APC Sitting on Keg of Gunpowder

Oyegun
Chief John Oyegun

There is a searing problem within the ruling All Progressives Congress in some states of the federation which the party seems to be ignoring which if not resolved may torpedo its ambition to retain power at the centre in the next elections 

|.. By Olu Ojewale  | Aug 11, 2017 @ 1:00 GMT

ALL is not well in the All Progressives Congress, APC. The party which presides over the affairs of Nigeria appears to be sitting atop of gunpowder waiting for explosion if care is not taken. Already, there are indications that the APC leaders cannot speak with one voice, while the recent conventions held in some states have also shown that the party may be heading for serious crisis.

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar on Tuesday, August 1, gave a hint of what may tear the party into shreds when he rebuked the APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and other parties for the lack of internal democracy. Abubakar accused the parties of refusing over the years to hold meetings of their vital organs and those meant for the selection of the leadership of the parties.

At the second annual conference of the Inter-party Advisory Council with the theme, “Inter Party Democracy: A Recipe for Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria” in Abuja, on Tuesday, he said: “A political party that constricts the freedom of its members cannot really offer freedom to the citizens of the nation. Democracy is not just an idea; it is a cultural practice.

“For a number of years now, we have had political parties, even governing ones, which hardly hold meetings of their important organs, including those meant for the democratic selection of their leadership, or even constitute institutions prescribed in their constitution. In the absence of those meetings and elections, their existing leadership, often under the direction of the executive at the state or federal level, fills the void. That’s not party building but party bullying. And it’s certainly not a way to democratise parties and aggregate their members’ opinions, interests and aspirations.”

Abubakar’s message was no doubt a subtle indictment on the APC which has so far failed to hold its convention since coming to office in 2015. In fact, the issue of the party convention now looks contentious. There appears to be no agreement on when it would hold.

Recently, two APC governors disagreed publicly on what is causing the delay in holding the party convention. Contrary to the position of Governor Abdulhaziz Yari of Zamfara State, who is the chairman of Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum, NGF, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who is also the chairman of APC governors forum, has said that the delay in holding the APC national convention has nothing to do with the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Yari had earlier told journalists in a joint press conference with Bolaji Abdullahi, the APC spokesman, on Wednesday, July 19, that the absence of President Buhari had stalled the organising of the convention. Yari was quoted as saying: “We have been on this matter of convention but you know that the president is the leader of this party. One, before getting to the convention, there is some kind of process, the National Working Committee, NWC, must agree on the time and at the same time we have to adopt what the report submitted by the National Working Committee to the larger NEC members which the president must be in attendance as a leader of the party and you know the situation of our president.”

However, responding to questions by journalists after the APC governor’s forum meeting with the Acting President on Thursday, July 20, Okorocha said: “The convention not taking place has nothing to do with the absence of the president or the acting president.

“We are just putting our house in order and making sure things are in the right form before we kick off.

“We discussed a lot of issues on how to move the party forward, how to strengthen the party and how to make sure our party remains victorious in all elections. Very soon we will have a convention. That is part of the things we are discussing,” Okorocha said.

The APC bi-annual convention earlier scheduled for April was postponed indefinitely while state congress took place on July 29, across the 36 states of the federation.

The state congress was, indeed, a revelation as crisis erupted among the party faithful. It, perhaps, accentuated the problems within the party and showed how deep-rooted the party crisis is real is.

In the Kano State branch of the party, the major problem there was caused by the political rivalry and muscle flexing between Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, incumbent governor and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, his erstwhile godfather and predecessor. Both Ganduje and Kwankwaso, now a senator, have been on at each others’ jugular almost since the inception of the current administration in the state.

The crisis is taking its toll on governance as almost all the policies and projects of the previous administration have been abandoned apparently in the attempt to erase the footprints of two-term government of Kwankwaso from the state’s political landscape. Besides, the two are creating tense atmosphere in the state preparatory to the 2019 general elections, when the two giants are expected to slug it out for the control of the soul of Kano State.

The Saturday, July 29, nationwide mini congress of the APC provided an opportunity for the two feuding politicians to demonstrate their strength in their determination not only to control the soul of the party in Kano but also to exhibit their influences within and outside the state. After the congress, Abdullahi Abbas was declared as the chairman of the party to ignite fresh tussle between the Ganduje and Kwankwaso camps. Abbas, a former political adviser and strong associate of Ganduje, was returned unopposed along 14 others as new party leadership at a the delegates congress held at the Indoor Sports Hall of Sani Abacha Stadium.

