Burden of Leadership: Open Letter to APC Leaders

Burden of Leadership: Open Letter to APC Leaders

Wednesday, March 6, 2024 10:19 am

Salihu Lukman

Salihu Lukman

Salihu Moh. Lukman

It was Mallam Aminu Kano who once said, ‘anyone who want to be a leader must be the servant, not the boss, of those he wants to serve’. The context and circumstances that made Mallam Aminu make such a statement must be about how politicians easily get tempted into believing that once they can get into political office, they have been vested with the powers of becoming overlords and do as they wish, converting public resources into personal wealth. In other words, they become bosses and electorates reduced to being servants. In the process losing the essential requirement qualifying them to serve as leaders of the people.

It was easy for the founding fathers of Nigeria and the first-generation politicians to cautioned against failure of elected representatives to emerge as the legitimate and conventional leaders of citizens. Certainly, if one combs speeches of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Joseph Tarka, and many other founding leaders of this our great country, one will find similar caution. Unfortunately, here we are, decades after all these cautions, having to live with the painful reality whereby the main attraction of joining politics is that elected leaders are indeed anything but leaders. From President to Governors, legislators, and political appointees such as Ministers, chief executives of government parastatals and Commissioners at state levels, they are the most powerful people and perhaps the richest categories of Nigerians on account of the resources they manage. They are today’s tin gods who see citizens as their servants.

We can rationalise all these with reference to the damages of more than 30 years of military rule. However, we need to also take responsibility that in different ways, both as politicians and as citizens, we have contributed to producing the unfortunate Nigerian reality we all have today. One good example is how we all worked hard to produce the APC, campaigned for the defeat of PDP, only to produce a government in which both party leaders and other Nigerians had almost zero influence in terms of its decisions whether with respect to people it appoints or even its policies. Party leaders cheapened themselves into acquiring cheap advantages of accessing elective or appointive positions on the platform of the party. Yet, this is supposedly a progressive party.

Consequently, instead of producing a government that should have led the process of changing Nigeria, which was our campaign promise in 2015, we ended with a government that is at best comfortable with all the realities we campaigned to change. Largely because our elected leaders are comfortable with realities of producing elected leaders who behave as overlords, APC elected leaders, since 2015, have failed to build the APC as a progressive political party, different from PDP and other parties. Interestingly, one of the elected leaders produced by APC was arguably one of the most popular politicians in the political history of the country. One would expect that at least, being very popular from the North, under his leadership, he will be able to provide the needed leadership to resolve most of the challenges facing the North. Without going into any judgmental assessment, the North is possibly worse off under his leadership. If anything, certainly the problem of insecurity in the North outlived his leadership.

Again, being party members and leaders, we must all take responsibility. Whatever was the shortcomings of the APC under the leadership of former President Muhammadu Buhari, party members and leaders are culpable in varying degrees. Perhaps, our major guilt is the expectation that a successor administration produced by the party will correct those shortcomings and return the APC to the path of producing a progressive government, which will be inclusive and manage the affairs of the country based on strategy of mobilising Nigerians to participate in initiatives of rebuilding the country. Integral to that is the task of returning the APC to its founding vision of becoming a progressive political party. Contrastingly, we have produced another closed government, which is anything but progressive.

Expectations of party leaders and member that President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s leadership will return APC to its founding vision were strengthened by his activist prodemocracy background and his records as Governor of Lagos State. Many APC leaders and members believed that the emergence of Asiwaju Tinubu as successor to former President Buhari would be a radical departure from all the disappointments, we had between 2015 and 2023. Sadly, immediately following the electoral victory of 2023, our leaders may have devalued themselves into a subservient relationship with President Asiwaju Tinubu. Almost all our leaders, with probably negligible exceptions became self-centred and limit engagements with President Asiwaju Tinubu to only what they can get from him in terms of appointments into his government. Questions of agenda of the government and the vision driving the government is simply ignored.

And typical Nigerian politician, President Asiwaju Tinubu used that to strengthen his hold on both the government and the party. Already, with the way former President Buhari had managed the country for eight years, in the same political orientation PDP ran the country for sixteen years, President Asiwaju Tinubu is justifiably also continuing that path. Although being a self-acclaimed Awoist and progressive, not coming from a military background like former President Buhari, the expectations of many is that he will at least be more democratic. This should connote more consultations, based on which perhaps the structures of the APC as a political party would be made more functional.

