In less than one year of its ascension to power, the ruling All Progressives Congress is bedevilled with internal crises. Unless these crises are contained early enough, the party’s chances of returning to power in 2019 might be limited.
The APC was formed in 2013 following the successful merger talks by four opposition parties. The parties are the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressives Change, All Nigeria Peoples Party and a section of the All progressives Grand Alliance.
With the successful merger talks, the first in Nigeria’s political history, not a few Nigerians and indeed the nation’s democratic watchers saw in the APC a ray of hope and an alternative to the Peoples Democratic Party, which had held been in power at the centre since 1999 when democracy was restored in the country.
The APC lived to its billing when it defeated the then ruling PDP at the centre, the first in 16 years, and went ahead to win many states. It currently controls 25 out of 36 state governments.
However, since the historic victory, the party has been grappling with one crisis or the other with the most challenging being the emergence of a set of leaders of the bi-cameral National Assembly the party did not endorse.
The Saraki challenge
Against the calculations of the leadership of the APC, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives on June 9.
The party had two days earlier at a shadow election nominated Ahmed Lawan, a senator from Yobe State and George Akume from Benue State, as its choices for the positions of Senate President and Deputy Senate President.
It also endorsed Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State for the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Mohammed Munguno from Borno State as his deputy.
However on the day of the election the unexpected happened. While most of the APC lawmakers and the party’s leaders were awaiting the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari at the International Conference Centre for a meeting ahead of the exercise, Mr. Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State, was shockingly elected into the position.
Mr. Saraki’s ascension was largely facilitated by senators of the PDP, a party on which back he was governor of Kwara State for eight years and senator for four years.
Mr. Dogara later emerged speaker though through competitive election in which he narrowly defeated Mr. Gbajabiamila. Lasun Yusuf became Mr. Dogara’s deputy.
Expectedly, the development jolted the leadership of the new ruling party. But perhaps more painful to the party was the election of a PDP senator, Ike Ekweremadu, as Mr. Saraki’s deputy.
The APC, in a statement by its then spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, said the exercise was “totally unacceptable” and that it was the highest level of indiscipline and treachery.
“Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Dogara are not the candidates of the APC and a majority of its National Assembly members-elect for the positions of Senate President and House Speaker,” the party said.
Explaining that it organised a straw election to nominate its choices, APC said it would re-establish discipline in the party and mete out the necessary sanctions on all those involved in what was nothing “but a monumental act of indiscipline and betrayal to subject the party to ridicule and create obstacles for the new administration.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement, said though he would have preferred that the process of electing the leaders as initiated and conducted by the APC had been followed, he was ready to work with the leadership of the new National Assembly, noting that “a constitutional process had somewhat occurred.”
Subsequent moves by the APC to get Mr. Saraki to accept its choices for appointment as principal officers of the upper legislative chamber, also met a brick-wall.
In the House, Mr. Dogara managed to accept Mr. Gbajabiamila as the majority leader, after some initial resistance.
Since the election, the APC has not remained the same. Although Mr. Dogara enjoys some peace having cooperated with the party to some extent, the same cannot be said of Mr. Saraki, once regarded as the beautiful bride when he alongside 10 other PDP senators defected to the party.
If Mr. Saraki had hoped the matter would fizzle out with time, he was grossly mistaken. Indeed the kitchen got hotter for him.
Some months later, precisely in September 2015, the government of which he is third in hierarchy, filed corruption charges against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
In the 13-count charge, the senate president was accused of corruption and false asset declaration while he ruled as Kwara governor between 2003 and 2011. Mr. Saraki described his arraignment as political persecution arsing from his emergence as senate president.
Mr. Saraki has unsuccessfully made desperate bids to stop his trial. But in that predicament, the APC as a party has yet to lend one of its own a helping hand.
His ally, Abubakar Baraje, a former acting national chairman of the PDP, says the senate president’s ordeal was capable of tearing the party apart.
“Most of the distractions were created by APC itself. For instance, the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who heads an important arm of government, is not getting the necessary support from the party because a few people think they are more important than others.”
The angry Mr. Baraje, who led the “New PDP” to fuse into APC in 2014, alleged that the kind of impunity, lawlessness and divisive tendencies, which led to the downfall of the PDP, now reigned supreme in the APC.
He asked Mr. Buhari to ‘shine his face’ and save the party from the hands of a few people who, according to him, thought they were more important than every other member of the party.
The APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Timi Frank, had identified Mr. Saraki’s trial a major source of crisis in the ruling party.
“The issue of the senate president is still lingering; nobody is saying anything at the national level, but I tell you, any Nigerian that knows will tell you very clearly that with the body language of our party as of today, if we are not careful, we are going to lose our popularity.
But the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, has ruled out the any form of intervention in the Saraki saga.
“People don’t seem to internalize what change is,” Mr. Oyegun told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview.
“If the president says ‘court, free that man” the same president can say “court imprison that man.” Is that the Nigeria you want? No, change means allowing the law to take the proper course.
“I can tell you the president will not interfere. The president is definite, straight and firm in all facets.”
Yet, the crack in the national working committee of the ruling party has become very evident and poses a grave danger to its future.
Of late, Mr. Frank has consistently waged a war against the other members of the committee who it accused of lacking in capacity to move the ruling party forward.
He claims that there are internal disputes in the APC despite the attempts of its leaders to project an image of cohesion.
“It will be a very big disgrace that we have hands that are not competent at the centre to harmonise the aggrieved persons and make us to move forward,” Mr. Frank said.
Although he belongs to the PDP bloc of the APC as Mr. Saraki, Mr. Frank’s grouse, party sources offered during the week, was the refusal of his colleagues in the leadership of the ruling party to confirm him as a replacement for Mr. Mohammed, who has since left to take up the job of information and culture minister.
In any case, he was immediately countered by the National Secretary of the party, Mai Mala Buni, who said “the bogus and misleading allegations are unnecessary distractions to the party’s resolve to fully support the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to deliver on the motley promises made by our great party to the electorate.”
The scribe stated further, “The APC national leadership remains united and solidly committed to the task of bringing cohesion to the party at all levels.”
Party leaders, divergent views
But a closer look at the recent events in the ruling party could lend credence to Mr. Frank’s claim of “too many divisions.”
Recently, a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the party was scheduled to hold a day after that of the National Caucus was held at Presidential Villa last month.
At the meeting, a new chairman of the BoT was expected to emerge. However, the parley failed to hold and it was announced that it had been postponed till the following week on the eve of the meeting of the national executive committee.
Party sources said at the national caucus meeting, the APC leaders including Mr. Buhari, who was in attendance, failed to agree on the choice of either former Vice President Atiku Abubakar or former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, both of who signified their intention to occupy the position.
Consequently, a decision was taken to change the name from Board of Trustees to “Council of Elders.” The intrigues that followed that decision made it impossible to convene the meeting of the BoT or Council of Elders till date.
Indeed, it was learnt that the interest of various blocs of the party, namely the ACN, CPC, ANPP and APGA, surfaced at the meeting.
But the festering crises in the party are not limited to the national level. The drum of war is also beating in some states where party members are at dagger drawn with each other resulting in the factionalisation of the chapters.
In Kano State, the governor, Abdullahi Ganduje is at war with his predecessor, Mr. Kwankwaso, now a senator, over the control of the party.
The feud between Mr. Ganduje, the only deputy who succeeded his principal after the general elections last year, and Mr. Kwankwaso, came to the fore a few weeks ago when the former governor paid a condolence visit to his successor.
The senator had arrived in a private blue -stripped airplane at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, to the waiting embrace of his teeming supporters.
By the time his convoy meandered its way and arrived in Ganduje town, where the governor was waiting to receive him the story had changed. The whole place had been turned into a political carnival as Mr. Kwankwaso’s supporters caused human traffic amid praises on the man from Abuja.
This did not go down well with the governor who soon perceived that his predecessor’s visit was not just a condolence visit but a power show of sort.
Evidently instigated by Mr. Ganduje, the state party chairman, Umar Doguwa, announced the possible suspension of Mr. kwankwaso for sponsoring “violent rally” during the visit.
Mr. Kwankwaso was soon to fire back. A statement by his camp and signed by Yunusa Dangwani, said the former governor refrained from visiting the state since May 29, 2015 when he handed over to Mr. Ganduje in order not to interfere with the state’s affairs.
The statement further warned Mr. Ganduje to desist from dragging the name of President Muhammadu Buhari to cover for his administration’s “obvious weaknesses”.
The APC national secretariat, which waded into the matter, asked the two feuding men to embrace peace.
