Saturday, 23 March 2013
APC and 2015: The Triumph of Reason
By AUBAKAR ALKALI
The declaration by the grand coalition of progressive opposition political parties that they have floated a new political party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) has set the stage for the final battle to rescue Nigeria from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The 13 years of misrule under the PDP has brought a debilitating and crippling poverty amongst Nigerians: corruption without borders, alarming state of insecurity, hardship, despair and hopelessness. Indeed, the PDP misrule is threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria more than even the threat of the civil war in 1967 –1970.
Although some foreign powers have posited that Nigeria will cease to exist after 2015, it seems to me that 2015 is the year of reformation for Nigeria. The union called Nigeria will be stronger and our sovereignty will be more cohesive after 2015 because the APC will take over power and provide the right leadership that will bring back renewed hope and prosperity for all Nigerians.
With the calibre of political gladiators in the APC, it is clear that the new mega party will lead Nigeria to a new direction of hope, equal opportunity, genuine democracy and freedom. Nigerians are in dire need of economic freedom because the PDP has turned the average Nigerian into an economic slave. Indeed, the PDP umbrella will be shredded by the APC in 2015 and the remains of that umbrella thrown to the dustbin of history. If opposition parties can unite to kick out unpopular governments in Senegal, Kenya, Benin Republic, Niger Republic, etc., why not Nigeria?
Everyone is keying into the new political platform, the APC. The latest news is that 12 PDP governors have endorsed the merger and are set to defect to the APC. I was at a recent book launch of Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i in Abuja when Dr Babangida Aliyu, a sitting PDP governor stated to the hearing of everyone that he wished that the merger talks would succeed so as to give Nigeria a new future.
As a Nigerian, I have never been as proud of my dear country as I had a couple of days ago with the declaration by the opposition parties – the ACN, CPC and the ANPP – to forge a united front and face our common enemy, the PDP.
Indeed, the opposition parties have created a new chapter in the annals of our political history. Yes, there have been political alliances and alignment of forces in our history but to my knowledge, never before have opposition parties merged into one and formed a new party that will defeat the ruling party in the general election.
The PDP has the record of being the most unpopular ruling party in the political history of Nigeria and the one that bequeathed a culture of corruption to the society. Corruption in Nigeria is a pastime but the difference between the PDP brand of corruption and the corruption of yesteryears is that before PDP, corruption in Nigeria was in millions and billions but the PDP elevated it to trillions prior to making corruption in Nigeria a quadrillion affair. Stealing in Nigeria is today officially in trillions courtesy of the most corrupt party in the world, the PDP. The fuel subsidy scam which involved sons of PDP chairmen and ex-chairmen, and as they call themselves ‘PDP chieftains’, was in the region of N2.5 trillion. The pension scam involving PDP sponsors was also hovering around the N1 trillion mark. The Halliburton scam involving highly placed PDP BoT serving and former chairman/members, the Siemens corruption scandal involving prominent PDP ministers, to mention but a few, are there for all to see.
All these monumental scandals that could bring a nation’s economy crashing down took place during PDP’s reign of terror. A former PDP minister, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, has alleged that the GEJ administration and its predecessor squandered $67 billion, virtually crippling Nigeria’s economy. Incidentally, most of the monumental and prominent corruption scandals were perpetrated under President Jonathan’s watch.
It is reassuring to note that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given its blessings to the merger. Indeed, INEC is a partner in progress and has taken its rightful place in the battle to rescue Nigeria from the PDP. INEC has confirmed that the merger is perfectly within the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act (2010) as amended. Section 84 of the Electoral Act (2010), as amended, states that “Any two or more registered political parties may merge on approval by the commission, following a formal request presented to the commission by the political parties for that purpose.” Section 84 (2) added that “Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the commission 90 days notice of their intention to do so before a general election.”
Never has there been a time in our political history that Nigerians desire change like today. Nigerians have been patient with the PDP for 13 years even to a fault. The PDP has exhausted our patience and all Nigerians are saying in a strong and united voice that ‘We don’t want the PDP at all levels of government in Nigeria’. Indeed, 2015 is sunset for the PDP.
