opinionBy Tope Fasua
Like an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), Nigeria's All Progressives Congress, secured a landslide victory in the just concluded 2015 presidential and gubernatorial elections, over its arch-rival and incumbent party, the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Results made available to journalists by the country's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), showed that the APC trounced the PDP in almost every state of the Federation, and claimed the presidency, in an election marred in some parts of the country by violence, perhaps as a result of the super-charged atmosphere in the country before the general elections.
But the victory claimed by the APC did not come on a platter. Political pundits say the groundwork started much earlier, and that key players within the alliance had to make sacrifices they had never envisaged. It seemed the political elites in Nigeria, at least those under the platform of the APC, finally came to the realization that the prebendal politics that impoverishes the majority, which they had put into effect since the return of civilian government in 1999, had hit a cul-de-sac. Nigerians saw a new paradigm, devoid of the lies they had been told by political elites for many years. Indeed, the new APC is a mish-mash of different politicians of different hue and persuasions, but perhaps the necessity of forming a formidable opposition to the behemoth PDP, kept the APC on track from day one.
Many believe that the first masterstroke was in the appointment since 2013, from among the ranks of the APC, of Shadow Ministers, who benchmarked the PDP on policy issues and made known their alternative positions, as is being done in the UK. This was a novel idea in Nigeria, but it gave the APC the needed structure, which was something the PDP claimed to be its sole advantage over the rest of Nigeria's political parties. The PDP itself was not helped by its many internal wrangling and jostle for positions, and the many defections into the APC from within its ranks, in the buildup to the general elections. The idea of having shadow ministers, many say, had kept the APC party focused on the future, critical of the present, focused on solutions and not mere criticisms, given it a much-needed bureaucratic structure, kept its vibrant members very busy, and given Nigerians hope of a better tomorrow.
But perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back was the selection of its flag bearers. In the beginning, the main contenders were the incorruptible Muhammadu Buhari, who had been a military ruler in the late 1980s. Also very powerful was Senator Tinubu, ex-governor of Nigeria's commercial capital and business hub, Lagos State. But it was soon evident after forming the grand alliance, that there had come, a need to allow some of the young turks to take the fight to the incumbent party. Notable among the rare gems were Governors Fashola and Okorocha of Lagos and Imo State respectively. These two were among the best orators, they were futuristic young men who saw ahead of the pack, and who could communicate their leadership imperatives to the teeming population. It was a great day for the party, and perhaps the nation, when the duo of Tinubu and Buhari, decided to step aside for these young men to prove their mettle.
As a major political gambit, the APC 'zoned' its Presidential ticket to the 'East'. In comes Mr Rochas Okorocha, maverick politician, a great mobiliser of people, articulate, and a bridge-builder, who had earlier contested for a presidential seat, many years ago under the now defeated PDP. Okorocha had for many years engaged in philanthropy across the country and this came in handy for his political ambition. He is said to have sponsored over 10,000 Nigerian students through university education and many of these became his grassroots mobilisers. Fashola was paired with Okorocha as an able and strong Vice President in order for him to replicate the discipline, focus, revenue-drive, and governmental responsibility that he brought to bear in the all-important Lagos State in his eight years of governorship.
Still living under the shadow of its own 'rotational presidency' Frankenstein, the ruling PDP had no answer to this move! Some party big wigs from northern Nigeria wanted the incumbent president to make way for their 'turn', but President Jonathan's core supporters would have none of that! Okorocha, great speaker, showman and maverick politician, a man 'with a large heart' according to many, being from the East of Nigeria, was able to deliver the votes of people from his region, who saw this as an opportunity for one of theirs to symbolically occupy Nigeria's highest office. People believe the Christian/Muslim pairing, and the choice of an Igbo person, is very emotional and critical at this point of Nigeria's history. The PDP fielded the former President Jonathan, who 'by right', decided to contest in order to 'complete the projects that he started'. But Nigerians wanted change, and needed to see a new face, after four harrowing years of terrorism, and a never-before-seen level of corruption in the polity, among other societal issues like armed robbery and kidnapping.
The APC has promised that poverty reduction will be a key concern, not mere wealth creation which benefits very few citizens in the country. It appears the APC has among its ranks, realistic economists, who are not interested in merely infusing foreign capital into the financial markets and off-the-shelf policies into the economy, or taking the country into another debt trap like the government it displaced. Nigeria's debt has however become another albatross in the two final years of the PDP and should be of major concern to the new team at the helms.
The choice of Fashola as a Vice President, supported by his mentor, the consummate Bola Tinubu, ensured that a landslide victory was secured from the Western States, where they already had a stronghold. In the north, the sacrifice made by General Buhari, was equally sold to the millions of citizens, who naturally believe 'Maigaskiya' (the teller of truth), as he is known over there. After four years of the northern economy being totally destroyed and thousands of its people dead as a result of the dreaded Boko Haram - and many times by the equally dreaded JTF - voters in the northern part of Nigeria were ready to vote anything else but PDP. Millions regretted the politics they were made to play by their right-wing leaders in 2011, when they voted, as it now appears, against their own enlightened self interests. Buhari was able to convince them that he is in full support of the unique presidential pair of Okorocha/Fashola. PDP won a few states in the Delta region of the country (where the ex-president is from), and some reactionary states in the North Central.
Nigerians are settling down to the news of the victory, and are hopeful of a new rhetoric from their leaders. The APC was smartly positioned as a party of unity as a result of its broad strategy and posture, leading to the elections. Nigerians hope to leapfrog in the next few months, and surmount their many developmental challenges under the leadership of the two able 'young' men, supported by the fathers of the nation. Many Nigerians hope President Okorocha will provide the much required rhetoric, mobilization and motivation to the teeming millions, while VP Fashola will be the 'techie' guy on ground, who they believe is ready to get his hand soiled while providing the needed direction for the innovations and technological development that the country so direly requires. It seems to be a new day in Africa's largest country... Maybe it could actually fulfill its potentials going forward.