With the election, Ganduje probably thought that he had successfully taken full possession of the entire party structure and control of the APC machinery in Kano. Besides, shortly before the election, the congress unanimously passed a vote of no confidence on the Kwankwaso’s party structure under the leadership of Umar Haruna Doguwa after which a motion was moved for its impeachment. The congress removed Kwankwaso’s loyalists through voice vote paving way for Ganduje’s associates. Expectedly, members of the Kwankwasiyya movement, an umbrella of Kwankwaso’s supporters and loyalists, were conspicuously absent at the congress, an indication that they had boycotted the event.

But Mohammad Nadu Yahaya, chairman of the congress screening committee, claimed his committee had opened ample and equal opportunities to all the APC members in the state to contest the 15 vacant posts. He denied insinuation that the aspirants who contested and were returned unopposed were agents of a particular camp who were imposed by the state machinery.

Similarly Nwafor Orizu, leader of the APC supervisory delegates from the National Headquarters, told journalists that the congress was specifically designed to fill the vacant seats in the state following the demise of some executive members. On why the Kwankwasiyya group shunned the congress, Abdulsalam Aminu, a leader of the movement, insisted that the congress was illegal and unconstitutional and that the whole process was done in error.

According to Aminu, Umar Haruna Doguwa-led leadership remains the only recognised and duly constituted APC leadership in Kano.

In his words, he asked: “For your information, Umar Haruna Doguwa is the party chairman in Kano and duly so at the APC headquarters. Let me draw your attention to what happened recently, the acting president of Nigeria Professor Yemi Osibajo invited all APC Chairmen in Nigeria for a meeting at the Aso Rock. It was Umar Haruna Doguwa that represented Kano APC. He was duly recognised and accorded all the respect and honour on behalf of Kano. What else do they want?”

Amid the controversy, the NWC of the APC issued a statement denying recognition of the newly constituted APC leadership in Kano State in apparent disregard for the position of Ganduje.

In a statement signed by Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s national publicity secretary, the NWC insisted that the Umar Haruna Doguwa leadership remained the recognised and authentic one for Kano State. The statement said: “The attention of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has been drawn to some media reports that the Chairman of Kano State APC chapter, Umar Haruna Doguwa has been removed from office. We wish to state that in respect of Kano, no such decision has been taken by the NWC.

“Although, we are aware of issues in the Kano State chapter, efforts to find lasting solutions to the problem are ongoing. In view of this, the status quo is maintained until the ongoing process is completed. Party members, stakeholders, leaders and indeed the general public are advised to disregard the false reports.”

Following the rejection of his loyalists, Ganduje reportedly rushed to Abuja, to verify and authenticate what prompted the NWC to issue such counter statement that debunked the new party structure.

While the intervention of the NWC appeared to be on the side of Kwankwaso and his loyalists, political analysts are of the view that the development could have wider implications for the party in Kano State.

The lingering crisis in the Kaduna chapter of APC took a different dimension on Sunday, July 30, when Othman Suleiman Hunkuyi, a senator and Shehu Sani, also a senator, and other prominent members of the party narrowly escaped being lynched by armed thugs who invaded the secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, in Kaduna. But, a cameraman with Liberty Radio and TV station, a private station, who was not so lucky, sustained serious injured while the camera was destroyed.

Sani, Hunkuyi and other top members of the APC faction in the state were at the NUJ Press Centre to address a press conference on the outcome of the recent election of delegates to the APC National Convention when hundreds of armed thugs alleged to be loyal to Uba Sani, special adviser to Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, on Politics, invaded the premises and unleashed terror on the politicians and journalists.

The press conference was being addressed by APC Akida, led by Hunkuyi, who represents Kaduna North senatorial district and Sani, representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, as well as some serving members of House of Representatives.

Hunkuyi, who addressed the conference, alleged that the there was no election of delegates to the National Convention of the APC, adding that the names of those who emerged as delegates were written by an official of the state government. “The list of the delegates was not known to us. The list was fake, so we wrote two petitions to the National Secretariat of the APC and the zonal office to buttress our grievances. We hope the national body would look into our complaints and fix another date.”

Before the press conference by Hunkuyi and his group, the leadership of the party had also addressed journalists at its secretariat, insisting that the delegate elections followed due process and that it was free, credible and fair.

But Salisu Tanko Wusono, the state publicity secretary of the party, said the delegate election was attended by all the party officials from ward level to the state level. He said five officials from the national secretariat of the APC were on hand to supervise the state election, arguing that “we acted within the party’s guidelines as no party member was sidelined.”

However, in a swift reaction, Governor el-Rufai condemned the mob action and promised that nobody would be allowed to stifle freedom of expression in the state. He also directed that security agencies should investigate and take necessary action against the hoodlums.

