APC Mending Fences ahead of 2019

Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

 

 

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.

Tinubu
Sen. Bola Tinubu

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.

Rochas Okorocha
Gov. Okorocha

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.

One of the major areas where the party seemed to have failed is its repeated inability to convene its mid-term non elective national convention since it came to power. For this, the party had continued to draw flaks from some party chieftains following its inability to hold the convention in April as formerly suggested. But the party leadership had attributed the delay to the health challenge of President Buhari, a situation that saw him out of the country for a long time.

By its default in holding national convention the APC has been violating the Article 25 (A)(i) of its constitution which stipulates that “the National Convention of the Party shall be held once in two (2) years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee and approved by the National Executive Committee subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission and at least fourteen (14) days notice given to members eligible to attend.”

“The Convention is used to ratify policies and programmes of the Party; elect or remove the national officers of the Party; Elect the Presidential Candidate of the Party; Amend the Constitution of the Party from time to time as the need may arise among other issues.”

Since October 2014, when it held its last convention in Lagos, the APC has been finding it difficult to hold another convention.

While briefing the press after the NEC meeting, Bolaji Abdullahi, the national publicity secretary of the APC, disclose that the meeting approved the setting up of a committee to help fix dates for all activities leading to the party’s mini-convention and elective convention.

As part of the package to pacify the aggrieved party members Buhari yielded to pressure to retool the federal cabinet so as to inject fresh ideas that would improve governance.

Apparently responding to agitations by his party members who had complained of being short-changed in appointments, the president in his opening speech at the NEC meeting, said he would expand the cabinet to accommodate more supporters of the party, whom he said would inject fresh ideas into the government.

He equally promised to make public soon appointments into the boards of federal government parastatals.

The president expressed regrets that the boards of the parastatals had not been constituted two years after he made the promise and blamed the delay on the committees saddled with the responsibility of ensuring equitable representation on the boards across the country.

“Last year, I said we would reconstitute the boards of parastatals. I most regret the fact that we have not done so for many reasons. Some of us in this meeting may know I had given instructions since October 2015 for this exercise to start.

“But there have been inordinate delays through several committees in an attempt to get the balance right and to make sure all parts of the country are equitably represented.

“On the other hand, I am keenly aware that our supporters are very eager for these appointments to be announced. By the Grace of God, these appointments will be announced soon, especially now that the economy is improving, we will have the resources to cater for the appointees.

“By the same token, the compressed Federal Executive Council will be expanded to bring in more supporters at the federal level with fresh ideas to be injected into the government,” he said.

Buhari, who thanked the party leaders who had prayed for him while he was undergoing treatment for his illness in the United Kingdom, also expressed gratitude to John Odigie-Oyegun, the party’s national chairman, other party leaders as well as members of the National Assembly, including the opposition whom he said “rose above petty party interests and acted in the national interest.”

He also thanked the state governors whom he said maintained unity and tolerance among their communities in the face of the stiff challenges confronting them. He then reeled out what he described as the achievements of his administration.

According to the president, the government progress has made progress in the fight against Boko Haram and other areas including peace in the Niger Delta, regular fuel supply, improved power supply, agriculture and the fight against corruption.

All these, he said had improved the reputation of Nigeria among the comity of nations. Besides, Buhari said Nigeria was now creditworthy as the country’s Eurobond was four times oversubscribed.

Irrespective of the progress made so far, the president said he was not unaware of the challenges before him.

“We can be proud of our achievements in the last two years – Boko Haram, Niger Delta, regular fuel supply, improved power supply, the TSA (Treasury Single Account), agriculture and fertiliser, and above all the knowledge that corruption will not be tolerated in this government. We all know there is change…

“Nevertheless, we are not resting on our achievements. I am quite aware of the challenges before us.

“Let me thank you all again for the commitment and dedicated service to our party and to remind you that much more will be required of you in the coming months,” he said.

Buhari also reminded the party that unity in the party would be to achieving greater goals. “I hope we can continue to depend on you. If we remain united and rise above petty or personal quarrels we will surely achieve the desired change in the country,” he said.

Acknowledging the rising tensions within the party, Buhari noted that was sometimes easier to manage failure than success. “I would like to start by commending our party leadership, chaired by Chief John Oyegun. The chairman and I worked harmoniously during 1984-85 in a previous government. Happily, circumstances have brought us again to positions of leadership in the country.

