by Dare Lawal
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is in a strange place. Having made massive gains in its quest to take over from the ruling party, the party has taken some hits in recent weeks as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fights back.
In the thick of the season when the APC seemed to momentarily be on top, the party took some decisions that divided Nigerians.
First was its decision to announce a boycott of the national conference and the second was its directive to its assembly members to block executive nominations and bills including the 2014 budget.
The APC’s decision to boycott the national conference was because in its opinion, Pres. Jonathan’s administration lacked the credibility to organise it. After a meeting in October 2013, the party released a statement saying it saw the conference “as nothing but a diversion.”
As regards its directive earlier in the year for assembly members to block legislative proposals and nominations, the party said it will do that “until the rule of law and constitutionalism is restored in Rivers State in particular and Nigeria in general.”
The party received support from some quarters, but also drew a lot of criticism as the critics felt the APC measures were too extreme.
Consequently, the governor of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi, who is one of the most cerebral in the party, has been doing a yeoman’s job trying to redefine the conversation and smoothen some of the rough edges that characterised the APC’s positions. In the last week, the governor who is facing a re-election battle in his state, has granted interviews in which he addressed some of the party’s positions.
On the national conference, Fayemi disclosed that APC controlled states have decided to send delegates to the national conference.
In the memo released by the office of the secretary to the government of the federation, governors are supposed to nominate a share of the delegates to the conference, and now Fayemi has revealed that the APC governors, despite their party’s official position, will take advantage of the slots given to them.
Fayemi said that they decided to participate to engender participatory democracy. He said the governors of APC controlled states are of the opinion that the generality of the people of their respective states should be given the chance to express their views on sundry national issues at the conference.
“As governors, we are governors of all and not governors over our party members alone, hence the need to allow the states send delegates to the conference,” he said.
Fayemi added that the governors believe that the conference is an invaluable opportunity to espouse ideological perspectives on these issues and for APC that has enjoyed unprecedented and yet widening support from Nigerians, it owes the people a duty to use the opportunity of the conference to canvass its views.
The governor also attempted to whitewash the party’s position concerning its radical directive to national assembly members. He said that the party’s position was not a threat but a plea. He also said that with the redeployment of Mbu from Rivers, the party has relented on its position.
However, it should be noted that even before Mbu’ redeployment, the party was unable to make its members obey the directive as service chiefs were easily cleared in the assembly and the budget was discussed as well.
But that didn’t stop Fayemi from claiming victory.
He said: “Did you see the statement by our House of Representatives members today (Friday, February 7)? The minute the redeployment of Joseph Mbu was announced, a statement came from our members that now we may consider the budget. Mainly, the intention was not to shut down government on a permanent basis. It was a cry for help. It was a conscious appeal to good sense. It sounded like a threat. It was an appeal. Unfortunately, it probably sounded like a threat. But the point I was making was that we have gotten some result. Mbu has been moved. Now we will move to other parts of the country where impunity continues to reign or there is a concerted attempt to breach Nigeria’s democracy. I think Nigerians ought to praise APC, rather than cast aspersion on us for what happened.”
He admitted that the party “could have communicated it better to Nigerians. But deepening this democracy would require taking some uncomfortable positions. I think that’s what happened in this particular instance. I know we have received bashing from even people who are sympathetic to us but we will make mistakes, because our intentions are pure. It’s a commitment to ensure that Nigerians do not unwittingly make themselves prisoners in their own country. We are citizens, we are not subjects and no one should be allowed, not even the president, to treat us like refugees in our own country.”
It’s clear that as 2015 approaches and the APC continues to adjust to its status as a big opposition, the party will come to rely more and more on its cerebral stars like Fayemi to dig it out of messy situations.