On October 1, 2021, Nigeria’s sixty-first independence anniversary, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a national broadcast, acknowledged that, ‘the past eighteen months have been some of the most difficult periods in the history of Nigeria. Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period.’ The country has been caught by secessionist agitations of Nnamdi Kanu’s group in the South-East and Sunday Igboho’s in the South-West. Specifically, agitation by Nnamdi Kanu’s group has graduated to rebellion against the Nigerian state, resulting in attacks on police stations and killings of security personnel and other functionaries of government as well as destructions of government structures. Compounded by ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, these secessionist agitations have threatened the unity of Nigeria.
With incidences of banditry in the North-West and North-Central producing more cases of kidnappings and abductions of citizens, including schoolchildren, capacity of Nigerian security agencies to prevent and arrest criminal activities of rebellious groups in all parts of the country are legitimate concerns of all Nigerians. There is also the challenge of preventing or managing conflicts arising from activities of herdsmen, which have provoked all manner of conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and other citizens, especially farmers, across every part of the country. Criminal activities associated with herdsmen also increased incidences of banditry, kidnappings and abductions of citizens.
The narrative around this, promoted by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and their supporters, is that challenges of insecurity facing the country is a confirmation that President Buhari and APC have failed Nigerians. Citing campaign promises of APC in 2015, undertaking to end insecurity, fight corruption and build the economy, problems of insecurity in the country is being used to mobilise Nigerians against the APC and President Buhari. Part of the politics is also aimed at mobilising support for opposition politicians ahead of 2023 elections. Divisive politics of ethnicity and religion have been important elements of the campaigns.
Consequently, there appears to be some disconnect between politics and the need to unite Nigerians to work together to address the nation’s security challenges. Opposition politicians and their supporters are unreceptive to efforts to mobilise Nigerians to forge strong unity towards ending insecurity in the country. It is therefore a good mark of leadership, notwithstanding the desperate grandstanding politics for 2023 by PDP and its supporters for President Buhari to acknowledge that Nigeria is passing through period of momentous challenges. No doubt President Buhari is not in denial of Nigeria’s security challenges. Acknowledging the challenges is indicative of the commitment of President Buhari and by extension APC leaders to end the problem of insecurity facing the country.
Recalling that APC was officially registered as political party by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on July 31, 2013, with the slogan CHANGE, specifically, Section Three of the APC manifesto undertook ‘to institute radical reform of the Nigerian Government based on Good Governance precepts – transparency, accountability, fiscal responsibility, the rule of law, human rights, civil and political liberties. We must install a government whose leaders are responsive to the needs of Nigerian citizens and delivering effective and efficient services to citizens equitably in all the three branches of our governance realm – the executive, judiciary and the legislature. We cannot achieve these reforms without strengthening our public institutions and away from the “Strong Man” model, which has devastated our economy and institutions.’
Since 2015, under the leadership of President Buhari, APC controlled Federal Government has rolled out several initiatives to deliver on its campaign promises targeted at strengthening Nigeria’s public service institutions. Quite some significant progresses have been achieved. A major gap being exploited by the opposition against the APC and the Federal Government is that official communication both from the APC and the Federal Government are passive and reactive. Efforts to engage Nigerians to secure citizens’ ownership of policy initiatives is quite low. Consequently, political opposition in the country is succeeding to take good advantage of this reality to unfairly portray both the APC and President Buhari in bad light.
Partly because of the domineering influence of the negative publicity by opposition politicians against the APC, unfortunate activities of armed bandits, insurgents and criminal elements in the country are mischievously being presented as confirmation of failure of APC led Federal Government. False narrative against APC and President Buhari are being promoted, suggesting that criminal activities of bandits only started when APC took control of the Federal Government in 2015. In addition, APC is being alleged to have failed in ending Boko Haram insurgency.