The revenue that accrued to the nation’s coffers in the last 13 years under the PDP misrule is more than the total revenue that Nigeria gained since independence, yet PDP recorded the highest level of poverty since independence at 86% during the period. It is only politicians and other public office holders that are benefiting from the nation’s commonwealth while the average Nigerian continues to be strangled by hunger and deprivation. Women and girls continue losing their lives at childbirth because they cannot afford good medical treatment. Nigeria is ranked second in the world in maternal mortality rate.
It is necessary to acknowledge the outstanding commitment of all the progressive opposition political parties to dismember the PDP and get this highly unpopular party out of circulation in 2015. The ACN, CPC and ANPP have all shown exemplary commitment in this merger. Today, the PDP has systematically short-changed and marginalized every section of Nigeria except the Niger Delta. That is PDP’s manifesto: The federal government should take everything to the section where the president comes from and leave all other sections of Nigeria on their own. The south-west of Nigeria where the ACN is in charge is soundly short-changed and marginalized by the PDP in terms of elective posts, appointments, projects execution and overall democratic value delivery. The PDP has been grossly unfair to the south-west simply because south-west is ACN. This fact was further confirmed by the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) through its leader, Chief Olu Falae.
Today, the south-west is so marginalized that no Yoruba indigene is in the top 12 political offices at the apex of political power equation in Nigeria. The merger presents the Yoruba south-west with the best opportunity yet to position themselves at the epicentre of national politics. Obasanjo wanted to deceive the south-west by claiming that he wanted to bring the region to national politics when all through his 8 years as president, including his time as military head of state, he did virtually nothing for the south-west. Obasanjo couldn’t fix even one pothole on the Lagos–Ibadan expressway, yet he wanted to ‘bring the south-west to national politics’.
OBJ, it would be recalled, foisted PDP on the south-west by rigging his way and installing a PDP governor in every state in the south-west except Lagos. But Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was smart enough to understand OBJ’s deceit, hence the Asiwaju went on the prowl and was able to rescue the south-west from OBJ and wriggle free all the south-west states stolen by the PDP. Asiwaju and the ACN have long clearly understood that their clamour for regional integration and true federalism can never be achieved under a PDP government at the centre. Only a genuine political party will key into the call for regional integration and true federalism whose main objective is to strengthen democracy by empowering the grass-roots communities. But alas, the PDP is not a political party but a conflagration of individual beneficiaries who use it to help themselves to the detriment of the nation’s resources.
With the emergence of the APC, the political dynamics in Nigeria will never be the same again. The struggle to rescue Nigeria from the PDP is not about tribe, region or religion but about the undeniable moral obligation that we all have under God to stand up and protect our country against evil. This is the only country that we have and which we can call our own. Indeed, Nigeria is a great country by any measure and blessed by the Almighty Allah (SWT).
With the emergence of the APC, Nigerians are set to wipe out the last yoke of post-colonial pre-vandals and predators who masquerade as our leaders. What is required is for all Nigerians to key into this change and support the APC to change Nigeria. Although the PDP is taking Nigeria to the wrong direction and almost everything is wrong with the PDP, there still remain a few progressive individuals within the PDP who found themselves in the PDP by accident. It is now time for these individuals to detach themselves free from the PDP and decamp to the APC without delay. Politician should position themselves appropriately and take advantage of the popular platform provided by the APC. As a matter of fact, this is political positioning time (PPT) in Nigeria. Several government officials are already romancing with the APC and have agreed in principle to decamp from the PDP and join the mega party.
Although there is maximum enthusiasm and unprecedented passion amongst Nigerians to make PDP history in Nigeria after 2015, there is so much work to be done as getting a sitting government out will not be easy, especially when juxtaposed with the way elections are conducted in Nigeria. Moreover, the APC being a new party has so much work to do to connect with the people. The PDP is completely disconnected with the people and has left every Nigerian on his/her own except those in government and their families. The APC must seize this moment and galvanize the nation and take advantage of the unprecedented disenchantment of Nigerians with the PDP. The APC must start work immediately and should not wait until election year 2015. The APC must demonstrate to Nigerians in clear and real terms why it is different from the PDP. With the calibre of respected political gladiators that we have in the APC, it is clear that the party will certainly be different from the PDP. A party that has genuine leaders such as Gen Buhari, Asiwaju Tinubu, Alhaji Gaba Gadi, Chief Tom Ikimi, Governor Raji Fashola, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the refreshed Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i, to mention but a few, will surely not be like the PDP.
