Tag Archives: APC

An open letter to Buhari’s supporters

“I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians” Gandhi said once. He must have read about Jesus in the Bible, but found his disposition at sharp variance with his discoveries when interacting with Christians, who were supposed to be followers of Christ. I wonder what Gandhi’s thoughts might be were he alive today, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

A lot of our disposition to certain brands and brand names, are as a result of experiencing them through proxies. For example, if there are 12 call center representatives for a bank, and 8 of those representatives are courteous and helpful, while 4 are not, the perception of that bank will be shaped by which of the representatives we encounter. If this experience remains consistent, then eventually an impression is formed which can be difficult to change in any direction.

Gandhi never met Jesus Christ, just as many of us will never ever meet the CEOs behind the companies that produce the goods and services we use on a daily basis, but that does not stop us from forming impressions about those goods and services, based on our experiences on a regular basis.

This has relevance for the current season of campaigning in Nigeria, especially as it this relates to interaction on social media. The APC recently picked Muhammadu Buhari as its Presidential candidate, and his supporters have gone into overdrive pushing for their candidate. A lot of the time, however, the way they engage leaves a bit to be desired, so much that I have seen tweets from people saying that they do not like Buhari on account of his supporters. On first look, this comes off as a lame excuse, but just as the conduct of some Christians can turn people away from Christianity, the conduct of Buhari supporters can turn people away from voting for him in February.

Too often, there is a resort to insults and other extreme language in support of the Daura-born politician. It is true that he inspires a fervour among supporters rarely seen, but that fervour should be channelled toward re-introducing Buhari to the electorate, and highlighting the aspects of his record that put him in a good position to get Nigeria back on track, rather than alienating those disappointed in the current administration and who are open to voting another way, but still have legitimate questions.

Rather than combative, the tone from his supporters – many of whom have a lot of followers – should be much more persuasive. Buhari will do interviews, be on the campaign trail and maybe even do a couple of debates, but he cannot reach everyone. Whether online or offline, incendiary and uncouth language should be shunned in favour of a narrative that sells their candidate, a narrative which is much stronger than it appears at first glance.

This is not to say that the many failings of the current administration should not be pointed out. Far from it. The issue is that even those criticisms can be made by merely presenting people with the facts in a way that can change minds.

 

Following a very well organised and fair primaries exercise, the APC has begun to gain momentum as the year comes to a close. More and more, this is looking like the best chance for a ruling party to be voted out for the first time in our history. As the Presidential candidate, Buhari is leading that charge, and every interaction his supporters have with others contributes to that effort. May it not be said that he lost votes because of them.

 

An open letter to APC delegates

I wonder how many of the delegates who will vote to decide the APC’s presidential candidate will see this. They will probably be too busy having last minute discussions with emissaries of the candidates, who are trying to win them over. That is the beauty of democracy. At this stage, I am sure that only a few people really know what will happen today. It will be a close race, and rightly so.

The two leading candidates are Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, and as the delegates finalise their choices and approach the booths over the next several hours, they must ask themselves not just who is likely to give President Jonathan the best fight at the polls, but also who is most likely to be able to execute his agenda in office.

Muhammadu Buhari, now in his fourth presidential race, is perhaps the only national figure consistently aligned with the opposition since 1999.  He has never flirted with the ruling party at all, and that is much harder than it looks. His reputation for integrity, established since his time as military head of state, remains intact. He also enjoys very strong support from the Northern electorate, and has a strong anti-corruption stance, which is a good one, given the extent to which it has destroyed our nation.

In addition, he is expected to be strong on security issues, given his success with the Maitatsine in the 1980s.

The problem however is this: once you move beyond these plus points, there is not a lot besides. While corruption is a big problem, it is not Nigeria’s only problem, and so far, Buhari’s plans to fix these are not obvious. In fact, there is no detailed plan from him to deal with issues of insecurity and corruption as they are currently manifest, given that these problems have metastasized over time.

His capacity to pass delicate legislation is also in doubt. He will have to work within a democratic structure, and a National Assembly that is often indolent and obstructionist, to say the least. Even if corrupt officials will be tried and jailed, that must also take place within the our broken judicial system.

