APC Chairmanship: The Job Description

By Julius Ogunro

Abdullahi Adamu, the septuagenarian Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was eased out this week. He is the latest leader of the APC to vacate the seat controversially, trailed by troubling allegations of corruption and incompetence. His last two predecessors, Mai Mala Buni and Adams Oshiomhole were also forced out following serious allegations of corruption, mismanagement, and high-handedness.

The crises in the ruling party appear to mirror those experienced by the country. In fact, these challenges seem worse at the micro-party level, which is characterized by in-fighting, division, and complaints of corruption, high-handedness, inequity, lack of transparency, incompetence, and ideological apathy.

These challenges are not peculiar to the APC but are a feature of all the leading political parties. However, they appear amplified in the ruling party because the struggle for control of the party-in-power is often fiercest due to the political and economic benefits that come with victory.

What then begs the question is: how can a ruling party that cannot organize itself in a manner that is efficient, inclusive, and transparent midwife a process or government that does the same for the country?

Nigerians rarely focus on the political parties unless it is the election season. The public is not invested in who becomes party chairman or secretary, or the ideological bent of this or that political party. The main focus is on the elections proper and, especially, on presidential candidates.

But political parties are an important subset of our political system. Or they should be. In an ideal case, the party should provide the governance template for elected officials, formulate policies and provide stability to the political system by offering coherent and structured frameworks for governance.

They should be a living organism, constantly evolving, engaging, and serving as a conduit through which public opinion is translated into government actions, and government actions and policies are explained to the public.

In a fragmented country such as ours, they could be a veritable tool to organize and mobilize the people for developmental objectives based on shared values and interests, outside religion and ethnicity. Now, the country is bitterly divided along ethnic, religious, and regional lines and our political parties have failed to evolve into broad-based organizations, renowned for a set of economic or political policy tools, and for attracting membership based on its values.

What they are, are special-purpose vehicles for electoral purposes only. Yes, nominating candidates for election is one of the crucial tasks of a political party but that is not its raison d’etre. In Nigeria, it is. After elections, it would not be surprising to see the party chairman snore in the office or play a game of draft with his colleagues in the working committee due to boredom.

Back to the APC. The exit of the national chairman provides the party another opportunity to get it right in terms of recruiting the right candidate for the job. Would it go for an egomaniac and activist chairman like Oshiomhole who would want to build the party around his charisma? Or would it go for someone like Adamu, the immediate past chairman, who is dull, old, tired, lacking energy, and have suspicious nationalist credentials?

No one knows. But assuming we are in an ideal situation and the APC is announcing a vacancy for the position of National Chairman, what would it be? Let me try.

Job Vacancy: National Chairman

‘’The All Progressives Congress (APC) seeks the services of a suitably qualified candidate to serve as its National Chairman. The Party Chairman is a senior leadership position responsible for overseeing and guiding the operations, strategy, and direction of the political party.

‘’The Person will play a pivotal role in setting the party’s vision, coordinating its activities, and ensuring its continued growth and success. This position involves working closely with other party leaders, members, elected officials, stakeholders, and the general public to advance the party’s objectives and promote its values and policies.

‘’The Chairman’s responsibilities include Leadership and Vision, Party Administration, Political Strategy, Party Growth and Membership, Public Relations and Communications, Election Campaigns, Coalition Building, and Policy Development.

‘’The qualities expected of the suitably qualified candidate include, proven leadership experience within a political party or related organization, strong understanding of political processes and government structures, excellent communication and public speaking skills, demonstrated ability to build and maintain relationships with diverse groups, strategic thinker with the ability to make sound decisions under pressure, knowledge of fundraising strategies and political campaigning and a deep commitment to the party’s values and goals.

“Since the APC is committed to inclusion and diversity, women and young people are encouraged to apply.”

Of course, the search for the next chairman of the APC will not be thrown open to the public. That would only happen in Lalaland. Even in advanced democracies, the selection of a party chair is reliant on a few critical party stakeholders. There would therefore be no vacancy announcement for the position of APC chairman. In the end, the choice of who becomes the leader of the party will be made in a small room of powerful men.

But if these men were to consider the attributes of the ideal candidate, of all the features I articulated above, the most crucial should be for the person to have a collegiate attitude to work and be adept at building systems and processes. As it is, our political organization system is too chaotic and close to the Hobbesian state of nature, in which (political) life is nasty, brutish, and short, and only the strongest survive. The party, therefore, requires someone that can build its institutions, be almost self-effacing, and not seek to hug the limelight or use the chairmanship as a personal political or economic leverage. But build its ideological base, build its disciplinary mechanism, build its reward system, build and build!

It would be difficult to find such a candidate in the present chaotic political system, but such a person – an outlier, no doubt– must exist. It is however doubtful that there would even be a search for a person such as I described above. In the end, the same reasons why a dull, weak, and colorless 76-year-old was chosen as party chair over vibrant and energetic candidates will prevail. Again.

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