APC, PDP: Continuing search for stability
• APC, Feigning Indifferent To Crisis; PDP, Attempting to Mend
• Third Force, Still Feasible
That all is not well with Nigeria’s two main political parties could be easily inferred from the prevailing conditions in the polity. In terms of cohesion and stability, the two prominent political parties- the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – can be described as searching for stability. Both parties currently manifest signs of internal hiccups. But while APC appears bogged down by its hasty harvest of the fruit of electoral conquest, PDP is grappling with the hurt thrust on it by its not so recent rift and cataclysmic electoral loss.
Again, while APC still creaks from attempt to refine the coarseness brought on it by the hurried amalgamation of diverse political tendencies, PDP is at work on itself, trying to curb the habits of excessive show of self-importance and ego. It is left to be seen whether these two major political parties could surmount their challenges and become ideological blocs or suffer from internal haemorrhaging, thereby setting the stage for the emergence of a long expected strong and stabilizing third force. As would be seen, the parties, no doubt have their separate identities, but suffer from a peculiarity of testy situations, which they are trying to surmount in different ways.
PDP: Readying For Tomorrow, Confronting Zoning Albatross
INDICATIONS that PDP seems determined to put its 2015 surprising electoral loss to the APC behind it emerged last week. The party accommodated a seven-day postponement for the start of the ward, local, state and zonal congresses earlier scheduled for yesterday. Despite the fact of a measure of surefootedness in the party’s drive to a future built on cohesion and unity, recriminations over zoning tried to stand on its way.
At the inaugural meeting of the Zoning Committee in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and subsequent meeting in Abuja, where the state governors were consulted, it was obvious that finding a common ground on the issue was proving herculean. In a bid to play safe, the Emmanuel Udom Committee decided to zone most offices between the North and South. Many observers noted that the approach was to give room for other zones within the subdivision to recalibrate how the positions could go. Yet the gambit was perceived as reluctant strategy to admit to the possibility of a Sheriff candidacy in the national convention to contest for the office of national chairman.
But while some dissenters from the Southwest kicked against the zoning of the office of the national chairman to the North, others maintained that the zoning of the same position occupied earlier by Dr. Bamanga Tukur and Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu; to the North was meant to serve as part of the appeasement by the party to the north for defaulting on the original zoning format. That structure, they claimed, would have produced a president from the North in 2011 to complete the tenure of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, which was cut short by his death in office.
Some entrenched political interests, believed to be working for the emergence of a national chairman from the Southwest, saw the zoning of national chairman to the North as a pointer to possible alienation of the zone and attempt to handover the party structure to the incumbent, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, for his perceived interest in the presidential ticket.
While the group alleged that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Emmanuel Udom, alongside his counterparts from Ekiti and Rivers States, Ayo Fayose and Nyesom Wike, zoned the position to favour Sheriff, Governor Olusegun Mimiko and Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, were also accused of disputing the zoning arrangement with eyes trained on 2019 presidential ticket.
A source within the zoning committee confided in The Guardian that the error of juxtaposing the post of national chairman and that of the presidency was responsible for the quest by some Southwest stalwarts for their zone to produce the chairman. He said that although Fayose has come out to deny any ambition to pair with Sheriff on the presidential ticket in 2019, Mimiko has not denied his covert interest in being a presidential running mate to a candidate from the north.
It was gathered that in order to solve the puzzle of zoning the office of national chairman, committee members and PDP governors decided to blank out every talks about the presidential ticket, so as not to jeopardize the rebuilding process going on in the party.
The new political forces calling the shots in PDP were also said to be doing all in their power to match similar schemes in the ruling APC, where the vice president is already from the Southwest.
Of the 12 national positions on the PDP NWC, the committee penciled seven for the South, thereby leaving five and the national chairmanship to the North. But disputation arose over the plan by the committee to further zone some positions to geopolitical zones in the South. For instance, objections trailed the zoning of the deputy national chairman to the South/South, national secretary to the South/West and the organising secretary reserved for the South/East.
The argument by some Southwest zonal leaders that the zone had never produced the national chairman of the party was countered by most members on the ground that having produced the president for eight years, the zone got what was more than the chairmanship. Former Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr Doyin Okupe, had told journalists that the Southwest would dump PDP if it was denied the position of national chairman this time around.
Southwest PDP leaders like Senator Buruji Kasamu, contend that based on the perceived weak showing of the party in the North, the area ought to produce the national chairman as a token that PDP was serious about zoning the presidency to them. But while Kashamu and other pro-northern chairmanship agitators seem to be motivated by political arithmetic, those who oppose them seem to be swayed by the speculation that that position was meant to guarantee a Sheriff-Fayose for president in 2019.