The first test was the question of zoning the leadership positions of the 10th National Assembly and by extension President Asiwaju Tinubu’s government. Confronted with a hostile party leadership under Sen. Abdullahi Adamu who was decidedly anti-zoning, to be fair to President Asiwaju Tinubu, he was able to handle the situation to the best of his ability, based on which he produced a balanced leadership for the 10th National Assembly. Unfortunately, most of our APC leaders from the North, for whatever reasons were speculated to have worked at variance with the initiatives of President Asiwaju Tinubu to produce a balanced leadership.

Perhaps, that could have been partly responsible for the complete lack of attempt to forge a united front with President Asiwaju Tinubu and party leaders from North in terms ensuring that the successor to Sen. Abdullahi Adamu as APC National Chairman is produced through consultations. With Sen. Adamu coming from Nasarawa State, North-Central, ideally provisions of Article 31.5(i) of APC Constitution should have been activated to get the APC State Executive Committee in Nasarawa State to nominate a replacement from the state. Instead, unilaterally, President Asiwaju Tinubu nominated Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje from Kano State without even consulting APC leaders from North-West. One would expect that with former President Buhari coming from North-West, at the minimum President Asiwaju Tinubu should have consulted him on the choice of Dr. Ganduje as National Chairman. It is very doubtful if that was done.

As a result, from a party envisioned to be progressive, we are increasingly moving in the direction of strengthening reactionary orientation. If the truth is to be told, as it is, we practically have a party limited to producing candidates for elections in which Governors and some anointed party leaders in states without APC government exercise prerogatives beyond any rational expectations associated with any democracy. The issue of ensuring that party structures exercise some responsibilities in managing governments and influencing decisions of elected leaders is simply sacrificed. All the structures of the party have been frozen. Except for National Working Committee (NWC), which is an administrative organ expected to implement decisions of higher organs, no organ of the party is functional.

Sadly, with such ugly reality, APC may have succeeded in producing some of the worst governors in the history Nigeria. For us in the North, we have produced not only absentee Governors, but Governors and politicians who now go for lesser Hajj almost in the same frequency they go for weekly Jumma’at prayers, all probably with public resources. One of our Governors in North-Central is behaving like someone possessed or acting under the influence of some addictive, making scandalous policy statements, only to retract them, perhaps when he comes back to his senses. Painfully, both the party and all our political leaders just watch and behave indifferently.

One would have wished that the eight-year tenure of former President Buhari was used to inculcate some minimum standards expected to be respected by all APC elected leaders. A golden opportunity was lost, the country is faced with so much disadvantaged and a government produced by the APC is unable to put in place a clear policy plan to get the country out of the mess. Depressingly, this doesn’t appear to be a source of concern for most of our political leaders. So long as our leaders have access to political offices, they seem to be unconcerned with all the tragic realities facing the country. The conclusion is that our leaders occupying political offices are busy accumulating financial resources legitimately or otherwise for future elections.

We must cautioned our leaders, as things are, they are on the verge of self-destruction. It is very clear that President Asiwaju Tinubu’s respect for political leaders in the country is weak largely because of the failure to act as leaders. Virtually, all APC leaders are behaving more like bosses. Accordingly, this is now a source of threat with the potential danger of leaders completely losing relevance and unable to command the respect of citizens. Largely, because of inability to serve as leaders, most of our politicians have lost the capacity to be selfless. This has produced a situation whereby President Asiwaju Tinubu seems to be contemptuous of all APC leaders and therefore proceeding manage affairs of the country without consultation as required by the APC Constitution.

Consequently, for whatever reasons, APC leaders serving as Ministers and other senior positions in government also hardly consult anybody. Why should this be the case? With such reality, they are weakly accountable to the APC. Although many of these appointees are highly respected former Governors who ordinarily would have been members of the National Caucus of the Party, non-functionality of organs has reduced them the ordinary appointees of the President with very weak influence in his decisions. These are people who ordinarily in their true make-up, would have risen to the challenge of returning APC to its founding vision of ensuring at the minimum the emergence of an inclusive, not closed, government. This would have compelled some levels of strong engagement with President Asiwaju Tinubu. This was what happened when under the leadership of former President Buhari, there was the need to contest attempts to impose a Presidential candidate on the party from the North. It was these same leaders, then acting in different fronts, both within and outside the structures of the party, who forced an engagement with former President Buhari to make it possible for the emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu as the Presidential candidate of APC.

