The title of this article is coined from a famous statement “Accord Co-cordial, Now Accord Discordant” credited to the very colorful politician of the second republic, late Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe.
The statement was made in the aftermath of the conflict that led to the dissolution of the NPN and NPP coalition formed to rule Nigeria during Shehu Shagari’s regime (1979-1983) when NPN which won the election lacked the constitutionally stipulated national spread to form a government without coalition.
Mbadiwe’s characterization of the events that precipitated the breakup of the coalition is similar to the present turmoil that the new ruling APC is currently embroiled in hence the choice of the title for this article.
Incidentally, the fear of the consequences of power maneuvers such as the one currently playing out in the APC within the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly – as the theatre of war – was the subject of an article which l authored – ‘Some Home Truths About APC’. In that article, which was widely publicized, l argued that by not confronting its ‘Demons’ (office sharing) during her first convention, the APC was sweeping its problems under the carpet and it could potentially become the ruling party’s ‘Achilles Heel’ in the future.
That prediction appears to be manifesting since the proclamation of the 8th National Assembly, on the 9th of June this year during which the sharing of principal offices by legislators against the preference of the APC leadership has spiraled into a political imbroglio of sorts.
Arising from the scenario above, it has become imperative that the article, ‘Some Home Truths About APC’ is reproduced to highlight the dangers identified in it that predicted the unfolding dangerous political dynamics which suggests that the APC may be drifting towards disintegration and therefore a potential casualty of the internal conflicts and disputations now tugging at the very heart of the party.
It is pertinent at this juncture to state that the reproduction of this article is not intended to parody politicians (in light of the disgraceful brawl in the NASS) or trivialize the very serious issue of APC’s imminent dissolution (if caution is thrown to the winds ) but it is a case for the ruling party to rise above narrow interests and deliver the ‘change’ it promised the Nigerian electorate. Having decided to discard the PDP led government, the electorates are full of expectations of rapid positive changes in their welfare by our law makers and by extension the new ruling party. As such, the least expected is not the spectacle of pugilistic adults decking it out in the full glare of TV cameras in the NASS chambers.
With apologies to Mao Zedong, the iconic Chinese leader who advocated that “politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed,” the horrific scenarios that have played out in 8th NASS since its proclamation, seem to suggest that the opposite is the case with politics in Nigeria as legislators in both the upper and lower chambers (rallying under the umbrellas of Like Minds and Unity Group caucuses) seem to be baying for each other’s blood.
That said; let’s get to the brass tacks of my original piece ‘Some Home Truths About The APC’.
In change management, there are four processes or stages that an entity must pass through before it can be said to have been fully formed. These are the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing stages. The assertion above is derived from a group development model which was first developed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. According to Tuckman “these stages are necessary and inevitable in order for a team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results”.
To the best of my knowledge, the All Progressives Congress, APC has passed through the first stage of Forming but skipped the other three processes which are very critical and are supposed to be followed sequentially after which a complete and viable entity can emerge.
According to Bruce Tuckman, the Storming process, especially, tests the conflict resolution capacity of the leaders or managers of the entity or team as it is the point at which interests and agendas are put on the table and blended into common goal or goals, if possible. The team or union could crumble at this stage if interests and agendas remain at variance.
However, in defiance of the expectation of PDP which envisaged that the APC would crumble at the Storming stage as the merging legacy parties were supposed to fight for party positions along the lines of their narrow interests and face the risk of disintegration, the APC successfully held her national convention with hitherto interim party positions becoming substantive and without the gloomy consequences of Tuckman’s Storming stage hypothesis being allowed to kick-in.
After a well packaged campaign and dexterous execution, the APC successfully replaced the PDP on the saddle of leadership in Nigeria following its victory at the March 28th, 2015 general elections.
Apparently, APC’s adoption of interim mode at the nascent stage of its formation is attributable to its strategy of avoiding the pitfalls that previous attempts at rallying opposition against the then ruling party, PDP (Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP led by Balarabe Musa,Umar Dangiwa, Beko Ransom Kuti and Ndubusi Kanu et al) threw up. It is believed that when the ambitions and interests of leaders of the major coalition parties and cooperating regions which were at variance were brought too early to the front burner, it generated irreconcilable differences and conflicts leading to the still-birth of what initially appeared like a credible opposition.
