Jide Akintunde, Managing Editor/CEO, Financial Nigeria International Limited

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APC’s the winner takes it all 04 Jul 2019

Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared President Muhammadu Buhari the winner of the February 23, 2019 presidential election, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been harping on appointment of only APC members into nonelective positions in the federal government. Some vocal members of the ruling party insist that “those who did not sow in the APC campaign cannot come and ‘eat’ in the APC government.”

There is an insidious precedent for this. Soon after he assumed office in 2015, President Buhari infamously said his government would discriminate against as much as an entire region of the country. The basis of the inequity would be that the region gave him an insignificant percentage of its votes during the election that brought him into office.

The region in question is the southeast, home to the Igbos, the third-largest ethnic group in Nigeria, and who constitute approximately 18 percent of the country’s population. During his first term, President Buhari carried out his threat. Without the constitutional “federal character” principle, which mandates equitable representation of the country’s geopolitical constituents in federal appointments – which the President largely ignored – perhaps the few Igbos he appointed to his government would not have been considered.

Nevertheless, the most influential functionaries of the administration were hardly APC party men. Personal associates of the President, some of whom became known as “the cabal”, controlled the levers of power during his first term, sometimes undermining elected officials. No less a personality than the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, denounced this anomaly. But the remedy cannot be appointing only party members into the government in the second term of President Buhari.

Notwithstanding, the APC has arguably not shown genuine interests in providing effective remedies to bad governance in the country. It has put political power into other uses. In many key areas, the APC government has worsened the bad situations it inherited from the previous administration of the now-opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

For instance, the Boko Haram Islamist terrorism was the country’s major and pressing security threat when the APC came to power in 2015. Although the insurgent attacks of the group had been on for the previous six years, its ravages were largely restricted to the northeast of the country. But by April 2018 when President Buhari declared he would be seeking reelection, armed banditry, kidnapping-for-ransom, and mindless killings with impunity by suspected Fulani herdsmen had become major and destabilising security threats. These had added to the threat of Boko Haram; and no region of the country is spared one, or a combination, of the now multifarious security threats.

The APC government also didn’t meet a virile economy. By 2015, revenue from crude oil exports, which accounts for over 70 percent of government revenue, was dwindling because of both lower oil production volumes and price shocks. This was set to upend the trend of average 6 percent GDP growth rate of the previous decade. However, the APC government allowed the problem of oil sabotage to get far worse before it got better. And it lacked broader effective economic policy responses.

Therefore, between 2016 and 2018, the economy grew only at average 0.36 percent per year, which was well above the 2.8 percent rate of annual population growth. The economic recession of 2016/2017 resulted in massive job losses. The unemployment rate increased from 7.8 percent in 2014 to 22.6 percent in 2018, according to IMF’s World Economic Outlook database, April 2019.

The combination of low GDP growth, high population growth, and high unemployment rate dramatically increased the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty to 90.8 million at the end of 2018. This was the highest absolute figure for people living in extreme poverty in any country, including India that has six times the Nigerian population. If the previous PDP administrations achieved “jobless growth”, under the APC government, there has been virtually no growth and no jobs.

The APC government also fluffed its avowed anticorruption. High levels of corruption in the previous PDP government had turned many Nigerians against the party and propelled the APC to power. But the APC government basically used its anti-graft posturing to recruit leading opposition politicians – including those previously indicted of corruption – into its fold, harass those who remained in the opposition, and to score cheap political points. It was not surprising, then, when the U.S. State Department said in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 that: “there is a climate of impunity in the President Muhammadu Buhari government that allows officials to engage in corrupt practices with a sense of exemption from punishment”.

The APC has responded to its monumental failures with utter insensitivity and denial. Despite the dismal performance of his government, President Buhari made “Next Level” the slogan of his reelection campaign. And after his putative victory, the party has been clamouring for only APC-inclusive appointments into the government.

While the country awaits the announcement of President Buhari’s next cabinet, it is worth pointing out that those who have made stellar contributions to public governance in the Fourth Republic were not party-men and party-women. They were technocrats, including Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Charles Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili, Nasir el-Rufai, Akinwumi Adesina, Dora Akunyili, Omobola Johnson, and Segun Aganga. One hopes that, now that el-Rufai is a stalwart of the ruling APC, the Kaduna State Governor would advise his fellow party linchpins to bring as many technocrats as are needed to help the new government to start to improve the socio-economic situations in the country.

Government is not a booty of even bitterly-fought elections by political parties. A political party seeks to gain control of government in order to enhance the welfare of the people it seeks to govern, safeguard democratic principles, and provide good governance. On these, the APC failed miserably the first time. It cannot continue to divorce itself from this reality and from the suffering its incompetence has caused Nigerians.

After Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog had recently divorced, their music group, ABBA, released in 1980 the hit song “The Winner Takes It All.” It was widely speculated that the song was about the divorce as the lyrics expressed heartaches of relationship breakup. But the former couple denied it. The song was, nevertheless, a hit.

The APC government of President Buhari cannot continue to deny the truth of its dismal performance so far. The party’s “the winner takes it all” posture rings hollow and will not turn out to be a hit. More likely, it would amplifier the atrocious performance of the last four years. Hence, the APC needs to reconsider its stance.