Atiku AbubakarNevertheless, the crisis in Kaduna State has been largely seen as a tussle for the control of the soul of the party and the state. As it is no longer news that both the governor and Sani have been acting like cat and mouse since the beginning of the el-Rufai administration in the state. The rivalry between them has polarised the APC in the state. Analysts believe the face-off between the two APC chieftains is a fall out of the crisis engendered by the 2015 governorship primary. Both El-Rufai and Sani had governorship ambitions, but Sani was pressurised to step down for the incumbent governor against his will. Since el-Rufai took over the reins of power, Sani has been critical of his administration despite the fact that both of them belong to the same party. Pundits say the crisis has to do with ego.

Besides, analysts believed the current crisis was being fuelled by the winners take-it all policy of el-Rufai. For instance, the governor was alleged to have considered only members of his group for political appointments. They said even party offices that became vacant as a result of political appointments were arbitrarily filled by the governor without conducting election as required by the APC constitution. Other stakeholders sidelined are also crying for justice for peace to reign.

Sani confirmed the genesis of the crisis. He said: “I never intended to contest for the Senate; I wanted to contest for the governorship and I opened offices in Zaria, Kaduna and Kafanchan, and later there was pressure on me that I should step down. Politicians came to meet me that I should step down and allow el-Rufai to contest, because they said he was the favourite of the president.

“I pulled back and said I wanted to contest for the Senate, but there was a sitting senator, General Saleh and I had to evict him during the primary election. I told them in black and white that I didn’t have money to give any delegate, and if they feel okay with my principles, then let them vote for me, but if my principles are not right for them, let them go and vote for the same person that was occupying the seat. They voted for me and I removed an incumbent senator. So, I didn’t contest against a vacuum.”

The crisis reached a crescendo when Sani was suspended from the APC in January 2016 by his Tudun Wada ward constituency. The ward executive said it took the action to suspend the senator because he had made statements that allegedly violate the rules of engagement of the party, factionalised the party, and allegedly engaged in anti-party activities by criticising openly the policies of Governor el-Rufai.

At a point, the APC national secretariat intervened when it quashed the earlier suspension slammed on Sani.

Isa Ibrahim, a party stalwart, said a lot of people were not happy with the governor because of his failure to carry everybody along in the governance of the state. He said: “The crisis in Kaduna APC is larger than what you can see; it goes beyond el-Rufai and Sani. The truth is that a lot of people are not happy with the governor.

“The way forward for us in Kaduna APC is reconciliation. What is happening now is not a war but a campaign of violence. It has been difficult to bring the two leaders together for reconciliation because the leadership of the party is being controlled by the governor. But, the stakeholders have drawn the attention of the party leadership to the inherent danger it portends towards 2019. It is time to put our house in order. Those who can call the governor and the senator to order should do it now.”

el-Rufai
el-Rufai

Analysts believed the leadership of the APC at the national level must step in immediately to save the party from a major catastrophe in 2019. They also advised both el-Rufai and Sani to shed the toga of arrogance and impunity by engaging in the rule of the game as outlined in the APC constitution for peace to reign in the party.

The same could not be said about Kogi State where Governor Yahaya Bello and the state executive of the party, including some senators and other stakeholders have been on war path over the control of the party.

The crisis rocking the state chapter of the ruling APC took another dimension even as the NWC has jettisoned the recommendations of the Tony Momoh-led committee earlier set up to resolve the crisis. The reconciliation committee set up by the APC national chairman to resolve the crisis had, while submitting its reports, blamed the NWC and skewed political appointments among others as reasons why the crisis degenerated.

It was gathered that the NWC , at its last meeting on Tuesday,  August 8, to deliberate on the report of the Tony Momoh-led fact-finding committee decided to set up another six-man panel to further explore avenues for reconciliation in the simmering conflict in its Kogi State chapter.

In the meantime, the 300 pages of materials for documentation submitted to John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman of the APC, by Momoh recommended a win-win for the aggrieved parties in Kogi State APC.

Momoh said: “APC national headquarters’ complicity, all these were areas we broke all the issues into and we discussed them comprehensively and made the recommendations. We met the National Assembly caucus led by Dino Melaye, we met the state assembly, all the members of state assembly and the speaker. We met a state executive committee of the party. We met the Faleke group. We met the governor and his team. Actually, we met with the governor for about three times because the bulk really stops on the governor’s desk.

“Everybody accepts that Yes, he is our governor and chief executive of the state but look at the problems. And we had lots of people coming to testify to what they’ve said the governor had done and lots of others who are supporters of the governor coming to testify about the good things governor had done.

“So, we came to the conclusion that the problem in Kogi State is absence of communication, missed communication or even inadequate communication and there was total breakdown of communication.”

But whether the proposed reconciliation will be allowed to happen by not allowing the already frail nerves to break is left to be seen, especially with recall hanging on Dino Melaye, a powerful senator from the state.