Any objective analyst would recall that activities of Boko Haram insurgents as at 2015, apart from controlling most parts of the North-East, have spread to parts of North-West and North-Central, notably, Kano, Kaduna, FCT, Niger, Kogi and Nasarawa. In both the North-West and North-Central, problems of cattle rustling were rampant. Kidnapping was also there in many parts of the South-South and South-East. To worsen matters, there was the 2014 corruption case of $2.1 billion meant for arms procurement, which was diverted by PDP led administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It is true that problem of cattle rustling in the North-West and North-Central has graduated to banditry and it is assuming a war situation. However, it should be also recognised that the fight against Boko Haram has made significant progress. Unlike before 2015 when most parts of the North-East was under the control of insurgents, this is no longer the case. No doubt both in the case of fighting banditry and Boko Haram, there are challenges, which the APC led government of President Buhari is responding to.
Any comparative assessment of APC and PDP management of Nigeria’s security challenges, which failed to recognise these realities is only being dishonest. Dishonest mindset is responsible for why all initiatives of APC Federal Government are being dismissed based on false narrative. Nigerians must pose the question, if APC and President Buhari have failed, as is being claimed, what is the political opposition specifically proposing as solutions to the problems of insecurity? Or, if as now PDP is claiming that during their sixteen-year tenure recorded significant milestones, what were the details?
Both the APC and the Federal Government need to evolve new strategy of problem-solving communication in the country. Part of the objective should be to facilitate partnership to communicate activities of the party, government through engagement with major national players – non-governmental actors, civil society, labour, tranditional and religious leaders, women, youths, persons with disability, etc. The goal of partnership is to generate public awareness around initiatives of governments, especially Federal Government. There should be regular consultations to engage Nigerians aimed at reviewing progress being made to address national challenges. In the context of consultative activities with major national players, initiatives to rebuild, re-orient organisations of civil society and labour movement can be developed based on a strategy to ensure that civil society and labour leaders, for instance, directly supervise and coordinate initiatives.
Refining the politics of these organisations to be value-driven should also be the goal. A situation where both civil society and labour activities are oriented as opposition politics founded on falsehood can only be exploitative against majority of Nigerians, including the working people. Effective engagements with citizens through their organisations and their leaders will help build trust and endear the party, which can support processes of membership recruitment for the party.
Part of the task of reviewing progress in addressing national challenges would also be to ensure that the current strategy of excessive politicisation of insecurity by the PDP and their supports is stopped. At the same time, appropriate steps can be taken to ensure that Nigerians appreciate all the unprecedented investments in military hardware: dozens of new aircraft, ships, battle tanks and others being procured and deployed in the fight against insecurity in the country by the APC led Federal Government. Initiatives under the new Police Act to provide Community Policing can be similarly appreciated by Nigerians, as well as establishment of the Police Trust Fund to finance training, logistics and welfare of Nigeria Police and investment in technology-aided policing of land and maritime environments.
Through problem-solving communication strategy, Nigerians will be able to see through all the false propaganda of the PDP and their supporters and accordingly recognise all the successes being recorded in the fight against insecurity in the country. For instance, President Buhari himself, in the October 1, 2021, national address, highlighted that ‘In the North East region alone, over eight thousand Boko Haram terrorists have surrendered.’ In addition, ‘the Nigerian Armed Forces have recruited over 17,000 personnel across all ranks.’ Similarly, as contained in the October 1, 2021 broadcast of President Buhari, approval has been given to ‘the Nigerian Police Force to recruit 10,000 police officers annually over the next six years.’
While it is important that Nigerians apply every necessary pressure on government and the APC to expeditiously address the problem of insecurity in the country, efforts must also be made to prevent a situation whereby desperate politicians seek to take advantage of Nigeria’s security challenges based on false propaganda. In all promises APC made in 2015, there are initiatives being implement by the Federal Government, which include developing Nigeria’s infrastructure, in Rail, Roads, Ports, Power are ongoing; achieving agricultural self-sufficiency; entrenching technology in government processes and service delivery; creating the first truly national social safety net in the history of Nigeria; among many others.
Part the challenge of excessive politicisation is that it also threatens internal unity of APC members and leaders. For instance, excessive politicisation in the country is influencing decision of some APC leaders to push negotiation for the emergence of the party’s Presidential Candidate for 2023 elections outside the structures of the APC. This is now threatening the unity of leaders of APC. Around the whole question of power shift, some leaders of the APC have gone outside the structures of the party to mobilise support for the party to zone its Presidential candidate for 2023 to the Southern part of the country. In a worrisome way, loose partnership is being contracted with a section of leaders from other opposition political parties, notably PDP.
