Salihu Moh. Lukman
One of the famous quotes of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo called for ‘urgent and massive need for moral and spiritual reconstruction: the kind which will help to demolish morbid desire for naked power and domination and ensure justice, equity and fair play for all.’ Chief Awolowo died on May 9, 1987, more than 36 years ago, which means he would have made this call more than four decades ago. Certainly, whatever could have prompted him to raise such an alarm wouldn’t have been anywhere near what is being experienced today. ‘Morbid desire for naked power’ has become the political culture in Nigeria. From all indication, it is the incentive that drives virtually all aspirations for political offices, with the primary aim of controlling (dominating) citizens. Once successful, people in power (elected leaders) take decisions arbitrarily. Notion of justice, equity and fair play is reduced to empty political expressions.
As Nigerians, we must admit, this is what defines the current Fourth Republic since 1999. We have moved across different leaders, all produced through elections. Imperfect as the elections may be, certainly the leaders have the mandate of Nigerians. The manifest reality of injustices, inequitable representation, and unfairness by elected leaders in the country between 1999 and 2015, was thought to be only associated with leaders produced by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). This partly accounted for why when leaders of the former legacy parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) successfully negotiated the merger that produced the All Progressive Congress (APC), the dominant belief in the country is that a new reality is being created, which will end the political culture of injustice, inequitable representation and unfairness in the country.
With former President Muhammadu Buhari and current President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the leaders of the APC, Nigerians believed and supported the APC. Undeniably, the expected ‘moral and spiritual reconstruction’ of Nigeria, with APC in power since 2015, remained a wish. Even with President Asiwaju Tinubu in power today, who has throughout his political career associated himself with late Chief Awolowo’s philosophical and ideological leanings, ‘morbid desire for naked power’ seems to be the driving aspirations of his leadership. Otherwise, how can anyone explain the emerging attributes of President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government? Complaints about poor access to the President by many APC leaders is widespread. Capacity of APC leaders to exercise influence on President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government is very narrow.
Without any doubt, the orientation, attributes, and behavioural patterns of President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government is virtually the same with that of former President Buhari. Both the two are governments produced by APC but interestingly, both APC as a political party and leaders of the party had little or no say in the two governments. Appointments into positions in governments were or are practically carried out exclusively without consulting either the party organs or leaders of the party both during the tenure of former President Buhari and currently under President Asiwaju Tinubu. Criteria and qualifications for appointments were or are known only to the two leaders and their close associates. Consequently, party leaders and members became orphans, perhaps worse than when they were in opposition parties.
One important distinction is that in the case of the current President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government, steps are being taken to replace all heads of Federal Government Agencies. This is a complete departure from what obtained under former President Buhari whereby most heads of Federal Government Agencies appointed by PDP Government of former President Goodluck Jonathan were retained virtually throughout the eight-year tenure of former President Buhari, including Mr. Godwin Emefieli, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. This is mainly responsible for the poor relationship between leaders of the APC and Federal Government appointees even in their respective states. It is also the incentive for most of the cases of anti-party activities by many Federal Government appointees during the 2023 general elections.
Interestingly, however, with constitutional organs of the APC not functioning, these disloyal leaders of the APC have not only gone unpunished, but there are also many allegations of some of these recalcitrant appointees being reappointed in the President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government. Like during the tenure of former President Buhari, absence of input by organs of the APC in the decisions of current President Asiwaju is producing the undesirable consequences of loyal APC supporters heading some of the Federal Government Agencies being arbitrarily removed even before the end of their tenure.
Organs of the APC, since the 2015 electoral victory, never function as provided by the APC constitution. As a result, Article 13.3A(vii) of the APC constitution, which requires the National Executive Committee of the APC to ‘Examine the actions taken or legislation proposed or passed by any Government, Legislative House or Local Government Area/Area Council and determine what further actions the Party should take’ is rendered idle. Inability to make organs of the party functional and through the meetings of organs hold elected leaders accountable further entrenched the reality of ‘morbid desire for naked power’, which is very disturbing. Sadly, there seems to be attempts by some people in the current President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government and their supporters to explain this worrisome reality with reference to how bad former President Buhari’s government had destroyed the country.
As leaders and members of APC, we must take responsibility. Although, many of us were neither appointees nor direct beneficiaries of the former President Buhari’s government, as members and leaders of the APC, we were part of that government, and to that extend therefore coconspirators and liable for whatever is the scorecard of that government. Any claim to the contrary will amount to denial of all our failings or shortcomings and therefore outrightly being dishonest. If at all we are honest, as committed members of the APC, who were part of the vision to negotiate the merger of APC with the foresight of changing Nigerian politics (moral and spiritual reconstruction), we must acknowledge today’s reality, based on which we must reopen a new chapter of political negotiation in the country.