Although APC cleverly sidetracked the difficult conversations associated with the Storming stage of development of the group which it could have dealt with at the national convention, as evidenced by the current pogrom in the National Assembly, the party merely succeeded in postponing the evil day because the conflict of interests which it had literally and conveniently swept under the carpet for short term benefit of snatching power first from PDP has now come back to haunt her in the long term as it is inevitable for conflicts to thrive whenever diverse interests and agendas converge.
As an amalgam of three major opposition parties – ACN, ANPP, CPC, splinters of APGA and PDP, originally formed to serve the interests of the three major ethnic groups and regions in Nigeria with distinctive and often contrary interests, APC is now a behemoth not dissimilar to PDP which was a melting pot of politicians of all hues (tongue, religion and culture), so the new ruling party is bound to suffer similar internal crisis that the PDP contended with.
The validity of the above assertion is intrinsic in the following hypothesis: (A) The north populated by the Hausa/Fulani congregating under the political platform of CPC and ANPP feel aggrieved because they are not allowed to practice their religion especially with respect to Sharia laws under the current dispensation and the war against the state by the dreaded Boko Haram is a reflection of their resistance. (B) The west occupied by the Yorubas and operating through the political auspices of ACN are aggrieved that they are losing out in political appointments in Nigeria as it is presently constituted and are therefore venting their anger via the fearsome vigilante group Oodua People’s Congress, OPC which harasses ,maims and sometimes kills non-Yorubas in the western states especially Lagos. (C) The lgbos in Eastern Nigeria rallying politically behind APGA and ANPP are still nursing the bruises of the Nigerian civilian war which resulted in their emasculation having lost the war. Like the other nationalist groups, Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, (MASSOB) which has been threatening secession is the symbol of the Igbo’s protest against Nigerian state as they essentially believe that the situation that led to the civil war has not changed.
Taken from the prism of the foregoing broad categorisation of each of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria and their political platforms, plus interests/grouses, it would be clear to any keen political observer that APC is a political party comprising of groups with conflicting interests and agendas which appear to be irreconcilable as reflected in the party’s inability to apportion principal offices in the National Assembly, NASS. The jury is still out on whether the apparent APC teething challenge manifesting on the floor of the red/upper and green/lower chambers of the legislature is insurmountable. However, the way and manner offices are shared in the forthcoming APC Board of Trustees, BOT meeting represents another milestone and a make or mar event for the ruling party.
Now, some pundits have argued that Nigerian political parties have no underpinning political philosophies hence it is easy to collapse three parties and two factions into one platform as is the case of APC, but there is a counter argument that progressiveness which is the common denominator for APC party formers is enough justification for bonding to snatch power at the centre from the PDP.
In an article titled ‘The Inconvenient Truth About The PDP’ that l published on the back page of Thisday Newspaper of April 29th, 2010, l had expressed the view that the magnetism of various ethnic groups to PDP which makes it a national party as opposed to other parties which are ethnic based is the hope that someday people of minority ethnic group would have a chance of becoming the president of Nigeria owing to the party’s rotation of power principle of which President Goodluck Jonathan is a beneficiary.
It was suggested that if Action Congress, AC as it was then known was interested in becoming a national party, it has to expand its vision beyond the narrow interests of the Yorubas .
Coincidentally ,the party thereafter changed its name to ACN, Action Congress of Nigeria before fusing with the other four parties last year to form APC. It is worth recalling that the NPN/NPP accord in 1979 disintegrated after about six months prompting the colourful K. O.Mbadiwe of blessed memory to proclaim with aplomb that ‘Accord Co-cordial is now Accord Discordant’ from which the title of this article is derived.
A journey down memory lane will also reveal another attempt like the CNPP initiative of snatching power from PDP which was made during the run up to 2011 general elections. Slightly reminiscent of the NPN/NPP coalition (1979-83) ACN and ANPP/CPC tried to jointly present a presidential candidate against PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan but it got botched again owing to power struggle between the leaders of the merging parties paving the way for Jonathan to clinch the presidency with a landslide victory over Nuhu Ribadu/Fola Adeola ticket which was the product of the compromise.
