The fact of the APC governors being united may have definitely played a role. However, more significant was the mobilisational capacity of the anti-PDP rebellion in NGF having succeeded to win the support of eight PDP governors. It demonstrated the fact that with organisation, the powerful and mighty can be defeated and the people can take charge of their destiny.
Nigerians may have their individual opinion. What is very instructive with the events around the NGF May 24 election of Rotimi Amaechi was that an election held and Amaechi was declared the winner. In so many ways, it was a victory against President Goodluck Jonathan and a victory against PDP. The interesting thing was that acting perhaps under the instruction of President Jonathan, Governor Godswill Akpabio as chairman of so-called PDP Governors’ Forum convened another meeting at Akwa Ibom House shortly after and declared that it was Governor Jang that was elected and circulated some purported results showing that 19 governors have elected Jang. Interestingly, among the 19 governors that were alleged to have elected Jang include Yobe governor who was absent at the May 24 meeting where the election held.
It is not so much that the result of the election is being contested but the manner of contest which seeks to basically generate confusion and in the process create legitimacy crisis for the second tenure of Amaechi as the NGF chairman. One would ordinarily expect that the governors under Akpabio would seek to redress all grievances from the May 24 election through due process. Due process could have meant that they make demands which may include asking for another meeting to review the conduct of the elections. And given that they are claiming to have 19 governors on their side, it would have been a comfortable majority that could have given them the confidence to even move for the removal of Amaechi at the next meeting. The second option would have required that they seek legal intervention through the courts. There is the third option of sanctioning Amaechi and all PDP governors that may have acted contrary to party decisions. This may result in dismissal of all PDP governors that are on the side of Amaechi from the party.
The only explanation to justify the position taken by the Akpabio-led group of governors would have been a reflection of their weakness which would have signalled inability to get any of the three scenarios highlighted. Since the PDP and the presidency is in control of security agencies, any confusion may translate into influencing the conduct of security operatives in favour of the Akpabio/Jang group and to that extent, therefore, coercing structures of the NGF, especially the secretariat, to compromise its loyalty to the Amaechi leadership. This will be in tandem with what can be described as garrison mentality that has been driving our democracy since 1999 whereby the position of the president must reign supreme and all party functionaries must subordinate themselves to that. In some ways, this means that the president must win every election in which he/she has interest. Supremacy of members and sovereignty of the people is at best a cliché for those who are interested.
The concern now is not so much that there is an election that was contested and has produced the defeat of the candidate promoted by the PDP and the presidency. The main challenge is that the response to the defeat by both the defeated candidate, Jang, and perhaps the ruling PDP is to create confusion that may lead to the dismantling of the NGF as an organisation. The implication of this is that it will give the Federal Government and the presidency unfettered and uncontested power to govern the country, including trespassing into matters that are constitutionally reserved for states. This is going to be very inimical to our democratic development as a nation for two reasons. First, it would mean that all organisations in the country must exist at the pleasure of the PDP and the presidency. Secondly, should the current approach to orchestrate confusion and delegitimise the NGF succeed, it would mean that any attempt to unseat President Jonathan using constitutional means can be greeted with similar response in 2015. It was the strategy that Laurent Gbagbo employed in 2010 in Cote d’Ivoire following his defeat by Hassan Ouattara which led to months of crisis resulting in loss of lives and property. The international community had to intervene to restore sanity and affirm the sanctity of the 2010 elections.
The lesson, therefore, is that with the presidency and PDP being on the driving seat in the unfolding leadership drama in NGF, it may as well be a prelude to what to expect in 2015 should Nigerians decide to vote out PDP and President Jonathan. The possible response of both PDP and President Jonathan may be to refuse to accept the result and declare Jonathan the winner of the election as opposed to whatever INEC may return. One will hope that this will be a complete wrong scenario. However, it is no doubt a possible scenario
Against the background of warmongering noise of some militant groups from Niger Delta warning the nation about the consequence of not returning Jonathan for a second tenure in 2015, this may be a way to say that Jonathan will rule Nigeria for a second term with or without the votes of Nigerians. The capacity of Nigerian governors under the NGF to affirm the sanctity of their choice of leadership, therefore, is the first test of whether as a people Nigerians can begin to send the right signal to PDP and President Jonathan. That signal should in unmistakable terms resoundingly highlight that all leaders must be elected through constitutional means.
It is also instructive that Amaechi’s victory reflects some political engineering that recognise the need to mobilise across ethnic, religious and regional lines. In fact, what is very attractive with respect to development around the NGF May 24 election is that divisions are not influenced rigidly by our old primordial lines. What this means is that moving towards 2015, the defeat of PDP may only be possible through strong mobilisation across all ethnic groups, religions and regions.
For our APC, given the central role of our governors in the NGF May 24 election of Amaechi, to what extent will this experience help to prepare our merging parties for the rollout of APC? There may be the temptation to over-celebrate. The truth is that APC leaders just need to recognise that Amaechi’s victory is just a reflection of the strength of mobilisation. The message to APC, therefore, is that if it is to be taken seriously as a party coming with strong potential to defeat PDP, it must come with strong membership mobilisation strategy.
SALIHU MOH. LUKMAN
Lukman writes from Abuja.
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