11 or so things you need to know about what is arguably the most significant re-drawing of Nigeria’s political map in the 4th Republic:
1. The APC has gone from 11 Governors to 16 Governors (Only 5 of the 7 nPDP Governors moved, apparently. Two distanced themselves from the ‘merger’ as soon as the news emerged, presumably wary of leaving Certainty for Uncertainty; and also buffetted by seen and unseen pressures, which may or may not include the EFCC). The PDP has gone from 23 Governors to 18. Labour has 1, APGA, 1. (It should be noted though, that the Labour and APGA Governors are simply PDP-by-other-names).
2. The power brokers in the APC at national level remain Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari. The new entrants are not very likely to upset that state of affairs at this time. They will be more likely to focus on staying in control at state level. Having said that, the influence of Tinubu will no doubt be diluted by this ‘merger’ even though he will clearly remain the National Leader of the party.
3. The Governors’ move may or may not significantly affect the party structures in the states. Over the coming days/weeks we will see how much of the structures align – Federal and State legislators, state party executives, etc. Will enough legislators defect to the APC to make the PDP the minority party in the National Assembly? Will the defecting Governors be able to sway their party executives and influential state politicians to the APC?
4. Attention will be on a number of persons in the coming days/weeks:
- Aminu Tambuwal, the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, who has never hidden his association with the APC (his election was made possible by the overwhelming support of APC legislators; he was not the preferred candidate of the ruling party, and it’s safe to say they’ve only ever tolerated him).
- Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who has identified prominently with the nPDP since the split, and is believed to have led the split.
- Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who, while remaining a PDP chieftain, is not on the best of terms with the President and the party.
- The 2 undecided nPDP Governors. Will they also decide for the APC? Or stay with the PDP – either reconciling in full or staying as internal opposition? Also, will other PDP Governors consider making a move?
5. These nPDP-turned-APC states have very strong existing PDP structures. It will take a lot of time and effort to undo the PDP in these states. It will take more than a Governor defecting to alter the political equation. Will be interesting to see to what extent the Governors can build strong APC platforms in their states. Take Rivers as an example – it’s going to be almost impossible to displace PDP as ‘The Party To Beat’ there. This is a state that has been almost exclusively PDP since 1999. A few people might move with Amaechi, but not much else is likely to change. PDP will most likely remain as strong as ever in Rivers, home to the President’s wife. The gap left in the party by the departure of Governor Amaechi will quickly be filled by other forces and interests (e.g. Education Minister and Amaechi-opponent Nyesom Wike)
6. Because PDP is still the party in power at the center, it will still hold a lot of attraction for politicians, because of the many benefits available from the center: contracts, Government boards appointments etc. There will be many politicians who will stay in the hope that whatever they miss out on at state level they will be compensated for from Abuja.
7. Will there be another cabinet purge, as President Jonathan moves to punish all Ministers associated with the rebellious Governors? Will any Ministers resign-and-defect, or defect-and-resign? However things play out, these are not the best of times for the President. In the confusion he will resort to some desperate and ruthless – and ill-advised – moves.
8. There will be considerable infighting within the APC, as the struggle for control of the party structures escalates. The new Governors will insist on being in charge of the APC in their states, and will inevitably clash with the existing (if feeble) APC structures. With the swelling of the APC it will begin to suffer from the curse of bigness – which has plagued the PDP from the beginning. I suspect that the Old APC will want to constantly remind the New APC of its newcomer status. The SouthWest APC may also strive to assert itself as the core APC.
9. On 2015:
- The two most populous states in Nigeria (Lagos, Kano), and the country’s 3 biggest domestic economies (Lagos, Kano, Rivers), are now being run by persons who belong to a single opposition party. That has never happened before, and might have implications for the funding of the opposition, and for the way the 2015 elections will play out.
- We have no idea who the APC presidential candidate in 2015 will be, apart from the fact that he will be a Muslim from Northern Nigeria. Mallam El-Rufai says he’s got a candidate in mind, who he’s willing to support, but has not mentioned any names.
10. I hesitate to see this as a “merger” – it’s more like a loose ‘coalition’ of forces arrayed against President Jonathan and the strongmen in whose tight grip the PDP currently is (Bamanga Tukur, Tony Anenih etc).
11. There is only one political party in Nigeria, actually. All it manages to do, in and out of crisis, is manifest in various guises. In the beginning (1998) there was only one party – the PDP. Every new party since then has emerged from that original; and all the combinations of acronyms since then have not been able to detract from the fact that political organisation in Nigeria is structured solely on the basis of fleeting interests (in this case the need to get Jonathan out in 2015) than on any long-term philosophy of governance or development.
One more thing: we are nowhere near the end of the confusion. The aligning and re-aligning will continue indefinitely. Rest assured, no one knows anything, not even those at the center of it. We’re all stumbling on blindly into the dark future, hoping for the best. The politicians all hope to end up on the winning team; while the people hope to end up on the receiving end of decent governance.
Tolu Ogunlesi (c) 2013