Against the backdrop of discordant positions adopted by PDP stalwarts from Southwest, especially the threat to hold parallel conventions, sources within the zoning committee alleged that some Southwest leaders were being propelled by APC leaders to insist on the position of national chairman coming to Southwest so as to douse PDP’s determination to regroup effectively.
But members of the Governor Odom Zoning Committee were said to have reflected on the political realities on the ground and decided to favour the North producing the national chairman. “We noted that zoning is meant to serve as a strategy of winning elections first and that failure to abide by the zoning arrangement in 2015 cost the party the election. So giving the chairmanship to the North is the equivalent of ceding the presidency to the Southwest in 1999 for the death of M.K.O Abiola,” the source disclosed.
The source said the major considerations that guided the party on zoning include the fact that it was not protected by any provision of the Nigerian Constitution, but to influence voter perception and serve as informal strategy for geopolitical equilibrium and diversity management in the distribution of positions.
Against the backdrop of discordant positions adopted by PDP stalwarts from Southwest, especially the threat to hold parallel conventions, sources within the zoning committee alleged that some Southwest leaders were being propelled by APC leaders to insist on the position of national chairman coming to Southwest so as to douse PDP’s determination to regroup effectively
Yet, Southwest PDP leaders, including the former deputy national chairman, Chief Olabode George; former Governor Gbenga Daniel; Chief Ebenezer Babatope; Senator Bode Olajumoke; Mulikat Akande-Adeola; Oloye Jumoke Akinjide; Dr. Doyin Okupe, among many others, met under the auspices of Southwest PDP to evaluate the “State of Our Party”.
The leaders pointed out in a 14-point communiqué, that it was eminently qualified to occupy the office of national chairman of the party. Read by Chief Olateru Olagbegi, Southwest caucus leaders declared their resolve to insist on the chairmanship being zoned to the Southwest, stressing that denying them the chairmanship would amount to relegating the region to the background and rejected any attempt to treat the zone as orphans within the party.
Former House Leader, Akande-Adeola, had in her remarks reminded the leaders to respond to the situation as PDP members and Yorubas, adding that healing the party should be uppermost in their minds as a show of patriotism.
Former Ministers’ Angle
But the fold of former ministers of the party led by Tanimu Turaki, brought a different argument against the zoning arrangement as they particularly expressed diffidence against Sheriff occupying the post of national chairman.
Not wanting to be joined in the zoning brouhaha, the former ministers declared their preference that wherever or whoever the next national chairman could come from or be, so far it was not the former Bornu State governor.
In a communiqué read by Turaki (SAN) after their meeting, the former ministers expressed serious worries about the process of selecting new officers for the party. Warning that a faulty selection process could haunt the party at popular election, the former ministers declared: “To have delegates that are pre-selected or pre-elected to return preferred candidate to national officers will be seen as a perpetration of lack of internal democracy that mortally injured the party in 2015.”
The ministers reminded PDP faithful that rebuilding and rebranding of the party could be better done by shunning all selfishness and opportunism. It was alleged that the PDP former ministers wanted a situation where none of the present members of the National Working Committee (NWC), was allowed to contest for a fresh mandate into the committee. “It was in a bid to accommodate the input of the Turaki Forum that the proviso was reframed to exclude any NWC member not facing corruption or criminal trials in court,” a source explained.
He said that effort was made to ensure that the position of the former ministers does negatively affect the right of Sheriff to participate in the May 21 national convention. Going by that assertion, it therefore implies that baring any further untoward development, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff would feature as a contestant in the convention.
The recent visit by Sheriff and the membership drive of PDP in Dutse, Jigawa State, it was said to be part of the plan to show the national chairman’s prowess at grassroots mobilisation. A source in the outgoing NWC confided in The Guardian that “actually Sheriff proved that he could bring PDP back to the conservative north; that fact was not lost on most of us that joined him on that trip.”
Metuh Rethinks Ambition
The decision of the national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, to announce that he was not going to contest for any elective office in the party, was seen as part of the new thinking within PDP that the old brigade has no front row position in the party’s rebuilding process.
It was alleged that the ambition of Metuh to run for the office of organising secretary of the party, was at the root of the recent imbroglio in Anambra State chapter of the party prior to the Supreme Court judgment that okayed Ejike Oguebego as the authentic State Chairman of the party.
In an interview with The Guardian before the apex court ruling, rival state chairman, Prince Ken Emeakayi, had revealed that the main reason why the Tony Nwoye group boycotted the last congress was their dread for Metuh, stressing that if they believe that they enjoy numerical superiority, they should wait and face him (Metuh) at the national convention.
At another point, the Ekweremadu review committee was alleged to have embarked on covert zoning, which gave impetus to people like Metuh on the NWC to start oiling their machineries in readiness to contest for those positions.
But having seen the handwriting on the walling and playing as a smart politician, the national publicity secretary released a statement denying any interest in further membership of the NWC.
