APC and challenge of crisis resolution
Many Nigerians want the All Progressives Congress (APC) to unite and put its house in order, ahead of future elections. As the party prepares for its National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Caucus meetings in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), next week, Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU highlights the challenges confronting the ruling party, which should be resolved to prevent the escalation of crisis.
There is a protracted debate on the future of the All Progressives Congress (APC) among Nigerians. Many have asked: can the party survive? Although it has the prospects and potentials, it faces predictable hurdles. The ruling party is warming up for governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states. It is also gazing at 2019. But, it is largely perceived as a divided house; more polarised than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which it displaced from power in 2015. To observers, the party must unite and put its house in order.
Things appear to be falling apart at the national level. Also, many state chapters are in turmoil over nomination battles, ahead of future polls. Gladiators have taken their personality rifts and ego wars to the media. The war of attrition is at the expense of the platform. The attacks and counter-attacks underscore unresolved conflicts and deep division. The challenge seems to have overwhelmed the party’s national leadership. Indeed, the leadership itself does not appear to command the respect of the majority in the fragmented fold. Recently, some governors doubted the capacity of the chairman to continue to lead. Some months ago, it was reported that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said that he does not have confidence in the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
As party officials gather for the National Working Committee (NWC) meeting next week, after a long lull, observers expect the party leaders to embrace the reality of diminishing popularity for the APC. Concerned party members and followers expect the arrowheads to close ranks, reconcile and fortify the platform to withstand the rigours of future elections. APC requires a crisis resolution mechanism to reconcile aggrieved members and prevent the escalation of crisis, defections and disintegration.
In 2015, APC was a party of hope. It was literarily transformed into a movement of sorts. The party came of age as an amalgam of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the New PDP, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress of Democratic Congress (CPC) and a tiny section of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). The leaders of these parties had different tendencies, even as progressive elements. But, as they began the journey, it was also evident that the APC harboured both progressive and conservative elements. Thus, analysts have contented that that there is no line of demarcation between the ruling and opposition parties.
APC has been a successful platform. Not only has it won federal power, it has also controls 24 states. In addition, the party controls the majority in the National Assembly. Scores of federal lawmakers have defected to the APC in the last two and half years. So far, none has defected from the APC to the PDP. However, what has made the APC a ruling party with some limitations are its lack of clear-cut ideological focus and multiple crises trying to retard its progress. Ideology, according to analysts, is a compass. After winning power, the ideology will give the direction the party is going.
The party organisation also requires reforms. The structures recognised by the party constitution include the National Executive Council, the National Working Committee, the zonal chapters and its executive committees, the state chapters and their executive committees, the local government and ward chapters and their executive committees. The proper functioning of the national leadership will ordinarily rob off on the lower chapters. However, almost three years after, there is no evidence to show that the Board of Trustees (BoT) is functioning. Also, the APC National Caucus merely exists on paper. The party has not held its mid-term convention. There are allegations that there is no regular meeting of the NEC and NWC.
Nigerians were surprised when some party leaders could not confirm that APC made a solid commitment to the resolution of the contentious national question during the campaigns. When the agitation for restructuring intensified, the party had no alternative than to set up a committee to coordinate views across the geo-political zones. However, many were confused two weeks ago when the APC Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said the party promised “devolution of powers”, not “restructuring.” The former governor of Osun State also said there may be vacancy in Aso Villa as the president has not indicated that he will seek re-election. In reaction, the National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdulahi, said Akande’s view was personal, adding that it should not be taken as the opinion of the party.
A factor in disunity is the alleged sidelining of top chieftains in party affairs. In frustration, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who has a presidential ambition, said the marginalisation of some founding fathers was worrisome. To convey an impression of a parting of ways, he criticised President Muhamadu Buhari for poor performance in some sectors. But, Atiku’s criticisms trailed the outburst of the wife of the president, Aiha Buhari. Affirming the allegation of sidelining, she complained that some cabals who were not part of the thorny journey to the presidency have hijacked her husband, thereby preventing previous co-travelers access to him. Many have argued that the obvious sidelining of these critical and experience leaders blocked the route to solutions to some of the challenges confronting the government and the party.
President Buhari rode to power on the strength of the ruling party. However, it appeared the party leadership went to sleep thereafter. Although the party controls the executive and legislature, it has not been able to successfully forge a harmonious relationship between the two organs. Not only has the ruling party failed the test of party supremacy, judging by its experience during the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly, it has also failed in the critical challenge of party discipline. Indeed, there was no sanction for indiscipline and impunity. Also, there was no reconciliation after the rift. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, an opposition figure emerged as the deputy Senate president, despite the lack of alliance or accord between the ruling and opposition parties.
The APC has not successfully confronted the challenge of crisis resolution in its state chapters. Various camps across the states, including Kogi, Kano, Kaduna, Gombe, Rivers, Ogun, Ekiti, Osun and Oyo are working at cross purpose.
After the presidential election, the APC campaign train moved to Kogi. On the eve of victory, its governorship candidate, former Governor Abubakar Audu, suddenly passed on. The election, according to the umpire was inconclusive, despite the fact that the analysis of poll results showed that the APC had won the contest. Many expected Audu’s running mate, House of Representatives member James Faleke, to continue from where his principal stopped. To the consternation of party members, Yahaya Bello, a former governorship aspirant who allegedly worked against the party during the election, emerged as the beneficiary of Audu’s death. The party leadership could not rise above manipulation at critical times. The chapter was thrown into confusion. Although the matter was resolved in court in favour of Bello, he has not been able to unite the party in Kogi. Today, Kogi APC is more divided than it was during supplementary election.
