After more than two years in power and with the next general elections less than two years away, the ruling All Progressives Congress appears to have suddenly realised the need to mend fences, and bring back the aggrieved members to it fold
- By Olu Ojewale
THE next general elections in Nigeria are less than two years away. As such, Nigerians are likely to witness a lot of political activities as politicians try to re-align themselves in readiness for elections. For the ruling party, it looks as if the leaders of the party have now realised the need to put their house in order to retain power in 2019.
So, it is no surprise that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is now on a fence mending mission to keep its members from going to the opposition while it works hard to also retain its supporters.
Indeed, President Muhammadu Buhari seemed to have set the pace when he met individually with some notable members of the party ahead of the APC national caucus meeting which held at the State House Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday night, October 30.
Before the caucus meeting, the president had met behind closed doors with Bola Tinubu, a national chieftain of the APC in the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Even, ahead of the meeting with Tinubu, Buhari had earlier met with Bukola Saraki, the Senate president and Yakubu Dogara, the speaker, House of Representatives.
The two separate meetings between the president and his visitors took place at the new Banquet hall. Although no communiqué was issued after the meetings, it was apparent that they were meant to iron out some perceived differences.
The national caucus meeting, which eventually held on Monday, October 30, was a precursor for the national executive committee, NEC, meeting. It was meant to iron out some grey areas ahead of the national executive committee, NEC, meeting. It had in attendance about 21 governors, members of the National Assembly led by Saraki and Dogara, state chairmen and members of the National Working Committee attended the meeting, the third since the party came into power in 2015. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was absent. He was said to be out of the country.
As planned, the NEC meeting was held on Tuesday, October 31, with all the expected national leaders of the party in attendance, except Abubakar.
Judging from the tone of those who spoke to the press after the caucus NEC meetings, it was obvious that the leadership of the party were able to make some far-reaching decisions to assuage tension and reconcile members ahead of the 2019 elections.
On the resolution of the party at the national caucus meeting, Governor Solomon Lalong of Plateau State, said the APC leaders had the meeting to resolve all the grey areas, and that from now on a brand new APC devoid of wrangling would emerge.
“I want to assure you that you won’t see any wrangling after the meeting. From now onwards it will be focused governance from Mr. President and all the governors from the states. We have all resolved to support Mr. President,” Lalong said.
Echoing Lalong’s position, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, described the caucus meeting as a turning point in the life of the APC. He said: “From the caucus meeting of last night (Monday night), we can see light at the end of the dark tunnel. APC is coming out of the woods and we are set to take over the nation like we have always done. It is going to get better and better.” He assured that there was silent reconciliation going on within the party that would put the party in good stead in 2019.
The meeting similarly afforded the governors the opportunity to show their solidarity with Buhari. In unison they all endorsed the candidature of the president should he be willing to contest for a second term in office.
Indeed, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State said he would give the president his support based on his “sterling performance.”
“I think for APC members, it is a democratic party, but the performance of the president in the last two and a half years suggests that if he wants to contest, I will certainly support him and I know that our party members feel the same way about him,” he said.
For Governor Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa State the greatest asset Buhari has is his acclaimed integrity and impeccable character which, according to the governor, have endeared him to Nigerians.
However, Almakura said any consensus arrangement that did not follow a democratic process would not be pleasing to the president.
“For anybody to pre-empt the opinion of the people is to say the least not fair to the vision of our party. I can tell you that if there is anything that is clandestine, the president will not honour it, so let’s wait and see as we embark on these meetings.
“I believe the consensus and the preponderance of opinion of all party members will be what is good for this country,” the governor said.
What seemed like a clandestine move to pass a motion to earn the president an automatic ticket to re-contest had to be shelved when the president observed that the move was premature.
To douse tension, the party said it had not started consideration of offering an automatic presidential ticket to Buhari to contest for a second term in the 2019 presidential election.
The decision, apparently, would assuage the likes of Bisi Akande, a former interim national leader of the party, who had earlier ruled out a possible automatic ticket for the president to contest the 2019 presidential elections.
But that did not take the shine off from the governors as the party resolved that they should be leaders of the party in the respective states. In the same vein, the party resolved to work towards reconciling all aggrieved persons and to reunite members in readiness for the 2019 general election.