Another group that took a stand against zoning was the PDP Reform Group. In a statement it released through its spokesman, Okai Usman, the PDPRG, noted “the dangers of mismanaging the opportunity availed us by the dismal and retrogressive performance of the current APC-led government.”
The group called for the implementation of the Ekweremadu Committee recommendation and the communiqué of the party after its national conference in Abuja on November 12, 2015. The group added: ”We are appalled that some of our leaders are still driven by excessive ambition for power, personal gain and greed, and not necessarily to serve the greater good of party members nationwide. It is a serious concern to party members across the country that some of our leaders are yet to learn from the mistakes of the past.”
“It is pertinent to note that if the existing zoning arrangements are altered for whatever political exigency, we warn that it would be difficult for the zoning of the presidency to the North as recommended by the Ekweremadu-committee to be respected when the time comes. We fear that the Northeast will be the greatest loser for 2019 – this comes as a very strong position of the Reform Group.
“We thank the PDP Governors Forum led by Governor Olusegun Mimiko and the National Assembly caucus for ensuring that the zoning committee stayed action on its announcement of the Zonings to allow for further deliberation and more consultation in the interest of peace and future of the party.”
APC: The More You Look…
WHEN on March 16, 2013, during a town hall meeting of Southeast leadership caucus of PDP, held at Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu; then Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Martin Elechi, described the All Progressives Congress (APC), as Association of Political Clowns, he may not, as Americans are wont to say, have seen nothing yet.
Nearly 12 calendar months after the party mounted the saddle as leader of federal government, the signs of unease have marked each month, week and day. The appointment of cabinet ministers became subject of conjectures and speculations. After months of waiting, President Muhammadu Buhari came up with a graduated method in choosing the men to assist him in delivering on the mandate of change.
After the last batch of nominees was released, national attention was trained on the National Assembly and what nature the screening will take. From the wrangling associated with the screening to the assignment of port folios, another round of waiting took over.
However, signs of discord in the ruling began to filter out shortly after the ministers were assigned to their ministries. Subdued recriminations ensued from party faithful who grumbled that they were not as yet rewarded for their contribution to the victory.
In the main, the party lost appeal as governorship election in two states exposed the less than concrete foundation of the party. What seemed to roil the party most was the vacancies created by former members of the NWC that moved over to the federal cabinet. How to fill the positions became a source of new animosities following the troubled emergence of the senate president against the dictates of party bigwigs.
That turning point marked the quaking of APC. The Board of Trustees (BoT), could not be inaugurated for want of who to chair that august body. The telltale signs that the ruling party was engaged in internal power struggle emerged. As it turned out, members of the newPDP saw the hidden plot to sidetrack them and began making plans to confront the betrayal.
On top of all that, the national chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, was accused of ineptitude, which indicated a subtle search for his replacement. For the first time, last month the party called a caucus meeting, which was followed up with an enlarged one with the President in attendance. From exchange of words at the meetings, members saw the fault lines with a new crop of powerful men working to possess the President and isolate the other stalwarts.
It is against the background of scheming that the Southwest caucus of the party held a reconciliatory meeting with the former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba. The schemes have moved full circle, sources began to talk of attempt to forge a new alliance between the old Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), preparatory to the 2019 presidential.
The grumbling within APC is said to have taken a new dimension with the alleged plans by the Southwest caucus to clamour for a northern Christian to pair with a Southern Muslim for the APC ticket in 2019. And following an alleged plot to suspend some errant members of the party, the looming crisis in the party may blow open.
.Acting national publicity secretary of the party, Comrade Timi Frank, who has been having a running battle with the national chairman, told The Guardian that APC has chosen to live in denial about the many crises bedeviling it. He said he was not afraid of the plot to suspend him from the party, provided the party follows the laid down procedures and tells Nigerians what he did wrong to warrant such an action, he would resist it. “Is it because I have come out to say the truth that there is crisis in our party?” he asked rhetorically, insisting that “there is deep crisis in the party and we need to address it to move forward.”
Frank blamed the crisis in APC on the national chairman, saying that if the chairman was in control the divisions would not be happening. “If we have a true chairman, for instance; why do we have two factions in the senate, the Ahmed Lawan group and the president Bukola Saraki faction? Is that not crisis in the same party? If we have a firm leadership of the party, he would have summoned both factions to try and see how to resolve the contending issues.”
Following from the foregoing, unless APC and PDP put their houses in order, the dream of some political actors to float another party may come to light. While the PDP begins the process leading to the crucial national convention, APC has to prove more than it has done so far, that it is beyond damage.
Furthermore, if it is true that Buhari had committed to serving just one term in office shortly before the presidential primary, attempts by his foot soldiers to prop him for a second term would also set the party apart. APC may have many rivers to cross and PDP has to convince Nigerians through a rancour-free convention that it has learnt from its mistakes to ensure a stable two-party democracy.