APC riding waves of impending partition

The National Chairman, of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun

The greatest challenge facing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is not how to repeat its electoral victory in 2019, but uniting the party around a common purpose. That proposition defines the recent attempt to patch up obvious crevices in the party. Regrettably, it took the leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari, nearly three years to locate the place of the internal schisms in the party on the overall health of the first successful political amalgamation in modern times.

By announcing that former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, should head a reconciliation committee, the President showed that he was not totally oblivious of the internal frictions and lack of cohesion within the party.

Until the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar left the party; the general impression among APC members was that the President did not want to burden himself with political issues, instead of delivering on his mandate.

But, the President’s intervention elicited further murmurs regarding the correct modality for settling whatever could be the causes of suspicion and distemper in the party. Did the President act unilaterally or neglected the party’s organ by his choice of strategy?

President Buhari’s meeting with the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun after Tinubu’s public letter, gave the impression that the President must have acted in such a way as to alienate the party’s leadership, in the fashion of his former constituency, the military.

While the Tinubu committee was reeling from omnibus terms of reference, he released a letter of complaint claiming that the national chairman was trying to raise huddles on the path to the successful execution of the assignment.

In the middle of that muddle, crisis in the Kaduna State chapter of the party degenerated to the level of destruction of property and hounding of dissenters. This therefore prompted the national chairman to empanel a ‘fact-finding team’ to visit Kano and distill the issues fueling the crisis. Was the national chairman interfering with Tinubu’s assignment by sending a committee of three, led by the Deputy national chairman, (South) Chief Segun Oni, national auditor, Chief George Moghalu and national women leader, Rahmatu Alliyu; to Kaduna?

A National Executive Committee (NEC) convened to streamline the issues ended up extending the tenure of the NWC and State Working Committees, thereby unleashing new concerns on the party about the legality of the decision. The measure, they explained, was intended to avert a pre-election crisis from congresses and convention preparatory to the 2019 election.

Term Extension, Purport And Controversy
Although some stakeholders of APC, including governors have kicked against the elongation of the terminal date of the NWC, the gesture to a large extent provides the working committee with a breather.

For a greater part of his four years in office, particularly after the party won the 2015 election, Chief Oyegun has been moving from one trouble to another. It all started with the controversial position the party adopted in the Kogi State governorship election that held barely five months after the party produced the Federal Government.

The animosity over the chairman’s stance in Kogi was carried over to Ondo, when a similar scenario was thrown up in the governorship primary. It was on that suspicious development that the ‘national leader’ of the party, Tinubu, in a fit of fury, called on the chairman to resign.

Prior to that intervention by Tinubu, the embattled deputy national publicity secretary of the party, Comrade Timi Frank, had raised the alarm that APC was deviating from its avowed mantra of change and internal democracy. Frank accused Oyegun of not being firm and inclusive in managing the affairs of the party.

The popular sentiment in the party was that the national chairman was pandering progressively to the body language of the President, a cabal in the Presidency and the governors.

By virtue of the APC constitution, the essential organs of the party, the state executives, are under the control of the state governor, especially owing to their power to allocate resources and responsibilities. But, the new twist is that the governors are on the same page on the matter of term elongation for NWC and state executives.

Even at that, Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, maintained that only the national convention, which is the highest organ of the party, could alter the tenure limit of elected officials.

But APC spokesman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, disclosed that the Zamfara governor failed to canvass the position against elongation at the NEC meeting. What all these point to is the fact that APC has found itself in a similar situation that challenged the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when counter-law suits stalled its national convention.

Will the governors, some of who are not in good terms with their state party executives, go to court to challenge the development? The victorious NWC does not envisage that likelihood going by what the spokesman said. Abdullahi had observed, “members have a right to express their personal opinions on issues, but like in every democracy, the minority will have their say, but the majority will always have their way.”

But it is hard to distill those in minority as yet. With the President’s ambivalent posture, those out to side with him, even if they are the minority, would end up as the majority until the party’s primary elections are close.

The former members of defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) seem to have found a common ground with elements from the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). They are the ones pushing for the sustenance of the status quo.

Shortly after the triumphant extension of Oyegun’s tenure, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) said the overall interest of their great party (APC) prevailed.

“Based on our collective interest, the majority of our leadership that attended the NEC voted for the twelve months extension, we should therefore not allow detractors to distract us. If any crack is allowed on the wall, it could widen for snakes to enter. NEC in an effort to stem the cracks relied on Section 13 of the APC constitution to grant the extension.”

Okechukwu said the party faithful should allow the sleeping dogs to lie and cooperate with the Asiwaju committee to tighten the loose ends. But, it is left to be seen how far the Tinubu committee could go in the light of the seeming gang-up by forces loyal to the cabal and Oyegun.

The general interpretation of the tenure extension granted to Oyegun is that it was done to spite Tinubu, who has not hidden his displeasure at the way the national chairman has been running the party. Against the background of the provisions of Article 13 of the APC constitution, which empowers the NEC to function in place of the convention, the June 30, 2018 terminal date may mark the beginning of any litigations, especially when Governor Yari noted that the extension was a mere expression of intent. Section 30 and article 13 would then become the basis of contention.

Things Fall Apart In The States
In less than six months, the primary elections will kick off nationwide according to timetable earlier released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This is where another round of troubles would break out between state working committees that are on the same line up as the Oyegun-led NWC. This would place stress on some states that have issues with their state governors.

Oyegun inaugurated the alternative executive in Kogi State, which is loyal to Governor Yahaya Bello at the expense of the Hadi Ametu executive earlier recognized by the NWC. It is the development in Kogi shortly after Tinubu was named a troubleshooter for the party that indicators emerged that the state governors were siding the national chairman against the designs of the reconciliation committee.

Kano and Kaduna are sure to follow suit and when that happens, immediate past governor and Senator representing Kano Central, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, might take his political destiny to another platform. In Kaduna where Senators Suleiman Hukunyi and Shehu Sani belong to a parallel state executive, the Tinubu committee will be in a dilemma, because there seems to be no meeting point among the gladiators.

The implication of the Kaduna APC crisis is that if Tinubu fails to heal the rift and retain the two Senators on the APC platform, the party would end up not having any senator. Senator Danjuma Tella La’ah, who represents Kaduna South Senatorial district, belongs to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

No sooner had the tenure extension expanded to state executives alongside the NWC, than things fell apart for the Lagos State chapter of APC. A group that styled itself, Broom United Movement (BUM) sprang up in direct affront to the Henry Ajomale-led state executive, blaming the chairman for siding with Oyegun against the political interest of Tinubu.

Fouad Oki, who is the convener of the BUM, alleged that as the chairman of chairmen, Ajomale was neck deep in the plot to extent their tenures. Actually some party stalwarts in Lagos started hinting at the creation of caretaker committees shortly after Tinubu was announced to lead the reconciliation process.

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