Reopening new chapter of political negotiation in the country should be about acknowledging all the shortcomings of both the two governments produced by the APC under the leadership of former President Buhari and current President Asiwaju Tinubu. Honest acknowledgement of shortcomings should at the same time recognise the achievements recorded during the tenure of former President Buhari. Once, as party leaders and members, we allow people in the current government of President Asiwaju Tinubu and their supporters to dishonestly explain their ‘morbid desire for naked power’ based on which they are not disposed to allowing structures of the APC to function as provided in the party’s constitution, ability of the President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government to undertake ‘moral and spiritual reconstruction’ as proposed by late Chief Awolowo would be enfeebled. Once that is the case, the promise of Renewed Hope, which was our campaign promise will be an empty slogan.
APC leaders and members, as part of the demonstration of commitment to ensure that President Asiwaju Tinubu succeed in Renewing the Hope of Nigerians should support the campaign to reopen new chapter of political negotiations in APC with the objective of restoring constitutional order and returning the APC to its founding vision. Restoring constitutional order and returning the APC to its founding vision should be oriented to achieve ‘moral and spiritual reconstruction’ of Nigerian politics, which was the dream of late Chief Awolowo as far back as more than four decades ago. If late Chief Awolowo was the ‘best President’ Nigeria never had, why should his claimed political disciple in the person of President Asiwaju Tinubu fail to achieve his dream? Why should President Asiwaju Tinubu allow ‘morbid desire for naked power’ to take over his government?
Specifically, reopening new chapter of political negotiations in the country should be about exerting pressure on the APC under the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu to retore constitutional order and return APC to its founding vision, which is about ‘moral and spiritual reconstruction’ of Nigerian politics. This is centrally about strengthening mechanism for holding all elected leaders accountable. Absence of this is making President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government to function epileptically. This moment, it is taking excellent initiative strengthening the confidence of Nigerians that it will Renew the Hopes of Nigerians, the next moment, it is producing completely contradictory results eroding all existing expectations.
Given our political reality as a nation, it must be emphasised that ‘morbid desire for naked power’ by political leaders is not peculiar to APC. In fact, it is what is consuming the PDP so much so that today, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is succeeding to destroy the PDP. And Mr. Obi Obi has taken over Labour Party (LP) without any corresponding commitment to build the structures of the party based on which elected leaders produced by the LP can be held accountable. This reality has stagnated Nigeria and hold the nation back into a state of permanent electoral contests. Public debate in the country is all about who should be the leader and never about holding leaders accountable.
If anything, the potential to strengthen the structures of any of the existing parties in Nigeria is stronger in APC largely because it is about the only party with strong internal contests aimed at reforming the party. The test of whether President Asiwaju Tinubu is at all a true political disciple of late Chief Awolowo will be determined based on his capacity to initiate actions towards ‘moral and spiritual reconstruction’ of Nigerian politics, which should start with restoring constitutional order and returning the APC to its founding vision. A situation whereby elected leaders produced by the APC will be allowed to run affairs of governments controlled by the party arbitrarily without permitting organs of the party to guide processes of appointment and decisions, is simply anti Awoism, retrogressive and unacceptable.
As party leaders and members, who lived the lives of ‘internally displaced politicians’ virtually throughout the eight years of former President Buhari, and about to start a new era of displacement during the tenure of President Asiwaju Tinubu, we need to appreciate that the fact of our displacement is the product of the non-functionality of the structures of the APC. It doesn’t matter whether it was former President Buhari or current President Asiwaju, or any other political leader for that matter is the President. So long as elected leaders are allowed to function in an atmosphere which renders structures of the party that produced them worthless and inactive, ‘morbid desire for naked power’ will continue to be the political culture and all claims to commitment for ‘moral and spiritual reconstruction’, or changing Nigeria as promised by APC will elude citizens.
Just like the situation before 2015 whereby Nigerians were confronted with a ruling party, PDP, which was in denial of the challenges facing Nigerian politics that entrenched ‘morbid desire for naked power’, APC is gradually moving into state of self-denial with APC government led by President Asiwaju Tinubu retaining the same behavioural attribute of demobilising APC structures and blocking them from operating in line with the provisions of the party constitution. This portend the danger of being thrown out of power in 2027 just like PDP experienced in 2015. APC leaders (including President Asiwaju Tinubu) and members may wish to delude themselves into believing anything to the contrary, the reality is that there is a limit to which Nigerians can continue to tolerate and accommodate injustice, inequitable representation, and unfairness on account of ‘morbid desire for naked power’ by leaders entrusted with governmental responsibilities.