At this point, the issue is obvious. There is little evidence that the General has taken the time to examine Nigeria’s problems and craft solutions to them.

On the other hand, Atiku Abubakar has done so in a very detailed document, which you can find here. He appears to possess all the tools to make a success of governance from day one. Under the Obasanjo government, as Vice President, he was instrumental in putting together the economic team that improved Nigeria’s position, and put the country on the path to sound growth.

This eye for talent is also evident in the way his campaign is being run, which everyone agrees, whether they like his person or not, is the best in this election cycle. It is a mix of new school social media savvy and old school campaigning, which has seen him visit delegates from 35 of 36 states, trying to sell them on his agenda.

This kind of 36 state campaign is the kind of national outlook and mentality that Atiku has cultivated over three decades of political activity, and will serve him well in a national election. He was a high ranking member of the SDP in 1992, and nearly became Abiola’s running mate. His networks and resources were also important in creating the PDP as we know it today.

These networks and resources have already been put at the disposal of the APC, in order to make it a second national party capable of holding its own and standing the test of time.

As presidential candidate, Atiku has the ability to split support for Jonathan in the South, something Buhari does not have. His influence will not be limited to a particular sector of the country. In addition, Atiku has demonstrable capacity to hit the ground running from day one, based on his manifesto, his ability to build crack teams, and his ability to work with the various arms of government to achieve objectives.

The former Vice President has pledged to support whoever the APC picks as its candidate today. It is a promise I hope he keeps, but as the delegates approach the ballot boxes later on today, they must ask themselves which of the candidates has the best chance in a general election, AND the ability to govern effectively. The answer to both questions in my view is Atiku Abubakar.

The inevitability of Tambuwal’s defection

Throughout this political transfer window of movements between the PDP and APC, the announcement by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal that he was moving to the All Progressives Congress was treated with rather less surprise than a casual observer would have expected, considering that he is the fourth in line in terms of constitutional succession to the Presidency, and is hence the APC’s biggest defection in its one year of existence. Close watchers of Nigerian politics would not have been surprised. In fact, it has been perhaps the worst kept secret of the past one year, and there are a number of reasons for this.

Flashback to 2011. As the dust settled after the PDP’s victory at the 2011 elections, the speakership of the 7th house of representatives was zoned by party bosses to the South West, despite the decimation of the PDP in that zone at governorship and federal legislative levels. The choice of the party was Mulikat Akande-Adeola from Oyo, who secured another term as representative while most of her PDP colleagues fell away, but Tambuwal made his moves, ran against her and won. He did this with the assistance of then ACN lawmakers.

The result of this was a House of Representatives that stood relatively free of Presidential influence, and Tambuwal himself free to speak his mind at critical moments like during the fuel subsidy probes and monies unremitted to the Federation Account by the NNPC. The price for this was a Speaker who never quite fit in with his party. He was, to paraphrase the Bible, ‘in the PDP, but not of the PDP’. His absence at major events, together with his criticism of the executive branch meant that as soon the APC became a reality late last year, it eventually became an issue of when, not if, he would switch parties.

The current governor of his home state of Sokoto, Aliyu Wamakko, also moved to the APC, together with 27 of 30 members of the state house of assembly. This provided further incentive, especially as Tambuwal is rumoured to want to become governor. In fact, reports surfaced in January that Tambuwal would be offered the PDP governorship ticket, in order to prevent his defection. However, 3 house members, together with the deputy governor of the state Mukhtar Shagari (Yes, Shagari’s son) stayed with the PDP.

So, the PDP knew it was coming for some time. As soon as Tambuwal declared his switch on Tuesday, he promptly adjourned sitting till December 5th, ostensibly to secure his position. The PDP counter attack was to promptly remove his security detail, and the Inspector General of Police was quick to justify this move by quoting Section 68(1) of the 1999 Constitution:

A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if – (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.

There are a number of issues here. First, the Inspector General has quietly moved from being a law enforcer, to a law interpreter, since he obviously serves at the pleasure of the Executive arm, separation of powers be damned. It brings up all the familiar fears about a federal police that is too close to the Executive for comfort, and is merely a continuation of the pattern seen in places like Rivers state – where Commissioner Joseph Mbu was used to intimidate Rotimi Amaechi – and several other examples. Clearly, the message remains that falling foul of the executive arm will see the police used against you.