“This is an internal matter between two friends, between two brothers and these differences unfortunately have developed between them,” Mr. Odigie-Oyegun told a delegation led by a House of Representatives member, Ado Doguwa.
“All of us, all the party, the totality of the party, must unite behind our chief executives, the president and the governors. So, we are going to do everything we can to resolve the issue amicably.
But the intervention did not yield fruit. Although, Mr. Ganduje expressed willingness to reconcile with Mr. Kwankwaso, the state executive committee of the party suspended Mr. Doguwa and the Organising Secretary, Sunusi Suraj, accusing them of gross misconduct.
In the neighbouring Kaduna State, the war drum started beating soon after the party came to power last year.
The governor, Nasir el Rufai and the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, do not see eye ball to eye ball.
Mr. Sani publicly frowns at some of the governor’s policies, which he said were alienating the people and attracting anger and condemnation on APC and at those associated with the party.
He has repeatedly asked the governor to know that he is presiding over human beings that have suffered enough and must not add to their hardship.
“I do not mean anything harmful or bad to him,” the senator once explained.
“I feel pained; in some parts of Kaduna today, you will see groups of people sitting down and saying they regretted voting for APC and even some of them came out to be praising Ramalan Yero (former governor) and other PDP people.
Many, including the governor’s camp, cannot separate Mr. Sani from his previous gubernatorial ambition plan and his desire to contest the governorship election in the state come 2019.
Perhaps so! The senator had reportedly planned to contest the governorship election last year but was prevailed upon by some elders who asked him to suspend his ambition for Mr. El Rufai.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Sani gave a little insight into what happened. According to him, the governor reneged on the promise he made to him after the primaries and the general elections.
The feuding political gladiators are yet to mend fences even as the national secretariat looks the other way.
In the north central state of Kogi, the APC house is also divided following the disagreement that trailed recent governorship election in the state.
A former governor of the state, Abubakar Audu, who was the party’s candidate in the November 21, 2015 election, was already coasting home to victory when he died.
His running mate, James Faleke, a sitting federal lawmaker, demanded he should be allowed to take Mr. Audu’s place and conclude the electoral contest, which had been declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
But party national leadership thought otherwise and gave the ticket to Yahaya Bello, who had come second to Mr. Audu in the primary election.
That action sowed the seed of discord in the state chapter of the party as it is yet to recover till this day.
Mr. Bello won the re-run quite alright but the Faleke camp refuse to give up, not even when the former offered the latter the deputy governorship slot.
Mr. Faleke, who refused to show up for swearing in as deputy at the governor’s inauguration in February, is currently in court where he is asking the tribunal to declare him winner of the election.
Down south the story is the same. The APC in Bayelsa State broke into two factions barely three months after it lost the governorship to the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson of the PDP.
About two weeks ago, a section of the state working committee of the party, suspended its governorship candidate in the December 2015 election, Timipre Sylva, and four others for alleged anti-party conducts and other reasons.
A statement jointly signed by the APC chairman in the state, Timipa Orunimighe and secretary, Daniel Marlin, said the decision to suspend the five was taken at an emergency state executive meeting of the party after due consultations with its senior officials and elders in the state.
They said they “took the painful but necessary decisions to suspend our guber’ flag bearer in the 2015 elections, Chief Timipre Sylva,” pending the investigation of the cases brought against him, including anti-party activities, attempt to form a parallel executive committee in the state and corruption.
The suspension of Mr. Sylva and others was evidently a reaction to an announcement a day before by a faction loyal to Mr. Sylva suspending Messrs. Orunimighe and Marlin as well as the deputy state chairman of the party, Eddy Julius, for alleged misconduct and embezzlement.
The two factions have since taken their cases to the national headquarters of the party.
But unlike the crises in other states, that of Bayelsa State has become a matter of litigation.
Other states where there are pockets of crises include Delta and Yobe. Crisis in Ogun is imminent following the return of former Governor Olusegun Osoba to the APC from the Social Democratic Party.
No infighting in APC – Oyegun
But Mr. Oyegun told PREMIUM TIMES during the week that there is no crisis in the party.
“There are differences in views. Interests differ. Some feel they are not sufficiently rewarded or consulted. So, it happens. We are just one year in power.
But Mr. Frank insisted there is.
“If anybody should tell you there’s no division even at the national level, they’re telling lies. I can tell you there are issues; there are very critical issues.
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