In early 2014, talks among different political parties coalesced into a grand coalition that gave birth to what is presently known as the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The party was an amalgamation of different political entities comprising majorly of a large segment of the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP), the totality of Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), breakaway faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other smaller political parties.
The coalition building efforts were aided by the widespread disenchantment with the seemingly uncontrollable corruption of the then PDP-led government and dwindling fortunes of the average Nigerian. Key figures of that coalition include Bola Tinubu, Muhammadu Buhari, Bukola Saraki and Rotimi Amaechi. It was a marriage of convenience among strange bedfellows but united in their pursuit to snatch power from the former president, Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP.
The coalition strategy worked, and APC became the government in power since 2015. While euphoria greeted the alternation of power, and INEC under Jega was praised, the desperation of APC since then in its quest to use and maintain power has resulted in further destabilization of the institutions of governance. Two examples would suffice. First, given the heroics of INEC in 2015 leading to the alternation of power, and the subsequent exit of Professor Attahiru Jega, many have expected INEC would become better and improve its services. Rather, successive elections after Jega and under his successor, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has become an eyesore, resulting in several inconclusive elections.
Public trust has plummeted, and its actions viewed with suspicion. As at now, one Mrs Amina Zakaria, a supposed nephew of the president, is believed to be leading a faction within the Election Management Bodies (EMB) with encouragement from the ruling party, separate from Yakubu, who is heading another. These actions, including the propriety of Zakaria’s stay in INEC has further hurt the integrity and credulity of the EMB. At a time in 2019, it was speculated that Mrs Zakaria was to be made INEC Chair!
INEC is now derisively known as ‘Inconclusive National Electoral Commission’. The second example closely resembles the first. In this case, some perceived ‘enemies’ of the ruling party in the judiciary have been the target of the so-called anti-corruption drive. This has resulted in the illegal suspension of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen not following the laid down constitutional provisions. And this is from a party that promised to do things differently and according to the rule of law! What is the import of the above explanations? It follows that the impunities and infractions committed and associated with the party stems from its erroneous belief that with its coalition, spawning geo-political zones, dislodging it from power would be difficult. Yet that is more theoretical than practical. Coalitions might be built and yet power might not be attained.
But what has this to do with political settlement? In its elementary form, political settlement is synonymous with both politics and economics, in this case, political power and economic benefit, mostly through rent distribution. Therefore, political settlement speaks to how the balance of power is maintained among groups with access to commonwealth, mostly through economic benefits. The sharing of political offices, appointment of certain persons to governmental offices, distribution of oil blocks, and several acts of patronage points to acts of political settlement. In real politik, APC, particularly Tinubu’s penchant for coalition building among political friends and enemies, falls squarely within the ambit of coalition building with the promise of political settlement to coalition partners.
Therefore, while coalition-building efforts have worked and might work, like it happened in 2014, 2018 Osun elections between the APC and the Social Democratic Party of Nigeria, SDP (Tinubu and Senator Iyiola Omisore), there are instances where it might not work as it happened in 2019 gubernatorial elections in Oyo state, even with the promise of political settlement.
Further instances can be seen in the North, especially in Kano State (Ibrahim Shekarau and Abdullahi Ganduje versus Rabiu Kwankwaso and others). It is therefore instructive that for the political strategist of the APC and other political parties of whatever orientation, it is necessary to understand the limitations, benefits and constraints associated with coalition building and the negatives associated with political settlement that drives corruption in Nigeria.
This is because in its crude form, political settlement is not about public good/interest but about individual and group elite interest that are channels for political and grand corruption. In some cases, coalition building, and political settlement might not work as a mass of the people become wise to the antics of the parasitic elites that literally dot the Nigerian landscape.
Olugbemiga Samuel Afolabi holds B.Sc, M.Sc and PhD degrees in Political Science and teaches same at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria.