If the Peoples Democratic Party had won the August 9 governorship election in Osun State, it would have become swollen headed, while the opposition All Progressives Congress would have been deflated to the point of asphyxiation. Then, imagine if three days to the Osun election, the impeachment plot against Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State had succeeded.
Last year favoured the APC politically. In July, it succeeded in merging three parties (the ACN, ANPP, CPC) as well as the Rochas Okorocha’s arm of the All Progressive Grand Alliance. Shortly after that, the simmering crisis in the PDP peaked with five PDP governors defecting to the APC in November. In many states, other elected political office holders and political heavyweights left the PDP for the APC. The PDP looked like a sinking ship. At a point, the APC claimed that it had become the majority party in the House of Representatives, but the PDP countered the claim.
However, 2014 seems to belong to the PDP. In January, the PDP got its controversial chairman, Bamanga Tukur, to resign. A new chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, took over and began the rebuilding process, repositioning the party and wooing defectors and disgruntled members of the APC. In April, the APC began holding its congresses from the ward level to the national level. Many members complained. Some APC members began to defect to the PDP. The PDP regained the surge. The victory in Ekiti in a free-and-fair election was the peak of that surge. Happening in a South-West state stronghold of the former ACN (one of the parties that merged to produce the APC) as well as the fact that an incumbent governor was defeated made it more surprising.
The PDP was emboldened, while the APC was rattled, even though it tried unsuccessfully to blame it on the so-called “stomach infrastructure.” A couple of the APC members told me that the party knew that they would lose the Ekiti election to the PDP two weeks before the election. But there was little they could do at that time. The heavy presence of security agents made it impossible for any form of “political reengineering” to take place during the election.
If Osun had gone to the PDP, it would have dealt a crushing blow to the APC. The APC is not as well-knit as the AD, the AC or the ACN was in the South-West. Losing two states in the South-West through the ballot box in two months would have been too much to bear. The danger in such a scenario is that it would create a one-party state. It would make the PDP more arrogant than it was during President Olusegun Obasanjo era. It would worsen governance at the federal level. Whatever the ruling party dishes out to us, we would take. Our complaints would sound like noises.
In the same vein, it was the bug of complacency that bit the APC that affected its political fortunes. The APC should thank Fayose for defeating Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti. That loss jolted the APC out of its complacency. It immediately began reversing some of its contentious seemingly anti-people policies.
Complacency is bad in governance. It breeds an arrogant government that is disconnected from the people. Neither the PDP nor the APC should be allowed to feel too comfortable.
However, the APC must realise that its strategy is not working effectively. One is that it is not differentiating itself from the PDP. Demonising the PDP, as it does regularly, but happily welcoming the PDP members makes it another PDP: a PDP peopled by the dregs of the original PDP! It is true that a party should normally not reject members, but when they are members from the party you want to oust, then, you should not celebrate their entry, neither should you give them front-row positions in your party. The APC’s decision not to make Tom Ikimi its national chairman was very good. The only minus was that the APC should not have allowed him to play a key role in the merger and stabilisation of the party. It is true that parties are meant to win elections, but the desire to win elections should not make an opposition party adopt the same tactics as the ruling party.
Secondly and closely related, the APC should show itself markedly different from the PDP. The PDP is known for being flamboyant. The APC should be known to be frugal in lifestyle. Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State is known for not using any siren or having his billboards dot every street and intersection: the APC should have adopted that as a trademark of its governors. The former APGA governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, was known for using commercial flights (economy class), bearing his luggage, dressing simply: the APC should have adopted that lifestyle and used it to position the PDP as wasteful and not caring for the welfare of the common man.
Thirdly, the APC has positioned itself as perpetual whiners and cynics who seem to pray for disasters to happen in the nation, so they can use them to disparage the government at the centre led by the PDP. But from the look of things, that attitude is not winning members and sympathisers for the party. An example is the Boko Haram issue. Rather than its constant bashing of the PDP government working against the PDP, it has made many believe that the APC is sympathetic to the Boko Haram. Compare that to the reaction that followed Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd)’s recent letter condemning the Boko Haram and urging the nation to support the government in the fight against the fundamentalist group. I read so many anti-Buhari people saying that he won their hearts with that letter.
Again, note how the nation almost canonised Fayemi for promptly conceding defeat to Fayose, contrary to the usual APC’s attitude of condemning any lost election as rigged but praising any election or court case won as “victory for democracy”. Such an attitude gives the party an unsportsmanlike image.
Fourthly, the APC should stop criticising the PDP for the things it is guilty of. While the Independent National Electoral Commission has conducted elections in which different parties won seats in different states, the APC states organise elections in which only their party ridiculously wins 100 per cent of the local council seats. Only in Nasarawa State was another party able to win some seats, which many analysts attributed not to the governor’s fair-mindedness, but his lack of total grip on the state. That manifested in the recent attempt to impeach him. One would have expected that the APC would set the example of making it a policy that any election organised by it would be so transparently different that voters would be eager to have the APC take over at the national level, to teach the PDP how to organise elections.
The APC has great potential and promise. The PDP has many weaknesses that can be exploited, but the APC is not taking advantage of that. There are many Nigerians who are not happy with the PDP. The APGA and Labour Party are not big enough. The APC promises much but does not deliver as much as it promises. A stronger and more popular APC will be great for Nigeria’s democracy. But will the APC face reality and rebrand itself?