by Ikemesit Effiong
This is now the eight week in 2013 and it just seems like every week surpasses the previous one in terms of birthing a significant political or current affairs event.
In these eight breezy weeks, we’ve had to deal with the recurring spats between the eloquent ‘Jonathanians’ and their equally savvy Twitterian opposition; the unfolding story of the level of rot and squalor pervading both the power sector and the Police force; the rather comical verbal boxing bouts between our First Citizen and a former occupier of that exalted position and their senasational reunion; the appearance, disappearance and non-explanation thereof of several State Governors; the new found fame of Christiane Amanpour, all interspersed with a sprinkling of a few judgments emanating from our hallowed sanctums of justice which have sounded like a pick from Basketmouth’s repertoire; the saga of Lawan’s horrid show of greed over and above that of his peers not to be outdone by the N750,000 bail out fund sorry, fine paid out in favour of N23billion and the five goats. Oh the goats! How can we forget those heroes of Osun State.
However, nothing crowns the eventfulness of the Nigerian public space this year like the event of Week 6 when the four ‘largest’ opposition parties in our country decided to merge into what is understood to be a ‘mega party’.
This political monstrosity is supposedly needed to have the clout, the might, the dynamism and the chutzpah to take on the grandfather and patriarch of our democracy, the People’s Democratic Party.
In the minds of its sponsors, it will synergize the strong points of its various constituent parties and by combining the charisma of its star acts with the overwhelming disaffection of the populace with the PDP’s almost glue-like hold on our national life, it will prove to be the winning formula for them, for their future prospects, and for Nigeria (all in that order). This unusual sense of optimism is epitomized in the name of this political toddler of sorts, the All Progressives Congress or APC for short.
The emergence of the APC from the ashes of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), and that recalcitrant element in the compound, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) is a remarkable development for two reasons.
Firstly, it may be the best chance to prevent the fulfillment of the words of former PDP National Chairman Prince Vincent Ogbulafor who once famously stated that his party would ‘rule’ Nigeria for 60 years. Some PDP enthusiasts I know have even stretched that time frame to 200 years. The presence of the APC could ensure that the business as usual version of Nigerian politics would gradually die down.
Secondly, there may finally be a definitive alternative source of political understanding that Nigerians can use to benchmark the orthodoxy of the PDP. And we need such a reference badly.
Whilst the conception of the APC has been the subject of many an article and op-ed, many a conversation on the street, and many a prayer, I’m far too pragmatic to begin to examine issues of what the APC’s political intent, party structure, mode of choosing candidates and date of registration would and should be. I simply want to focus on the key things that Tom Ikimi and Co. have to seriously consider in order to be a real social movement for change and not just another political descriptive term.
The Credibility Question
The APC has to do a better job than the PDP in answering the Number One question on the mind of every enlightened Nigerian which is how exactly is the APC different from what we already have? This question must not be answered in terms of platitudes and sermonizing but in the light of proven track records and merit.
Are the indices of living better in ‘APC’ states in contradistinction to PDP states? Are APC governors more upright than their PDP colleagues? Does the APC support people-oriented policies as against policy thrusts that engender discrimination and classism? All these must be combined with sound personal values and morals of its leaders, candidates and their past, present and possible affiliations and contacts. If the APC scores anything close to a B grade on this issue, it is assured the national honour of Darling of the Federal Republic (DFR).
One of the most vexing problems of Nigerian political practice is the near absence of a strong intellectual and ideological component. Since the demise of the First Republic, our leaders have suffered from an acute intellectual deficit. No political leader since the trio of Macaulay, Azikiwe and Awolowo has inspired Nigerians on a fundamentally cerebral level.
Young Nigerians like their counterparts everywhere quote Brown, Obama, Cameron and other world leaders freely but hardly, if ever quote our leaders. It is borderline lunacy that the most widely circulated message of our current President is that he was once shoeless, now he is ‘shoed’ up.
The APC has to better this by providing public figures that speak to the heart and not the bellies of the electorate. Politics must be a game of ideas and ideals as well as interests. This exaltation of interests over ideas is the single most important reason why Nigeria is mired in a poverty-stricken and perilous existence. Take note of that, APC.
A Solid Party Sturcture
Quite simply, the APC needs a score of 90 or above in this course. You may loathe, curse or conspire against the PDP; the fact remains that the PDP remains the most effectively run organization of its kind in the nation today. It is more efficiently run than the vast majority of Nigerian businesses and even homes.
It has an office and representation in every single state, local government and council ward in the Federation. It may quarrel, bicker, and fight and nearly rip itself apart but its overall interest in squelching the nation of its resources eventually unites its multifarious elements and they end up delivering at the polls.
The APC must establish party offices and deploy an effective grassroots machinery all over the country. It must establish a counter narrative to the PDP’s delusion of national character and the ‘development’ of Nigeria. It must recruit to its ranks actively, far and wide, from all walks of life, everywhere. I will go as far as saying that it must do this to even compete let alone, beat the PDP.
Incorporate the Youth
Honestly, the arrogance of the senior elements of Nigerian politics is so unbelievable that it is a surprise that they have been allowed to get away with it. Some of our politicians really believe that they will live forever.
The APC must wake up from that state of coma and realize that nearly 60% of this nation’s population is under 30. They must be worked into the system. It must actively seek, recruit, train and challenge agile, vibrant, promising and intellectually enabled young people with leadership responsibilities and helping to shape party policy.
There must be a Youth arm of the APC with its own special manifesto to the Nigerian youth. The youth is the epicenter of our unemployment crisis, our education malaise, and our social fault lines. They are the foot soldiers of Boko Haram and the armor bearers of the militancy. They are the ones who cut up girls for their body parts and stalk them on Facebook. They are the reason why the HIV prevalence rate in the country is among the Top 10 in the world and why Brand Nigeria is synonymous with Brand 419 and ‘Yahoo Yahoo’. They need people like them to serve as role models and a rallying point for change. Provide them and you are well on your way.
There we are. I hope someone in APC Headquarters (wherever that is) was jotting down. Obviously I have a lot more than this to keep them busy but only a phone call will reveal the rest. Till such a time when my ‘dream’ phone call comes through, I wish the APC good luck with their thankless task. Enough said.