Buhari: A worrisome start to a change promised

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President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledging cheers during his inauguration.
President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledging cheers during his inauguration.

The manner in which the All Progressives Congress (APC), the newly-elected party into government has  conducted its affairs in the past week or so gives cause to worry about both its preparedness and its capacity to  deliver on the party’s central electoral  promise of ‘change’  to, assumedly, better  politics and better governance.

Besides that, contrary to general expectations, its government cannot be said to have ‘hit the ground running’, the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly where the APC holds a strong  majority is so untidy as to cast doubt on the cohesion of the party.

Really, the party is carrying about as if it sought to gain power first and then plan what to do with it; as if it was as unprepared for its own electoral success as the PDP was unprepared for its defeat.

The APC is a merger of four former parties plus a breakaway group of the PDP. It is reasonable to expect that being a product of such a merger the APC has distilled from its constituent parts a set of core ideological values and principles that firmly guide its members, its politics, its policies, its methods.

This newspaper once observed that the parties lacked clear-cut ideological blueprint, that they lacked internal democracy, and that the history of the country has no proven evidence of a successful merger at the national level. But the APC appeared ready to break the jinx and provide a stable, credible alternative – in content and in style of governance – to the PDP with which just about every patriotic Nigerian was fed up.

So far from the look of things, the APC may be a mere admixture of groups of politicians who, like  soldiers-of-fortune, migrate to where the fortune is, persons driven by blind ambition who will sacrifice  anything to achieve narrow personal goals. This is not the ‘change’ Nigerians voted for and this is not the ‘change’ they will tolerate.

Let it be recalled that Nigerians voted out a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that was more of a ruling than a governing political party, that was insensitive to the yearnings of the electorate, and that was, while it lasted, both incompetent, yet arrogant to the point of being disdainful.

The APC promised a change from all that were wrong with the PDP, including, it needs be noted, internal democracy. APC promised the party more disciplined, more focused and more responsive to the urgent issues that confront Nigeria and Nigerians. That the APC called itself ‘progressive’ was an important attraction to discerning Nigerians who understand the ordinary and the political hue.

For, all over the world, progressive parties worth the label promote political, economic and social reforms in favour of an open government and an increasingly equitable society; in sum, they are acutely responsive to the needs and aspirations of the citizenry.

In respect of the election of the National Assembly leadership which was preceded by a disputed mock election within the party, the way the APC legislators became divided, most were absent elsewhere while a few were present where crucial election was holding, and the  way the party was outsmarted by a determined dissenting group indicate a severe lack of  cohesion within the membership of the APC.

This lack of cohesion is a serious weakness of the party and it is no exaggeration to suggest that it is a threat to the survival of the party in the form it won the election. It is axiomatic that a house divided against itself is doomed to fall.

The question now:  is this an APC leadership or a PDP leadership in the legislature? With the APC suffering dissension so soon in the day, it is most reasonable to ask: if this is truly a progressive party, where are the progressives while the National Assembly incident played out?  And if as the saying goes, morning shows the day, then are these signs of the ‘change’ promised? No one except the APC can answer these questions and the party must do so very quickly.

Nigerians have suffered enough under a largely intrigue-filled, undisciplined and rapacious government; they cannot wait to see a change for the better as promised by the APC. The palpable impatience in the air is, under the circumstance, understandable.

President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to work with the leadership of the National Assembly although he wished it had emerged with the full backing of the party. Very well. But the point must be made: that the new Senate President is on slippery ground who attained his position by the grace of the opposition. Neither he nor his party’s government can function comfortably to deliver on its manifesto no matter how nebulously phrased.

Decades ago, Buhari as military head of state cited indiscipline as ‘the main problem of Nigeria’. Now, as an elected president, he has found himself burdened with the responsibility to instill discipline into his own political party.  And, it is a pity indeed that this is an issue that takes his attention and precious time so early in his administration. But if the party platform on which his presidency was voted into power is to live up to its promise of change, this former general must take charge now and reform his party.

A great and effective party is built on merit, truly democratic principles and responsiveness to public concerns. The APC still has the chance to become one.  But it  must move quickly to put its house in order, get its acts together, and get on with the job of fixing Nigeria as generally promised in its 10-point constitution, its manifesto and the president’s inaugural address to the nation.

However, it cannot deliver unless party discipline, party loyalty, and party cohesion are made sacrosanct and are imbibed by its members – high and low.  Nigerians await the change for the better that they were promised and which they voted for. Absolutely no excuses will be acceptable for politics-as-usual, or for outright non-performance.

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* ‘A worrisome start to a change promised’ was an Editorial Opinion by The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, 17 June 2015.

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