Anxiety in APC groups over presidential appointments
As the nation awaits the constitution of the top echelon of government by the new President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, there are growing misgivings by the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the South East chapter of the party that they may lose out of the emerging post-inauguration power sharing equation if one of their own is not appointed as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Already, there is anxiety in the ANPP segment of the APC and the South East section of the party following complaints in Abuja that they were being blacked out of the major appointments within their party. The ANPP faction, in reality, seems to have been left out as it is yet to get any major post-inauguration appointment. Senator Ahmed Lawan, who was defeated by Senator Olusola Saraki in the election into the office of President of the Senate, was, until the merger of the legacy parties to form the APC, a member of the ANPP. The CPC faction has produced President Buhari, and the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has produced the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
The ‘New PDP’, whose members comprised of some governors and their supporters who decamped in protest from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party to be part of the merger that produced APC, sensing it may lose out in both the executive and legislative branches, helped itself by getting the backing of the PDP to have Saraki elected as President of the Senate and Alhaji Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Saraki was one of the arrow heads of the ‘New PDP’ until they joined the APC early last year. Dogara was, until November 2014, a member of the PDP and joined the APC only when the Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Isa Yuguda, denied him the PDP ticket to return to the House of Representatives.
Already, forces opposed to appointment of an Igbo as SGF are using last Tuesday’s emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy President of the Senate as reason. These forces have grown bolder in the last few days to assert that the Igbo had resorted to self-help and should therefore be denied the slot. But many Igbo groups especially within the APC are up in arms, claiming there is no nexus between the election of Ekweremadu as deputy president of the Senate and the clamour by the South East leaders to have one of their own appointed as the SGF. They have dismissed an allegation that some leaders of the ruling APC conspired with their supporters in the PDP to back Ekweremadu in order to deny the zone the SGF slot.
A source said if the SGF slot is not given to the South East, the pre-election campaign of the PDP that the APC was anti-Igbo will ring true and therefore foreclose all efforts to woo Igbo into the new ruling party.
Describing the breeding campaign as “hatred for Igbo about to manifest”, the source told The Guardian yesterday that “the emergence of Ekweremadu has nothing to do with the need to give the Igbo a sense of belonging. In any case, since he has gotten this appointment through the benevolence of Senators, it is time for the President to appoint our own party member into a higher office since it is possible Ekweremadu will continue to use the office to advance PDP interests. In spite of his election in the Senate, we need our own party man who will be our own rallying point.
“We don’t know if this is because he’s not found a worthy Nigerian of Igbo extraction or he is bowing to pressure from those bent on subverting the appointment of an Igbo as the SGF. Whichever way, this is a high risk game which will determine how the government of President Buhari will be viewed by a section of the country.”
Despite the intrigues surrounding the appointment of SGF in Abuja, the conventional wisdom is that it is the slot left for the Igbo. Top on the names for consideration is the former governor of old Abia State and immediate past National Chairman of the defunct ANPP, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. But since his name was mentioned, he has faced a gang up against him which may destroy his chances.
Onu was one of the founding leaders of the APC as he was instrumental to the convergence of his party (ANPP) and the national chairmen of ACN, CPC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in midwifing the APC. Before then, he had given President Buhari the platform to run for the presidential election twice – in 2003 and 2007– under the ANPP. He was the chairman of the APC presidential primaries screening committee which cleared Buhari and defended his choice as the presidential candidate of the APC.
If Onu is appointed, it might be a way of killing two birds with one stone. The South East, which gave the APC a near shut out in the presidential and National Assembly elections, would have been represented at the top of the Federal Government. Also, the ANPP group within the APC would have found one of their long standing leaders at the national level of appointment.
Initially, Onu was at the inauguration of President Buhari, his presence was believed to be a show in for the post of SGF. In fact, twitter account believed to belong to APC, @APCSituationrm had on May 31 announced that President Buhari had appointed Onu as the new SGF. But this was not to be.
A former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chris Ngige, who is the other major opposition politician from the South East may also be considered for the post of SGF. After his 33 months in office as governor, Ngige never found favour within his former party, the PDP. This forced him to find refuge with the opposition ACN where in April 2011, he won the election to represent Anambra Central in the Senate under the ACN platform.
Ngige is seen as a core follower of the National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, whom the politicians in Abuja said is also sponsoring Ngige for the post of SGF as part of his aim to have his followers at the topmost level of governance in the country. The third entrant is the candidate of the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha. Okorocha is said to be leading the fight against Onu in order to pave way for his in-law and former Secretary to (Imo) State Government (SSG), Prof. Anthony Onwuka. Okorocha’s second daughter on Saturday October 11, 2014 got married to the first son of Onwuka.
And to ensure that the anti-Onu agenda succeeds, the Imo State governor is allegedly stating that his APGA faction of APC has no representation for now at the federal level and therefore, as the only APC state in the South East, he should be in a better position to sponsor a candidate for the SGF slot. In addition, Okorocha has allegedly approached the PDP Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, to enlist his support.
Umahi was said to have been cautioned against allowing Onu to be appointed as SGF as it would pose a big threat and be a major plank of opposition to his government, citing the problem faced by the former governor of Ebonyi State, Martins Elechi, from the immediate past SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim. In fact, in order to stop Onu, all cards are on the table, including getting the support of other leaders of APC from other zones.
Those pushing for appointment of someone from outside the South East, are pointing to “an unwritten tradition” established since the return of democracy in May 1999 in which Presidents appoint those from their geographical side of the country as the SGF. They want this to be maintained. For example, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed as his SGF for his eight year rule, Chief Uffot Ekaette from South South State of Akwa Ibom. The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had two SGFs – Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe and Alhaji Yayale Ahmed – from the northern states of Borno and Bauchi. Under President Goodluck Jonathan, his SGF was Anyim from Ebonyi (South East). For this group in Abuja, it would be bucking the trend for President Buhari to appoint anyone from the South East zone.