, became fulfilled with the overwhelming success the APC recorded in all the elections between March and April, 2015.

The outcome of that election remains a watershed in the political history of Nigeria and has become a veritable reference point not only for our compatriots on the African continent, but also our friends and supporters on the global stage.

One would not want that epochal victory to be rubbished so soon by the emerging scenario in the politics of determining the next choice of leadership in the National Assembly which the goddess of politics has placed on the laps of the APC.

Without mincing words, the scenario is troubling and one sees in it, and one would want to believe that respected leaders of the party are sensing it too, a dimension that threatens to negate the core principles that had so endeared APC to the generality of Nigerians.

One has confidence in the ability of the party’s leadership to swim through this turbulent tide, just as it swam against the ocean of expectations that it would disintegrate before the presidential primaries or before the general elections.

But APC leaders should look more dispassionately at the intrigues playing out in the tussle for the leadership of the 8th National Assembly.  

We have candidates forming alliances outside the party and the floor of the assembly. How the APC leadership allows these alliances, which is healthy for our democracy, determines how the party is prepared for the challenges ahead, many of which are expected under democracy.  

By the best international practice, the party leadership is expected to make suggestions on whom it expects should get the slot but at the end of the day, the eventual choice should be determined by the lawmakers themselves who have rules and regulations guiding their activities and who, upon entering the hallowed chamber of the assembly, cease to be members of any political party but representatives of the voices and aspirations of the larger Nigerian political landscape. 

The future of Nigeria, the future of our democracy and the future of the APC, I dare say, depends on how much of this independence the party lawmakers are allowed to exercise. The party can no longer hide behind a finger that it is oblivious of desperation by some of its perceived leaders to foist their anointed candidates against the wishes of others. This emerging scenario threatens the very foundation of the APC. 

Glad enough, President Muhammad Buhari, who himself emerged through a transparent process of internal democracy of the party, has unequivocally distanced himself from insinuation of preference for a particular candidate. But the President must further put down his feet that the right thing should be done and seen to be done.

This is one way to assure Nigerians that it is no longer business as usual so that he would not be guilty of conspiracy of silence.  

Therefore, to now suddenly introduce some new criteria, as we are being made to understand, is a great threat to the president’s integrity which was a major factor of success, rather than the Party’s. When it was decided that the presidential ticket should go to the north, the leadership of the party, even if they had preference for a particular candidate, did not show it and did not introduce conditions that would have disqualified any of the eligible aspirants then. Thus, they all filed to the primary election stage where all aspirants from the north, and even from other zones, were allowed to campaign and at the end of the day, the most preferred candidate, now Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, emerged, to the applause of other contestants and the joy of all Nigerians.

It was the failure to follow this path of honour and transparency that nailed the PDP. The APC campaign was against impunity and imposition, whereas the practice in PDP was to impose and teleguide the members. Nigerians saw the clear difference and stood behind APC in a manner unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria.  The question now is, should a party that has enjoyed such loyalty now do less than this in the current instance of electing the next level of leadership?

Nigerians are already asking, and I hope leaders of the party are listening, that how come they want to introduce new rules in the middle of a competition, when they are not PDP.

Isn’t fair competition one of the core principles and the beauty of democracy?  Are rules not set out before the start of a game? And in this instance, are there no rules within the Assembly norms to determine how this particular game is played out? Must this party allow the desire of some of its self-acclaimed leaders to soil the image and acceptance of a party they laboured to build in the eyes of the Nigerian public?

These purported conditions would have been more apt if they were applied to those who are already in office; to wit that any of the party’s members who is accused of a crime should first step down from that office and allow for investigation to either clear or convict him before deciding what to do again. That is the international practice.

May we tell the APC that we voted for them to get power and we are watching how they are using that power? If they fail to handle this matter with the impartiality it deserves, it may drown their reputation and cause the party to lose the political capital it has only started to employ for the wellbeing of Nigerians. It will be hard to convince us to forgive such a grave error traceable to the unbridled desires of some people within the party.

Pray it doesn’t come to that point; yet the only path to avoid the errors and misfortune of the PDP is to steer clear of impunity and imposition in whatever guise. APC lawmakers are too important to be toyed with.

The process leading to emergence of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly will definitely determine the years APC will remain standing. 

• Aremu wrote from Ibadan.

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