On June 25 last year, a special NEC meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) appointed Governor Mai Mala Buni as the chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee. Four days later I wrote on this page warning the opposition, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that they can only ignore him at their peril. But did they take my warning seriously?
The APC was on the brink of implosion when he took over. It had lost states and national legislative seats in the 2019 general elections and was on the brink of losing sitting governors. But the party, which had 64 senators then now has over 70. He has also made three PDP governors throw away the umbrella and embraced his broom wielding party, with the possibility of bringing in more. I here reproduce the write-up:
That the All Progressives Congress (APC) was galloping towards disintegration was obvious. That other political parties, especially the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), that would benefit from APC’s implosion were happily watching, like vultures sensing a carcass, and awaiting the apocalypse needs no elaboration.
This week I had wanted to write about “Change” and why it should not begin with me. In it, there was a passing observation regarding Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, who now doubles as the chairman of APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Committee.
But I had to change course because this has more currency and impact on each of us Nigerians and the country as an entity. The APC is the ruling party and whatever affects it affects not only us but the continent of Africa.
The APC came into being after the merger of four legacy parties on February 6, 2013. The major parties were the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), along with a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
And true to the definition of a political party as “a group of persons organized to gain and exercise political power”, it rode on Nigerians’ desire for change having been disenchanted with happenings then and how the country was slowly but surely becoming an effluvium.
Corruption was so endemic and impunity was the order of the day. Political leaders were becoming unbearable burdens on the populace. But worse was that the Boko Haram insurgents were having a field day with our army unable to tame them.
The APC fielded President Muhammadu Buhari, a man with an unprecedented political following and an assured twelve million votes. He had the reputation of an ascetic, a man of integrity, with a well-known abhorrence for corruption.
The Nigerian situation was bordering on the hopeless, and we believed he would rekindle hope in a nation at its wit’s end.
There was a sigh of relief by most Nigerians when incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan first congratulated Buhari even before the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, announced him as the winner of the presidential election. Everybody expected a change from all the things that were drawing us back as a nation and threatening our unity and corporate existence.
That Nigeria is yet to witness the hoped-for change has befuddled many of its citizens.
But the answer may not be farfetched. President Buhari came to power through a political platform. In an ideal democracy, parties have manifestoes in which promises made are encapsulated. The values and programmes enunciated in the manifesto guide any democratic government in power in its conduct. And in our current setting, as president, which makes him the leader of his party, he can influence and achieve a lot through personal example.
However, if a party cannot stick to its core values and instead of shepherding its elected and appointed members to implement what it promised the people, then it has failed as an agent of change and development. On top of failing to monitor its members in discharging their responsibilities, worse is when senior members carve fiefdoms and spheres of influence for themselves for pecuniary gains or with an eye for the next election, or both. Though a party too may be hampered if a chief executive of government also assumes its leadership, this is a topic for another day.
This is exactly what the APC became, unfortunately, for itself and the country it rules. Its leaders sacrificed national interest on the altar of self-first. That may be one major reason President Muhammadu Buhari was not delivering as expected.
And Adams Oshiomhole could not rein in his tongue, which always uttered whatever crossed his mind. With his background as a labour unionist used to shouting for attention and relevance, he saw the position of national chairman of a ruling party as a Magna Carta for mandibular walkabouts. He abused whoever crossed his path, forgave those who ‘reasoned’ with him no matter the gravity of their crimes against the state and practised playing God with people’s fate.
By the time the rug was pulled from under his feet, a party with 27 governors when he became its chairman on June 23, 2018, was fighting tooth and nail to hold on to its remaining 19. That the party has this number is also because, as everyone saw, it employed federal might to keep some of them.
Would the APC have fared better with Governor Mala Buni as a major influencer? I think so. On July 23, 2018, in my write-up on this page entitled Buhari Campaign Team, APC and 2018, I said, “…the good thing about the APC combination of Oshiomhole as chairman and Mala Buni as national secretary is that while the chairman is assertive, even brash, the national secretary is suave, calm, subtle and diplomatic. The duo is a good combo. Many who receive, or think they are about to receive, the chairman’s stick will run to the secretary for cover. Of course, he will offer them a listening ear, but will gently push them to do what they expected of them. That way the party will be the better for it.
“This is like the story of the method of American police officers I read a long time ago. They meet an accused in pairs. The first promises hell, spewing forth thunder and brimstone. Naturally, the accused is frightened but may not give in or confess. Then the second comes in, in a very understanding, even sympathetic, manner, exuding the aura of a saviour. The accused feels obliged to give in to the ‘soft and kind-hearted’ man ‘who shouldn’t be a police officer at all’. The result matters.”
However, the duty to serve his state as the governor called on Mala Buni and he went to answer it.
It is against this backdrop that one can say with the appointment of Mala Buni to steer its course as a caretaker chairman, perhaps APC’s trajectory would swerve away from the brink, and like the phoenix, it is fated to rise again.
What people will witness is the calmness that would soon envelop the ruling party, for the new chairman is a man who, by all means, avoids friction and rancour. No two contending parties will sit with him and one of them would come out grumbling because he so much believes in fairness and that justice cannot be for one side alone. He is one person who believes in building bridges and maintaining them. And he echoed this after his swearing-in when he said “… it’s all about doing justice to every member of the party. Without justice, there won’t be peace… if you don’t manage crisis, obviously crisis will manage you.” And he did not say these words on marble to get applause. No, that is the real him.
Even before his current appointment, the trust the president and other stakeholders had in him had made him a sort of arbiter for the party, quenching fires here and there and taking part in campaigns for the enhancement of the party’s electoral successes around the country.
Those who know him well know he is cultured. So, the era of insults, roforofo fights and spewing forth unguarded statements is over. You will never hear him abuse any person in the opposition or within his party even if that person insults him. And when any good that is meant for his avowed enemy is about to escape from his grasp, he would be the first person to force it back to its rightful owner. This is the extent of his fairness. He is a thoroughbred politician, broad-minded, cosmopolitan but at ease with the locals and local settings, humble and extremely intelligent.
The opposition parties will no longer be full of glee nor will they sleep again, for by the time he would be through with his assignment, they would rue their premature celebration that the ruling party is gone. They are up against a focused, suave and sagacious dyed-in-the-wool politician. And as they will soon find out, like the mother hen, he would unite and cover his party while successfully poaching from theirs.
He has a gigantic task though. He would have to work on restoring people’s confidence and trust in the government. Distrust in government is a global issue as warned by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in September two years ago while addressing the UN General Assembly. He said that the world is “suffering from a severe case of trust deficit disorder”.
He lamented that “trust is at a breaking point: trust in national institutions; trust among states; trust in the rules-based global order. Within countries, people are losing faith in political establishments, polarization is on the rise and populism is on the march.”
This means that apart from reconciling disparate forces and conflicted individuals, and repositioning for a greater tomorrow, the party has to be at the vanguard of ensuring that the government works towards achieving what it promised the electorate; at least, most of the major ones.
Some may fear that his new national assignment could distract his governance of Yobe, but they need not worry. What is of importance is that he had already formed a good cabinet and given each member the maximum backing to deliver. His policies and emerging achievements at the state will only get a boost as he has a firm foothold in both Damaturu and Abuja.
- To survive, the opposition parties have to get new chairmen that can match him. The current ones can’t.