What Did Buhari and APC Governors Tell Themselves?

*Governors meeting with Buhari looks like the familiar ‘family affair’
If I had known on time, I would have sent an item for possible consideration at the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress’ (APC) governors under the aegis of the Progressive Governors Forum at Aso Rock on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I read about the meeting in the papers less than 24 hours to the parley. But, did anyone frown out of the meeting? It is important we have an answer to this question because, if everybody came out all smiles, something must have gone wrong. 

It means they did not tell themselves some home truths. 
A meeting at that level and at this point in time ought to produce frank talks. And if indeed truth is bitter, when it is told, it must necessarily provoke anger in some of the participants at the meeting. Most of the pictures of the meeting that were published did not reflect that frank discussions took place about the most pressing matters in the land; otherwise, the governors and the president would not have been laughing as they reportedly did. The issues on ground are no laughing matter.

We read that part of what was discussed was the continued occupation of the seat of deputy senate president by Ike Ekweremadu of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Yes, the issue is important; first because with some people in certain positions, anti-corruption war cannot make any significant progress. Second, it is an aberration that a member of the opposition party would be sitting pretty on that chair; but that is part of the fallout of the rain that mixed up the pigeon with the fowl in the APC. The governors and the president cannot forget so soon how Ekweremadu got the position; when the party succeeds in reinventing itself; that will naturally disappear.

However, my worry is particularly about the APC as it concerns the south-west. Even at the risk of being accused of parochialism, I understand why. The region, (or, if we choose to use today’s political description) the geo-political zone had a political culture that was unbroken for years. Once its leaders decided the way; that was the way. Although at some point, some people started this talk about a region or zone putting all its eggs in one basket. I see nothing wrong in that if the people were sure of their choice. We have seen the folly in joining the party at the centre for the sake of it. It did the zone no good. Unfortunately, things have changed fast, especially in the immediate past era of the PDP, with some of the states in the geo-political zone falling like pack of cards into the hands of the then ruling party with little or no resistance. We’ll get back to that shortly.

My main worry today stems from the handling of the salary crisis in some of these south west states. For sure, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo who made the Western Region a cynosure with the many firsts that he wrought there when he was premier: first television station in Africa; first skyscraper in Africa; first stadium in Africa; free education, also the first of its kind in Nigeria would be wondering in his grave what happened to enterprise and creativity in the zone. He would be asking himself what could have made things so bad that even governors of the zone cannot pay civil servants’ salaries for months, simply on account of a slump in the federation earnings.

Although this is a national problem, the point is that the way some of the governors in the geo-political zone handled or are still handling the matter suggests that they have not learnt much lesson from the past. There may not be money to pay; but there is a way this should be relayed to those affected that they would know their leaders understand what they are going through. It is regrettable that some of the governors in the zone keep behaving as if the place is still there all for their plucking. This is fallacy of the highest order. Unfortunately, these governors are in their own second term; so, there is nothing at stake for them again. But what of their party, the APC?

It does not seem to me that they care what happens to the party after they might have left the scene. The question to ask these governors is whether they would have handled the matter the way they are handling it now if their second term was at stake? We have a situation where the party was in charge before the governors were elected but suddenly lost control after, with the role reversal which now makes the party subservient to them. This is dangerous. The Yoruba people might be sophisticated politically; they sometimes may shock people with their voting pattern, especially when they perceive that their leaders have become unapproachable or cocky. When that happens, they can decide to put their caps on their navel instead of their heads, contrary to a popular saying in the area. Unless the party reclaims its mandate from the governors, the mess that some of them would leave when their second term lapses would be too much for the party to clear.

Moreover, the party has to do soul-searching on how its other governors are running their states. From reports, little has changed in some of these states; except that there is not much money to fritter as in the past. Otherwise, we would have seen the same display of ostentatious lifestyle by some of these governors as we used to complain about in the past.

Then there is the general performance of the Buhari government in the eyes of Nigerians. The governors could have pledged their support and loyalty to the administration. That was expected. It was also good they lauded the ongoing anti-corruption war. But beyond all of these, as people who are closer to the people (I hope I am right) they needed to have let the president know that Nigerians are not particularly happy that their lives are not being touched positively yet by his programmes. They may not be expecting miracles; and even if they are, it would not be an illegitimate expectation.

But the point is; they think the government is not working as if it knows that it has less than three years to go. It is same mouths they used to sing ‘Hosanna’ last year that they would sing something else if things continue like this till 2019; we need to start warning now so that the president would know the urgency of the matter. It is true the problems were inherited yesterday, but the way out too was expected as early as yesterday. When expectations take too long in materialising, doubts and frustration set in. It has been like that since creation. The government needs to think of something earth-shaking to rekindle hope that it is truly on top of the situation. Nigerians would not perpetually want to live under assurances by the president and his officials that they know they (the people) are suffering.

Then, some of the nonsense that the party inherited in the National Assembly – constituency projects and jumbo pay, to mention just two, ought to have become history by now in a government that came on the mantra of change. But what do we see? It is the people in the same ‘change party’ that are defending some of these things. Even while the generality of Nigerians are suffering; the lawmakers want to keep their rotund bellies.

I cannot imagine such a situation where people who won elections into the National Assembly under the banner of Chief Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) would be collecting the scandalous pays that members of our present National Assembly are collecting. They would not have been party to it and it would have been clear that it was only the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that was involved. That it is taking this long even under the ruling party to abolish these ungodly perks for part-time lawmakers is worrisome. Change cannot make sense when members of the National Assembly collect such monies, even when the economy is in crisis as it is today. Look also at the budget-padding issue; it was unthinkable in those days of the UPN.

The APC must demonstrate change, not by sloganeering but more by action. I have said it before that as far as Nigerians are concerned; there is little difference between the progressives and the others. That was why people would not lift their fingers even when votes were blatantly rigged here in the south west in the PDP years. Was it not the same geo-political zone that was noted for its stout defence of its votes in the first and even second republics? So, why was the PDP able to get away with votes stolen in the region, not once, not twice, but severally, without any strong challenge? For votes to count in the region, for people to take the party seriously there and elsewhere, APC leaders must show that they are not like the first and last-born of pigs that all play in the mud.

If some people are still proud to say they are PDP today, it is partly because of the way and manner some leaders of the ruling party at all levels are conducting affairs and themselves. That explains the audacity. Ordinarily, one would not be thinking of the PDP in the picture at all by now because that party had sufficiently messed up the chances of its resurrection. But this is a country where anything goes; that is why some people would still be parading themselves as PDP members in the first instance. That is why such people would be hallucinating about returning to power under the banner of the godforsaken party, come 2019. It can be so in a nation where we have many shameless people around who have kept recycling themselves in the corridors of power.

The saving grace for the APC for now is Buhari’s integrity as well as the curse of Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of PDP’s misrule that have kept the PDP in disarray. We need much more than that to keep them down and out. And that can be achieved only when the difference is clear between the progressives and the others. So, when next the APC meets, these are issues to ponder.

Source: The Nation