Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), released a statement on Sunday addressing the recent defections from within the ruling party. In recent weeks, as politicians realign towards 2019, several top officials of the APC have switched to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Summary: Tinubu’s lengthy 2000-words statement entitled “They go away because we go the right way,” was a mishmash of high-sounding hypocrisy. He blamed everyone else but himself (whose reconciliation efforts failed), his party (which made promises they have to defend next year) and the president (on whose table the buck stops.)
We have selected 7 takeaways from the statement below:
1.On what the recent political moves are really about:
“Nigeria is undergoing a historic transition. Sometimes awkwardly, tentatively, yet inexorably, we nurture political and governance reform. We steadily close the door on the old malpractices that have caused a rich nation to reside in the tenement of the global poor. The corruption of the past is ending; for it must end if we are to fulfill our collective purpose. With this correction, less public money will be diverted to private benefit. More will be afforded to the causes of the people. The economy is being transformed so that the average person will have a better chance of finding a better life. We move toward a more democratic union. The old days where a handful of uninformed men and those with deep pockets decided everything for everybody are being swept away. The will of the people can no longer be ignored…”
In summary, Tinubu is saying in many words that things are changing for the better in Nigeria. But his argument begins to crumble when it is taken line by line and objectively considered.
- “We nurture political and governance reform.” Where are these reforms? What exactly has been reformed in the nation’s political or governance processes in three years. One of the biggest measures the APC campaigned on was “true federalism” and “devolution of powers.” Nothing has happened there. Even the Treasury Single Account (TSA) highlighted by Tinubu was not an APC innovation. Tinubu ought to have pointed to the things that has been reformed in the political and governance structure of the country. Just saying it does not make it so.
- “The corruption of the past is ending.” Laughable. This can only be true if fighting corruption meant going after opponents. The finance minister who has not denied allegations of forgery, a criminal offence is still holding on to her seat. No consequence for bad behavior. The former SGF, Lawal, who was accused of embezzling from displaced persons had no action taken against him, and still maintains his access to the villa. The former Akwa Ibom governor, Akpabio, who the EFCC and the APC had accused of huge embezzlement for years has been embraced suddenly because he defected to Tinubu’s party. In fact, Tinubu was in Akwa Ibom to welcome him to the fold. We can go on!
- “The economy is being transformed…” On most indicators – from growth to inflation to employment, the economy is not even back to where things were in 2015 when the government took power. And Nigerians were complaining at the time.
- “The old days where a handful of uninformed men and those with deep pockets decided everything for everybody are being swept away…” This is funny, considering how in recent elections – like in Ekiti – the APC doled out huge sums of monies to bribe voters on election day. How in Rivers state just last weekend, APC politicians conspired with security personnel to hijack the elections, such that INEC had to suspend it.
2. It is a moral battle, he claims:
“This battle pits one party, the APC, with all of its imperfections, that seeks national reforms against another party, the PDP, which symbolizes the perfection of the most selfish designs of the most selfish politicians among us.
This moral battle informed the recent defections. Those who belong to that PDP mode of thought could find no permanent comfort in walking the path of progressive reform and progress. All the things we have inaugurated such as school-feeding programs for poor pupils, social security for poor families, affordable housing programs, greater access to credit for small businesses and greater access to education and health care, these things the defectors could not well abide.“
- Tinubu is trying his best to define this as a moral battle between the APC and PDP, with the APC as angels and the other party as demons. Don’t buy that scam. Everyone knows that our entire political class is interchangeable. I mean, who would have thought that AKPABIO would ever defect to the APC.
- Tinubu’s other argument that those who left the APC could not abide the “things we have inaugurated” is a very dishonest claim. For instance, when Pres. Buhari signed the Collateral Registry Act and the Credit Bureau Act, the presidency thanked the national assembly for its actions that led to the quick passage. In fact, the national assembly led by Saraki bent some of its rules to ensure the bill’s passage, so how then can it be said that they could not abide “greater access to credit for small businesses?”
- Finally, it is important to ask Tinubu: Those things he highlighted as achievements like affordable housing and greater access to education and healthcare, where exactly are they? Where is the data Tinubu is referring to?
3. Tambuwal is the frontrunner for PDP ticket:
“Governor Tambuwal’s exit can be distilled to one cause. He covets the presidency. However, he had not the stomach to challenge President Buhari in a primary. Tambuwal felt further insulted that he would be compelled to face a direct primary just to retain the governorship nomination. But for the promise made by PDP headliners like Rivers State Governor Wike that he would have the PDP presidential nomination, Tambuwal would not have left. His exit had nothing to do with governance of the nation. It was about forging a personal ambition predicated on the defeat of progressive reform not the advancement of it.
“Much the same for Senate President Saraki. Returning to the PDP, he harbors dreams of the presidency but Tambuwal’s ambition will dwarf Saraki’s when the two collide. If Saraki had remained in the APC, he would be unable to reclaim his Senate seat let alone the Senate Presidency. He thus bolted because he lusts for the presidency but was promised by the PDP, at least, a return to his position in the Senate. For Saraki to talk about lack of governance is for him to deny who he is and the position he holds. This man stands as Nigeria’s Number 3 citizen. Clothed is he in ample power and influence. If he saw areas where government and the nation needed help, he could have easily applied his energies to these areas. He could have drafted legislation and easily got laws passed,” Tinubu said.
- The APC leader injected himself into the PDP presidential primary politics in an interesting way, opining that Tambuwal will win the PDP ticket for president. He argued that both Tambuwal and Saraki want to be president but the Sokoto governor will get it because he has received promises from “PDP headliners like Governor Wike.”
4. Defections have nothing to do with governance:
From the previous quotes, Tinubu argued that those who left, did so for their personal objectives sake. And that may be true. But Tinubu would have had a stronger case to make if he addressed some of the reasons given by the defectors for their moves. Tambuwal accused Pres. Buhari of a lack of “statesmanship” in responding to national issues; of failing to act on “restructuring of the country”, on failing to initiate “meaningful federal projects” in his state; of insecurity in places like Zamfara and Benue; of the loss of nine million jobs in the last three years; of increase in youth unemployment from 11.70% in ending of 2014 to 33.10% in Q3 2017; among others. Does Tinubu have solid responses to those issues highlighted? Are they lies? Those are the issues the APC leader should address. It is interesting that he started his statement by arguing that the defections are all about politics, yet his response is even more political.
5. A bit concerned… but not too concerned:
“In a fundamental way, the APC may be better for their exit. It would be untrue to say their departures did not generate concern. As the air clears and we can better assess what is lost and gained by their exit, I can truthfully say the APC will be better off because they are gone,” he said.
Tinubu said the defection generated some concern. Would have been hard for him to deny that considering how APC chieftains led by party chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, scrambled to try to make them change their minds. Also, recall that when Tinubu was made chairman of the APC presidential reconciliation committee, the first place he visited was the Sokoto Government House. Clearly he believed Tambuwal mattered. His reconciliation efforts failed however. Now he believes that the defections won’t have much impact on the ruling party. He may be right or not. Time will tell.