Politics and governance are very distinct kettles of fish. One is underlined by a rewards system of competence and appropriate patriotism; the other is borne out of intrigues, pettiness and gamesmanship. The need to separate these domains is why the American Presidential system was devised from the mercurial mendacity of the European political system of joint party/government system, balanced however by strong monarchial systems (and in the Republics, an apolitical President or Prime Minister) around whom the arduous work of national building is done without the murk of the dirtiness of political gamesmanship.

Alas, in Nigeria this idea has been lost on our new governing party: the very idea that was the ingredient of its success first in Lagos, and later in the entire Southwest Region which was widely accepted as a worthy experiment and was finally adopted for national pilot in the March 29 election. The idea was that political godfathers and personalities should maintain party hegemony, as a counterbalance to a strong and competent executive, providing cover when needed and reprimand when desired but all in all delivering solid performance together deserving of reelection.

Somehow, the APC political machinery descended to the abyss of quarrels and inability to perform the basic function of ensuring stable and cohesive platform for its members as soon as it sighted the federal largesse. Perhaps the very foundations of its current crisis were sowed in the unchecked influx of decampees at the last minute of the last election or starting when the new PDP Governors made their entry, but it was not totally unmanageable if the political stalwarts in APC that managed to beat the PDP were not asleep at the wheel!

The first major mistake the party made, was allowing the six weeks of non-transitive transition to go by without putting their house in order. Indeed, while Nigeria had a president-elect, it had no new President, as Goodluck Jonathan made very clear in that period. In the absence of any toga of governance, the party should have spent that considerable period to strategize, to gets its act together, to train its people and bring some semblance of plan to the organization built in the frenzy of rapid publicity and political chess games of the election period. The results of the lack of preparedness of APC, is what it is today reaping in the National Assembly.

Lets take for example the Saraki-Dogara conundrum. One has to be certain that the hand that Saraki was playing was no secret to all concerned. It was obvious what his end game was, even though few thought he will actually go nuclear by doing a deal with PDP to not only elect him but to steal a position (of Deputy Senate President) right under him.

However, at some point between March 29 and May 29, the now Senate President was available to do deals. For example, it was not out of place for the party to placate the New PDP camp by conceding the Speaker position to Honorable Dogara, while insisting Saraki give the ANPP camp the Senate Presidency while gaining the Majority Leader position. However, the act of ignoring Saraki was a very dangerous one that is today creaming the party since it unified the new PDP that constituted a sizeable proportion of the legislative contingent of APC. Of course, while this fact does not acquit Senator Saraki of his political malfeasance, it does show the political naivety of the governing party.

Taking this mistake further, was the political mistake of the President who indicated in his speech on May 29 his philosophy of non-interference in legislative politics. This was political suicide, because it sent a clear signal to the would-be gladiators that the President was not interested.

In politics, interference and indifference are two sides of the same coin.  The APC basically went from a period of legislative guidance lacuna to a period of free for all, which is inevitably doing them in as we speak. The signal the president was naively sending was that he could care less who emerged to control his political agenda, and this was where the enemies of change decided to plant their flags. Even if the President did not plan to engage in the legislative excesses of his predecessors, he didn’t need to be waving the white flag on top of the roof! Silence is golden in the absence of strategy; at least it makes you mystical!

As if the macabre of mistakes were not good enough, the party’s next step of organizing a last minute and shoddily arranged primary of its caucus was not only in bad taste, it actually put some very good candidates it had in unnecessary bad light. For example, Femi Gbaja was likely to have won speakership had he not attended that primary that produced him as the candidate. The lack of political intelligence when the would be gladiators did not show up for the primaries also did the party in, even as the poor coordination with the presidency on the terms of a proclamation of the legislature was poorly managed. Who is in charge in there?

The political hara-kiri led by Senator Saraki and his group soon followed, and the party’s response was in any case underwhelming giving the expectations of these political superstars that reformatted a 55 years old landscape by their ingenuity, but whimpered when it came to putting the errant son of a political giant of one state out of twenty four it controls in check!