Second, the IG is clearly poorly suited to being an interpreter of the law, because of all the cross carpeting done, no seat has been declared vacant by the courts, nor is it likely that will happen soon. In addition, in the specific case of Tambuwal, the Constitution has this to say in Section 50(2):

 The Speaker the House of Representatives shall vacate his office –

  1. If he ceases to be a member of the House of Representatives otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or

  2. When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or

  3. If he is removed from office by a resolution of the House of Representatives, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.

Therefore, as my learned friend Tex points out here, Tambuwal can either declare his own seat vacant, or be removed by two-thirds of the 360 members (240), a number the PDP do not currently possess.

The foregoing will then make it obvious why the Speaker chose to delay his defection till this moment, and embark on recess immediately after. The recess will allow for the necessary politicking by house members in their constituencies, but also allow Tambuwal to secure his position for the remainder of his tenure, by co-opting the support of his colleagues. He is no stranger to such an exercise, having out-flanked the Presidency’s chosen candidate in 2011.

Many agree that the honourable thing to do would be to resign as Speaker, pending another vote in the chamber, and a very likely conclusion to this particular 2015 sub plot could be a renewed vote of confidence in his leadership of the house, either through voice vote or actual casting of ballots.

While it is not certain that is how events will play out, Tambuwal’s reputation as a rather shrewd and savvy politician will only be enhanced should he retain his place as Speaker up till the elections.

3 quick thoughts on Buhari’s ‘loan’

This from the Vanguard is generating quite a bit of discussion:

Buhari meanwhile, yesterday procured the party’s N27.5 million expression of interest and nomination forms at the national secretariat.

Lamenting that the costs of the forms were high, he said that it took the understanding of his bankers in Kaduna and Abuja to raise the money.

“It’s a pity I couldn’t influence this amount to be put down  as in the case of ladies and the disabled that intend to participate. I always looked left and right in our meetings but I could not read sympathy, so I kept my trap.

“But I felt heavily sorry for myself because I don’t want to go and ask somebody to pay for my nomination forms, because I always try to pay myself, at least for the nomination.

“N27 million is a big sum, thankfully I have personal relationship with the manager of my bank in Kaduna and early this morning, I put an early call (and) I told him that very soon the forms are coming, so, whether I am on red, or green or even black please honour it, otherwise I may lose the nomination.

“I was about to go to Kaduna this morning and I told the Chairman (John Odigie-Oyegun) but he said in that case, you better pick your form and keep a straight face. That means there is no excuse,” Buhari said.

Responding after handing over the forms to Buhari, the national chairman of the party, Chief Odigie-Oyegun explained that the N27.5m was carefully chosen to “separate men from the boys”.

“Let me say that the N27.5m is to separate the men from the boys. It is quite clear. We know you. I don’t expect you have N27m under your bed. But I expected that there are Nigerians who will vouch for you any day and who are ready to stand for you any day and that is the result that we have obtained today”, he said.

There are a number of issues here:

1. The cost of nomination forms is clearly too high, and has been for a long time. The nomination form for the PDP, for instance, is N10 million. It creates a barrier for entry and along with an absence of independent candidacy, these are two of the most serious obstacles to get better candidates, especially at lower levels of governance, which are just as important as the Presidency, if not more so. This needs to change, and it will be a better use of our time than seeking a percentage of political positions for young people.

2. It is unclear what game Buhari was trying to play here, if any. The quotes above indicate that he did not have the cash on hand, for whatever reason, at the time, hence the need for a facility from the bank. In  addition, from the quotes above, there is no mention of the word ‘loan’. Any number of reasons could have led to a situation where he had to call his bankers. The bottom line, of course, is that he wanted the form, and he got the form. No matter the cost.

