Reinventing Progressive Politics in Nigeria

Reinventing Progressive Politics in Nigeria

Thursday, April 25, 2024 2:21 pm



Salihu Moh. Lukman

Salihu Moh. Lukman

Salihu Moh. Lukman


Progressive politics means different thing to many people. With the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013, however, it is expected that activities of the party, its leadership and elected representatives would clarify or present a variant of progressive politics. To that extent, therefore, given the electoral successes of the APC, which moved progressive politics to the realm of being the ruling mantra, how has the APC been able to present what could be attributed as progressive politics? Based on all the characteristics of the APC in the last nine years, as the party in control of the Federal Government and at least twenty State Governments, have we validated progressive politics?

Without being academic, performances of APC, in every respect, has not presented any harmonised vision of development. It is a very disturbing reality that there is no common policy thread connecting governments produced by the APC at all levels since 2015. Noting that during the merger negotiations of 2012/2013, which produced the APC, the ideological thrust or proposition was oriented around social democracy, based on commitment to values of collective justice and individual freedom where citizen’s basic needs are expected to be met – food, shelter, healthcare, education, and the ability to actualise human capacities and endowment. Having succeeded in winning elections, what is APC’s scorecard with respect to probable ideological commitment to social democracy?

The reality is that experiences since 2015 highlighted wide gap or weak commitment to the founding vision of the APC. Without prejudice to some initiatives, such as social investment programme, anchor borrower, etc. which could be estimated to correspond to social democratic principles, the reality is that poor management of implementation have weakened impact. And against the backdrop of sixteen years of poor delivery of public services during the tenure of PDP between 1999 and 2015, the expectation of Nigerians is that APC, being an envisioned progressive party, elected leaders produced by the APC will change that and put the country on the pedestal of good governance. Integral to good governance is increased accountability based on which elected representatives produced by the APC are expected to be more responsive and representative to the interests of Nigerians.

Increased accountability requires the existence of functionally stronger political party. Prior to the emergence of the APC, virtually all political parties in Nigeria, including the PDP and the opposition parties that merged to form the APC were simply election platforms. Being election platforms, issues of vision and commitment to ideology as could have been outlined in the manifesto of political parties is simply non-existent. With such reality, culture of impunity and corruption became rampant, and Nigerians were highly contemptuous of political leaders in the country. Largely on account of widespread abuse of office, which is highly manifested by the sad incidences of elected leaders converting public resources to personal wealth, capacity of governments at all levels to spearhead national development shrunk.

The emergence of APC raised the hopes of Nigerians about potentials for change. Coming with the slogan CHANGE, part of also what justified the confidence of Nigerians that APC will produce a paradigm shift in Nigerian politics and governance was that the internal debate within the party during the merger negotiations aggregated national debate. Decisions taken by leaders of the party, at least up to 2015 when the party won the General Elections and formed the Federal Government under the leadership of former President Muhammadu Buhari could be adjudged to be representative of the wider interests of Nigerians. In many respects, the manifesto of the party and all the campaign promises before the 2015 General Elections resonated with the aspirations of Nigerians.

Expectedly and undisputedly, Nigerians voted for the APC in 2015. Immediately after winning the 2015 elections, the APC began to move away from its orientation of working as an organised group, holding meetings, debating issues, and taking decisions accordingly. Perhaps, largely on account of the towering political profile of former President Buhari, whose popularity especially in the Northern part of the country was the major electoral strength of APC, substantially contributing to the electoral victory of the party, gradually and systematically decisions and initiatives towards managing the APC government began to be personalised. Issues of appointments and policy priorities of the APC government became the prerogative of the President.

As a result, party leaders who were major stakeholders and equal partners before the electoral victory of 2015 became subordinates of former President Buhari. Consequently, most leaders were relegated to being lobbyists for appointments in APC controlled Federal Government. Once that is the case, issues of party management took the back seat. Meetings of organs, especially, National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Caucus became irregular. The NEC, which by the provision of the APC Constitution is required to meet quarterly, for almost a year after the 2015 General Elections did not hold. Similarly, the National Caucus, which before the 2015 elections was meeting almost weekly stopped. The Board of Trustees (BoT), whose membership was established before the 2015 elections was never inaugurated.

