All Progressives Congress at Five By Shaka Momodu

Five years ago, February 6 2013 to be precise, a strange realignment of political forces gave birth to a yahoo-yahoo contraption called the All Progressives Congress (APC). It was the first time an amalgam of existing parties in Nigeria had successfully fused into one big party. Amidst the challenge of different ideological leanings, and against considerable odds, the leaders managed to pull off one of the greatest and most dramatic accomplishments in the history of party politics: a realignment of a variety of interests, grouses and grudges, to form a party that eventually succeeded in wresting power from an incumbent party. That’s not a mean feat by any standard. We have to give them some credit.

To win the election, the party deployed a powerful mantra of a single, positive and captivating slogan – “Change” as its rallying call. Laced with a massive dose of propaganda, misinformation and outright lies, the party was able to lure many gullible Nigerians with sweet nothings. Let’s not forget that the Goodluck Jonathan government had exhibited weakness in tackling some of the issues bordering on corruption, insecurity and general malaise. So the APC capitalised on this to mount a frenzied propaganda against it.

Hitherto, Nigerians had never seen anything close to that level of misinformation in the pursuit of power.

It is remarkable that the 5th anniversary of the founding of the APC came and passed without any fanfare. It is not because the party deemed it inappropriate to celebrate in deference to the mood of the nation because it does not respect Nigerians’ sensibilities. Nearly everyone probably did not even remember because they were all preoccupied with the internecine war going on amongst its aggrieved founding members.

But was there anything concrete to celebrate? However, going by the pedigree of this particular party, if the war within wasn’t so fierce, and despite their evidently poor performance in the last three years, they would still have gathered, in open defiance of the national mood, to arrogantly beat their chest in celebratory fanfare that they have brought progress and stability where there was disorder. Of course, that has been their stock-in-trade since their rise to power despite evidence to the contrary.

Clearly from the very beginning, the party demonstrated an arm’s-length relationship with the truth and has continued to propagate itself on that core message of “if you repeat a lie many times over, it will begin to look and sound like the truth”. The problem with that is that it has a very short life span. For five whole years, the sloganeering party of “change” was able to hoodwink the majority of Nigerians with its lies and mouth-watering promises, which it immediately began to disown on assumption of office to the consternation of all, and now the chickens have come home to roost.

Many are realising now that this party is a poison to our politics. It has poisoned the airwaves, poisoned the rivers with dangerous levels of radiation, and that sunshine of hope and promise of a new positive dawn it assured Nigerians in 2015 is nothing but ruin, bloodletting and grief. It was a deception to obtain by false pretence on a grand scale now requiring a root-and-branch removal from our psyche; the fruit of the poisonous tree is poison. The APC is an inferno searing down the country.

It will be an understatement to say that the APC has taken Nigeria in a calamitous direction and things are falling apart for a once promising nation. The country was clearly under a very weak leadership when the then opposition party was being stitched together. The APC wasted no time in taking advantage of any opportunity no matter how sacrilegious to advance its political interest. Alas, the poor manner the Jonathan government prosecuted the terror war became the biggest opening for a very desperate crop of power seekers. They took advantage of every attack by Boko Haram to score cheap political points including making utterances that undermined the then government’s effort to deal with what had become a national security crisis. It politicised the security crisis such that the then government became paralysed with fear of the APC and its propaganda machine. Its then spokesman, Lai Mohammed, it appeared, was constantly with his laptop ready to issue condemnatory statements against the government at a moment’s notice each time the terrorists struck. He rarely condemned the terrorists.

The truth is that the APC rode to power on the back of Boko Haram and has sustained its support from some Nigerians with its continued politicisation of the terror war to its own advantage. It has used the piecemeal release of Chibok girls to advance its political ends. While it has falsely claimed defeat of the sect, it is actually working with the sect as the next presidential election approaches when it is likely the next batch of Chibok girls would be released to possibly sway the outcome of the 2019 elections. If anyone thinks this APC-led government is serious and committed to ending the terror war, then that person is guilty of extreme naivety.

Who knows what discussion is going on through the “back channels” at the moment? And before we forget, Boko Haram once nominated then-aspiring candidate Muhammadu Buhari as its chief negotiator with the Jonathan government. The same Buhari had earlier declared that the war against Boko Haram was a war against the North. The truth is that Boko Haram helped to bring Buhari and his party to power. The façade of fighting the terror war is what it is – to help to sustain its narrative of being strong on terror.

Never mind the false claim that the terrorists have been defeated. The truth also is that the party’s desperation for power will make it do anything and forge any alliance to remain in power. The Dapchi abduction? Well, there are too many questions begging for answers. It is looking increasingly suspicious and if the suspicions were proven to be true, it would further reinforce the party’s modus operandi of holding on to power at any cost, reinforcing its philosophy of the end justifies the means. Until more facts are known, I reserve my comments on this.