Arising from the lessons learnt from the previous experiences and to the surprise of many Nigerians, APC leaders, Buhari and Tinubu agreed to harmonize their presidential ambitions with Buhari as presidential candidate and Tinubu nominating the Vice Presidential candidate, Yemi Osinbajo, just as former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar who was bracing up to becoming the compromise presidential candidate in 2015 (in anticipation of a bruising fight between Buhari Tinubu ) which is perhaps why he led the five PDP defecting governors to APC, also shelved his presidential ambition .
This suggests that because the Storming stage of entity formation as enunciated by Tuckman was skipped instead of being sequentially followed, the consequential fallout of the unsatisfactory implementation kicked in on June 9th when NASS was proclaimed and principal offices (power) were shared amongst the uniting interest groups. The ensuing conflict was inevitable because no matter how long the conversation to resolve the differences with respect to meeting the power sharing interests of the partnering groups was postponed, as they say in simple lingo, the chicken must come home to roost.
Presumably, the core conveners of APC, particularly ACN-which had more states, is finding it difficult to accept the PDP faction as equal partners hence Bukola Saraki’s emergence as senate president is being resented in some quarters.
As it now stands, clinching the presidency has been the easiest part as it is becoming increasingly apparent that victory at the presidential polls has become an albatross to the all conquering APC, the political Lilliputian that trounced PDP, the colossus
Although, the emerging trends chronicled above may sound like doom and gloom for the ruling APC, there are ample reasons to be optimistic by the party. The assertion above is underscored by the fact that there are benefits associated with the dynamism of thinking out of the box which APC’s action of avoid the Storming stage of the development of the party (which should have taken place at the party’s maiden convention) reflects and hence the party has remained resilient to accomplish the mission of emerging as Nigeria’s ruling party.
Like them or loathe them, APC has been audacious in its initiatives and more often than not has been known to have creatively resolved their differences. Critics have alleged that since APC’s main legacy parties objective was to warehouse their individual party interests and galvanize collective efforts towards dethroning PDP and sweep Goodluck Jonathan out of power, has been achieved, the party is bound to implode with each party returning to their old antagonistic mode towards one another by forming caucuses to pursue peculiar interests as they struggle for dominance within the party. They may be disappointed if the party succeeds in settling the internecine war in NASS (as it is currently struggling to) and if President Buhari (after taking an unusual length of time) comes up with a crack team to manage the economy, which is likely, given the rigorous efforts being invested in the process.
In the final analysis, a critical and crucial ingredient for any organization or entity to be successful is fairness-referred to in political circles as internal democracy. As Nigeria marches towards democratic maturity after sixteen (16) years of practice, only political parties sufficient or deficient in this ingredient will stand the test of time by scattering or remaining indivisible.
Considering the unprecedented nature of her victory in the April 2015 presidential polls, APC has demonstrated the capacity to morph into the biblical David that defeated PDP, the political Goliath, so managing the success is now a debt the APC owes the Nigerian electorate (which it must redeem) but given the speed at which the political current in Nigeria could change, it must not be glossed over that the unavoidable internal crisis now rocking the ruling party, has the potentials of overwhelming her and it could lead to the demise, if collective sacrifices are not made by the leaders.
APC should be reminded of the events that happened in Jos, Plateau State in 1962 when Action Group, AG held its national convention and how the irreconcilable differences between the party leaders, Obafemi Awolowo and Ladoke Akintola resulted in the crisis that split up the party with both Awolowo and Akintola going their separate ways and leading two different factions.
All things being equal, it is unlikely that the current dissent could degenerate into ultimate implosion of the party as is being predicted.
If peace is allowed to return to NASS as it is presently composed, I’m convinced that democracy will soon become more profitable to Nigerians more than politicians as policies and decisions of government will now go through more rigorous scrutiny in a parliament that’s equally matched in composition as is the case in the USA where the ruling Democratic Party does not have any serious bragging rights over the opposition Republican Party.
Let me conclude by drawing attention to Sun Tzu’s legendary book on military strategy The Art of War. There is a section on power maneuvering tagged “the Art of husbanding one’s strength” and ” the Art of studying circumstances” which contains nuggets of wisdom that are instructive as they underscore the application of power and its ramifications. APC should study those sections carefully with a view to internalizing and applying the perspectives gained in order to dig itself out of the political quagmire in which it is currently mired.
Particularly, APC should be guided by Sun Tzu’s wise counsel – “when you surround an army, leave an outlet free.”
(Magnus Onyibe, a former commissioner in Delta state, development strategist and futurologist sent this piece from Abuja.)