“I want to thank Chief Oyegun and his staff for steering the party in the last two and a half years. Sometimes, it is easier to manage failure than to manage success — and a big success such as that we have achieved,” the president said.

Oyegun
Chief John Odigie-Oyegun

At the same meeting, the leaders of the party passed a vote of confidence on the national chairman. The endorsement was somewhat a victory for Odigie-Oyegun who had been facing serious opposition from some party leaders, especially Tinubu who had openly called for his resignation in the wake of Ondo State governorship election which the party won last year.

It was believed that Tinubu had been gunning for Odigie-Oyegun’s ouster, which probably prompted the president to meet with the two leaders separately ahead of the caucus meeting.

Besides, on Monday, October 30, protesters stormed the party’s main office in Wuse, Abuja, demanding that the national party chairman step down.

That notwithstanding, Bukar Ibrahim, a former governor of Yobe State, said contrary to media reports of divisions in the party, the conflict in the party was not as serious.

“Remember you saw it in some of the newspapers that our crisis had deepened; APC is going to break, there is a plan to kick out our national chairman – none of these things happened.

“It is a big family reunion and we are all happy and this party is going to dominate the Nigerian political space for a very long time to come. I don’t want to predict any number of years,” Ibrahim said.

In the same vein, Lauretta Onochie, the personal assistant to the president on Social blamed members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who defected to the APC in the build up to the 2015 elections for being a liability to the Buhari led-administration.

At the Second Annual International Conference of the Progressive Solidarity Forum, PSF, said the defectors who constituted more than 50 percent in the present administration had become a bad influence to youths in the country, who she said, had been turned into organs of transmitting hate speech and raining abusive words and insults on the policies of government to discredit its work against corruption. She said they were the ones giving the government a bad name.

“They are everywhere; they are in the presidency, they are in the National Assembly, you can find them in the judiciary, they are in the law enforcement agencies, they serve their personal interests, they encourage our unsuspecting youths to be their foot soldiers on the social media to abuse and curse people while their own children are sipping tea in America, in England or elsewhere. They are a bad example to our youngsters on social media,” Onochie said, adding: “Corruption is everywhere, it stinks and unless we all begin to fight it and join the president to fight it, corruption will kill this nation.”

Kayode Komolafe, deputy managing director at ThidDay newspapers in his column, entitled, ‘Buhari and Prospect of Reboot’ argued that the APC had left things for too late in time for the party to do all the needful.

He wrote: “Yet, in the last few days, some activities taking place in Abuja would seem to be an attempt to reclaim the momentum lost way back in the first six months of the administration. The President told his party chiefs yesterday that more ministers would come on board and boards of parastatals and agencies would be constituted. You wonder what is the political wisdom in waiting for 29 months to constitute those boards, which have statutory roles to perform in making the agencies function.

“Meanwhile, party members desirous of being appointed in the boards increasingly get alienated.”

In any case, Komolafe believes that it is not too late for the government to rally people back for the party.

He wrote: “If the Buhari administration likes to embark on visioning, it should ask the critical question: why is it that rather being reduced, poverty has exacerbated in the land despite the visions and strategies of the past? The administration should provide a compass for the team to work with by articulating a strategy of development beyond executing random projects and contracts.

“The economic team of Buhari should ponder why past efforts at visioning did not work as expected. It is important to look back since the dominant voices in Abuja seem to be echoes of the recent past about “liberalisation, privatisation and foreign investments.” Similar voices have been heard in the last 30 years in the name of the Structural Adjustment Programme of former President Ibrahim Babangida, Vision 2010 under Abacha, the National Empowerment and Economic Development Strategy, NEEDS, of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Transformation Agenda of Jonathan. Some lessons should, therefore, be learnt from our recent economic history.

“The Buhari admiration has lost valuable time. The foregoing ought to have been settled in the first six months of administration when it was preparing to the take-off.”

But whether the new-found realignment and reconciliation would help the government to refocus itself and be a people oriented ahead of the coming election is very hard to place. As it is, even some of the party loyalists are also sceptical of what the future holds for the party, which suddenly alienated itself from the people.

Be that as it is, it is apparent that the APC will need more explanation to do to convince its members that to reach out to Nigerian voters that the party remains the best option to care for their needs.

 

– Nov 3, 2017 @ 14:45 GMT |

 

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