A ruling party in the throes of crises ahead of 2019 elections
Two years after the All Progressives Congress (APC) set the record of taking over power from an incumbent national government in Nigeria, fallouts of circumstances of its formation have continued to threaten the unity of the platform and its ability to deliver on its promised dividends of democracy.
As predicted by observers, immediately the party took over government in 2015, crisis erupted over the choice of the leadership of the National Assembly and as the crisis festered, neither the presidency nor the party headship helped matter.
Some had expected President Muhammadu Buhari, as was the case in previous administrations, to play a major role in deciding those that will lead the national parliament the party’s platform. But the Presidency, for whatever reason, played the ostrich and paved way for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to railroad Dr. Bukola Saraki into becoming the Senate President, and Ike Ekweremadu, his deputy. Since then, all has not been well with the APC-led government as the presidency, the National Assembly leadership, the governors on the party’s platform and the party leadership, operate on different page; making the government and its policies lack the needed cohesion.
Until recently, the National Assembly caucus and the leadership of the party did not meet while the two camps were sidelined by the presidency in the process of making political appointments. A 2015 governorship candidate of the party in one of the Southeast states told The Guardian that after the elections, the list of party members for appointments was compiled in every state and was submitted to the party leadership for onward submission to the presidency.
“Since then, nothing has been heard either from the presidency or the party leadership. What we have been witnessing is the appointment of strange persons that did not work for the party’s victory into government positions. It is very unfortunate and unprecedented. It means that those of us who worked hard for the party victory in 2015 polls are fools,” he said.
Also speaking to The Guardian, a foundation member of the party, Alhaji Buba Galadima said APC’s indefinite postponement of the caucus and national executive committee (NEC) meeting earlier slated for April 24 and 25, indicates that there is no synergy between the party and the government it brought to power.
According to him, “It is a very sad development. That is what some of us have been managing in the past. The party must get its act together before it becomes too late. There is need for urgent resolution of knotty issues affecting the party.”
He also expressed dissatisfaction with the non-composition of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and put the blame on the APC government rather than the party leadership saying, “The problem is not about the leadership of the party. A lot of people think so, but I think the leadership of the party is helpless and cannot exert its influence.
“It was the name and the logo of the party that were used for the election, so the leadership of the party would have to summon the courage to exert itself and give direction to the government because without the party, nobody would have the platform to be where he is today.”
The last time the party held its NEC meeting was on July 3, 2015 and no reason was given for its postponement but The Guardian learnt that it was not unconnected with President Buhari’s health challenges and his non-appearance in public for some time.
And since the party’s leadership announced a plan on February 13, 2017 to set up reconciliation committees to resolve the crises rocking some state chapters, nothing concrete has been done.
Party spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi however said the committees were set up “to resolve all outstanding issues in order for the party to have a united front in going to the National Convention which is expected to hold not later than April 2017.”
Observers are wondering why a ruling party with a major crisis at the national level that demands urgent resolution will feign ignorance and be disturbed over state crises that were a fallout of unresolved issues at the national level.
Since the announced plan to set up a reconciliation committee, two committees to look into the party crisis in Kogi and Bauchi states have been named. The minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige heads the Bauchi committee, while Kogi has Prince Tony Momoh as chairman.
But these two states are not the only ones experiencing internal tussles, as there are many others where crises are smoldering. States in this category are Enugu, Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Cross Rivers, among others. These are states where PDP members defected to the APC ahead of 2019 and expectedly, there are clashes of interests between the foundation members and the defectors some of who got appointed into federal positions to the displeasure of core APC members.
Other states with internal strives include Borno where the Senator representing Borno North, Abu Kyari is having a running battle with Governor Kashim Shettima over 2019 governorship ticket. The duo had served in Senator Ali Modu Sheriff government in the state. And despite the party’s victory in Ondo State, it was learnt that the platform is still divided over the emergence of Rotimi Akeredolu, as the candidate.
Even after he was sworn in as governor, Akeredolu’s statement showed that the crisis might still linger. He accused an unnamed Senator of the party from his state, of working against his gubernatorial ambition and said he no longer considered the Senator a member of the APC.
The situation is not different in Gombe where former governor and now Senator, Danjuma Goje and former deputy speaker, House of Representatives and now Senator, Usman Nafada have been fighting for the soul of the state since the 2015 polls. It was revealed that the crisis was a major reason the party lost the governorship seat.
In Bauchi, it has been war of attrition between governor Mohammed Abubakar on one hand and the federal lawmakers and other federal government appointees on the other. The governor was accused of poor management of bailout funds from the federal government to the state, non-payment of workers and pensioners, and offering appointments to PDP members while APC members are being sidelined. So far, the crisis has brought about the suspension of two lawmakers in the state namely- the Senator representing Bauchi South Senatorial district, Ali Wakili, and a member of the State House of Assembly representing Lere/Bula Constituency, Aminu Tukur.
In Ogun, the crisis is being fuelled by the governorship ambition of the Senator currently representing Lagos West Senatorial District, Olamilekan Adeola, who has the support of National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu while the governor, Ibikunle Amosun is said to be against the ambition.
The festering APC crisis in the confluence state of Kogi commenced before the conclusion of the Kogi governorship election, following the sudden demise of the party’s governorship candidate, Abubakar Audu and his replacement with Alhaji Yahaya Bello. Even after the conclusion of the exercise, the party’s victory has refused to heal the wounds as federal lawmakers and state leadership of the party have consistently accused Bello of sidelining party members in the affairs of the state since he was elected. It is not news that federal lawmakers from the state never supported Bello’s choice as Audu’s replacement. Leading the onslaught against the governor is Senator Dino Melaye.
The crisis in the Plateau chapter which emanated from the nomination of Solomon Dalung as minister against the wish of Governor Simon Lalong, who has a pending pre-election matter in court with Dalung. There is also the issue of petition by some members calling for the expulsion of a former Minister of State for Information and Communication, Ibrahim Nakande who had been removed as the zonal secretary of the party and replaced with Muhammad Zakari. Also in Niger, there is no cordial relationship between the governor, Sani Bello and majority of the federal lawmakers from the state. David Umaru representing Niger East senatorial district and Aliyu Abdullahi of the Southern senatorial district are reportedly in conflict with the governor. The lawmakers are not happy over the manner the APC candidates for the last local council election in the state emerged. They were said to be annoyed with governor Bello for allegedly single-handedly picking the candidates without consulting them.
The muscle-flexing in the Kaduna chapter is between the governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Mallam Shehu Sani. Sani had shown interest in the governorship election in 2015 but was asked by some political leaders to step down for el-Rufai. Since then, he has never hidden his intention of taking over from the incumbent in 2019, a move the governor has allegedly considered confrontational. Both have been at each other’s jugular with the party’s national leadership pretending that nothing is amiss.
The crisis in Kano is between Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso and his estranged godson, governor Abdullahi Ganduje. The party has been divided into two camps with one group loyal to Kwakwanso and the other loyal to Ganduje. This is gradually degenerating into security threat in the state.
While internal crisis is inevitable in party politics, the barrage of crises being witnessed in the APC, despite being a ruling party is unprecedented and distracting. Also disappointing is the fact that the opposition PDP is not faring better as an alternative, because it has its own share of internal wrangling.
There is no doubt that the success or otherwise of the APC in 2019 polls depends on how fast it resolves the numerous crises bedeviling it and the government, which is bearing the negative impacts on governance and progress of the country.