The simple question is, how can any organisation, society or nation develop when conflict is the defining endeavour? We may choose to conveniently imagine that we can make progress with the crucial task of party and nation building notwithstanding the fact that at all levels, conflicts have taken over our party and societal structures. Our leaders are in conflict with themselves – almost every known leader across the country, from Ward to National, Local to Federal Government, politicians, traditional, religious, civil society activists, captains of industry, trade unionists, youths, women, persons with disabilities, etc., are taking part in many of the conflicts in different forms and at varying degrees.
In the circumstance, a sharply focused binary has developed in our politics through which everyone gets positioned and labelled as an actor in one conflict or the other. With such binary almost every initiative re-enforces existing conflicts, and, in many instances, stronger and new conflicts emerge. How is our politics responding to this horrible reality? Are there political initiatives to resolve all the conflicts in the party and by extension in the country? To what extent are the initiatives facilitating the processes of reconciling our leaders at all levels? Or, will it be possible for the different conflicts in the party and country to be resolved without reconciling our leaders? Aren’t most of our political conflicts’ reflections of leadership interests and the associated disputes in the first place?
Somehow, as Nigerians, we tend to ignore these questions and imagine that we can find the formula for building our organisations, society and nation with weak commitment to issues of conflict resolutions and reconciliation. Partly on accounts of such denial, the most important political responsibility of finding solutions to organisational, societal and national challenges get sacrificed. Instead, the dominant political psychology in the country is that politics is about contesting elections or being appointed to political offices. Contesting election and appointed to political offices to do what? To deepen existing political conflicts and conquer opponents?
Arising from such dominant political psychology, our politics is, in many respects, alienated from application of knowledge and skills to mobilise citizens in any given direction. In most cases, it is reduced to issues of patronage to facilitate access to public resources. This further entrenches the problem of managing conflicting interests, expand the scope for disagreements and deepen leadership animosities. That being the case, what are the prospects for any turn around in a new direction coming with new hope?
As a people, Nigerians have, at different times, rose to the challenge of re-inventing national hope. Sometimes, when the situation appears almost hopeless and our political leaders live in denial of the realities facing the nation, new window of hope emerges in the country. Even in the context of developments in the Fourth Republic since 1999, thrice, we have had instances of new window opening up when things appear hopeless. The first time was during the former President Obasanjo’s attempted Third Term in 2006. The second time was the poor management of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s sickness, which produced the needless refusal to transmit the constitutionally required notice to the National Assembly empowering the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to act as President of the Federal Republic. The third was the imposed electoral hegemony of the PDP in the country, especially at Federal levels, through serial electoral frauds in the country.
In all the three cases, initiatives, hardly expected, opens up new rays of hope in the country. Whether with reference to resolutions of chambers of the National Assembly to throw out consideration for the Third Term agenda, adoption of the “doctrine of necessity”, which resolved the President Yar’Adua’s constitutionally orchestrated national leadership crisis, or the termination of PDP’s imposed electoral hegemony through the introduction of card reader technology, new window of national hope opens up at times when almost everyone seems to have resigned.
Although individual actors and politicians may want to take credit of the emergence of new windows in the country at different times, it is important to highlight the democratic factors that produced all the rays of hope based on the recognition of the volatility of the situation and the range of possibilities presented, which inadvertently threatened the authority of Nigerian political elites. Sometimes, these political initiatives presented themselves as contests within the ruling or governing political parties but get blocked by leaders of the party and government.
Recall the PDP reform group initiatives around 2010, which was frustrated by leaders of the PDP and the Yar’Adua/Jonathan Presidency. Perhaps, had the PDP leadership and the Yar’Adua/Jonathan Presidency responded by producing some political concessions especially around issues of internal party democracy, most of the leadership conflicts that characterised the PDP especially between 2013 and 2014 would have been avoided. To a considerable extent the catalysing factors that propelled the emergence of APC around this period would have been diluted. Or the electoral advantage, which the APC had at the point of its formation in 2013/2014 would have been weakened, which may have made the electoral victory of 2015 almost impossible.
