Wishing a storm away
TWENTY-NINETEEN: the next destination, but only a sojourn in Nigeria’s long journey to democracy. And if we thought 2015 was the biggest hurdle in our path, we are indeed faced with the necessity of thinking again. For the political terrain is still or even more fraught with clear signs of greater tremors than we ever experienced. Twenty-fifteen was seen as the litmus test. An incumbent African president against a coalition of political interests strong enough to unseat him was a balance that portended danger that threatened the survival of Nigeria as a nation . America danger was so convinced by the danger signs that a State Department document predicted that year as make or mar for Nigeria. All that is gone. The unlikely contest did hold, the opposition did win and the African incumbent did concede in what is still globally considered as a very rare turn of events. But Nigeria’s political scene has not been stabilized by the events of 2015. The coalition that produced them in its formation into the All Progressives Congress (APC) is the same reason that a greater storm is forming for Nigeria’s body politik.
Early in the day, signs of a tempest were clear in the APC. As soon as coalition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in, the term “legacy parties” began to gain currency in the ranks of the ruling party, referring to the initial groups that formed the APC, excluding those, who joined later and decidedly titled the fortunes of the APC for electoral victory. Five sitting governors were in the latter group, along with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a former Vice President. A pecking order soon emerged, by which political and governmental positions were allocated to stakeholders. It was an arrangement that accorded first priority to the legacy parties at the expense of everyone else, especially the high calibre defectors from the ruling PDP, known as new PDP. The first test for and implication of this rationale came with the “hostilities” of the election of the leadership of the National Assembly, in which the “legacy” group sought to take the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives. They already had taken the Presidency, party chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. All assumptions that nPDP were underdogs were rudely proved wrong when they seized the leadership of the legislature by the same shear political savvy that enabled them to break the back of the PDP to set APC up for victory. But that was to be the declaration of hostilities that have persisted between the two groups till today, a few months to the next general elections of 2019. As the next polls approach, assumptions tend to still be the only currency of the political exchange, especially among the legacy parties and their support base; chiefly the same old expectation that the incumbent cannot lose, even though the disprove of that, coming as recently as four years ago, should be fresh in mind; even though the ills that weakened PDP and finally nailed its coffin in 2015 show clear symptoms in the APC.
Alienation of certain groups in the party and resultant resentment, the expression of which is being suppressed without tact, recalls the situation in PDP before 2015. The walling up of the President and leader of the party from members with genuine grievances and treating them as “enemies” is a familiar posture with familiar consequences. The Senate President is being hounded by the IG of Police with the most unlikely charge of aiding and abetting armed robbery, after three years of a futile agenda to rope him in a Code of conduct crime. A couple of senators face the same ordeal ostensibly because they dared to challenge at plenary, what is considered to be the interest of the President. Supreme Court judges experienced break ins into their residences by security agents on suspicion of financial crimes that have failed to stand in court. Nigeria has virtually turned into a police state. While all this is happening, the assumption that the President is still as popular as he was when he was a candidate and the attitude, recently expressed by his spokesman on national TV that “Nigeria needs him more than he needs Nigeria”, indicates the self-conceit that saw to the fall of PDP. So also is insisting that in spite of their worsening economic condition, Nigerians are still loyal to the President and his party. In the height of his popularity in the North, his strong base, the electorate had to be practically mobilized to go to the polling booths and cast their votes for the President. That field work was done by the very people that are currently in dispute with APC. These dissenting parties are still as strong and influential as they were in 2015 and those electorate have not changed their attitude to elections. In the North, the real “masses” still have to be galvanized to practicalise their loyalty and support.
It is obvious however that the president and his party are identifying and cultivating more “enemies” than friends as 2019 rushes on, relying more on support that is declared by disgruntled and politically irrelevant elements across the country or those who fear prosecution by the Federal Government. To many of his supporters, the President is a mere payback weapon or scarecrow against political foes.Then, the storm rises as the new nPDP leaves the APC, rejoins PDP, in the process, tilting the balance to confer on the President, the “honor” of setting his second record. For the first time ever in Nigeria, the ruling party is the minority in the Senate. The first rare feat is the opposition, not the ruling party, producing the Deputy Senate President. It seems though, that the president is not as desperate to succeed himself, as certain elements around him are.
For some, especially the small and exclusive group close to the president, his return guarantees an extended license to fester their nests and a postponement of the evil day that their transgressions catch up with them. Certainly, whoever thinks the current war on corruption is stern, should wait till the opposition takes over. Whether the opposition now gathering storm will achieve the feat of 2015 will be seen sooner than the days on the calendar. But to perceptive and analytic Nigerians, the storm is rising in the political horizon and it is becoming clear on whom the rain will fall.
- Shekara is Director General, Media and Public Affairs to the Sokoto State governor