Reflecting on the controversy, Faleke said Bello had carried on as an inexperienced leader, thereby doing utter damage to the party. The option of fence-mending and reconciliation were ignored. “He has never called me once before, during and after the crisis,” said Faleke, who added: “Not at all. But, honestly, I am not expecting any personal overture. Since he became governor, he has not called me. I am not expecting any personal overtures from him because I am a democrat. I felt that the decision of the party was wrong. I challenged it. I went to the court to challenge it and so, we move on. That’s part of democracy. It is constitutional.
“Now, the Supreme Court has said that, if you want to be a running mate, you participate in the primary, which was not part of our law before. It will be very difficult for our electoral system in this country if you are asking that a governorship candidate must choose someone that competed with him as running mate. That means you are causing chaos already. There will be conflict of interest.
“I was not expecting any personal overture. What I was expecting from him was that, while I was in court, I was expecting that the governor would have taken over the party from the Audu/Faleke family. I expected him to have given them a lot of privileges so that by the time I finished at the court, I will be the one struggling to be relevant with party members. He is the one struggling to be relevant with the party members. Governor Wada just owed just three months salaries. We went for elections. We use that three months arrears to campaign against him.
“Today, civil servants say our governor is owing them over 14 months, some six months. Some have not been paid because of the screening method or other things. If that is the case, our party in a nutshell has a long way to go. It will find it hard to crack in the next elections. No amount of money that can be stolen and used to bribe the people that they will obey. Our people are ordinarily republican. This is the first time they are coming to resist because of the campaign method we deployed. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage our success very well.”
During the Ondo governorship election, a war also broke out in the party. The primary was rejected by some aspirants, leading to the setting up of an appeal committee to look into their grievances. Although the panel recommended a new exercise, which Governor Rotimi Akeredolu may have also won, owing to his support base, it was rejected by the party leadership. In rejecting the report of the appeal committee it set up, the party declined to offer explanations. The handling of the primary crisis was condemned by the APC stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who called for Odigie-Oyegun’s. A year after the exercise, a governorship aspirant, Segun Abraham, is still in court, challenging Akeredolu’s victory. Also, party sources said the followers of Akeredolu and Senator Ajayi Boroffice have not put the acrimony behind them, especially in the Akoko axis.
During the recent senatorial by-election in Osun West District, following the demise of Senator Isiaka Adeleke, rebellious party members ditched the APC candidate, Senator Mudashiru Hussain, and supported the APC candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, who won the poll. Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who the dissidents were fighting, was taken aback. Although Osun APC leaders displayed gross insensitivity by not protecting the deceased interest in that period of grief in Ede and environs, what contributed to its electoral misfortune was the decision by some party members jeopardise their party’s bid to retain the seat. There is no evidence to show that the acrimony in the Osun APC has faded as the chapter prepares for next year’s governorship poll.
In Ogun State, there is a concealed factionalisation. Although elder statesman Aremo Olusegun Osoba, the former governor of the state, has returned to the fold after he was pacified at a zonal reconciliation meeting, the peace parley has not led to real renewal of contact between Osoba and Governor Ibikunle Amosun. Succession crisis is brewing in the Gateway State, following the perception among the governorship aspirants that the governor has an anointed candidate, Tolu Odebiyi. The governor’s aide, Soyombo Opeyemi, has dispelled the rumour. But, the governor’s remark that Ogun APC will not permit the aspiration of a t’Ekobo contender, a vague reference to Senator Olamilekan Adeola, has unsettled the senator’s camp. Zoning is also generating ripples in Ogun. While the governor is pushing for power shift to Yewa Division, Ijebu, which is said to be canvassing zoning based on province, is threatening to raise a governorship candidate on the platform of the PDP.
In Kano State, peace has deserted the APC. The rift between Governor Danguje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso. Both parted ways, shortly after the change of baton in 2015. Any meeting of Danguje’s and Kwakwanso’s supporters often degenerated into chaos and violence as both camps are locked in a protracted battle over the control of the party machinery. Close associates of the former governor holding government and party positions have been removed. Although the two principal actors have refrained from the exchange of hot words in the public, their associates have been engaged in accusations and counter-accusations. The national leadership, according to sources, is yet to wade into the logjam. Recently, it was widely reported that a PDP delegation has visited Kwakwanso to woo him back to the party.
In Kaduna, there is no end in sight to the feud between Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Senator Sheu Sani. The senator has positioned himself as the internal opposition leader in Kaduna APC. He has criticised the administration more than the PDP. Adorning the cap of a populist, which he has always been as a human rights activist, Sani said el-Rufai’s style of governance is at variance with public expectation. The senator was suspended by a section of the party leadership, thereby opening a new fiesta of discord.
In Ekiti State, the party is divided into four camps. What has fuelled the party crisis is the battle for the governorship ticket. There is a carry-over of the blame that characterised relations, following the party’s ouster from power in 2014. No fewer than 50 aspirants are struggling for the governorship ticket. Instead of nurturing the party, contenders are strengthening their structures and caucuses, sometimes to the detriment of the party. In recent time, subtle character assassination has characterised unofficial campaigns and rallies among many aspirants jostling for the ticket.
In Akwa Ibom State, the major source of disagreement among old and new members is that latter-day members were considered for federal appointments, without considerations for founding members.
In Rivers, the gulf between Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe may not be unconnected with the recent party congresses. The rift has polarised the chapter. Sources said the senator is still bitter over Amaechi’s preference for Dr. Dakuku Peterside during the 2015 governorship primary.