The fact of living with entrenched ‘morbid desire for naked power’ will continue to reduce APC leaders and members to the status of ‘internally displaced politicians’ and problems of injustice, inequitable and unfair representation in both the party and government produced by the APC will continue. Already, in less than six months since the inauguration of President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government, insensitive decisions have been take, which marginalised the North-Central in both the leadership of the APC and the leadership of the National Assembly. Not even the emergence of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as the National Chairman of the APC, who is from Kano State, North-Central has elicited any rational consideration to renegotiate the leadership of the Senate for instance, whereby another person, Sen. Barau Jibrin, from the same Kano State is occupying the position of Deputy Senate President. Ideally, any claim to progressive politics would have compelled President Asiwaju Tinubu, Dr. Ganduje and all leaders of APC to recognise the ‘moral and spiritual’ burden requiring the need to reconstruct the leadership of the Senate to ‘ensure justice, equity and fair play for all’ by replacing Sen. Barau with a ranking Senator from North-Central as Deputy Senate President.
Like late Chief Awolowo has argued, the need for a campaign to end ‘morbid desire for naked power’ in Nigerian politics is urgent and massive. Nigerians must not allow serving political leaders to reduce the current challenges facing the country to the cheap question of who will emerge as the next President of Nigeria in 2027. Whether President Asiwaju Tinubu will continue for another four years after 2027 or not should be determined based on his ability or otherwise to restore constitutional order and return the APC to its founding vision of being oriented as a progressive political party. Just like the case of negotiating the merger that produce the APC, which started in 2012, after the 2011 general elections, more than three years before the 2015 general elections, if Nigerian politics is to move forward such that structures of political parties, are activated and made functional, which is a fundamental precondition for ‘moral and spiritual reconstruction’ of Nigerian society, reopening political negotiations in the country aimed at ‘demolishing morbid desire for naked power’ is ‘urgent and massive’ as prophesised by the revered late Chief Awolowo.
APC leaders, including President Asiwaju Tinubu have very limited choices in this respect. It is quite worrisome and disappointing that with every change in leadership of the party, respect for rules of the APC as contained in the APC constitution gets further eroded. Very troubling, after ten years of APC existence, the National Advisory Council, which is expected to serve as the conscience of the party is yet to be constituted. The APC has no defined funding mechanism. The party doesn’t operate any budget and doesn’t render financial account to any organ. Almost all operations of the party, including managing its finances is manage in ad hoc manner based on the personal discretion of the National Chairman. These were the main issues, which were responsible for the internal disagreements with the leadership of Sen. Abdullahi Adamu and Sen. Iyiola Omisore leading to their resignations.
Almost three months into the tenure of Dr. Ganduje and Sen. Ajibola Basiru, nothing has changed. If anything, financial management has gotten worse as the APC is unable to meet its financial obligation. Organs of the party are not being mobilised to initiate responses. Outside the National Working Committee, which meets weekly, no organ of the party is meeting. At this rate, it can only be predicted that under the leadership of Dr. Ganduje, the APC will only mark time to produce candidates for 2027 elections. Once this is the case, Renewed Hope agenda as promised by President Asiwaju Tinubu would be reduced to entrenching ‘morbid desire for naked power’ and many APC leaders and members would continue to exist as internally displaced politicians. To avoid this, APC leaders and members must reopen strong campaign to restore constitutional order and return the APC to its founding vision.
‘Urgent and massive need for moral and spiritual reconstruction’ of Nigeria to ‘demolish morbid desire for naked power’ is a critical success factor for Renewing the Hopes of Nigerians. Like is often said, charity begins at home, Renewing the Hopes of Nigerians must start with restoring constitutional order and returning APC to its founding vision based on which members can have stronger influences on governments produced by the party, especially the Federal Government led by President Asiwaju Tinubu. The capacity of President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government to achieve ‘moral and spiritual reconstruction’ of Nigeria in line with the political foresight and ingenuity of late Chief Awolowo who is supposed to be the political role model of President Asiwaju Tinubu is only possible if structures of the APC are allowed to function in line with the provision of the party’s constitution. Anything short of that will amount to political betrayal of late Chief Awolowo. President Asiwaju Tinubu must never allow history to record him as one of those who betrayed late Chief Awolowo.
*Salihu Moh. Lukman