Unlike what emerged before the 2015 elections whereby leaders of the party debated and took decisions on virtually every issue, and those decisions became binding, a new reality emerged whereby responsibility for taking decisions became the privilege of the President. Ability to guide or influence the President was weakened by the aspirations of party leaders to become appointees of APC controlled Federal Government. Being aspirants for political appointments, no one want to risk expressing disagreement with decisions of the President. As a result, whether the President takes the right or wrong decisions, party leaders simply accept and rationalise virtually every action of the President.

Being the President of the Federal Republic, invariably, his priority were decisions about managing the government. Once that is the case, party management were left unattended. Critical issues such as issues of party funding, membership management, etc., which were not concluded before the 2015 elections were simply abandoned. Other obligations such as the requirement for organs of the party to initiate actions to influence policies of governments controlled by the APC at all levels in line with provisions of the APC manifesto and campaign promises were sacrificed. The first manifestation of this problem was the failure of the APC to manage the emergence of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly, which produced the rebellious leadership of Sen. Bukola Saraki, Senate President and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of House of Representatives.

The emergence of the rebellious leadership was made possible largely because of the inability to hold meetings of organs of the party. Up to June 9, 2015 when the 8th National Assembly was inaugurated no meeting of any organ of the party hold. No decision was taken by any organ of the party in terms of influencing the emergence of leaders of the 8th National Assembly, which made it possible for the rebellious groups led by Sen. Saraki and Hon. Dogara to defeat the preferred candidates of APC leaders. Responsibilities such as the requirement for the NWC to develop electoral guidelines for the emergence of leaders of the 8th NASS in line with provisions of Article 13.4(vi) of APC Constitution was simply abandoned and progressively, the APC became a passive observer to activities of Governments it produced.

Being a passive observer weakened or inhibited the potentials of the APC and its governments to ‘develop and promote economic policies that guarantee public participation in and, where necessary, control of the major means of production, distribution and exchange’ in line with the aims and objectives of the party as contained in Article 7 of the APC Constitution. With the President becoming an imperial leader whose decisions are unquestionable, management of governments produced by the APC was limited to his (President) personal discretion. Unfortunately, with the best of intentions, often, the decisions of the President fall short of public expectations. In fact, capacity to resolve national challenges such as rising insecurity in the country as contained in the APC manifesto and campaign promises became problematic.

Sadly, after raising the hopes of Nigerians about producing accountable governments that could have been more responsive and representative of the wider interests of Nigerians, governments and elected representatives produced by the APC hardly distinguished themselves from previous governments. At state levels, APC governments were similarly unable to demonstrate stronger commitment to progressive politics. It is very doubtful if any APC state could be identified as an example of a progressive state based on its policies. The closest could be Lagos State largely based of its ability to mobilise higher revenue, which could have been made possible by developing stronger relations with citizens in the state. However, in terms of benchmarking the policies of the Lagos State Government with the APC manifesto, it is just like all the other APC States.

As it is, APC has demobilised itself from being a progressive political party. Many leaders of the party who would have enforce accountability, and to that extent therefore ensured that the party prioritises delivery of its campaign promises based on provisions of the APC’s manifesto have abdicated responsibility by making themselves candidates for appointments into government. Some of the leaders, almost immediately after winning the 2015 elections, began to manoeuvre for 2019 elections. The same monoevring continued after 2019 and now after 2023 elections. With that, gradually, the APC snowballed into leadership crisis in many states across the country. Weak internal party governance made it almost impossible to resolve many of the leadership crisis facing the party. And ahead of 2019 elections, at national level, the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led NWC was replaced with the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led NWC.

Leadership crises also consumed successive leaders, largely due poor party governance. Within three years, between 2020 and 2023, the APC has produced three National Chairmen. Disturbingly, virtually all the National Chairmen of the APC since 2020 when the leadership of Comrade Oshiohmole was removed turned out to be worse and unable to resolve the challenges facing the APC. Inability to convene meetings of organs of the party continued. The NWC continued to usurp powers of all organs of the party. Competence of members of the NWC in terms of being able to manage affairs of the party as provided by provisions of Article 13.4 of the APC falls below expectations. For instance, obligations such as presenting a proposed national budget for the party for the consideration and approval of NEC as provided by Article 13.3A(xiv) of the APC Constitution is left unattended. Similarly, requirement to present quarterly financial report on income and expenditure of the party as provided by Article 13.4(iv) of the APC Constitution is discarded.

Unfortunately, notwithstanding the change of leadership at national level, internal leadership crisis in many states was heightened, which affected the management of internal party primary to produce candidates for elections. The height of it was the judicial blockade in Rivers State, which disqualified the APC from fielding candidates in for the 2019 elections. Similarly, in Zamfara State another electoral disaster happened when after winning all the elective positions in the state, due to problems associated with the poor management of APC primary that produced candidates for the 2019 election, the court sacked all the APC elected representatives and handed victory to the PDP. In Bayelsa State 2020 Governorship, the Supreme Court nullified the election David Lyon barely 24 hours before his inauguration on the ground that his deputy, Sen. Biobarakuma Degi-Ereienyo presented false information to INEC.

All these highlighted how the problem of poor party governance have become entrenched in APC. Like all the other parties, the APC has collapsed and is another election platform. The vision of becoming a progressive party remained elusive. The only hope is that the advocacy for internal party reform is still very strong. The reality is that President Asiwaju Tinubu emerged to become the Presidential candidate of the APC for 2023 elections on the strength of the advocacy for internal reform. The truth is that without the advocacy for internal reform, the agitation for power shift to the Southern part of the country would have been defeated and the APC could have ended up with Sen. Ahmed Lawan as its Presidential candidate.

The emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu, both as the Presidential candidate of APC and ultimately as the elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria revived the hopes of many party leaders and Nigerians about the prospects of returning the APC to its founding of emerging as a progressive political party in the country. Not just because of the person of President Asiwaju Tinubu but largely on account of his political struggles over the years, which in many respects is associated with the wider struggles of Nigerians for democracy and development. As a person, President Asiwaju Tinubu could have his limitation, but as a political leader, his strengths certainly outweigh his limitations.

No need to be specific here. However, it is important to acknowledge that the absence of a strong party organisation and the high political currency of business-as-usual are militating factors which every political leader would have to contend with. These are issues that no doubt destroyed the potentials of the administration of former President Buhari from measuring up to the high expectations of Nigerians, and invariable being unable to resolve many of the challenges facing Nigeria, especially the crisis of insecurity. In fact, the political currency of business-as-usual made it possible for the attempt to hijack the internal negotiation for leadership succession at the end of the tenure of former President Buhari and President Asiwaju Tinubu had to lead the resistance against attempt to impose a Presidential candidate for the APC.

Somehow, having succeeded in defeating the attempt to impose a Presidential candidate on the APC and emerge as the President of the Federal Republic, President Asiwaju Tinubu had to fight to assert his authority in the APC. Confronted with the leadership of Sen. Abdullahi Adamu that was unwilling to facilitate negotiation for the new government, President Asiwaju Tinubu had to take up the responsibility of facilitating negotiation to produce leaders of the 10th National Assembly. And thereafter, he had to respond to the challenge of reforming the APC. Central to that is the question of responding to the agitation against Sen. Adamu’s leadership.

