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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

APC: Beyond Relief From Headache By Pat Utomi


When the All Progressives Congress was recently registered as a political party in Nigeria, following the merger of its legacy parties after much intrigue by those who tried to frustrate the registration process, there was much talk about a very popular analgesic in the 1960s called APC.

As would be expected, there was a flurry of analyses of the prospects of the party; the motives of its founders and the following it could garner. From agents of the Peoples Democratic Party who wanted to make light the heaviness of its weight, to its champion who saw the day of salvation as having come and sceptics of both a cynical and just – not – sure-about – things perspectives all saw beyond just a possibility of relief, of the headache the PDP had infected the Nigerian people with.

So, why is the APC very likely the way Nigerians can spell relief, not just for headache, but for migraine, because the consequence of 14 years of governing by the PDP has been much more than strong headache? So, can this combination of parties which brought the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and fractions of both the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the Democratic Peoples Party produce the alchemy that can stop the migraine Nigerians are enduring with the PDP dominance which has left Nigeria, in spite of its endowments, atop the misery index as it ranks so poorly on most development and human progress indicators; from life expectancy, to poverty measures and access to power or clean water and even of peace and security?
The naysayers have, among their points the fact that many in the APC, started their journey in the PDP so they cannot be much better than what the PDP is accused of. Accepting that point of argument, just to illustrate it means they are at least not worse than the PDP, those deserters, if they are more PDP. If you combine them with strong progressives they are joining, the combined average should work out to PDP + Y. Still, this simple arithmetic ignores the fact that many who leave the PDP that has produced a collapse of culture that has so severely damaged Nigeria’s prospects, do so because they are fed up with the PDP way. But assuming it is not the case that they are good people, there is the more fundamental argument that even with wrong motives, people can get together to fight something they oppose and the dynamics of process pick up momentum that leads to an inevitable settlement around the Common Good through the unseen hand moderating competing selfish interests. This logic has been applied with outstanding dexterity by Douglass North, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, in his 1990 book, “Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance”, which seeks to explain how institutions emerge.

The naked truth is that most ordinary Nigerians are not only hungry for change but desperate to see something new that can help with meeting the expectations of people. The result is that people are searching for something different. Change of a governing group forces those replaced and those who replace them to think of new ways of giving value to the citizens. Even the best of political leaders and political groups tend to either run out of ideas or become self-indulgent after about a decade in power. This is partly the reason genius has to be ascribed to term limits, the examples of exceptional productive long stays like Lee Kuan Yew, notwithstanding.

The other value of change is that it communicates a maturing polity as the changes have done for Ghana and is largely responsible for the huge gap in the ranking between the two countries on the Failed State Index.

Even if these benefits of change were not of the most immediate value, the ongoing chatting of direction in the APC should allow for the emergence of an intellectual core that builds a philosophy connecting power to people, making governments accountable and ahead of the pact.

As Olufemi Taiwo has argued well in his book, “Africa must be modern”, Nigeria is desperate to be modern. That desire cannot come through the kind of culture that the PDP has become mired in. But all can change. Circumstances and shifts of power force a change of direction and culture in political parties. People forget that the Republican Party was once the party that fought the slavery in the United States.

The nature of political parties is also that they are oligarchic and developments can force opening up and change for a while. As Robert Michel teaches so well in his 1911 book, “Political parties”, he who says organisations says oligarchy. Legal parties like the PDP may be very oligarchic. That is in the nature of political parties. Movements to broaden the stranglehold of a few individuals on them are necessary and the APC may be a way forward.

•Prof. Utomi, a political economist, is Founder, Centre for Values and Leadership.

TheParadigm

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