It is important that all APC leaders are reminded that the campaign for power shift is about writing or respecting the rules of our party. This should be handled within the structures of the APC. It is belittling for APC leaders who are statutory members of all the relevant structures of the party that are competent to take final decision on the matter to go outside the structures of the party and forge partnership with PDP leaders to compel a decision, one way or the other, on the matter. It simply means loss of confidence on the structures of the party, which in this matter couldn’t have been the case. It is therefore important that a strong appeal is made to all APC leaders to develop more confidence to negotiate every matter, including the issue of power shift, within the structures of APC.
The current trend, which appears to create divisions among APC leaders must be halted. Question of unity among APC leaders is a fundamental precondition for being able to continue to win the support of Nigerians, which is what can guarantee any electoral victory. In fact, the confidence of PDP and their supporters is only stronger in campaigning against APC and President Buhari’s led Federal Government, using false narrative of failure, because unity among the ranks of APC leaders and member is increasingly being broken. Even the reality of reactive and passive communication of APC led government initiatives is further becoming a dominant attribute because unity among APC leaders is getting weaker.
All APC members must strongly appeal to all APC leaders to rebuild confidence and ensure that every issue that should be addressed within the structures of the party are treated so. Perhaps, also in relation to the question of unity of leaders within the party, all governments produced by the party should be able to strengthen internal relations. Internal consultative processes should be functionally made stronger such that disputes between governments are well managed, negotiated and any possible agreement respected. The recent partnership between Lagos and Rivers States in relation to the legal dispute on Value Added Tax against the Federal Government is to say the least very disturbing. All party members and leaders should without prejudice to the grievances of Lagos State Government appeal to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to initiate processes of direct engagement with the Federal Government to resolve all issues.
It is politically scandalous for APC state to sue APC Federal Government. Everything taken together – mobilising for power shift outside APC and the legal case between Lagos State and Federal Government – require that our leaders should be open to themselves. Beyond being open, APC leaders should have both discipline and respect for each other. Unity of leaders will be meaningless, if not impossible, without discipline and respect for one another. In fact, leaders will be unable to unite party members and Nigerians if they don’t have the required discipline and respect for one another. It is not by accident that public debate in Nigeria is very offensive. Citizens treat each other with disrespect and easily abuse each other in unprintable languages. This may perhaps be the true reflection of the quality of relationship among leaders.
The APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee need to take up the issue of uniting all APC leaders and ensure that relevant structures of the party are being used to facilitate negotiation on all emerging issues, including the question of power shift. All leaders of the party should be reminded that the fundamental issue of changing Nigeria will remain a dream so long as leaders failed to work for the development of the structures of the party. Building a party is beyond winning election, important as it is. Building the party is specifically about ensuring that structures of the party are competent and capable of facilitating negotiations among members and leaders on every issue. Every negotiation should produce an agreement which must be respected by every leader and member.
At this point, it is also important to appeal to the APC Caretaker Committee to conclude the work being done to amend the constitution of the party. Strengthening processes of disciplinary hearing and enforcement of decisions should be prioritised. Capacity of the party to regulate the conduct of members and leaders should be strengthened. Being a party envisioned to bring about change, regulating the conduct of party members and leaders will be an important catalysing factor to change Nigerian politics and produce the new Nigeria of our dream. The quality of any democracy is defined by the strength of political parties. Once political parties are irrelevant to the processes of regulating conducts of leaders, leaders are not united, disciplined and respect one another, democracy will be meaningless unresponsive and nonrepresentative, and cannot meet the expectations of citizens.
For APC to achieve the goal of producing a new Nigeria, first thing first, it must be a party with a leadership that is united, disciplined, and respectful. The process of re-organising the structures of APC must make the party functionally active in facilitating negotiations among leaders at all levels and all agreements reached must be respected by all. It is the process of negotiation and implementing agreements reached, which should be respected by all that can produce a New Nigeria!
Salihu Moh. Lukman
Progressive Governors Forum
This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum