End of progressive politics, by Salihu Mohammed Lukman
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Wednesday, November 22, 2023, announced the dissolution of the Rivers State Executives of the party at all levels and appointed a seven-member Caretaker Committee led by Chief Tony Okocha to steer the party’s affairs in the state for the next six months.
Interestingly, Chief Okocha who is alleged to be a supporter and political ally of Mr. Nyesom Wike led a delegation of Wike’s loyalists on a courtesy visit to Dr. Ganduje on Thursday, October 6, 2023 where he was reported to have alleged that Chief Rotimi Ameachi, former Governor of Rivers State (2007 – 2015), former Minister of Transport (2015 – 2023), APC Presidential Aspirant for the 2023 general elections and founding member of the APC, worked against President Asiwaju Bola Amed Tinubu in the last election.
Even without these allegations, it is public knowledge that Chief Amaechi has taken a backseat. Apart from Chief Amaechi, many other APC Presidential aspirant for the 2023 elections have taken a backseat largely because President Asiwaju Tinubu has not demonstrated any interest to work with them. In the specific case of Chief Amaechi, his political rival in Rivers State, former Governor (2015 – 2023), Barrister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, since the 2023 general elections has become a strong ally of President Asiwaju Tinubu. Being a strong political ally, Barrister Wike is today the serving Minister of FCT in President Asiwaju Tinubu’s cabinet, if you like the 37th State Governor in Nigeria.
Without any reservation, the reality of Barrister Wike who is a member of the PDP serving in APC Federal Government led by President Asiwaju Tinubu suggest some strong backdoor political negotiations. What could be the details of the negotiations? Could it be that typical of Nigerian politics, APC is negotiating to get Barrister Wike decamp from the PDP and join the APC? Is the APC conceding to handover structures of the party in Rivers State to Barrister Wike? Even without probing deeper into all these issues, already, some APC leaders in Rivers have opportunistically began moving their support from being loyal to Chief Amaechi and now aliening with Barrister Wike.
For instance, on Thursday, October 26, 2023, Chief Victor Giadom, APC National Vice Chairman South-South and a long-time ally of Chief Amaechi led a delegation of APC leaders from Rivers State on a courtesy visit to Barrister Wike.
Given all these unfolding developments in APC, it is very clear that the NWC decision, dissolving Rivers State Executives of the party at all levels, is preparing the stage for the emergence of Barrister Wike as the new leader of APC in Rivers State. With Chief Okocha, who is alleged to be a political ally of Barrister Wike given the responsibility of serving as Caretaker Chairman, it simply means that all the new emerging executives for APC at all levels in Rivers State will be Barrister Wike’s supporters. And since Chief Ameachi is a political rival of Barrister Wike, all Chief Ameachi’s supporters must be expelled from the APC.
This is the dirty politics at play in Rivers State. It is very shockingly coming from leaders of a party envisioned to be progressive. Ideally, progressive politicians are expected to be committed to issues of justice and equity. This would require that when there are allegations of anti-party activities against leaders and members, such allegations should be properly investigated. At personal level, I am one of those who demanded that the NWC should invite the attention of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APC to review the 2023 general elections and investigate cases of anti-party activities by leaders and members of APC. Inability of Senator Abdullahi Adamu as the National Chairman to consider many of these demands as part of the requirement to restore constitutional order in APC and return the party to its founding vision was responsible for all the disagreements, I had with Senator Adamu.
Instead of restoring constitutional order and returning the APC to its founding vision of becoming a progressive party, under the leadership of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, dirty politics of expelling political opponents has taken over. The APC NWC is now abrasive, it takes decisions based on convenience without reference to provisions of the party’s constitution. Simply because allegations of anti-party activities are made by a political opponent who is today the sweetheart of President Asiwaju Tinubu, the allegation is confirmed and all party leaders associated with the alleged person are equally guilty and therefore stand expelled. This is most unfortunate and seriously heartbreaking for all of us who are loyal APC members and look forward to the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu for our hope to be Renewed.
