Governors set to take gauntlet of leadership in APC
It is now certain that the mid- term convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will take place as 20 members of the party’s governors’ forum who met with the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) in Abuja finally reached a consensus on it.
During the parley, which was the second of the interactive meetings between the governors and the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC, key decisions were taken to strengthen the party ahead of the 2019 elections.
The parley also came barely 48 hours after the 36 states chairmen met behind closed doors with the NWC during which they faulted what they termed the “lopsided” manner President Muhammadu Buhari made his appointments into agencies and parastatals of the Federal Government,
As was the case with the earlier one, the governors meeting with the NWC, which lasted for over four hours, was said to be stormy as they were said to have blamed the committee for the problem bedeviling the party.
The APC governors intervention is most likely going to come with a price as there were indication that Odigie-Oyegun and some members of the NWC who were not in their good books could be sacrificed on the alter of political interests in the days ahead.
It was gathered that the governors who are already warming up to take full control of the party apparatus because of President Buhari’s health status, even mooted the idea of passing a vote of no confidence on the party chairman at the parley.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Sokoto State, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, was said to have particularly cited the frosty relationship between the legislature and the executive arm as a reference point of Oyegun’s inability to live up to expectations.
An APC insider who sought anonymity said, “At the meeting, they were supposed to pass a vote of no confidence on him but they realised that it will create a bad signal if they do so on that day. So they want to manage him till when there would be an expanded meeting of the party.”
On efforts to reposition the party, it was resolved that a nine-member committee comprising representatives of the governors, NWC and leaders of the party, be constituted to meet with President Buhari or Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. Indeed, it was reliably learnt that key officials of the NWC including the national treasurer, Alhaji Muhammed Gwagwalada, met with the governors at the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha’s Abuja lodge with the aim of sourcing monies required to offset outstanding liabilities at the party secretariat.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State who briefed reporters at the end of the parley with the NWC made no mention of the plot to oust Oyegun but stressed the desire of the governors forum to strengthen the party and ensure reconciliation of members at all levels.
He said: “We are committed to provide the NWC all the support that it needs. We are involved in fund-raising from our donors and sympathisers to ensure that the national headquarters and indeed all organs of the party have the wherewithal to continue the difficult work of rebuilding the party.”
On the crises afflicting the APC, he said the party is still intact notwithstanding the problem adding, “The APC has one national chairman, it has one NWC and we are not in court to determine which faction is recognised or not. That is the problem of another party whose name I don’t need to mention.
“Regarding the convention, yes we would have wanted to have the convention earlier than now but we are not a party that use public resources for its operations. Private donors and contributions by its members fund the APC. We do not use treasury money to fund the operations of the party and that is why our party even though in government, has logistics constraints. We are not stealing from the treasury to fund our party. That is the difference between the APC, Buhari’s creed and government strategy from the other party.”
On the party’s rewards system which is a source of conflict in the party, he said: “Well this is a major challenge because there has been a political culture in this Republic in which public resources had become the source of settling party loyalists.
“This administration under the leadership of Buhari has tried to move away from that. It cannot happen overnight. There would be many unhappy people but all I can say is that we deliberated on that. This is one of the issues the governors and the NWC looked at but it is not for the media. We are going to work at improving the incentive system without diverting state resources, without violating the law and without bringing into government people that are unsuitable just in the name of rewarding party apparatus.”
Once a formidable coalition of opposition parties that acted and spoke with one voice prior to the 2015 elections, the APC is now a party in disarray due to a combination of factors, which includes the emergence of principal officers of the National Assembly, Buhari’s choice of cabinet and appointments into boards of parastatals and agencies of government. The last is alleged to be influenced by a cabal in Buhari’s cabinet and it has led to cries of marginalization and exclusion across the 36 States chapters of the party.
The unending bitter squabbles among chieftains of the party include states like Bauchi where the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and key chieftains of the party are at loggerhead with the state governor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar; Kano, where supporters of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje are at daggers drawn with those of his predecessor, Rabiu Kwankwaso; Kaduna, where rights activist and senator, Shehu Sani has vowed to see to the end of the tenure of el-Rufai in 2019.
Similar scenario posing serious threat to the fortune of the party has played out in several other states chapters like Adamawa, Zamfara, Akwa Ibom, Taraba, Zamfara, Ogun, and Kogi where Senator Dino Melaye is also slugging it out with Governor Yahaya-Bello
Those who were conversant with the buoyancy of the party prior to the 2015 poll believe that key leaders in the mould of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and Senate President Bukola Saraki withdrew financial support to the party because they felt let down by the Odigie-Oyegun leadership.
Tinubu and Atiku who were dissatisfied with the role played by the party in the aftermath of the Kogi governorship debacle and Ondo governorship primaries, actually spearheaded the call for the resignation of Odigie-Oyegun.
The chairman had also been accused of taking sides in the intra party squabbles among chieftains of the party in various chapters across the states and he is alleged to be foot-dragging in calling for the convention of the party in a bid to keep his job.
Opinions are divided among top members of the party on why the APC found itself in the precarious situation. While some blamed Buhari for not releasing money to fund the party, others blame Odigie-Oyegun for the situation. But Kano governor, Ganduje identified the change mantra anchored by President Buhari as reason why the party is broke.
Concerned about the development, aggrieved members of APC National Executive Council (NEC), again sent another “Save Our Party” letter to both Buhari and Osinbajo last week. The forum in an earlier correspondence to the president dated 6th April, 2017, which was signed by a National Ex-officio, South-west coordinator, Omolayo O. Akintola, and tagged “Save our party-APC,” demanded an urgent NEC meeting to save the party “preventable, avoidable and unnecessary intra-party cracks that the present situation might generate.”
In a reminder dated 24th of April 2017, and signed by Akintola, the forum urged the president to react to their first letter. Also a member of the NEC, Comrade Timi Frank who is a strident critic of Odigie-Oyegun, believed that the solution to the party’s crises would be found in the proposed mid term convention. He insisted that the convention was an elective one since there were six vacant positions to be filled as against claim by the NWC that it would be non-elective.
According to him, “Nobody will trust Chief Oyegun because of his mismanagement of party fund in the past and that is why our governors cannot release money for the party. Like before, I’m still warning that unless Chief Oyegun resign as APC national chairman, I don’t think the party can progress with this present situation.”
But Abdullahi faulted the notion that the recent shift of both the NEC and convention is part of survival strategy adopted by the chairman who is said to enjoy the strong backing of power brokers in the presidency.
He said, “It is untrue the Oyegun is not predisposed to the convention. Can the party chairman decide against the convention even if he is afraid of the convention? Can he stop it? You can only say you are not predisposed to something you have influence over.
“If the people empowered by the party constitution to hold the convention say so, they will surely hold it. This convention is not an elective convention and there is tenure for the chairman of four years. So why would people spread unnecessary story around it?”