National Competence vs National Unity: The First Litmus Test Of Our Incoming APC Government


By Hon. Aliu Asipita AbdulMuluku
It has always been an idealistic assumption that we must drop all primordial considerations for the best of ourselves and society to emerge. This stems from the question of giving merit and 'competence' the upper hand against all other considerations in our national and political advancement. While this has forever seemed like an illusion, we have devised various strategies to ensure that national integration and cohesion is maintained, while we continue to strive towards national competence i.e quota system and zoning of critical national political Offices. The argument has also been advanced that, within the scope of national unity, competence can be interrogated, accommodated and achieved. As no region or zone is in short supply of competent individuals for any national assignment however critical it maybe.

But wait a bit. Now, the politics of volume of votes has just equally entered the mix. It is the reason for the current seeming lock-jam in the APC, with respect to the emergence of the Senate President of the 10th National Assembly. It is now the newest innovation in power negotiations at the national level.

When our President-Elect, H.E Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, made his famous declaration of Government of National Competence trumping the clamour for government of national unity, little did we know that soon, that statement will be put to the test, even before the commencement of his administration.

The Senate Presidency contest is thus putting us all to test already. The President-Elect made that statement obviously to set the stage for Nigerians to have an inkling as to the kinds of persons that will be making the list of his Ministers and other Appointments, especially at the topmost echelon. That statement now stands to be tested, if national competence will trump the inclusion or otherwise of some zones in the critical affairs of the State. The Senate President contest has come to be our first challenge.

As widely acknowledged, the South East did not vote for APC in the last general elections in massive numbers. This has somehow placed them in a disadvantaged position for power negotiations within the body politics of the APC. Thus the move by some regions, zones, party leaders and pundits with mightier votes and voices to project their interests to such an extent as to live the East in the wilderness once again. This has been done, not oblivious of the sacrifices of some loyal party leaders and members from that zone who risked it all for us. Obviously, the reason for this is as a result of their bad political choices and calculations as a zone. Yes, we agree they may have to lobby us all, if I may paraphrase our President-Elect. The days ahead will test our principles as a party and leaders with respect to this brewing issue.

While this perspective seem to hold sway, some voices and party leaders have also been at the forefront of the argument warning that, neglecting the South East once again from having one of the three highest Offices of the land may not be a good signal for our incoming administration. This has led to the clamour of some northern leaders, Senators and members of our party NWC taking principled stands to appeal and make the case for an all-inclusive government at the Center. This move obviously is gaining some resonance in critical quarters, especially as desenting voices seem to be getting louder with their political permutations. We must pay cautious attention to these too.

With the public and party leaders feeling the Candidate of our President-Elect for the position of the Senate President is already known within the public space -albeit- too early, as we still have about a month to the Proclamation of the National Assembly and contest for Senate President, the game has since assumed a new and fiercer dimension. It is the potential consequences and outcomes of this  we seek to draw our attentions to. That we may still be able to put stopgaps in place to curtail the outcomes, either ways.

For record purposes, yes the South South gave APC quite some good volume of votes when compared to  South East. But since when did volume of votes alone became the basis for such negotiations? The South-East equally boasts of two APC States and about six Senators if we remember vividly. They have enough grounds to lay claim to the position of Senate President, aside from being one of the tripodal ethnic groups upon which Nigeria was founded. No wonder the contest has taken a new dimension as to the critical need to reintegrate the South+East into the main body politics of the Nigerian State. It is obvious that this is the reason why the argument to zone the position to them is gaining traction, as ably espoused by Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu, who equally doubles as a frontline contender for the converted Office.  

The emotionally-charged issues that defined the last general elections, especially with special regards  to the South East, seems to have began to ease away, to give room for critical introspection and crave for realignment since after the elections, especially with the conciliatory tone, words, comments, speeches and body language of our President-Elect. It is palpable that, Nigerians of Eastern extraction have now began to fall in love with Tinubu, and by extension, having a renewed hope in the Nigerian project with his ultimate emergence. It is critical that our President-Elect midwifes this Senate President election in a way that wins him the critical buy-in and confidence of the South East in our government as well as all Nigerian including the South South. We cannot disperse this critical issue by the wave of the hand. It has the potential to snowball into the future.

While the South-South deserves the position of the Senate President too, just like the South East, taking into account the fact that they gave us some critical votes at the general elections, we must not be seen to favour them-albeit- openly, against the South East, haven made a public commitment that the position be zoned to the 'SOUTH'. We must allow the contest to take shape between the frontline candidates and the rest of the Senators, even though our President-Elect must have a preferred candidate no doubt. This needs our utmost caution in approach.

While one would have also assumed that there is a consideration of 'Competence' as the critical yardstick by our President-Elect and other party leaders to favour the South-South leading candidate Sen. Akpabio, one will quickly be reminded of the critical need to balance the issue of national unity, even though it's on record that the two candidates (plus Sen.Orji Uzor Kalu) from that region are both very 'competent.' If competence is the critical criteria, then, either of them will be good to go.

As we await the NWC of our party to come out with the zoning arrangements, we must be guided by hindsight of the nature and outcomes of the contest for the same Senate President position that befell the outgoing President Buhari's first tenure from 2015 to 2019. The impact of that contest reverberated throughout the eight years of his administration. At some points, it nearly brought governance to a halt. We must proceed cautiously, while taking into account, this invaluable experience. We never did recovered from that era.

We must reevaluate the current political tempo and permutations within the APC vis-a-vis the National Assembly, proceed to consult widely, then reflect deeply and agree to horse-trading so as to arrive at a safe outcome that helps our President-Elect start his administration on a stable path with national competence as the core, but without losing national unity as a second wing. A win-win situation for our President-Elect is what we must all work towards right now, without feigning ignorance to the potential banana peel this first litmus test can become. National healing is what we all need. Any sacrifice to achieve this will be to the ultimate advantage of our Tinubu administration. 


Member, APC PCC 2023, ICC and National Coordinator, TINUBU DOOR-2-DOOR AMBASSADORS TD-DA writes from Abuja, Nigeria.

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