3. The APC is barely a year old, competing with a party in power for 15 years, along with all the advantages that come with that position. They need to raise funds for a national campaign. A lot of funds. The presence of campaign finance regulations and their enforcement by INEC would have levelled the playing field somewhat, but that has no chance of happening soon. So, it is an arms race that accounts for the high cost of the forms. To those who bother with these things, it is a worrying sign. But most do not. So there.

Attempting to define ‘stomach infrastructure’

In the first week of April, 2013, the warning signs were already there.

Over a year ago now, I attended a symposium organised by The Future Awards in Ikogosi, Ekiti State. At the session attended by the governor, Kayode Fayemi, one Ekiti indigene after another got up told the governor to pay attention to ‘stomach infrastructure’. That event is significant in hindsight, because if there was one danger sign ahead of a re-election push, that was it.

Now, people all over the country are trying to pick through the wreckage of a campaign that seems to have been dead on arrival. Instead of congratulations, there are post-mortems. The post-mortems are necessary because Fayemi was widely perceived as a governor who was performing. Some have even described him as the best pound-for-pound (apologies to boxing fans) governor in Nigeria. Why then did he lose?

The events on June 21st have confirmed to me that, were Gary Chapman to write the Nigerian political equivalent of ‘The Five Love Languages’, ‘Stomach infrastructure’ would be the top love language.

It is not like Nigerians do not appreciate good roads, hospitals, and other amenities. It is that there is something that matters to them a bit more than that. There was a lot of debate on social media about sharing rice to potential voters in the days before the election, but to restrict the idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’ to food, whether cooked or raw, is naïve.

Stomach infrastructure is simply the system by which political patronage is dispensed to various groups in a particular society. This patronage can take many, many, forms. For instance, putting in a good word for the relative of a high ranking party chieftain, approving a contract or an appointment for a close political ally or their relative, and so on.

Stomach infrastructure means honouring an invitation to an important social club in Ekiti, and ‘declaring’ for its members. It can also mean turning a blind eye to a racket, or several rackets, for that matter. Other times, it is simply dispensing hard currency.

I am sure by now you begin to get the point. Grassroots politics, as far as Nigeria is concerned, is more or less a fancy term for building and maintaining stomach infrastructure. Having a strong ‘political structure’ is more or less the means by which this political patronage is consistently dispensed, the means by which it reaches the ‘masses’.

It is this (infra)structure that sustains you when you try to do unpopular things like take on the teachers and civil servants, as well as reform the civil service in general. It is this structure that enables you to call in favours on election day. It is this structure that enables you to ward off challengers like Ayo Fayose, backed as he was by a rejuvenated PDP.

Ibrahim Babangida, to name just one example, understood this idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’ very, very well. MKO Abiola understood it too. Both men were famed for their generosity and people skills, traits which kept them relevant in Nigeria’s power play for decades.

My best guess about what happened, is that the culture shock of moving from the governance style of Niyi Adebayo, Ayo Fayose and Segun Oni, to the style of Kayode Fayemi, was so great that it produced a backlash. Overnight, the people of Ekiti went from experiencing one extreme to another, and they just could not take it. Then, along came a familiar face at just the right time, with just the right people skills, who had just the right party behind him.

The reason why Ekiti cannot be used as a barometer for the rest of the country, is that what happened there was a perfect storm. It does not take just one factor to bring about the defeat of an incumbent, especially by such a margin.

Fayemi took on the teachers over competency tests, and implemented the results, leading to the demotion of some who had served for decades. The rest of them never took the tests and punished him at the ballot box. This fight may have been better left for a second term. There was also a lot of friction over the payment of the new Teachers Salary Scale, which he said the government could not afford. Again, scaling back on ambitious goals to focus on ‘bread and butter’ issues could have saved the situation.

The biggest fall-out of this election is that it might cause many who want to seek political office to pause and wonder what the point is, if someone who is performing can be so summarily rejected. The best thing to do is learn. The majority of Nigeria’s electorate are preoccupied with basic issues of survival, and this affects everything else. No amount of political correctness can change this.

Democracy remains a popularity contest, and for as long as everyone above 18 can vote, then the wishes of the majority must be taken into account to a significant extent. If the people in a particular place want to be governed in a certain way, then that must be accommodated, even if it means deviating a bit from a pure focus on the traditional indices of governance.