APC: Time Is Running Out , By Dan Agbese

Dan-Agbese 600Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has thrown his hat into the ring. He is offering himself as the presidential candidate of his party, APC, for next year’s presidential election. No surprise there. Everyone knew the former vice-president would run. He has been visibly itching for it. His party has not yet replaced party primaries with endorsements. So, he is not the sole candidate standing yet. I expect other notable members of his party, such as General Muhammadu Buhari, to fight it out with him in a contest of political giants.
At his formal declaration at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Abubakar offered a pretty good diagnosis of the political, economic and social ills that bedevil our country. He spoke of “a serious governance deficit.” He said the country was “on auto-pilot without no one in charge.” He also said: “Our country is more divided today than at any other time since the civil war. There is a disturbing rise in ethnic nationalism and religious bigotry.”
All true. He said: “We can’t continue down the line of decline. We need a strong, dynamic, decisive, competent and visionary leadership that can halt the current drift of the ship of state, fight corruption, create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, provide social services and tackle insecurity in a decisive, robust, multipronged way.”
Simple interpretation? President Goodluck Jonathan is not the leader our country deserves. Political campaigns are about throwing mud. As the heat goes up in the months ahead, mud would be the weapon of choice in mutual denigration. Abubakar’s diagnosis makes for a good sound bite. But it worries me because APC chieftains seem persuaded that they have much political mileage to gain from throwing mud at Jonathan as an incompetent, unfocused and divisive leader whose transformation agenda has accepted corruption as our national way of life. This is merely political masturbation: it gratifies but it does not produce life. We want life in our national politics – something to lift us from the quagmire of primitive preoccupation with seeking public office for its own sake.
I fear that APC is looking at the small picture rather than the big one. This is a fundamental mistake that has increasingly coloured the perception of its chieftains and consequently their poor response to the challenges the party faces in seriously offering itself as a viable and credible alternative to the ruling party. As an opposition party, APC has the right to seek to replace the ruling party. But in our circumstances, this is a limited objective. I am wondering if the party has not lost its way, thanks to the miasma of individual ambitions that appeared to have primarily motivated its birth from the fusion of the four political parties or rumps thereof. It seems the promise it offered at the beginning has been squandered through the power struggle that saw losers pitching their tents instantly with PDP. Bereft of politics of conviction, Nigerian politicians float in the wind, catching at any straws that promise the path to power or political relevance.
I heartily welcomed the birth of the party because I believed it would halt the descent of our country into the anachronistic gutter of the one-party system vigorously being pursued by the PDP since 1999. The one party system is anathema to political pluralism, the granite pillar of democracy. It promotes and protects the political rights of the individual to cast his lot with the party of his choice. Democracy sans political pluralism would be a strange word in the political dictionary.
My hope was that in time, APC would become a strong and viable grassroots party with a broader outlook and focused on the fundamentals of the mortar and the bricks of nation building. I had hoped that the party would combine political pragmatism and intellectualism to eventually free us of the baggage of the 1950’s and 1960’s politics that sees Nigerian voters as mere statistics in the political game. Two fundamentals still characterize our politics – primitive appeals to ethnicity and religion and something captured by the colourful phrase – stomach infrastructure. I had hoped the party would be different from the PDP – and not merely in name.
I am sad that so far, APC has not really offered the country anything fundamentally different from what PDP has done since 1999. It is making a poor job of marketing itself as a party we can trust to give us the kind of leadership that Abubakar talked about at his declaration.
I am afraid time is running out for the party too. Throwing mud at Jonathan is cheap. It does not elevate the party. It says nothing about its policies and programmes.
General Buhari said in Ekiti this week that the parties merged “to chase away the PDP and as a credible alternative party.” He also said that “if we carry on the way the ruling party is carrying on, then the nation is heading towards a serious crisis.”
All right, so how does APC intend to head the country out of that serious crisis? So far, the party has been long on rhetoric and short on the fundamentals of tackling the cocktail of serious and critical challenges the nation faces.
I offer a few suggestions to the party gratis. One, APC should stop throwing mud at the president and his party. This is not taking the party anywhere; therefore, to preoccupy itself with it is to damage itself in both the short term and the long term.
Two, the party should show some evidence that it appreciates where we are, why we are where we are. To put it another way, the party should give us its informed thoughts on our problems and its well thought out solutions to them.
Three, the party must stanch the hemorrhage in its ranks. It must arrest the drift in its organisation before it can think of arresting the ship of state drifting in the choppy waters of poor leadership. APC’s public picture at the moment does not invite public confidence in it as, to use Buhari’s expression, “a viable alternative party.”
Let me say this to the leaders of the party: your failure to make your party a credible and viable alternative party in the country will doom the present and the future of democracy in our country. It will compound the poor leadership recruitment process now dead with endorsements as a leadership recruitment principle. It does not take rocket science to see that given this situation the right leadership at all levels will not emerge. It also would worsen corruption and the culture of impunity and Nigeria, the giant of Africa, would be the only giant known to man with a vertical disadvantage.

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