Monday Column By Hameed M. Bello, PhD
Last Monday, May 2, we carried the Monday Column on this page with the topic, ‘Limits of political consensus’ which attempted to review the emerging implications of our political players’ over reliance on consensus politics in selecting or electing candidates for elective offices. We cited some scholarly portrayals and highlighted their construal of the concept of consensus, including what makes consensus good or bad as a political tool for problem solving. We also shared with us our immediate experience in Nigeria in the application of consensus strategy in our local politics, and we saw the divisions that attended it. We concluded that column with the call on the political class to avoid consensus if it will not reflect the wishes and aspiration of both the majority and the minority interests in the political divide under a rancour-free atmosphere . That column has drawn the following feedback which we now share with you and then proceed to do a post mortem:
Of the three methods stipulated in the 2022 electoral Act for political parties to chose in s(e)lecting their flag bearers for the forthcoming elections, the consensus method is the most difficult. It says aspirants must write and endorse and consent to the consensee. It belies its simplicity. I was laughing to theoretical stupor what Saraki and co were attempting to do. Presidential election is not student unionism. You come out to contest based on conviction and what you think you can bring to the table. But here you had four presidential aspirants with different ideologies, values, orientations, and from different geopolitical zones attempting to forge a consensus without clear cut parameters. The end was visualisable from the beginning. Everyone should now answer his father’s name and let’s see how far they can go. But in the first place, one may ask:Why northern regional consensus rather than a pan-PDP national consensus?
– Atah Pine, Makurdi (+2348035974174)
I’ve read your analysis of the concept of consensus politics. You’ve done a good job, bringing the theoretical backgrounds from foreign countries and juxtaposing it with what is happening here.
The truth about our politicians is that they like to borrow noble democratic concepts only to rubbish them with their crude political behaviour.
The proponents of consensus in Nigeria don’t mean well. It’s a ploy to circumvent popular support for a candidate. The average politician in Nigeria, including those we regard as godfathers are afraid of the ballot box. They feel very uneasy when there is an open contest on a level play field. This is why they are re- inventing their own brand of consensus which is fueled by corruption and promotes imposition of candidates.
– Onwuka Nzeshi, Abuja. (+2348037339843)
These two feedback have raised a number of issues that deserve some comment. One. It is that consensus usually turns out to be a corrupt means of preventing a popular candidate from emerging apparently by a conspiracy of the political elite who manipulate the consensus window to impose a mediocre candidate not necessarily in furtherance of good governance but in the service of vested interest. In the end, the elite are the ultimate beneficiary since they call the tune. They tend to ‘naturalise’ consensus by making it look normal and as the best option to resolve the political divisions, when in actual fact, it is a strategy of discourse used as decoy to entrench and sustain political hegemony, power and control in perpetuation of vested interests. The curious question here is that (at least for theoretical imagination), could the splinter group of the PDP that met in Minna be at the behest of Saraki and Bala Mohammed? What criteria were applied to justify their emergence as the preferred consensus candidates of the splinter northern group? Perhaps Professor Ango Abdullahi may suggest a background since he was named as being present at the Minna meeting.
Second, if consensus has proved to be this unreliable, why do our politicians keep going back to it. An answer that comes to mind is the unquenching desire for short cut. The truth is that the mediators in a consensus arrangements do have their preferred candidates and can exploit the cover of consensus to impose their choices, and then try to ‘naturalise’ it. Besides, we can also not rule out the use of money, influence and even blackmail to compromise the consensus mediators.
Consensus as a middle of the road approach suffered yet another big blow last Friday when leaders of the All Progressives Congress in the South-West could not produce a consensus presidential candidate from the many aspirants from the region.
The closed-door meeting held at Lagos House, Marina was to ensure that the South-West does not lose the opportunity to produce the President in 2023 due to the multiplicity of aspirants from the region, including Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Ekiti Governor, Kayode Fayemi who were present at the meeting according to reports.
However, two presidential aspirants from the South-West, Pastor Tunde Bakare, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; and the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, Ajayi Boroffice, who have all purchased forms, were absent at the meeting.
It emerged from the meeting that the aspirants were asked to work with whoever among them that emerges as the party’s candidate for the presidential election as they could not agree on consensus.
The meeting was convened by the former interim National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, and a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, and had in attendance the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo; governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun and Oyetola of Osun states.
Also present were the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; the APC National Secretary, Otunba Iyiola Omisore; a former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; a former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Moses Adeyemo; and a former National Vice Chairman of the APC, South-West Zone, Chief Pius Akinyelure.
The APC elders stated that all the aspirants had the right to aspire to be the President, after it dawned on them that the consensus flag could not fly. Time to learn.