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Opinion: Differentiating APC from the PDP

The question then is after success in destroying the PDP, will the leadership of the APC return to the issue of ideological platform and the definition of the progressive platform they could present to the Nigerian people? If so, isn’t there a danger about whether they would have been carried too far into PDP style politics and find it difficult to return to issue based politics later on.

To prevent that negative outcome, now is the time for progressives within the party to start making demands for a change in approach. They should mobilise for a new approach based on the primacy of issue-based politics and a focus on membership recruitment and party organisation based on internal party democracy rather than the power of notables and godfathers. Both for the PDP and APC, and other parties as well, there is value in trying to change the character of political parties from catch-all formations to democratic organisations. Their strategic objective should be to get rid of the godfathers and create better bonding and mutual respect between ELECTED party leaders and members.

Increasingly, the APC is asserting itself as the game changer in Nigerian politics. It has shown that it is possible to coalesce a huge opposition movement from disparate and apparently antithetical political parties. It have been able to create a huge rift in the ruling party and swallow many of its leaders and is in the process of turning the ruling party into the minority in the National Assembly.

Another good friend and intellectual of the progressive movement, Bamidele Aturu has also argued that there was no difference between the PDP leaders and their APC counterparts.

The idea of defeating the PDP by establishing a PDP like mega party therefore poses the possibility that the APC might then become the NEW PDP, a concept that emerged from some of the PDP leaders that joined the APC. This concern is real because since its registration by INEC, the APC has not tried to institutionalise itself. It had been focused in attracting the high and the mighty to join them in their enterprise of replacing the PDP in power.

apc-vs-pdp-thewillnigeria

This post is published with permission from Premium Times Newspapers

It was in this context that my good friend, Femi Falana lamented in his Premium Times interview that what is happening is simply ‘realignment politics’ as those who have been excluded from “chopping” in PDP regroup in APC to chop. This is the only explanation for the focus of the APC on recruiting those who have been ruling and ruining Nigeria he argued. Another good friend and intellectual of the progressive movement, Bamidele Aturu has also argued that there was no difference between the PDP leaders and their APC counterparts.

Other notable members of the PDP who have joined the APC are Senators Bukola Saraki and Abdullahi Adamu, former governors of Kwara and Nassarawa State respectively. So far, 37 PDP members of the House of Representatives decamped to the APC, thus making it the majority party in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber and many more are apparently poised to defect in January.

It appears to me that the leaders of the APC have a lot of respect for the capacity of the PDP to destabilise and swallow the opposition as has occurred so many times since 1999 and are therefore adopting an approach of first destroying the PDP from within by causing internal pandemonium and stealing its leaders. Of course President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP Chairman are helping them with their own self-destruct approach.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

The article by Festus Owete (Premium Times 21/12/13) draws attention to this concern as APC leaders continue their elaborate membership recruitment with visits to some of the country’s past leaders, including former Head of State and President Olusegun Obasanjo, former military president, Ibrahim Babangida; former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar; former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. This is happening after they have successfully wooed five governors elected on the ticket of the PDP – Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), all of who defected to the opposition party on November 26.

by Jubrin Ibrahim

The result is that the arrogant declaration of the PDP that they will rule Nigeria for at least 60 years is now in question. This success of the APC is however causing a lot of concern among progressive groups about the nature of the APC itself. Is the APC becoming the new PDP as more and more PDP leaders join it or is there still something different about the party?

The governors and notables invited into the APC are coming in with the understanding that they will be allowed to completely control the party machine in their states and their zones. The real struggle within the APC will start when the question is posed – who “owns” the party in this state or zone?  The election of party executives and the subsequent nomination battles could lead to a rapid collapse of the APC as all those who fail to capture positions of control leave and go in the search for greener pastures.

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As I have argued previously, historically, the key challenge facing Nigerian parties has been that godfathers and barons rather than party members have run them. Nigerian parties have been arenas that have clientelist networks that are used by the party barons to “deliver” crowds for rallies and party congresses. Indeed, most parties treat their members with disdain and utter disrespect. The hope among progressives is that the APC will be a different type of party that will be focused on recruiting members on the basis of issue-based politics. The body language of the APC so far is that they are interested only in being a “catch-all” party.

In his book on comparative political parties, Professor D. L. Seler defines catch-all parties as organisations that are interested in aggregating notables rather than establishing a large membership base and the notables use their clientelist networks to secure votes for the party. I have argued previously in this column that this model was introduced into national politics in Nigeria with the establishment of the National Movement, precursor to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1978.

The NPN was focused on the notables and the idea of a catch-all party collapsed when many of the notables in the National Movement such as Waziri Ibrahim, Obafemi Awolowo and Aminu Kano walked out of the scheme when they realised that they had no chance of clinching the presidency within the formation. The PDP started as a formidable force but always had the problem of keeping all the notables happy. Today, the PDP is deeply frightened about the early success of the APC in trying to steal many of its notables because it knows it has no members and once it loses a majority of its notables, it’s dead.

The origins of NPN as a catch-all party was in Gowon’s cabinet where erstwhile political opponents such as Shehu Shagari, Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano, J. S. Tarka and Anthony Enaharo had worked together and started imagining a new type of politics in which all leaders will operate within the same political formation. They wanted above all to avoid the crisis of 1964/65 when the political class divided itself into two factions – Saudauna’s NNA with the NPC, NNDP, MDF and NDC and Zik and Awolowo’s UPGA with NCNC, AG, UMBC and NEPU and fought to create conditions that resulted in rigged elections, the coup and civil war.

My concern is that the two catch-all parties we had, the NPN and the PDP, have been anti-democratic parties that placed no value in ordinary party membership but focused all their attention on securing the notables and godfathers. I had expected that the leadership of the APC would have learnt from this history and focused its attention on building a new type of party where members matter. I had expected that immediately after registration, it would go on a massive membership drive to recruit ordinary Nigerians into the party. I had hoped party meetings by the members would be holding at ward and local government levels so that input from the grassroots would inform the direction towards which the party evolves. I have not seen any of this.

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