Before Dapchi abductions, there had been reports alleging sightings of arms drop-off to Boko Haram in remote parts of the North-east by helicopters. Only recently, the Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku raised the alarm that a helicopter suspected to be loaded with arms and ammunition landed in a village called Jibu, located along River Benue near Ibi, in Wukari Local Government Area of Taraba State. The arms, he alleged were meant for a militia group planning attacks on innocent people.

I had regarded all these as rumours. I am persuaded now not to be so dismissive of them offhand because it appears there is more to the Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen attacks than meets the eye.

Who will forget how in March 2013, the party’s governors marched through major streets and markets of Maiduguri, in purported solidarity with the host community shortly after holding a meeting there? It was nothing but a cheap political stunt. Interestingly, nothing on the agenda of that meeting talked about how to defeat the terrorists or finding solutions to the refugee crisis it had generated. Rather, it was purely a photo op to score a propaganda point. I dare say it worked.

But since they came to power at the federal level, have we seen such solidarity with the APC-controlled states held hostage by violence? In that same March 2013, at the height of Boko Haram’s senseless killings and destruction of properties, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of the national leaders of the APC, did the unthinkable. He called for amnesty for members of the killer sect. The call was ill-conceived and ill-timed as it was made when he paid a condolence visit to the victims of Kano bombing whose lives had been changed forever by the mortal wounds inflicted on them by the terrorists. But for the victims of the senseless killings and their families, Tinubu was sadly silent. It was the public condemnation that trailed his “political” call that made him to modify his position and spare a thought for the victims. His new position was amnesty for “those with no blood on their hands”.

It is instructive that Tinubu has not paid any visit to the victims of Boko Haram attacks or those slaughtered by terrorist herdsmen under Buhari. He has not even spoken on the raging security crisis in the country since his party assumed power. Why has he now kept quiet when the situation has progressively gone from bad to worse? Maybe, it’s because there is no political point to score anymore. Perhaps, he fears for his own freedom and political future. Should he speak honestly about what is going on, the forces that have forced him to the fringes of the party would say he is undermining Buhari and that would provide them the perfect excuse to finally kick him out of the party.

The three years of APC in office has left the country completely broken and now carries the sad label by the United States Congress as one of the most dangerous places for Christians to live on earth. Just last week, Bill Gates, the world’s richest man gave a blunt assessment of this government and it was not palatable to the ears: “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth with the fourth-worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.”

Gates went on to appeal to our leaders to invest in human development: “I urge you to apply this thinking to all your investments in your people. The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies investing in our people as one of three strategic objectives. But the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritising physical capital over human capital. To anchor the economy over the long term, investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. People without roads, ports, and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.”

Transparency International recently ranked Nigeria under this APC-led government as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. And yet everyday, the airwave is awash with stories of fighting corruption. Under this APC government, Nigeria is on track to overtake India as the country with the largest number of people living in life-threatening poverty despite the fact that India’s population is over five times that of Nigeria’s. Living in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank standards, means living on less than $1.90 per day.

Last week, Lt General TY Danjuma delivered a pointed rebuke to the APC-led government for its seeming complicity in the killing of Nigerians. It accused the government of ethnic cleansing. Not done, he issued a clarion call to Nigerians to defend themselves or die in the hands of the terrorists herdsmen who are gradually eroding the authority of the Nigerian state.

This APC government will go down as the worst government in the history of Nigeria. Is it not frightening to read that under the APC-led government, Boko Haram terrorists have grown so sophisticated, such that they now use planes to ferry kidnapped girls form one location to another? One of the kidnapped girls, 16-year-old Fatima who was released told the UK Guardian on the phone how they were returned to Dapchi: “It took us three days to get back to Dapchi. We were divided into three groups and flown in planes, and taken over rivers in boats.” This is most revealing and Nigerians must demand to know those enabling these terrorists? How did Boko Haram ferry the Dapchi girls in planes and boats?

Is it not a tragic irony that a party that claims to be democratic and is about to seek the votes of Nigerians in the 2019 general election has not been able to hold a national convention? Where then is the internal democracy?

In just three years in power, the APC-led government has so far borrowed N11trillion with nothing to show for it.

Given the APC’s claim to progressive credentials, one is inclined to adapt the words of rebuke by the great African-American social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, in an address to the citizens of Rochester, New York in 1852, to summarise this article: The APC’s claim to progressivism is a sham; its boasted assertion to fighting the terror war is an unholy licence to steal public money. Its claim to have defeated the terrorists is a futile attempt to beat its chest in a vain accomplishment and to massage its swelling vanity. The party’s promise of change is empty and heartless. Its claim to transparency and accountability is a hollow mockery and hypocrisy’s thin veil to cover up crimes that will shame a nation of savages. No one is more guilty of impunity than the APC and its leaders.

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