The first mistake APC made was accepting the very bad advice that it should close rank and ignore the political insult of Saraki and Dogara. In accepting their election as fait accompli, the party sent signals to all and sundry that it can be defied with no consequence. And in thinking it can feed a greedy man and expect that he will ask for no more, the party poorly judged the appetite of greed of “Sarakists” that is now catching up to it one month later as the new PDP camp is now demanding the right to nominate party principal officers in defiance of established tradition and party rules. This was the bane of the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)!

The alternative to accepting Saraki was clear as daylight; it was demanding that they resign or bear the consequence of expulsion side by side an active recall process bankrolled by the party. The sins of Saraki was not merely getting elected by siding with the opposition (APC predecessor parties –CAN- have partaken in this act itself before), but trading away the party’s Deputy Senate Presidency to achieve his own personal goal even while insulting 51 of his colleagues by engineering this election in their absence.

This also was the second opportunity to actually create separation between Dogara and Saraki, and weaken the camp of greed. While Dogara could also have been asked for resignation, he could at least regain the seat by negotiating the joint support of the party members which placates the new PDP camp, but Saraki could have been denied the same deal which would have suitably fit his crime but also denied him the comfort of coordination; how the APC strategists missed this opportunity, and took the advice of political neophytes blabbing on Channels TV to accept Saraki was beyond reason. It was a political crime!

It must be said at this juncture, that the arguments of those that sheepishly sought to preserve some modicum of peace for the party either a. to avoid distraction or b. to enable its legislative priorities to sail through, should hold no water with any political gladiator that knows their worth. What is the value of a majority that cannot be exercised? What is the value of being in majority when you don’t trust your legislative leader and his association with the opposition is open?

Haven’t we seen this movie before? Afraid that these politicians will decamp? Well Saraki and Dogara already decamped but in name only. The party then was to force them to do it in reality, alongside their erring colleagues. The response after this nuclear war if that is the path they choose, was to then pursue their expulsion, loss of seat as well as targeted recall process bringing the political muscle of activists to bear even while subjecting their many unclean deeds of the past that many have insisted disqualified them from high office to public scrutiny. Let us see how much grassroots support they have in Alagbon and Kirikiri.

The alternative argument that the party has no right to interfere in legislative politics is a combination of ignorance and naivety. Indeed, reading Dele Momodu’s treatise last weekend in his Thisday column on how new-PDP should be rewarded (point taken), and that how independence mean the party does nothing about its legislative agenda (point ignored) was at best laughable. Who was on the ballot paper, the candidate or the party? Unless Bob Dee did not vote, he knows that what we voted for was the party. The Supreme Court also has been clear on this issue, in Nigeria it is the party you elect not the candidate. Governor Amaechi of new PDP now APC (hopefully in the loyal camp) was a primary beneficiary of this system.

Hence, to protect its brand and program, the party has every right to choose whom it wants to lead its caucus and at least prescribe a transparent process for choosing its sole candidate for principal leadership in both houses. Only a stupid party will go into tussle on the floor with two candidates. While APC must have goofed by not agreeing this upfront or moving quickly to do so, it is not tantamount to ceding these positions. To say otherwise is playing ostrich, or at least as Dele Momodu appeared to be doing trying to reward buddies instead of getting serious with the act of governance.

As a party, it is way too early for APC to be held hostage by a narrow group of individuals especially discredited ones like those coming from the Saraki school of political treachery. It amounts to blackmail if the party is afraid of them to decamp, and then subject itself to political death in the hands of political jobbers. The party at this moment is stronger than the individuals by consequence of its near total victory, but that good will is only momentary if it does not begin to deliver the goods of change it promised. It cannot deliver those goods while being strangled by hostage takers in the name of equity who won’t mind blowing up themselves and their party.

The party should allow them, and seek a political separation while it creates a new base for itself in states where it is bound to lose some with creative new social programs: building new leaders in these communities that signal a separation from the rapacious appetite of few political elites that are willing to even sacrifice their fathers to achieve a near term political goal as they send him to quick dispatch to a grave of no return! 

Epilogue: New-PDP contributed political base in 5 state Governors, losing one of its governorship quickly in an impeachment, and the value of one of its contributory governors i.e. Governor Amaechi was more regional and thematic than in actual political victory. In essence, new-PDP can only truly lay claim to wins in Kwara, Kano and Sokoto. 

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