APC and the Courage for Change By Segun Ayobolu

A department of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reportedly attempted to delay the registration of the newly formed APC. Ultimately, good sense, courage and Professor Attahiru Jega’s integrity prevailed and the APC became a legal and political reality. I therefore reproduce below a piece published in this column on June 22, 2013

Look at the books which I have written, the lectures which I have given, and the many speeches and statements which I have made. You will find that there is no problem confronting or about to confront Nigeria to which I have not given thought and for which I have not proffered intelligent and reasoned solutions
– Chief Obafemi Awolowo, 3rd of July, 1979

The above assertion was certainly no empty boast by the great sage, Awo, as he assiduously sought the country’s presidency in 1979. Reading his vast collections of writings today, one is still amazed at the extent of his industry, the depth of his research, and the enduring relevance of his proposed remedies for the protracted maladies that have laid Nigeria prostrate for over five decades. That was a statesman, politician and leader avidly committed to transformational change and who made every possible sacrifice, even if ultimately futile, to help actualize his dreams for a country he loved passionately. I want to believe that the leaders and moving spirits behind the emergent new political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) have also given serious reflection to their decision to choose ‘change’ as the party’s slogan.

This question is pertinent because the President Goodluck Jonathan presidency along with his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) apparently flippantly flung the phrase ‘transformation agenda’ before our too easily seduced eyes in the run up to the 2011 election. Having won a pan-Nigerian mandate, neither president nor party appears, two years after, to have any inkling what transformation is about. Thus, our existential realities only steadily worsen even as they trumpet their purported accomplishments from the roof tops. Things have clearly sunk to their lowest ebb in contemporary Nigeria. Despite the undeniable progress made in many states in the present dispensation, the centre that controls the bulk of the country’s resources remains largely rudderless and clueless. And even as poverty worsens, insecurity reigns and corruption struts our highways in majestic omnipotence, we have a presidency that is completely preoccupied with 2015 to the exclusion of almost all else. Yet, the darkest period of the night also marks the gradual transition to dawn. This may thus also be the beginning, fortuitously, of Nigeria’s march towards hermanifest destiny of greatness in spite, perhaps because of, the inexcusable ineptitude of the Jonathan presidency.

There are great expectations and immense anticipation in the air. This is perhaps the most significant moment of political alignments and realignments in Nigeria’s post-colonial history. In sharp contrast to the perfunctory and half-hearted political alliances that failed woefully in the first and second republics, the opposition seems determined this time to forge a solid full scale merger to wrest power from the behemoth at the centre. Against all odds, the merging parties have come up with a common name, common logo, common slogan, agreeable constitution and are pacing premium on coming up with a national redemption programme rather than pursuing personal political ambitions. And the obsessive ambition of President Jonathan is turning out to be a blessing in disguise for the opposition. It has split the PDP down the middle bringing it to the point of implosion. It has ruptured the National Governors Forum and, very happily for the opposition, alienated many PDP governors who may work against their party in 2015 just as they bloodied a hubristic presidency’s nose in the May 24th, NGF election clearly won by the irrepressible Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.

But then, these are still early days yet. After all, 24 hours is a long period in politics. This is why the opposition leaders involved in the merger moves must be constantly challenged to reflect on their motives and incessantly interrogate their assumptions. This is exactly what my colleague, Mr.Olakunle Abimbola, did in his column of last Tuesday. He wanted the APC leadership to have a crystal clear idea in their minds on why exactly they want to ease the PDP out of power at the centre come 2015. If it is power for its own sake, he reasoned with characteristic incisiveness, the new party would not be much differentfrom the PDP it seeks to displace. For we all know the catchphrase of the ‘largest party in Africa’: PDP! POWER! It has monopolised power in the country since 1999 while increasing the powerlessness of Nigerians in the face of hunger, disease, ignorance, darkness and joblessness. I approach Abimbola’s concerns from a slightly different angle.

What kind of change do the APC leaders have in mind when they advocate the need to lead the country in a different direction from the retrogressive one taken over the last 14 years? The ironic truth is that to bring about the kind of change that will fundamentally and qualitatively transform the country the way the PDP has completely failed to do, the new party at the centre must also place premium on ‘power’ a s a value. But then, I refer not to the arrogant, purposeless power associated with the PDP. No, I mean the power of self-discipline, the power of self-denial, the power of sacrifice and the power of selflessness. Let me explain.

It will be all too tempting for a new party at the centre to want to maintain the current unhealthy asymmetrical relations between the federal and state governments. The government will be likely under the illusion that it will wield the immense powers at the centre more responsibly than the PDP has done. Nothing would be more false. Absolute power will always corrupt absolutely maybe it is the PDP in power or not. Fundamental decentralization of powers, resources and responsibilities from the centre to the states and regions is thus a necessary change that a post – PDP government must consider non-negotiable. Of course, such a federal government will take the lead in upholding the rule of law, transparency and judicial integrity to tame corruption and promote good governance.

Again, if a post-PDP President emerges in 2015, he may be inclined to retain the dysfunctional, excessively expansive powers of the Nigerian presidency that has become a veritable albatross on the entire political system. Again, the outcome will be as disastrous as it has been under the PDP and positive change will remain pure fiction. All the nonsense of the President being the leader of a political party must go with the PDP. Critical national institutions must be relatively autonomous of the presidency. Party supremacy must hold everybody, no matter how highly placed in check while internal democracy must be the norm. To be fair to two prime movers of the APC, General Muhammed Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, they have demonstrated a remarkable willingness to forfeit selfish, personal ambition for the collective party and national interest. That is a commendable example of the power of sacrifice and self-denial.

Furthermore, what will the APC do about the outrageous allowances, perks and salaries particularly of our law makers? That is one area where there must certainly be drastic change in the direction of greater probity and frugality. Let us heed the following words of Awo in this regard in the second republic. According to the sage on 27th January, 1980, “When the National Assembly expends so much time and energy in discussing the salaries of its members, while it does little about a reasonable minimum living wage or income for the working classes and peasants; when our parliamentarians conceive of something in the neighbourhood of N2,000.00 per month by way of salary and allowances each for themselves where the low-income group including policemen earn as low as N70.00 per month ( I don’t know how much the rank and file of the armed forces earn)…we can be sure that the end of democracy is in sight, even though, in our blinding self-seeking, we may not perceive it”. Surely, it is no easy task for the APC but the party can ill afford to dash the high hopes of Nigerians.

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