Ganduje
Ganduje

In Ekiti State, Opeyemi Bamidele, a chieftain of the APC and governorship aspirant in the state, assured that the crisis in the state’s chapter of the party would be resolved to afford the party opportunity of approaching the 2018 governorship election with a well-fortified and united front.

Contrary to insinuation that the large number of aspirants may cause rancour in the APC and dim the party’s chances, Bamidele viewed the situation as a blessing than a clog depending on how the primary is managed by the NWC.

Addressing journalists in Ado Ekiti, state capital, on Monday, July 31, after being invested as the patron of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Ekiti chapter, Bamidele said the APC’s primary won’t be won on the basis of emotions but on the antecedents and capabilities of all contestants.

The situation in Lagos State is a bit different. Scores of leaders and members of the APC in Mushin Local Government and Odi Olowo Local Council Development Area, LCDA,  simply took to the streets of Lagos, on Tuesday, July 18, demanding the expulsion of Muiz Banire, SAN, the party’s national legal adviser, from the party over series of anti-party activities and embezzlement of campaign funds.

The protesters led by Femi Martins, a chieftain of the party in the area, said they were constrained to make the demand owing to Banire’s several excesses and public utterances which were aimed at causing public disaffection and electoral misfortune against the party, particularly during the then forthcoming local government election in the state.

Reading from a protest letter addressed to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and copied Mudashiru Obasa, speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, and Henry Ajomale, APC chairman in Lagos, for onward transmission to the national headquarters of APC, Martins said as custodian of the party’s constitution, Banire was well aware of the party’s provisions for direct, indirect and consensus primaries, but he had played to the gallery and publicly accused the party of imposition without exhausting the internal mechanisms already available within the party.

Banire denied all the allegations and threatened to sue his accusers for defamation of character. In any case, the NWC, in its reaction, said Banire should remain in his post.

The decision, would no doubt anger Banire’s opponents in party which, again, has shown that all is not well.

Nevertheless, the APC is also having crisis of confidence in states such as Rivers, Ebonyi, Edo and Enugu.

In Rivers State, the crisis in the state was said to have been caused by the governorship ambition of Magnus Abe, the senator representing Rivers South East, but opposed by Chibuike Amaechi, minister of transportation and former governor of Rivers State. Party officials alleged that Abe had wanted Amaechi to anoint or support him as the next APC governorship candidate in the state for 2019, but when that did not materialise, he resorted to character assassination of the minister whom, according to them, by his judgement, was opposed to his ambition.

Although the rumour making the rounds blamed the rift between both men for the crisis in the state’s party, Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, chairman, APC, Rivers State, however, debunked any such claim, saying there was no crisis at all in the party.

Whether true or false, as the saying goes: ‘there is no smoke without fire.’ In any case, the

stories from the state and many other states seem to suggest that the APC is heading towards a lot of crisis. Factionalisation, realignment of political interests and power struggles have continued to manifest in various states.

This, apparently, has prompted some analysts to warn the party not to allow things to degenerate.  Ben Nnadozie Nnaedozie, a political analyst, said in an interview: “The APC chairman, Chief John Oyegun, and all the party leaders should not allow the trust Nigerians reposed in them to be taken for granted by unscrupulous elements, and overnight progressives, now threatening to turn party politics on its head.”

Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, on his part, warned the leadership of the APC, especially in the South West that the results of the Ekiti and Osun states elections in 2018, would determine the outcome of the elections in Ogun and Oyo states in 2019.

He also warned the party not to underestimate the threat of the Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, who had vowed that the PDP would trounce the APC in the governorship election holding next year. Osoba, who noted divisions among members of the party, advised them to work in unison and jettison their differences in order to win the coming elections.

Banire
Banire

Besides, the former governor said that the APC needed to embrace internal democracy and shun all manner of imposition to strengthen its chances in the coming elections. Osoba said some ex-governors that installed ‘anointed candidates’ became sworn enemies with them months after. “Don’t let us underestimate Fayose. You must fight him. We cannot afford to play with Osun either. Those two states are important. If we can do clear primaries in these two states and APC wins, then whatever happen in Ekiti and Osun must happen in Oyo and Ogun when it gets to our turn to deliver.

“As a party, we have not zoned the governorship seat. There was nothing like zoning of offices in the past. We give opportunity to anyone to aspire, but we have always used maturity to settle it among us. That is unwritten, it is a convention. It is not the rule and nobody will go against the agreement,” he said.

Joe Igbokwe, the APC spokesperson in Lagos, however, said in an interview that the complaints by Abubakar and others about lack of internal democracy showed that Odigie-Oyegun and his executive have a lot of work to do and that they should sit up. He said the party would not allow the crisis to explode and disintegrate the party members like what happened in the PDP.

Good talk. But whether the party leaders would be able to mend their fences early enough to avoid the PDP mistakes is a matter of conjectures.

Additional report by Anayo Ezugwu

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