The rule in politics is, don’t walk out, but the bigger rule is, don’t be absent. Whatever reasons it gives, the fact is that the APC was virtually absent when the Senate was inaugurated and when the leadership elections were held
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is not a party in itself, but a party for its self. The mere fact that a coalition declares itself a party, does not mean it automatically becomes a party which is a political movement built over a period based defined principles. A political party is like a child that needs to grow, even if that child is a weird one that defeated his father in a contest. So, when in reaction to the Tuesday defeat of its official candidates in the National Assembly Principal Officers election, the APC spokespersons vowed to discipline its members who defeated its preferred candidates, it merely means a move by a section of the party to discipline a rival faction.
Far from the NASS fall-out being a question of indiscipline, it is in truth, an internal contestation for power within the APC. So far, most of the aggrieved party leaders have their roots in the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) and largely, its successor, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) In contrast, legislators they seek to discipline, like Senate President Bukola Saraki and their backers including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, have their roots in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) In the unfolding battle, President Muhammadu Buhari’s team from the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) is largely non committal; it supports the party, but accepts the elections; it belongs to all, and belongs to nobody. Clearly, a vicious struggle between the old AD/ACN and the PDP faction that moved to APC, will strengthen the hand of the old CPC platform in the ruling party.
When a child stumbles and falls, he looks forward to see if anybody is coming to his rescue. But when an adult suffers the same fate, he looks back to see what tripped him. The PDP had a heavy fall in the general elections, and it looked back to see why it fell. On the other hand, the APC fell in the National Assembly, and rather than examine why, it is yelling and crying blue murder. It accuses the PDP of engineering its defeat in the Assembly; did it expect the opposition party to come to its aid? Will its cries frighten the PDP into retreat? Certainly not.
The fate that befell APC is largely self inflicted. Its claimed neutrality on who becomes the Senate President and Speaker was quite naïve. How can a ruling party claim to leave the leadership of the National Assembly to chance? How come it did not factor in the opposition PDP with 49 Senators in its calculations? The rule in politics is, don’t walk out, but the bigger rule is, don’t be absent. Whatever reasons it gives, the fact is that the APC was virtually absent when the Senate was inaugurated and when the leadership elections were held. Clearly, the APC lacks experience as the ruling party, and its anger and self-assuredness, is not allowing it to learn the necessary lessons. Just a few weeks ago, it was boasting to be the master of the game, taunting the PDP about its transformation from being the ruling party to the opposition and even arrogantly, asking the PDP to come and learn, how to play opposition politics.
It forgot the basic teaching of legendary Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire author of the famous Pedagogy of the Oppressed that education is a two-way traffic in which the educator must also be educated; in striving to teach the PDP opposition politics, the APC should be humble enough to learn the politics of a ruling party from its would-be student. With its 48 Senators to the APC’s 9 present at the inauguration, the PDP, if it wanted, could have taken the Senate Presidency, but it wisely chose not to do so; preferring to set the APC against itself. That is a lesson for the ruling party.
The APC should realize, as Freire teaches, that “No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are” The APC could not have been born as an adult. The magnetic field of the APC coalition was essentially to defeat and replace the ruling party. To achieve that, the Congress conveners, demonized the PDP and rallied the populace around a slogan of change. With the main enemy defeated and power in their hands, the internal contradictions in the party are bound to surface.
If the APC is to learn from self-experience, it must stop its incoherent responses to the dilemma it faces, rethink its resort to court actions against its dissenting members and stop its threat bulletins. It would need to stop fighting the Saraki group employing the same media nuclear weapons it deployed against former President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP. It would first need an honest evaluation of itself, motives and principles. It would need to know what and who it is; a sort of self awareness which would lead to self consciousness.
The group, Pathways to Happiness says that “Self awareness is in having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment” It is this self awareness that is lacking in the APC.
But while the APC sorts out itself and the salaries and allowances of legislators flow, the work of the National Assembly and its smooth running is being threatened. I believe in internal party democracy and discipline. But frankly, the primary concern of the Nigerian people is neither party discipline nor who, between Saraki and Ahmad Lawan is Senate President; this is more an issue of sharing offices, and less about service. What the people demand is service. They have voted for change and change has come, at least in Aso Rock. Now, the people want and deserve positive changes in their lives. That is all that matters.
•Lakemfa is Secretary-General of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU).