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Atiku, Buhari, Tinubu and wife Remi: strange bedfellows

All Progressing Crisis

What is wrong with the All Progressives Congress (APC)?

They won the presidential (s)election on a platform of change, won most of the governorships, became the majority party in both houses of the National Assembly and yet it seems they are lurching from one crisis to the next.

Three months after 16 years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dominance of the Nigerian political landscape was ended, you would have thought we would still be in an APC honeymoon period. But the president has been unable to nominate his cabinet, appoint key support staff (apart from media handlers) and his party is struggling to assert control over its legislators.

The party was unable to impose its choice as senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives and their deputies. It then tried to choose other principal officers like majority leaders, chief whips of both houses and their deputies. And this is being resisted by some factions in both houses. It turned into farce when the senate president Bukola Saraki refused to read a letter from party chairman John Oyegun. The letter allegedly had a list of the party’s nominees for the positions mentioned above.

Why has it come to this? One commentator said recently that he expected the APC to implode, but not this early.

The first thing to understand about the current situation the party finds itself in, is that thieves usually fight over the loot. The spoils of power are at stake and what we are witnessing is politricksters fighting over their share of the spoils and not fighting for the interests of Nigerians.

Secondly, the party was set up basically to seize power from the PDP. It brought together a bunch of strange bedfellows with competing interests, united by one thing – to get rid of the PDP administration. They achieved that objective and seem not to have any plans on what to do next.

Those strange bedfellows include the president, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, and the mobster and former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu aka Bobo Chicago. Sharing a platform with the last two has fatally undermined the president’s posturing as an anti-corruption crusader.

Tinubu wanted to use the party to control the country like he controls Lagos State, which is essentially his personal real estate. With the president slowly distancing himself from Tinubu and Tinubu associates since winning the (s)election, the former governor resorted to scheming to gain control of the National Assembly (via having his loyalists in key positions), as an instrument for ensuring that the president toes the Tinubu line in terms of who gets what – appointments, oil blocks, contracts and so on.

That plan was derailed with the election of Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as senate president and House speaker. Atiku was among the first to congratulate Saraki on his victory and the senate president was quick to visit the former vice president afterwards.

Atiku’s eyes are fixed on a presidential run in 2019. He is indeed on a permanent presidential campaign. He first ran for president in 1993 and lost in the Social Democratic Party primaries. He then became Olusegun Obasanjo’s vice president in 1999 under the PDP. He fell out with Obasanjo and ran again for president in 2007 as an Action Congress Nigeria (ACN) candidate. He rejoined the PDP and lost to Goodluck Jonathan in the primaries in 2007. He also lost in last year’s APC primaries to Buhari.

Atiku’s ambition to be president means he must keep checking Tinubu’s moves to control the APC or its legislators. Tinubu’s attempt to control the senate also floundered because Saraki also has presidential ambitions and wants to use the senate presidency to re-launch that ambition. He pulled out of seeking the APC presidential ticket last year in “the interests of the party”.

As an ambitious two-term Kwara State governor, the beneficiary of at least eight fraud cases according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and scion of the political and financial dynasty built by his father Olusola, Saraki has no remote intentions of dancing to the Tinubu tune and has the means to resist the force of the billionaire Bobo Chicago.

How Atiku’s naked ambition can be reconciled with Saraki’s remains to be seen. But it is clear that for now, both men are united against a common enemy – Tinubu. The machinations of Atiku and Saraki work in the president’s favour because it means that he is freed from the shackles of Tinubu. But it is rather a “frying pan to fire” situation for the president, because there is no rational way anyone can claim to be interested in the solutions to Nigeria’s problems while being in cahoots with those like Atiku and Saraki who are part of the problem.

Where does this leave the APC? Where does it leave Nigeria? No one knows for sure, but it is almost certain that the battle for the spoils of office will continue, and there will be no “change” for long-suffering Nigerians.

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