The New Rulers, The ‘Governing Party’ And The Imperative Of Change; By Jaye Gaskia
Let me start by confessing that I have a dilemma; and what is the nature of this dilemma? I will attempt to answer this question illustratively.
The current self-proclaimed governing party has since the May 29th inauguration been quick to remind us of the scale of the crisis that they have inherited, and consequently seized every such opportunity to plead for time, our patience, and our understanding.
I understand the necessity for patience, I know that we should not expect a miracle, nor should we expect a supernatural solution to problems caused naturally by human incompetence, ineptitude and greed.
But I also know that there is an elastic limit to patience, and that as a people battered by decades of bad governance and maladministration, time cannot mean eternity for us.
Come to think of it, President Muhammadu Buhari had sought the presidency unsuccessfully three earlier times. The implications of this to me are that he ought to have had twelve years to prepare for his presidency.
His Party, the APC on the other hand has had nearly three years since the announcement of the merger; nearly six months since the conclusion of its presidential primaries; nearly three months since it won the general elections; and nearly three weeks since the inauguration of the new administration to prepare to govern.
But alas, this self-proclaimed ‘governing party’ has been behaving more in the usual Nigerian parlance of a ‘party in government’, than as a governing party since the inauguration.
And although there is an emergent apparent job share between the President and his Vice, with the president taking the lead on security, and his vice taking the lead on the economy, uptil this moment, we are as clueless now as we were during the campaign as to what their holistic change program entails, in clearer details, beyond the sweeping generalisations and sloganeering of the party and its leaders in the public space.
After the APC had won in convincing fashion the 2015 general elections on the crest of popular disillusionment with 16 years of failure, and a collective aspirational hope for change, I had pointed out my worries with respect to the victorious party’s predilection and fixation with the structure and appearance of government, rather than with the content and essence of governance.
The implications of such a fixation the structure of government and the consequent sharing of the spoils of office on governance and the wellbeing of citizens, as well as on the ability of the party to meet popular expectations of the people can be very well imagined!
The most recent manifestation of the consequence of this fixation on structure and appearance rather than on content and essence was played out in the National Assembly leadership elections.
It is instructive to note that throughout the entire period that the contestation lasted in its current phase, the contesting platforms within the majority party did not present any legislative agenda. There were no programs of what the contending platforms will achieve or undertake as a path to fulfill the party’s program and promise of change.
Instead the crux of the divisive contestation was built around how to share the spoils of office and allocate lucrative rewards to this or that platform within the party.
On this issue of the NASS leadership elections, let me state clearly my views on the principles of it. First I am convinced that any organisation, let alone a political party must be interested in, and should play a decisive role in the selection of its flag bearers for any public office. I am for party supremacy over individualism, and for the will of the collective overriding the selfish interest or personal ambition of the individual. I am convinced that party supremacy can be justified only on the basis of robust internal democracy. And I know for certain that a party that tolerates indiscipline erodes its capacity to build internal cohesion.
But let us face the reality; the seed of the NASS leadership fiasco of the APC was planted way back in the foundation of the party.
This is a party whose emergence was based not on any previously articulated program and agenda for change. The merger was announced months and more than a year before a manifesto was developed. One would have expected that the first stage would have been the articulation of a minimum program around which the merger will then be negotiated.
Now the Party’s manifesto appears to be an afterthought, something undertaken in order to fulfill all righteousness, a document that is alien to discussions within the party, and one that remains unknown, unlearned, and uninternalised by party members. The party’s manifesto is neither owned by party members, nor does it seem to be understood and appreciated by the party leadership.
Earlier I had referred to the absence of a programmatic legislative platform by the contending forces within the party for the NASS leadership. Well how can these platforms articulate any agenda when the party itself does not seem to have a governance program for its four year tenure?
This foundational error it seems will be carried on into the composition of the cabinet. A party that won a highly contested general election on the promise of change, and against the backdrop mushrooming popular expectation engendered by the experience of a decade and a half of failed governance; is going to constitute a cabinet to assist it execute its program without haven articulated the program in the first place!
Now I hope you understand my dilemma with this unraveling situation where it seems that ‘The more things change, the more they are the same’.
To sum up; the historical challenge of governance in Nigeria is that the ruling class is still blinded and distracted by its primitive accumulation mode of building the foundation of the national economy and polity.
It is the underlying reason for its collective light-fingeredness and its rapacious looting of the treasury aided by impunity.
In fact the unprecedented levels of treasury looting and impunity of the last six years can be located and largely explained by the ascendancy to political power of the most marginalized and excluded faction of that ruling class, hence the uncharacteristic manner of its frenzied approach to public thievery.
This nature of the ruling class, and its dependence on the allocative power of the state to grow private wealth and build up private capital, is what is responsible for its fixation on the structure of allocation of spoils of office whenever it is negotiating or renegotiating a ‘National Consensus’ among its various factions and fractions.
The National consensus on sharing the spoils of office which laid at the basis of the 4th republic since 1999 had collapsed over the last six years, with the ruling class still in the process of renegotiating a new national consensus.
It is this process of renegotiating a new national consensus for primitive accumulation, which has produced the APC against the backdrop of the implosion of the PDP as the political vehicle to realize this new emergent national looting consensus.
However the ongoing internal contestations within the APC are reflective of the emergent and therefore yet unsettled nature of the negotiating process to produce a new national looting consensus.
Herein lies the historical task placed before the popular movement; to build an effective mass and popular political opposition on the understanding that the ruling class, no matter which faction is in power, will most likely rule in its own interest rather than govern in our collective interest.
The implication of such an understanding is that we must build a political platform based on clearly articulated minimum and transitional programs, and capable of not only taking advantage of the current instability within the ruling class to influence the development and governance agenda in our own interests; but also capable of undertaking a project to challenge the ruling class for political power, and take the power and govern in the popular interest.
JAYE GASKIA IS NATIONAL COORDINATOR OF PROTEST TO POWER MOVEMENT [P2PM] AND CO-CONVENER OF SAY NO CAMPAIGN [SNC]. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @jayegaskia