It was inevitable, the implosion of a relationship hurriedly cobbled together by politicians with oversized egos and dodgy credentials as ‘progressives’. The recent tussle for leadership of the two houses of the national assembly (NASS), and the political in-fighting in the newly elected ruling party at the centre, the All Progressives Congress (APC), tells a sordid tale of the messiness of politics in emergent countries as Nigeria. The lack of political inclusiveness creates situations where leaders emerge by virtue of strong arm tactics of dominant political interests or persons.
The charade of an election held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja by the APC which resulted in Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North) emerging as the preferred candidate of the party for the senate presidency and the subsequent emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central) as the senate president against the desires of the party’s ‘godfathers’ throws up interesting but disturbing prospects for the country going forward.
Saraki represents a newer but unstable and dubiously principled strand of leadership in the country. He belongs to a band of former governors, who are uppity, manipulative and overly ambitious. Some of these character traits are not necessarily bad in themselves but they begin to take a darker hue when it is realized that the boisterous, sneaky and irreverent disposition of these set of individuals is not anchored on a strong and coherent political and economic world view but on narrow selfish interests. Saraki’s successful arm twisting of his political party to get the seat of senate president is likely to create more problems than it solves.
The first problem is the fact that the party has lost control over its members and over the conceptual supremacy it has over individual ambitions. These are likely to be irascible trends that define the four year tenure of this administration. The younger leaders of the APC would continue to take control of the party structure from their older counterparts and deliberately whittle down the influence of the likes of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the parties policies and actions. This in turn would lead to intense internal rivalry and serve as a major distraction for the party that had hitherto been perceived as a harbinger of political and economic change in the country.
For those not particularly enamoured by the steely grip of the Jagaban of Borgu, Tinubu, over party structures, the unfolding events are cheery and benevolent, as the likes of former governor Chibuike Amechi of Rivers State, governor Adams Oshiomole, Edo State, and former governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, would see this as an opportunity to assert greater influence in the party.
The internecine conflicts between the old and new orders within the party would undoubtedly deal glancing blows at cohesion and control. This is a throwback to the days of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who insisted that all UPN governors should be given automatic tickets to contest for a second term in 1983, the decision led to a number of younger members of the party protesting the imposition and reassigning their loyalties to rival parties.
The fissures within the UPN would have had adverse effects on the party’s political fortunes if not for a coup that ousted the government of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Ironically the coup was led by the present head of government, President Muhammadu Buhari. The trouble with the current challenges within the APC is that the young Turks growing into stronger positions of power have no strong philosophical or intellectual positions. In defying their parties to attain strategic public offices their agenda remains unclear and their loyalty vacuous.
For example, both Saraki and Dogara are not known for big and audacious ideas. They are consummate political brawlers with a veneer of urban sophistication that makes no pretence to deep national or intellectual interest. This is a major challenge for a country in the throes of economic recession. With an executive arm of government that is essentially geriatric and regal, the nation needs an activist legislature that could spur economic vitality through deep thought and aggressive agenda setting. The new legislature required is one that can put the executive under sustained pressure to provide a macroeconomic environment that is market-oriented, monopoly-breaking and investor-friendly.
Unfortunately neither the President nor his vice have the level of economic competence needed to guide the Nigeria economy out of recession. This is why the choice of key members of the administration’s economic team is vital to fulfilling the promise of economic and social change that the APC assured Nigerians during its electioneering campaigns. Unfortunately, however, the party has proven fractious and incompetent in selecting key office holders. If what played out at the National Assembly repeats itself in the nomination of Ministers, then the change delivered by the party would not be the change expected by the country.
If the APC bungles the task of putting together a competent team of economic managers, then Nigeria’s march to Kosovo would have surely been sealed. In the impressionable words of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, ”all of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”