APC: Thorny road to national convention

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) is on the weighing scale. As it prepares for national convention, it has many hurdles to cross.

The party must decide on the zoning of key party positions, particularly the national chairman. It must also decide on the zoning or otherwise of its presidential ticket. The zoning of national chairman may shape considerations for the zoning of presidency. Above all, the government it has midwifed must live to expectation. This is critical to the renewal of its tenancy in Aso Villa, Abuja, the seat of power, in the 2023 elections.

The Buhari administration is trying to make impact in the transport sector. The rail project is commendable. The second Niger Bridge will also command an applause. Efforts are being made to fight the infrastructure battle. Some federal roads are being rehabilitated.

However, the economy has slided into recession. Poverty is growing in leaps and bounds. Firms and industries are laying off employees. Strikes in tertiary institutions are ruining the lives of youths. Electricity tariff is burdensome. The fuel price hike is infuriating. There is general agony.

What is more striking is the security challenge. Across the states of the federation, bandits, kidnappers, rapists loom large. The Northeast is yet to be liberated from terrorists. Security was a core campaign promise of the party. The promise has not been fulfilled to Nigerians.

The greatest threat to the ruling party, for now,  is lack of unity and cohesion. All the contending interests differ to President Muhammadu Buhari. But, the national party leadership does not evoke the same respect from prominent party leaders across the states. Shortly before he passed on, a party elder, Prince Tony Momoh, reflected on the disenchantment in his letter to Chief Bisi Akande. Momoh, former CPC national chairman, lamented that the party had been hijacked by a clique. The contest for party power is a bone of contention. It may get hotter as the party prepares for the national congress.

Understandably, big parties, often characterised by competing and antagonistic interests, are never insulated by crisis. But, conflict should not be allowed to fester. The only solution is crisis management. This is possible, if there is the existence of formidable crisis resolution mechanism. Ventilation of grievances is very important. An atmosphere of equity, inclusion, internal democracy and justice must be seen to prevail. For a party to survive, chieftains must also make sacrifices and promote group interest.

Why is the APC National Caucus dormant, especially when there is no Board of Trustees (BoT) in place? Where are the party elders and the founding fathers?

In APC, there is no consensus on the doctrines of party supremacy and discipline. Neither is there a common agreement on how to enforce discipline. That was why party chieftains could have the audacity to sponsor candidates on the platform of other opposition parties to reduce the chance of their own party in previous elections. That was why the president, who appealed to the chapters to vote for him in 2019 elections, also advised the party supporters to vote for candidates of their choice, even on the platform of opposition parties.

The inflighting led to the electoral misfortune of the party in many states where it lost governorship and parliamentary seats to the opposition. Even, in states where gladiators closed ranks during the general elections, they later resumed hostilities after victory.

Crisis is still raging in Kwara, Zamfara, Kaduna, Benue, Imo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Delta, Adamawa, Niger, and Bayelsa.

Assessed against the criteria of ideology, organisation and leadership, APC cannot be described as a model or a reference point.

Pre-2015 APC was a promising mega party; a fusion of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigera Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a section  of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

The dichotomy has never fizzled out. The old parties agreed to forfeit their licences. But, their identities still fill the consciousness of chieftains.

The ideology of the APC is not clear. The nearest to ideological inclination manifests in the claim about progressivism by progressive arrowheads in the party who subscribe to “welfarism.” It is doubtful if the leaning permeates the entire party.

Ideology is a compass. It shows the direction. It gives form, content and predictability to parties. It is a mark of distinction. It should differentiate one party from other parties. When a party swims in ideological vacuum, it only merely exists as a vehicle for seeking power. The point of departure is that an ideological platform will be guided by its ideas and philosophy, which is serves as the baseline for target setting and pursuit of objectives.

Today, the organisational structure of APC is doubtful. Its pre-2015 interim structure was more formidable. The party rests on a very porous and temporary structure, which it had exchanged for its democratic organs at the ward, local government, zonal and national levels. When duly elected democratic structures of a party are dissolved before the expiration of their tenure, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It is more worrisome when the ward, state and zonal structures were dismantled by an unelected National Caretaker Committee.

Leadership is key. But, it should be a product of agreement, consensus and democratic choice. The APC Caretaker Committee is unelected. To that extent, it must struggle to acquire legitimacy, a rare quality that cannot be compromised in any democratic setting. Although an interim body, the national caretaker committee has elongated its transient tenure by six months.

Its terms of reference include reconciling aggrieved chieftains across the crisis ridden state chapters and organising a national convention. Has it accomplished the task? But, it has now added new responsibilities.

Ahead of the national convention, APC is in turmoil in many states because of membership registration. It has escalated the crisis in some chapters. The validation of party membership can be done without any funfair. It is an exercise that is domiciled in the ward. The centralisation of the control or supervision is unnecessary. What is more paramount is the mobilisation of more Nigerians to join the party. The new members should have been the major targets of the membership registration.

Ward, local government and zonal congresses are not expected to proceed the national convention. The crisis arising from these congresses may tax the party to the brim.

APC is not as popular as it used to be. To survive, the ruling party should embrace the reality of challenges confronting it and opt for realistic solutions that will forge peace, unity and cohesion. It must revisit its beginning and source of strength when it was not yet in power, look at the very basis of the party, honour mutual agreement that was the chord bindning the founding fathers, and uphold internal democracy, resolve the conflicts at the chapters and rekindle public confidence by fulfilling its campaign promises to Nigerians.

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