by Uche Igwe
Since the successful conclusion of the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, many Nigerians have been expectant of how the party will galvanise considerable momentum as a viable alternative platform that will do things differently in the country. That election was indeed a milestone in the life of the APC. Many observers across party lines attested that it was a keen but transparent contest. Nigerians and watchers of political development in the country across the world kept vigil with party members until the results were announced. Interestingly, all the presidential aspirants showed exemplary sportsmanship and rallied behind the preferred candidate Muhammadu Buhari. The mood of the party reflected a citizenry desirous of change. The level of poverty in the midst of plenty and the long history of failed politics have given rise to a lot of discontent. Many Nigerians feel deeply dissatisfied and let down by their political leadership. These, no doubt, are very useful prospects for change; however, it is obvious these will not automatically translate into victory for the opposition party or defeat for the ruling party. There is still a lot of work to be done amidst clear time constraints to get the buy-in of a majority of Nigerians.
Beyond the euphoria of a well-conducted primary, the APC has done very little to leverage on the enthusiasm rekindled amongst Nigerians and convert the same to electoral mileage. The party has yet to advance a less adversarial and more constructive policy conversation. Although the party had made some statements in the past few months ostensibly in line with its general policy directions, it has done very little to deepen the debate.
I will give you three examples. The APC through its leaders had announced in several fora that it would fight corruption, tackle insurgency and abolish the office of the First Lady. But it has not said much about how it will do all of these. Nigerians are yearning to know especially about how the APC will govern differently from the party in power and how such actions will benefit Nigerians.
Less than six weeks into the elections is a very short time to communicate things the way I feel will have considerable impact. On the issue of anti-corruption, for instance, many of us know that corruption has eaten into the fabrics of the Nigerian society and so a blanket promise to fight the scourge will not make much sense. We know that the APC presidential candidate has this no-nonsense image when it comes to corruption matters but an individual’s posturing cannot be translated into concrete party policy. Will an APC government strengthen anti-corruption institutions or reform our value system or encourage a new ethical landscape in the parliament or create new paths to reconstructing bonding social capital among our communities? Nigerians want to know how a new government led by the APC come May 29 will manage the economy amidst embarrassing revenue shortfalls caused by avoidable leakages and volatile oil price. The statement by Buhari about the scrapping of the office of the First Lady is a welcome development yet it is an incomplete one. Considering that women constitute a very important segment of our voting population, it will be useful to know more about why and how the APC made such a policy choice. Our women are very passionate about issues of inclusion. Therefore, what are the alternatives to the office of the First Lady from where our women can have space, and access to express themselves? Will the APC reflect the affirmative action in its appointments when elected? There are those who have taken the statement of the APC candidate out of context. That is partly because the party could not fill in the gaps promptly. One can easily justify abolishing the office of the First Lady to reduce the cost of running government and channel part of the resources directly to relevant ministries. I will not comment on the unconstitutional nature of the office or the flagrant abuse and meddlesomeness of the current occupant. Many other commentators have dealt with that.
The APC has also promised to end the current insurgency in Northern Nigeria. Again, that is an impressive statement but what are the broad underpinnings of the party’s approach? It will be naïve to imagine that the insurgency will automatically stop if Buhari is elected into power. The conflict has become somewhat complicated and extended into several countries such that simplistic solutions will not fly. Will the APC for instance recruit more soldiers to beef up the number of military personnel currently fighting the insurgents? Will the soldiers expect increased remuneration, welfare and other forms of motivation? One of the major complaints of the fighting troops is that resources meant for them are allegedly being diverted. Will Nigerians expect the fight against corruption to be taken to the military high command when the APC is elected into office? How come it has not said so? What is the compensation regime for the families of soldiers who got missing or lost their lives on the battle fields? What is the policy option towards the civilian Joint Task Force and the local hunters? Will they be trained and equipped better? How does the APC protect our urban centres like Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Maidugiri and Damaturu that had been attacked by the insurgents in the past? What about the option of installing surveillance cameras at strategic points to protect our cities? In short, what is the party’s strategic and tactical plan?
Still on the issues related to the insurgency, there have been increasing concerns about lack of diligent prosecution of the accused persons. The recent case of the alleged mastermind of the Nyanya bomb blast, Aminu Ogwuche, who was extradited all the way from Sudan but whose case was angrily struck out by the presiding judge for lack of diligent prosecution readily comes to mind. How come this government has been unable to provide evidence and witnesses to speedily prosecute suspects even after it might have spent efforts and resources conducting their investigations? What is wrong with our security and justice system and how will the APC do things differently? Now, I also think that the APC should extend support to the government in power to at least curtail the insurgency even before the elections. That will be one way to show superior capacity, demonstrate patriotism and endear itself further to Nigerians.
Finally, I am not one of those who think that the APC is already coasting home to victory. There are prospects, no doubt, and many have opined that the chances of success of the APC are high but it will not be easy. The party must urgently bring out clear programmes framed in accessible language for Nigerians to hold them unto. The Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, tried the other day to offer some explanation but that is still insufficient. For me, I foresee a situation where the ruling party will fight fiercely to retain its position with everything at its disposal including the power of incumbency, enormous access to resources and the state apparatus. Every indicator points in the direction that it will be a tough election, maybe, a run-off that may even turn violent if time is not taken.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Uche Igwe/Punch