Today, all that is history and we are almost back to where we were before 2015, if not worse in terms of producing respected political leaders who command strong influence in managing affairs elected governments, at all levels. And there is a conspiracy of silence by our APC leaders. It is either our leaders have compromised themselves or they have mismanaged themselves so much that they cannot survive without government patronage, which is now the prerogative of President Asiwaju Tinubu. It is my hope that this is not the case. Proving that will require that at the minimum our leaders recover their capacity to organise themselves and initiate processes of engaging President Asiwaju Tinubu. As it is, the inability to organise and initiate engagement with President Asiwaju Tinubu will in the long run be injurious to both to the political future of President Asiwaju Tinubu and the democratic development of the country at large. The least will be for APC and President Asiwaju Tinubu to lose elections for second term in 2027.

The bigger threat is the looming danger of rebellion against the harsh living conditions facing citizens, which may come with expression of wildcat anger against political leaders in the country. Potentially, this may be spontaneous without any leadership. Already, some of the flashes of protests, including the looting of warehouses and trucks conveying food items by angry citizens protesting hunger are bearing some of these spontaneous leaderless characteristics. And because our political leaders are behaving more as overlords, instead of taking steps to initiate engagements and avert such danger, they are all becoming onlookers, watching from their comfort zones.

As leaders in APC, we must accept responsibility for the present unfortunate reality whereby for the first time we have produced an elected government, which is practically scornful to other political leaders. Since the time of former President Buhari, we have succeeded in producing elected governments that audaciously imagine that they can manage the affairs of this country exclusively without allowing permissible consultations as provided in the APC Constitution. Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo, with all his military background, never indulge in such grave undemocratic practice. If, for any reason, during the tenure of former President Buhari, this was the case, why should President Asiwaju, being an Awoist, a democrat and supposedly progressive politician condone and adopt such undemocratic conduct? Why should President Asiwaju Tinubu adopt the current unfortunate reality of practically winding up the APC? Is his leadership of the party assuming the form of serving as the Receiver-Manager for the APC?

If our leaders truly want to earn the respect of Nigerians, having succeeded in getting President Asiwaju Tinubu elected, why should they limit the scope of their relationship with President Asiwaju Tinubu’s administration to only issues of being appointed into positions in his government? If our leaders could all rise to block the attempted injustice against the Southern part of Nigeria by former President Buhari some people around the President attempted to impose a so-called consensus Presidential candidate from the North, why should our leaders condone the current injustice against North-Central by President Asiwaju Tinubu with Dr. Ganduje now serving as National Chairman? Why should our leaders from North-West for instant find it convenient to adopt the current mode of conspiracy of silence with Dr. Ganduje single-handedly nominated by President Asiwaju Tinubu as National Chairman of APC, when already Kano State has produced Deputy Senate President from Kano State? Is Kano State the only state in North-West? Where is the sense of justice of our APC leaders?

The biggest worry is the fact that as it is today, it is difficult to dispute the allegation that APC is nothing more than an electoral vehicle to grab power. Even with that, the objective of grabbing power is limited to supporting former President Buhari and President Asiwaju Tinubu to achieve their ambitions of becoming Presidents. All the sacrifices made by leaders of legacy parties that merged to produce the APC have been jettisoned. It is very disappointing that we have successfully created a party, which has won three elections consecutively with hardly anything to show for it other than leaders who continue to manage the affairs of government exclusively in mode of dictatorship.

Given all these, any conclusion about APC shortchanging Nigerians can hardly be dismissed. The challenges facing us as a nation, especially having succeeded in producing the APC and winning elections three times, producing leaders who will act as servants to citizens, not bosses, is paramount. Our leaders, who were in the forefront of the struggle for justice within the APC, blocking former President Buhari from imposing a Presidential candidate, must wake up to the challenge of making APC become at least functional, if it cannot be returned to its founding vision of being a progressive party. Making APC a functional party is about ensuring that all organs of the party are allowed to operate as provided in the Party’s constitution. Anything short of that will only contribute to destroying democracy in Nigeria. Democracy should be about inclusivity through meetings of organs of the parties. Once party organs are shut down, democracy will be as good as dictatorship. So long as that is the case, it will only confirm that APC have shortchanged Nigerians.

Our leaders who led the merger negotiation to produce APC in 2013 owe it to Nigerians to call President Asiwaju Tinubu to order and get him to recover whatever is left of his democratic and progressive credentials. Both as APC and Nigerians, we all have a responsibility to make all the needed sacrifices to win President Asiwaju Tinubu administration back and put it on the path of emerging as an inclusive government managed by an envisioned progressive party, APC. APC leaders and President Asiwaju Tinubu must resist the temptation of toying the path of self-destruction by continuing to operate as a closed government. Achieving that will require readiness on the part of all APC leaders to make all the sacrifices to regain their respect back based on which they emerge as leaders and not bosses.

Salihu Moh. Lukman, Kaduna





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