As a loyal party member who is strongly committed to progressive politics, my expectation is that provisions of Article 21.3(i – vi) shall be invoked to investigate the allegation of anti-party activities against Chief Amaechi by the NWC. This should have started by appointing a fact-finding committee to examine the matter and report to the NWC. Eventually, given that there are enough grounds to establish a prima facie case of bias by the NWC given that at least one of its members, for whatever reason, Chief Giadom, is bias, in line with provision of Article 21.3(v), the NWC lack any jurisdiction to decide on such a matter.
The sad reality of all these unfolding development is that, although Article 21.4(i – x) make sufficient provision for appeals by aggrieved members, with organs of the party frozen and only the NWC functioning, decisions of the NWC are supreme. This simply means a return to former President Olusegun Obasanjo era of garrison politics. How could this be happening in APC with President Asiwaju Tinubu as the leader? Is President Asiwaju Tinubu not a progressive politician? Or did he just use the acronym (progressive) to achieve his life ambition of becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
It is very troubling to ask these questions, largely because these were questions, we asked when former President Buhari was the leader of the party, but we were ashamed to accept the harsh reality that our elected leaders, and by extension our party has failed Nigerians. As loyal party members, we had the hope that the emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu as the new leader of our party would correct and heal all our troubles. When President Asiwaju proposed Renewed Hope as his campaign slogan, party members welcome it with the belief that we are returning to the founding vision of the party, which will rekindle the era of progressive politics in the country.
Being someone who professes to be a disciple of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of the founding fathers of our great nation and incontestably the forebearer of progressive politics, we had no doubt that the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu would return APC to its founding vision. Part of the expectation of many of us in the APC was that at the minimum internal debate within the party will be strong and decision-making process in the party will take its bearing from positions being canvassed. The first shocker was when after the resignation of Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Senator Iyiola Omisore as National Chairman and National Secretary of the party respectively, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje emerged as the nominee of President Asiwaju Tinubu. Taking away the position of National Chairman from North-Central to North-West in a very crude way.
Apart from violating internal zoning agreement within the APC, moving the APC National Chairman from North-Central to North-West in the manner that it was done was simply contemptuous of the people of North-Central. This is the kind of decisions that can only be taken under a military rule. Having taken such decision, one expect a review of the internal zoning arrangement within the APC to attempt to pacify the people of North-Central. At the minimum for instance, the position of Deputy Senate President, which is currently being occupied by Senator Barau Jibrin who come from Kano State where Dr. Ganduje come from should have been moved to North Central. Instead, it is just business-as-usual.
Again, at personal level, I cannot but ask the question, did President Asiwaju Tinubu support the removal of Senator Adamu simply because he wanted to impose someone like Dr. Ganduje as the National Chairman of the APC simply because he needed someone who will not say no to him even when it means destroying the party? Could that be responsible for why President Asiwaju Tinubu has become completely inaccessible to virtually all party leaders? If President Asiwaju Tinubu is commencing his leadership tenure by embracing garrison politics, what will be the coloration of his leadership by the end of his tenure in May 2027? Given such a circumstance, will he be aspiring for a second term?
Perhaps, it is important to recall that former President Obasanjo pretended to be a democrat throughout his first term. The organs of the PDP during his first term were very functional and fully in charge. The dynamics of negotiating second term in 2003, which compelled former President Obasanjo to have to subordinated himself to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar were mainly responsible for the high level of political intolerance that characterised the second term of former President Obasanjo between 2003 and 2007. As an administration that was intolerant, it became more and more unpopular. Being intolerant, it blocked almost every opening for internal debate within the PDP. Imposition of candidates for election took over. Consequently, winning election was all about vote buying, rigging, manipulating elections, and writing results.