The rest, as it is often said, is history. With the exit of Sen. Adamu, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje emerged as Chairman. The emergence of Dr. Ganduje however deviated from the agreed zoning formula of the party, which ceded the position of National Chairman to Nasarawa State, North Central. Consequently, with Dr. Ganduje emerging as APC National Chairman, the North Central turned out to be shortchanged from the new political leadership of the country. Perhaps, the only strong qualification of Dr. Ganduje is his close relationship with President Asiwaju Tinubu. Other than that, in terms of experience in party management as well as being a political leaders with strong commitment to progressive principles, however defined, is debatable. Unfortunately, he also has a bigger political liability of being someone that has poorly managed political relations back in Kano State. Some of the open political campaign against Dr. Ganduje, including allegations of corruption, which reflects the poor management of political relations.

The reality is that all these issues have turned out to hunt the leadership of Dr. Ganduje. Working with the currency of business-as-usual, Dr. Ganduje has proven to be the most incompetent National Chairman APC has produced since 2013. With all the confidence invested by President Asiwaju Tinubu in the person of Dr. Ganduje, organs of the party have remained frozen so much so that more than eight months after the emergence of Dr. Ganduje, the NEC, which is required to meet quarterly has not met. The National Caucus has similarly not met. The National Advisory Council, which is equivalent of Board of Trustees is yet to be inaugurated. The NWC has continued to usurp the powers of organs of the party. Issues of party funding and membership management are poorly handled. Internal leadership conflict has taken over many state branches especially states controlled by the APC. Above all, poor management of political relations back in Kano State by Dr. Ganduje has created a bigger moral burden with Kano State Government suing Dr. Ganduje for corruption charges.

With all these, President Asiwaju Tinubu and APC are faced with the burden of what to do to justify the emergence of the APC in 2013 and how it was able to galvanise popular support base in the country, which account for all the electoral victory since 2015. Responding to such a challenge is about whether beyond producing an election platform, APC leaders and in particular, President Asiwaju Tinubu would commit themselves to reforming the APC such that governments produced by the party could have a coordinated strategy of responding to governance challenges. Developing a coordinated strategy is about whether, for instance, substantive principles, however loosely defined could guide policies and decisions of elected representatives produced by the party.

Given all the political realities confronting the APC and its leadership, and especially against the backdrop of falling short of meeting public expectations and delivering on campaign promises in the last nine years, it is important that President Asiwaju Tinubu can push APC leaders to initiate processes of renegotiating the party. Renegotiating the APC should be about reinventing progressive politics in the country based on the acknowledgment that what we have in APC today is anything but progressive politics. It must be recognised that although in the beginning in 2013, APC presented a strong potential of becoming a progressive party, unfortunately, all that has been lost.

Being privileged to have President Asiwaju Tinubu should translate to an advantage to reform the APC to become a truly progressive party. That would require a complete overhaul of the structures of the party and total reorganisation of the leadership at all levels. It basically means total renegotiation of the party. In the context of the new negotiations, leaders of the party must be pushed to reconcile themselves and develop new framework of political partnership both at states and national levels. Problems of imperial leadership which has created animosity between serving and former governors must be rectified such that serving governors are able to work with all political leaders in their states based on the spirit of equal partnership. The new leaders of the party at both national and state levels must be oriented to facilitate the new orientation of stronger political partnership. What this means is that new APC leaders must, as much as possible, depart from the orientation of enforcing hegemony of power blocs, which is the major source of leadership disputes and is, in fact, the main challenge blocking the party and making it impossible to overcome the problem of being reduced to an election platform.

It will require the capacity to put in place the orientation of equal partnership in APC for the party to return to its founding vision of becoming a progressive party. It is only through equal partnership that the APC can reinvent progressive politics in Nigeria based on which issues of accountability and being responsive and representative to the interest of Nigerians can be stronger. For this to be the case in APC, President Asiwaju Tinubu and leaders of the party need to renegotiate the party based on which all the structures of the party are reorganised and new leadership emerged. This is the significant reality before President Asiwaju Tinubu and all APC leaders.


Salihu Moh. Lukman




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