Upon receiving its certificate of registration, the APC must develop the right synergy with the grass roots to foster mutual cooperation with the sole objective of delivering the dividends of democracy to every Nigerian.
Nigerians are tired of empty promises and realistically, the average Nigerian regards all politicians as one and same as a result of obnoxious experiences of the past. Hence what the APC needs to do is to prove to Nigerians that it will not be business as usual. The APC must present to Nigerians the right presidential candidate who can lead us in this journey; someone who can inspire and who has track record of service, fairness and selflessness. Importantly, the new leader from the APC must be able to stand above the lures of corruption. The APC must do a thorough job in picking its presidential candidate. My instincts tell me that the APC should decide amongst these 3 outstanding personalities who is best fit. The 3 prominent Nigerians on my shortlist are: Gen Buhari, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i. However, the man I reckon will be best fit to defeat the PDP is Gen Muhammadu Buhari. This is because he has already built his support base. Indeed, we can use the vast experience and strong support base of Gen. Buhari to get the PDP out of Aso Rock and at all levels in 2015.
The biggest problem today in Nigeria is poverty and if you can solve the problem of poverty, then every other thing will fall in its right place. It is the high level of poverty that has resulted in insecurity and instability in the country. In this regard, the APC should work with youth organizations at the ward level (the ward level is the last bus top in the community hierarchy) to provide tangible incentives to eradicate poverty in our communities. This can be in the provision of food items, skill acquisition centres, etc. All APC and other progressive governors and other political office holders should start working in this direction.
Based on the provision of the Electoral Act (2010) as amended, all politicians and political office holders belonging to the parties involved in the merger are automatic members of the APC when the party is registered. Section 84 (5) of the act states that ‘when the request for the proposed merger is approved, the commission shall forthwith withdraw and cancel the certificates of registration of all the political parties opting for the merger and substitute, therefore, a single certificate of registration in the name of the party resulting from the merger. Impliedly, upon registration of the APC by INEC, all the parties involved in the merger cease to exist.
In this regard, all APC public office holders must key into the APC manifesto whose main aim is to fight poverty and establish a system of fair politics to replace the PDP system of chop-I-chop politics. The APC should set up a War against Poverty (WAP) at all levels. With the debilitating poverty in the country arising from the PDP misrule, the WAP is the right strategy to connect with the people, particularly the grass roots, which constitute the majority of our population.
Upon assuming power at the centre on May 29th, 2015, the APC should immediately set up the machinery for a brand new people’s constitution for Nigeria. The focus of the new constitution must be to spread the wealth of the nation to everyone not just those in government. The new constitution must also drastically cut down the size of government such that both the executive and legislative arms of government are trimmed down to the barest minimum for efficiency and effectiveness. Two minister per geopolitical zone and each minister must win an election in his/her constituency to qualify for a ministerial post; one presidential adviser per geopolitical zone.
In the same vein, the legislature must be pruned down. Nigeria needs only a unicameral legislature. We need only the House of Representatives with two representatives per state. The Senate should be closed down because it has no place in the New Nigeria that we are working to build. This drastic cut in the size of government should apply to the state and local councils. The size of the state executives with too many commissioners and special advisers without portfolio must be trimmed down. The state legislatures must also be trimmed down. All the savings from these drastic cuts in the size of government must be invested in the communities through a social security system that will guarantee payment of monthly cash stipends to the disabled, senior citizens (old age people) and every unemployed Nigerian. In the new constitution, we must insert the drastic cut in the size of government and the social security (cash benefit) system. These are the fundamental changes that we need to make so as to create a working system that is fair and just and accommodates every one not just those in government.
2015 is the year that Nigerians have been waiting for in 100 years since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates. It is that year that will usher in the birth of a new Nigeria where government is for all Nigerians and not just those in it. It is the year that will see a genuine and united coalition of progressive elements take over power in Nigeria and bring about the desired change that we have all been waiting for. It is the year when the wounds of our nation will began to heal, when government led by the APC will set the appropriate machinery to fight poverty and bring about hope, prosperity and equal opportunity for all. 2015 is the year that Nigeria shall be free from the grand design to destroy it and take its rightful place in the comity of nations.