No need to revisit all our ugly electoral past. But APC won its popularity and won the 2015 general elections incontestably because Nigerians trusted the APC when it came with the promise of change. Certainly, under the leadership of former President Buhari, both as Nigerians and members of APC, we were highly frustrated that the promise of change didn’t manifest itself strongly such that the problem of imposition of candidates by political parties, especially by our own party APC is minimised. If anything, instead of changing Nigerian politics, what we witnessed between 2015 and now is that our promising party, APC, has changed to become PDP incorporated in every respect.
If anything, the decision of the NWC dissolving Rivers State executives at all levels confirm this reality. If allowed to stand, stage managed congresses will be organised to produce new party executives at all levels who will be loyal to Barrister Wike, the new APC leader in Rivers State. Accordingly, in 2027, Barrister Wike will produce the APC Governorship candidate for Rivers State.
Since Barrister Wike has already fallen apart with the current Rivers State Governor, Chief Siminalayi Fubara, the prospect of Chief Fubara coming to APC is foreclosed. Therefore, the strategy of APC in Rivers State for 2027 will be to further fragment the people of the state. Rather than working to unite political leaders in Rivers State, based on which APC being an envisioned progressive party will be seeking to unite Chief Amaechi and Barrister Wike to be members of APC, President Asiwaju Tinubu’s garrison politics will only seek to take advantage of the current division between Chief Amaechi and Barrister Wike. In addition, Barrister Wike will have to incur the political cost of separating from his political godson, Chief Fubara. Even if Chief Fubara achieved all that needs to be achieved as Governor of Rivers State, President Asiwaju Tinubu’s garrison politics will emasculate him.
For all these to be imagined under the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu, who is regarded to be a progressive politician and a descendant of Chief Awolowo will make Chief Awolowo to turn in his grave. Even Chief M. K. O Abiola have difficulty relating with many of the political decisions taken by President Asiwaju Tinubu in the last six months. At this rate, President Asiwaju Tinubu is practically pushing Nigerians to bid bye bye to progressive politics. With such reality, it simply means, the structures of APC in FCT will also be dissolved to produce new APC leaders at all levels of the party who will be loyal to Barrister Wike. And any state where APC is led by people who might have opposed President Asiwaju Tinubu will similarly be dissolved. Once the circle of imposing stooges as APC leaders at all levels is completed, which started with imposing Dr. Ganduje as National Chairman, the next level of imposition will spread to all other democratic institutions to guarantee the supremacy of garrison politics, which will then affirm all the political choices of APC under the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu, whatever that means.
This is anything, but progressive politics. With a garrison brand of progressive politics, problems of political divisions in the country will be entrenched. Addressing challenges of marginalisation, inequality and above all welfare of citizens will not be a political priority. At this rate, it will be safer for the country to conclude that APC, as it is constituted today will be incapable of meeting the expectation of Nigerians. Renewed Hope has invariably produced Dashed hope. This is very unfortunate. APC under the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu, as it is constituted today, wasn’t the APC we sold to Nigerians both in 2015 and 2023.
Something must be done urgently to arrest the current drift towards garrison politics in the name of progressive politics. It is either APC leaders take the needed steps to call both Dr. Ganduje, the APC NWC and President Asiwaju Tinubu to order by restoring constitutional order and returning the party to its founding vision of progressive politics, which should be about unity of party leaders and Nigerians, or the party can as well declare an end to progressive politics in Nigeria. So long as the decision of the NWC to dissolve all party executives in Rivers State at all levels is allowed to stand, it simply means that anyone who is alleged to have worked against President Asiwaju Tinubu during the 2023 elections is expelled from the party. With such declaration, the culture of imposition of candidates at all levels will take over APC. Consequently, elections will not be about the votes of citizens. Winners in elections will only be produced through rigging, vote buying and other manipulative strategies. The earlier every genuine APC leader come to terms with this new reality and begin the process of mobilisation both within the party and at wider levels of national political mobilisation, the better for the survival of democracy in country. A stitch in time, saves nine!