Nigerian Politics and the New PDP-APC Cycle
One of my personal greatest joys about the 2015 general elections is that they were not decided by insults or rumours. They were decided by VOTES. Voting is usually the product of political campaigning and organising. Even if regionalism, tribalism and religion played a role in the presidential elections we cannot dismiss the fact that each homogenous or self-identifying group had to choose between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In what many will consider ‘free and fair’ presidential elections the APC with Muhammadu Buhari as their flag-bearer unseated the hitherto monolith PDP. Whether APC were “giant killers” or PDP were victims of their own very brazen “hubris” is a tiny piece of the story.
Every political behemoth like PDP is created by vast accumulations of “scarce means” unavailable to usually all but one or two competitors. In Nigeria or any society where ‘money politics’ (i.e. the sale of political office and power to the highest bidder) is the dominant dynamic, financial means are paramount.
However, size of membership, ethnic groupings, number of credible candidates, influence over media stakeholders, goodwill with public, good works of governance, all play a role making a party dominant. These too can be purchased with money too but not completely.
For APC to unseat the incumbent party in government and hold onto power for more than four years, they need to adequately amass and instrumentalise “scarce means” equal to or greater than that of PDP. This is where it becomes “scary” or “business as usual” and campaign promises start to fail. The possibility of ‘Change’ starts to ‘disappear’.
‘Resource’ amassing suddenly becomes more important than the ‘agenda of change’. That politician who will sacrifice gains in power or accept losses in resources over his or her promises of ‘change’ to constituents is a very rare politician. We shall see how President-elect Muhammadu Buhari and his APC live up to the promises of ‘change’ that swept them into power.
If PDP acts as the APC did in opposition, the election winners of the 2015 election may be heavily humiliated in 2019 and a cycle of APC, if they do not live up to expectation then PDP and again APC in power may emerge. Considering the fact that many APC and PDP have used the same party machinery to secure power, elections and patronage, some fear Buhari’s victory required the empowering of patrons and godfathers in the polity and democracy as we expect it may already in ‘hi-jack’ mode.
Firstly, there is no core PDP or core APC membership; their prominent candidates and patrons simply ‘decamp’ or ‘cross-carpet’ between each other as it suits their ultimate personal interests. It almost seemed as if the only two core PDP and APC candidates in these 2015 elections were President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, respectively. As amorphous as these political parties are their machinery are very well-defined and set-up with grand plans in which ‘members’ at all levels are easily replaced.
The springboards for ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ of the major political parties are the most efficient mechanisms in the entire party machinery. If a man who did two terms as a democratically president of Nigeria and sought a third-term with manic desperation can burn his membership card publicly to undermine the party he used to fulfil his ambitions, you can readily question party faithfulness, loyalty or honour.
Secondly, the loss of elections does not lead to a loss of machinery capacity or efficiency within the party political context. The machinery is embodied in the patrons and godfathers of elected officials. These are the main people responsible for mercurial identities of the politicians they back as well as the misgovernance and corruption that occurs.
Election outcomes under such conditions will be down to manufactured perceptions and not substance which favours the elected, their patrons and clients but not electorate. Such is implicated for Nigerians leaders being plagued by “ineffectual good man” syndrome, the proverbial good man who cannot do good for his constituents because everyone who surrounds him is evil. It is extreme bad luck to have good leaders who cannot do good for their people.
The question arises, what will alternations between APC and PDP in cyclic form at elections mean for Nigeria’s democracy if the party machinery is not changing?
Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, openly declared that the President Jonathan led-PDP embodied ‘sinister’ party machinery and was bad for Nigeria’s democracy. Soyinka is not blind to the APC machinery or its capacity to also become a behemoth. Some have good reason to be sceptical and cautious about the APC victory rather than be naively optimistic and hope for the best.
We shall if an APC-PDP cycle of election victories with unchanging or changing party machine will be the future of Nigeria.
- PERSPECTIVE is published every Monday. Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on twitter: @Grimot