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Sunday, 18 August 2013

Presidency, APC and the Much Ado About Nothing

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From arguments over the status of President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure to claims about an invitation to him to join the opposition platform, the ruling party and the opposition are bringing politics down to a dirty huge mess ahead of 2015. Vincent Obia writes…

The registration of the opposition merger, All Progressives Congress, as a political party has spawned at least one major change in the polity. It has threatened quite potently to bring the balance of power into equation. Both the ruling party and the opposition have struggled to feel unbothered, but in every step of the way, their actions have betrayed their worries.
In the last two weeks, there has been crossfire of tirades between APC, on the one hand, and the Presidency and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, on the other. It has seemed quite like a manifestation of mutual terror.
An apparently satirical statement by APC inviting President Goodluck Jonathan to its platform ahead of the 2015 presidential election opened the floodgates to more arguments and counterarguments by PDP and the opposition merger. Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande, had stated on August 6 in Abuja, during the party’s maiden press conference at its secretariat, that Jonathan was welcome to APC if he was tired of the lingering crisis in PDP.
PDP responded swiftly through a statement by its acting National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Tony Okeke, which labelled the invitation to Jonathan by APC as hypocritical, given the party’s persistent dismissal of the president as incompetent.  
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, followed up PDP’s assertion with a statement describing the APC invitation to Jonathan as an indication that the party lacked presidential materials ahead of 2015.
Then on August 10 at his Ila-Orangun home in Osun State, Akande alleged that Jonathan was an unserious president who had reduced governance to a “kindergarten” affair. Akande alleged that he had written the president twice on the challenges the country faced, but “till date, he has not acknowledged the letters.”
He said Jonathan was only concerned about “his third term ambition,” insinuating that the president would be seeking a third term if he contests the 2015 presidential election.
The APC chairman got a volley of diatribes in return from Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.
The mutual invectives have been a feast for the ears of the ruling and opposition parties’ apparatchiks. But this, certainly, does not bode well for the change and democratic maturity that Nigerians crave.
Since the Fourth Republic, the level of debate in elections has seldom risen above petty mudslinging. Many had thought the coming of APC would at least make a difference. But increasingly, political discussions ahead of 2015 are descending to the same old method of defamatory remarks about opponents, which has never helped the country in any way.
The current politics of reciprocal tirades between the two major political vehicles for the next general election has been viewed as a signal of national trends. As it is, nobody seems optimistic about the prospects of change. But the political class can decide to reverse the trend.
For democracy to present real choices from which the electorate can pick true leaders, the political class must ensure the evolution of ideologies that the people can identify with.
Political parties in the First Republic tried to have and live by organised systems of ideas, beliefs, and values that defined their purposes and structures. In most cases, the ideological focuses of the parties were easily identifiable. The governments that emanated from the parties had well-thought-out statements of the ways they intended to use the resources available to the governments to deliver democracy dividends to the people.
Now is the time for APC to begin to formulate and popularise a system of beliefs and principles through which it hopes to do differently the things it feels PDP is not doing well. It is also the time for PDP to begin to restrategise in terms of returning to the core principles of democracy, which many chieftains of the party now confess to be missing in the midst of the struggle for power. It is a time for the ruling party to rise above clever sloganeering and sincerely adopt a feasible development agenda that can deliver an improved standard of living to the citizenry.
On the status of Jonathan’s tenure, concluding that the president would be seeking a third term in 2015 at a time when the matter is under litigation at the Court of Appeal merely denigrates the political debate ahead of the election. Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of an Abuja High Court had on March 1 pronounced, “After the death of Umaru Yar’Adua, there was no election or bye-election. President Jonathan was merely asked to assume the office of the president in line with doctrine of necessity. He was not elected as the president but was made to assume office by virtue of Yar’Adua’s death.
“Having exhausted the late president’s tenure, he sought his party’s ticket and ran for the office of the president successfully in 2011 general election. He is therefore currently serving his first tenure of office, and if he so wishes, he is eligible to further seek his party’s ticket through the party’s primary election and to run for office in 2015.”
Dissatisfied with that ruling, the plaintiff in the case, Mr. Cyriacus Njoku, had approached the Court of Appeal to continue his attempt to secure an order restraining Jonathan from contesting the 2015 presidential election. Njoku feels that Jonathan cannot contest again because he had been sworn in twice into the office of president, on May 6, 2010, following the death of his predecessor with whom he was first elected in 2007, and on May 29, 2011, after winning the 2011 election. According to the plaintiff, “It would amount to breaching a constitutional provision which prescribed a period of not more than eight years for occupants of the office of the president” if Jonathan seeks another term, since that would bring the number of years he has occupied the presidential seat to about nine.
Some constitutional complications may exist in Jonathan’s 2015 ambition. But that is a matter for the courts to decide. What should matter to the political parties now is how to bring up credible strategies for the delivery of good governance to the country. 


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