By some coincidences, experiences in APC today seem to be confronting us with similar challenges requiring our leaders to produce some concessions. In virtually all our states, the party is faced with challenges bordering on leadership disputes. Mostly triggered by disagreements arising from conducts of party primaries before the 2019 elections, the APC is no doubt politically weaker today than it was in 2019. The party leadership are not united and the National Working Committee (NWC), which is saddled with the responsibility of day to day management of the party has impliedly declared state of emergency on affairs of the party based on which it has suspended other superior organs of the party and is discharging their functions.
In the circumstance, the political advantages of the APC in the country are systematically being eroded. If the situation continues, not only would the party risk losing off-season elections, starting with Kogi and Bayelsa, but that leaders of the party could end up only becoming sources of distractions to APC governments, especially President Muhammadu Buhari’s Federal Government. This is because instead of going to President Buhari with supportive proposals on how he can strengthen Federal Government’s initiatives towards accelerating processes of addressing all our national challenges, they will be going to him with problems of leadership disputes and asking him to intervene to resolve them. In other words, instead of supporting him to discharge his functions as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they will be pulling him down to the position of serving as a trial judge in the different conflicts.
This is most unfair. Our APC leaders, especially members of the NWC, need to be told the blunt truth. The capacity of President Buhari to drive federal initiatives for peace and national reconciliation will be weakened if the internal leadership disputes in APC continues. The more disputes we have within the party, the more the President will be distracted. In any case, in some states, key functionaries of President Buhari’s government are central to the leadership disputes. How can we expect these functionaries to discharge their functions in addressing national challenges when they themselves are troubled? How can we lead the process of national reconciliation, when leaders of our party need to be reconciled?
Inconvenient as this would appear, this is the hard truth. PDP leaders, members and supporters, may want to celebrate this. However, it is important to caution that the situation is worse in the PDP. Just evaluate processes of candidates’ selection within the PDP, delegates’ (s)election, etc. Perhaps, a review of events within the party around 2019 elections may also be helpful. Any objective review would spot that leadership unity in PDP today is at best smokescreen.
Coming back to the challenge of reconciling our leaders in APC, what is it that should be done? To reconcile our leaders, require some sober reflection. Every leader of the party must come to terms with the reality that either by acts of commission or omission, directly or indirectly, everyone has erred. In one way or the other, each party in the different leadership disputes has offended the other. This would require that each party in all the disputes should be ready to make some compromises. Part of the problems of all the analysis of the leadership disputes in the party is the sophistry, which limits analysis to narration of faults of the actors. Hardly are we projecting the sacrifices actors and players needs to make in order to produce the kind of reconciliation Nigerians, or at least APC members, looks forward to.
What this would imply is that the minimum sacrifice everyone should be willing to make is the capacity to forgive each other. Just imagine for instance that former Governor Rotimi Amaechi is able to forgive Sen. Magnus Abe in Rivers and vice versa. Or former Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara is able to forgive Sen. Kabiru Marafa. Stretching to other states such as Imo, Ogun, Edo, etc. would similarly mean reconciling former Governor Rochas Okorocha with Sen. Hope Uzodinma, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun with current Governor Dapo Abiodun and current APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole with Governor Godwin Obaseki, in the same spirit of forgiveness. With such spirit of forgiveness, sanity could be restored among functionaries serving in the NWC such that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole could relate with Sen. Lawal Shuaibu without the affliction the leadership dispute in Zamfara has thrown up. Similarly, Comrade Oshiomhole and Alh. Inuwa Abdulkadir could resolve all acquired grievances arising from 2019 elections.
Isn’t it possible to initiate processes of leadership reconciliation in APC based on simple acknowledgement of the fact that everyone is at fault in varying degrees and what is required is for each of the parties to forgive one another? This would have the potentials of re-inventing the APC and getting it to have all the electoral advantages it had in 2015. Coming at the beginning of a new tenure, the party could convert such advantages into good political capital that can translate into national reconciliation, peace building and democratic development.
Salihu Moh. Lukman [email protected]
c/o Progressive Governors Forum