Monday, January 30, 2017

Nigeria: APC’s Road To Infamy

By Alabi Williams  
In the beginning, all seemed very well with the All Progressives Congress (APC). As the fortunes of the former ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dimmed, that of the new coalition shone luxuriantly. Politicians began to fall over themselves to partake in the assemblage, even as thousands of volunteers outside the party system placed their bet on the party. Without being asked, they turned social media campaigners for the election of candidate Muhammadu Buhari. 

It could be said that in the build up to the 2015 elections, Buhari and his party had their palm kernels cracked on their behalf by a benevolent spirit. APC had little to do to clinch victory, as PDP had burnt its credit so prodigally that it was only a matter of time for it to unravel. At home and abroad, enthusiasts were just waiting for elections to come and go. The frenzy was so pervasive that the government of Goodluck Jonathan had to device some means to adjust voting dates, and postpone day of reckoning. Even that did not stop chants of Sai Baba!
Eventually, Buhari won and was crowned on May 29, 2015. It was time to unbundle the wrap of campaign promises, especially that of making one naira equal to one dollar. It turned out that there was a huge difference between asking for votes and delivering on promises. It turned out that beyond the excitement of winning election, there has to be proven capacity to comprehend the issues and conceptualise a process to confront them. That is where a good number of Nigerians, particularly friends of the APC in the social media, were forced to part ways with government.
Today, the level of discontent with the Buhari government is frightening. The quantity of bile social media ‘journalists’ spew and its toxic content is enough to send a chicken-hearted president on permanent bed rest. The rumour mill is agog with very offensive content, and you wonder how fast the APC has frittered away the credibility and trust on which it rode to power. And they are not about to back off, as the economy is not showing signs of quick recovery. Their anger is that they were conned by the ruling party, into believing that once they assist to send the other government away, Nigeria will become an el dorado overnight. In other words, they are angry with this government over its policies that do not seem to work and have human face. 
When Buhari came onboard, reflex action on the part of some agencies of government created mirages that were thought to be early signs of the change that was promised. Electricity supply became relatively more assured; supply of PMS at the former price of N87 became readily available, and Nigerians were beginning to reenact the social discipline that hallmarked Buhari’s first coming, as military head of state. Effortlessly, and without raising a hand, things seemed to work and the party in government attributed that to be the body language of Buhari in action. They began to celebrate with much noise.

But after 100 days in office, that optical illusion melted and the reality became that Nigeria needed very sound economic policies, driven by professionals with character and competence to sustain the excitement. It also meant that the country needed a government that would listen to Nigerians in formulating policies and executing them, a government that would be fair and just. Nigeria needed a Mandela type man, who would be focused on healing the economy and making effort to correct past injustices, without resorting to vengeance. Nigeria needed a listening government. 
But when a civil society group, which had taken note of promises dished out during campaigns, attempted an assessment of the first 100 days, this government took serious umbrage at it. Even prominent commentators, who used to be friends of APC, were not spared, when they differed on the manner the war against corruption was pursued. Everybody is happy with the war against corruption. It is a war on behalf of all Nigerians. But fair-minded persons are only asking that it be total and that there should be no sacred cows. There seems to be sacred cows in this government, as only campaign funds of the PDP are being scrutinised. Even previous prominent players in PDP, who crossed over to APC are being shielded. The social media crowd knows this and they, too, are not happy. They want fairness.
As a political party, the APC did not have sufficient time to blend and do proper appraisal of its future. Between 2013 and the general elections in 2015, the main item on its agenda was how to chase PDP out of power. Issues of corporate governance were put in the waiting tray to be dealt with later. But it seemed too late, once government had been formed, particularly in this clime, where wining an election equals wining a ‘war’ and carting home the booties. It was in the sharing of booties that APC first ran into stormy weather; first in the National Assembly and later in ministerial appointments. The young Turks in the party seem not to have much time for protocols. While the elders prevaricated, Bukola Saraki and his group foisted a sharing formula that left the leadership gasping for breath. That remained an injury the party has been unable to treat. From there, they moved to the Code of Conduct Tribunal to unearth fossilised materials with which to nail Saraki. It has been ding-dong ever since, causing tremors in the party.
At the level of ministerial appointments, Buhari kept the list so close to his chest that no party chieftain or investor could put in a word for his godson. He even warned that his nominees would be quarantined from the itchy fingers of godfathers. When the list was unveiled, it turned out that Buhari was not sincere with the other legacy partners, who joined to make APC a reality. While he fenced off others, he went far into history to bring onboard members of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), those with whom he toiled in wilderness in search of the ultimate trophy.
That was not the major sore point Nigerians had with his team. It was the fact that Buhari laboured for months to select a team that was majorly lack-lustre, apart from a few round pegs in seemingly round holes. Before then, he had handpicked a kitchen cabinet that was patently ethnic and failed to take into account Nigeria’s diversity and the constitutional requirement for geo-political balancing in all appointments. And the more Nigerians complained, the more the President retreated into provincialism.

In terms of actual delivery, Nigerians lost their cool, when the price of PMS had to balloon from the pocket friendly region the PDP government left it to a purported market dictated price of N145. It is still not clear, where the pump price will settle at the end of 2017; and whether the petrol market will be deregulated or not.
The policy on forex is even more frustrating. There are more than 10 different exchange rates, depending on who is buying and from which source. The opacity in the forex market is frustrating for businesses and manufacturers. Thousands of jobs have been terminated in banks and manufacturing sector. Electricity generation has dipped from the manageable heights of 5, 000MW to some miserly 2,000MW. All of that facilitated the recession that was announced by government mid last year.
The situation with internal security is appalling, as marauding herdsmen have sacked many homelands. Kidnappers have become brazen, as they now negotiate with Police on behalf of their victims. The situation in the Niger Delta has not shown signs of denouement, because government seems reluctant to negotiate. Yet, the entire economy is anchored on oil sourced from the region.
Buhari has lost the capacity to enchant and that is affecting governance. His teaming lovers in the social media have turned against him. They no longer believe he is invincible. They want justice and they want better life. Government should not dismiss them or threaten them with DSS. You cannot threaten Facebook with DSS. Let government go back to drawing board and make Nigeria Work Again!
*Mr. Williams is a commentator on public affairs 

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