In this piece, ANDREW ESSIEN examines the remote and immediate causes of the recent outbursts within the All Progressives Congress (APC) as its national leader calls for resignation of the national chairman.
The rumble arising from the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primaries in Ondo State climaxed last week, presenting a forecast into a likely larger tussle within the party at the national level.
The recent vituperation of the national leader of the party and former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu against the national chairman of his party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun penultimate week not only came to many as a surprise but also affirmed the speculations that had been rife over the past months that all may not be going well within the ruling party.
However, the outburst by Tinubu was predicated on the decision of his party’s leadership on the Ondo State governorship primary election crisis.
Tinubu outrightly accused the Oyegun-led NWC of breaching the party’s good pledge in a most overt and brazen display especially as regards his decision on the Ondo primary election crisis.
He said the ruling party is critical threatened by people who managed to be in the party but are never of it, lamenting that despite the party’s quest for good democratic governance, it is under serious destruction by those who do not mean well for it.
The intensity of the outburst by the famed national leader of APC was instructive, packing a punch that sent shivers down the party’s spine.
Party members, across inclinations, were drawn into a political amphitheater, where party gladiators were set to throw jabs, clearly over contentious evolving issues.
For pundits however, this was more than just words of caution. It was an expression of frustration or disappointment in the way the power play in the party was turning out, almost to the detriment of some party stalwarts, even though a school has posited that nothing much happens without the support from and or of the presidency.
Fault lines, perceived along lines of the party’s merger, manifested almost immediately after its victory at various levels (federal, state and local governments levels) last year. No sooner had the party formed government at the center than the flavour that had endeared many and kept the party together, gradually began to lose its savour. It put to test the crisis management ability of the party.
The first sore point was the way the party handled the National Assembly leadership tussle. The inauguration of the 8th national assembly on June 9, 2015, which produced Senator Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate and Hon Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker, House of Representatives, respectively as against the preferred candidates of the party, had no doubt, cracked the APC, somewhat.
Pundits argued that “anointed candidates” from the Jagaban who arguable had put in “an arm and a leg” to ensure that the party won the elections at all levels were shelved, while the party stood by.
Since that election, the development is still being greeted with mixed reactions as to the legality and acceptability of the process that produced them.
In fact, the bone of contention was and still is the inability of the APC leadership to rein in its lawmakers to agree on the choice of their candidate. Moreso, the leadership did not come out on time on the choice of candidates.
Analysts aver that the party dilly-dallied and when candidates had already expressed interests and gone neck-deep in campaign, it then dawned on the party leadership to conduct a straw election which produced senators Lawan and George Akume, as supposedly the “preferred” candidates for senate president and deputy respectively. By this period, the party had already been polarized.
The shadow election conducted for members of the House of Representatives further widened the crack. The party’s preference for Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to emerge as Speaker, was met by a resistance from pro-Dogara group.
Pundits also believe that President Buhari’s position to work with whoever emerged at both chambers, paved the way for all the interested parties to throw their hats into the ring. It provided the fuel for the keen contest thus, when the party tried to impose a candidate on them, it was stiffly resisted.
Jolted by the outcome, the party and other party bigwigs had refused to recognize the officers, a position they have since vacated even as a group had asked Ekweremadu to step down as a condition to recognize Saraki’s leadership.
The ripples created by that standoff still resonates within the party.
At another level, the intricate politicking that played out in Kogi State, accentuated the battle within. The death of the APC standard bearer, Prince Abubakar Audu, created both a political and judicial logjam, the kind that the framers of the constitution had never envisaged.
While many had thought it was an open and shut case, the same could not be said in the race to fill the vacuum so created. Behind the scene however, it was touted in some quarters that the Jagaban (as he is often referred to) had tacitly endorsed Hon James Faleke, who was the running mate to the late Audu, to succeed the late candidate.
Audu’s death, pundits say, robbed Tinubu of the chance of having a sure foot in Kogi politics as Audu had been his political ally since 2011 when he dumped the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and contested the governorship ticket under the platform of ACN.
In the governorship ballot in Kogi on November 21, Tinubu recommended Faleke, a House of Representatives member representing Ikeja Federal Constituency of Lagos State to Audu as his running mate. But Audu died while the coasting to victory at the polls. But election had not taken place or were cancelled in 91 polling units with 49,953 registered voters.
But the emergence of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the incumbent government shattered political calculations as he was sworn in as the 5th executive governor of Kogi State.
On face value, it looked as if nothing had happened because some members of the political class never gave him any opportunity to survive the holocaust.
While Faleke kicked against Bello’s emergence, the party’s national leadership maintained its support for Bello. The Supreme Court, however sealed their fates with a judgement that legalized Bello’s mandate.
The contentious hotbed and the mother of all so far, is the unfolding Ondo case. The controversies surrounding the party’s guber primaries in state has remained a thorny issue as the gale of rejection that accompanied the governorship primaries of the state. Several aspirants distanced themselves from the result of the primaries.
The issues that snowballed into a full blown media war started after former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu emerged as the governorship candidate of the APC in Ondo State.
Akeredolu polled 669 votes to defeat Dr Segun Abraham, the ‘anointed’ candidate of the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who got 635 votes. Twenty five aspirants contested the election.
It was alleged that aspirants at the venue of the election agreed to work against the interest of Tinubu and allegedly directed delegates in their camps to vote for a particular aspirant. This was even as Chairman of the primary election committee and Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, described the exercise as a peaceful and successful one, noting that delegates comported themselves well all through the exercise.
He lauded the aspirants for ensuring that peace reigned in the party and the state during the exercise, stressing that the election supervised by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was free, fair, transparent and credible.
From that point, the crisis of confidence heightened as an aspirant, Olusola Oke, on alleged irregularities in the process.
Mr. Oke said the governorship primary, which returned Rotimi Akeredolu as winner, was fraught with malpractices. According to him, over 500 illegal delegates were included in the list of delegates, while authentic voters were denied the opportunity to vote.
Resulting from all these, Asiwaju Tinubu, asked the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to resign without delay and the target, from the look of things, may not want to leave without setting the records straight.
In fact, Tinubu pointedly accused Oyegun of treachery in in the conduct of the primary election for the party’s candidate in the Ondo governorship election.
His media office in a well publicized statement accused Oyegun of sabotaging the will of democracy in Ondo State by overriding the decision of the Appeal Committee that asked for a fresh governorship primary following investigations that showed that the delegates’ list used had been tampered with.
Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has however said he would not join words with the National leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, over the allegations leveled against him.
Interestingly, