Written by Sanusi Abubakar sanusiabubakar
The current focus on Senator Bukola Saraki and the APC rebels, most of whom decamped from PDP for whatever personal or strategic considerations, basically misses the point. We ignore the main architect of the legislative coup, Senator David Mark, as well as why the coup was even possible in the first place. We should also be focussing on what the immediate ramifications are for Buhari, the APC and the Nation.
In the immediate aftershock of their electoral disgrace, Jonathan’s defeated army blamed everyone but themselves for the loss and almost kicked everyone out of the PDP (who was not from the South East or the Niger Delta), which would have reduced them to a regional, ineffective and noisy irritants at best. Enter Senator David Mark, former Senate President and a retired General. He apparently moved to gather what remained of their rank, bringing together those who were not happy with Adamu Mu’azu along with the few that remained in PDP who, though they knew they could not “market” Jonathan to any one, were still hoping to inherit what remained of the PDP and move on. He strategized correctly that the “enemy” camp is not as united as it would appear, and that the dispirited PDP could use the divisions to its own advantage, and remain relevant until the next polls.
Indeed the APC is made up of several disparate groups, which made his task really easy. While all of them were relying on the popularity of Muhammadu Buhari, the core of the group is made up of Buhari’s die-hards (especially in the North), Senator Bola Tinubu’s strong-hold on the West, and rebel PDP governors others who were dissatisfied with Jonathan and his cabal. The governors were critical in ensuring that rigging was minimised, thus giving Buhari a chance. However, many of these governors themselves nurse their own presidential ambitions, along with others like Atiku Abubakar who have also not given up, despite losing to Buhari in the primaries. Their biggest fear is that Tinubu (the second most important factor in the APC alliance) seems to be positioning himself strategically to succeed Buhari.
The stage was therefore set for a show-down. When the APC decided not to “zone” offices, and even initially remained aloof, and Femi Gbajabiamila, and Senators Lawal and Akume (all seen as pro-Tinubu) seem poised to take over the National Assembly, Saraki and other anti-Tinubu legislators and politicians were thus obvious potential partners for the PDP’s grand plan. Buhari shocked everybody by strangely declaring his neutrality, perhaps to avoid charges of partiality.
And David Marks plan was very simple and effective: use APC’s division to ensure PDP controls the National Assembly, or at least remains relevant. He could have run for the Senate Presidency himself, and indeed could have won, but that would have been a tactical mistake: he would be chewing more than he could swallow. That move would have united the APC, and risked frightening many Nigerians and may have provoked a back-lash.
Mark and the PDP, working with Atiku and other collaborators within the APC, backed Saraki (and incidentally sealed the chaps fate because few would ever trust him again politically) betting on the certainty that the APC leadership would not dare challenge his emergence for fear of increasing divisions within its already divided rank, and risk pushing Saraki and his followers openly into the PDP, thus giving the party a majority in the Senate.
The strategy meeting in David Mark’s house went on till morning and they made their final move only after learning that 51 APC senator, through some strange miscalculations and ill-timing, have left the Chamber to attend an meeting with Buhari, giving the PDP and the rebels a clear majority. They got the chap elected and secured the position of Deputy Senate President to keep him loyal, and closely marked.
In chess, this is called ‘check’. Your position is under serious threat, and any wrong move could cost you the game. The APC gets to keep the Executive but the PDP has the Legislature. The APC has finally accepted this reality and is moving on.
A few days after the security chiefs engineered a convenient extension of the polls for Jonathan and the PDP from February 14 to March 28, I wrote the following:
“It is often said that it is easier to manage failure, for then there would not be much more to lose. When it seems you are sure to win, that is when you must stay focused.”
… “The writing on the wall is clear even to those not normally keen on reading: the cabal around Jonathan will be thrown out not so much because Nigerians are in love with Buhari or the APC but because they simply have had enough.”
“Everyone previously sheltering under the PDP umbrella would have worked out an exit strategy by now. Except, or so it seems, the President and a few who really cannot imagine life without unlimited wealth, power (and for some of them, immunity from prosecution), the rest have by now realised that sheltering under a tattered umbrella makes little sense. But they will not go quietly.”
… “The APC is most likely to win the coming elections, and Buhari looks increasingly likely to be the next President. Nigerians are simply tired of corruption, insecurity and hopelessness. In politics, “if pickin no pass, e no go repeat class”. He is simply not re-elected. All the nocturnal meetings, the billions being brought out now or the vile and tasteless propaganda being currently peddled around would not change much. But mistakes must be avoided.”
“My real fear is of the APC allowing this unique opportunity to slip. When you are winning, and all the indications are that it won’t be a narrow win, then you have to tread very carefully.”
Needless to say the APC managed the interregnum well, and soundly routed the ruling party in the polls, which earned some of us who correctly predicted the outcome some bragging rights, and gave our nation a new lease of life. But the battle is not yet over, and the need for caution is now even more critical than ever.
President Buhari, who is fighting the battles major wars against Boko Haram, corruption, joblessness and national despair is still guilty of not watching the soft underbelly of the system; APC’s tenuous grip on the National Assembly. He should have whipped his undisciplined troops into order. After all, he is the leader. While he is right to focus on the war ahead, he must also keep an eye on the smaller battles and skirmishes. On its part, the APC is guilty of opportunism and unjustified overconfidence. The former is at least understandable; they needed everyone on board to kick the Jonathan and the PDP out, and to minimise rigging. But the latter is not; they need to start putting their house in order. From Borno to Sokoto, Badagry to Port-Harcourt, and everywhere in between there are enough Buhari and APC supporters (even if the two may not coincide always) to start inculcating party discipline, a developmental ideology, as well as genuine anti-corruption and popular democratic ethos to ensure that never again will we have the Jonathan-type mess we recently witnessed.
As for the PDP, it needs to stop tickling itself and laughing. It has won this game for now, but Nigerians need a Senate and a House of Representatives that would help bring about the changes we voted for, not go about business as usual. Election results could be overturned, Senators recalled and many still in PDP could move on to greener pastures. The struggle is just starting.
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