by Raymond Eyo
“Is the birth of the APC good for Nigeria? I can’t say until they’re tested. Is the birth of the APC good for Nigeria’s democracy? Absolutely!” –Ogunyemi Bukola
After months of wrangling among Nigerians and wangling by its detractors, the long-awaited merger of three major opposition parties in Nigeria, the All Progressives’ Congress (APC), finally got registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on July 31, 2013.
A statement by the APC’s interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, following the party’s registration, took a swipe at such detractors. Mohammed said: “The journey has been long and tortuous. All sorts of obstacles were thrown into our path by anti-democratic forces, but we were painstaking, determined and unrelenting in our quest for a formidable platform that will allow our country, Nigeria, to achieve her full potentials…”
There is no gainsaying that in many respects, the official registration of what is Nigeria’s largest opposition party ever, and the most promising opposition to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the post-military democratic dispensation, since 1999, is a watershed! Given the huge disappointments over the PDP’s overall very bad record over the past 14 years, particularly at the federal government level, many Nigerians genuinely desire, and rightly so, that the party’s registration should not just be a watershed but that the party should indeed become a fountain of good governance! As a proponent of the same, I can only happily identify with those aspirations.
Nonetheless, I reckon that the very idea of the APC itself is a noble one which has already wrought a positive significance on the Nigerian polity! In fact, to me, without any prejudice to the actual dividends of good governance that the APC must ensure she provides at the centre and beyond, when she gets into office, her greatest import lies in the fact that she has effectively turned Nigeria into a two-party state system – a political arrangement that inherently boosts the conscious need of greater seriousness in governance and heightens the checks and balances needed between political parties.
For example, on February 28, eight APC governors held a solidarity meeting in Maiduguri, Borno State, at the heart of the Boko Haram establishment. It was a bold move that ridiculed the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan whose failure to visit Borno since the 2011 campaigns had advertently or inadvertently denigrated their avowed commitment to the security of that state in particular and portrayed them as being cowardly. In fact, that APC undertaking challenged and prompted President Jonathan to finally visit Borno a week later, on March 7.
Similarly, the creation of the PDP Governors’ Forum on February 25 by the PDP, with the full support, if not at the behest, of President Jonathan, amounted to a tacit endorsement of the influence of the opposition APC governors on the larger Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) platform. Indeed, the keenly contested NGF election was always going to be a test of the two camps’ political influence. Cashing in on the disaffection shown by some PDP governors, not pleased with Jonathan’s reported 2015 re-election ambition; the 10 APC governors unanimously backed the candidate opposed by the PDP and Jonathan, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, and garnered 19 votes to trump his PDP-backed challenger, Governor Jonah Jang. Matter-of-factly, the video that later emerged, clearly showing the proceedings that led to Amaechi’s victory, to the chagrin of the PDP camp who had denounced the results and declared Jang NGF chairman, was done on the phone of the APC’s Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola. The Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke’s admission, later, that “Ever since the formation of the NGF, we have never had an election… it has always been by consensus” further lends credence to the changing democratic dynamics in the polity brought to bear by the emergence of the APC!
Furthermore, as a mega opposition party, the APC is certain to attract widespread membership and ardent followership from many Nigerians, especially the youth, who are passionately desirous of a credible alternative to the PDP. In fact, on August 1, the APC’s interim National Vice-Chairman for the North-East, Umar Duhu, said the party plans to undertake a massive membership drive and enlightenment. An upbeat Duhu said: “Nigerians were so enthusiastic about APC being registered; so we have to match our words with actions by reaching out to them. We want to establish structures across the country beyond ward level. We want to be the first party to have structures at unit level.”
In addition, the APC’s manifesto, which was adopted in April and contains a bold and ambitious action plan with compelling details, is a marked departure from the lacklustre, ambiguous and unspecific contents of the PDP’s. If anything, this has the potential to raise the bar of governance given that the details in the APC’s manifesto are well-defined, measurable, benchmarks against which the party’s performance in office can be adjudged.
Some Nigerians have expressed fears that the same old fellows whose actions and inactions have brought Nigeria to where she is today are hobnobbing with the APC or ostensibly intent on becoming members outright. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! No political party on earth is made up of or meant only for the upright! Political parties thrive on their numbers and inclusiveness. The more, the merrier! No party ever limits its membership. That will amount to shooting itself in the foot. What is most important is the party’s choice of candidates. If the party is able to elect and present credible candidates for elections – men and women with character and competence, ultimately, the bad guys will amount to nada!
Likewise, others have moaned that the PDP and the APC have the same kind of people as leaders and therefore, there will be no difference even if an APC candidate is elected into office. Even if that is true, the fact is, with the field of play more balanced now, attitudes are very certain to change. Even the PDP will be forced to sit up and stop acting with impunity henceforth since the emergence of a strong opposition party means they must act right and work hard to be elected or re-elected.
In all, the APC has been formed with almost two years to the next general elections. Therefore, the party has ample time to put its structures together and enlighten and rally its members and the general public around it. The party has no excuse to fail! The November 16 governorship election in Anambra State will be a litmus test of the effect of the party’s registration-induced momentum. Thankfully, the party has the very popular and likeable Senator Chris Ngige as its candidate for the poll. They will do well to leverage that and be off to a winning start! Long live the APC! Long live Nigeria’s democracy! GOD bless Nigeria!
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Raymond_Eyo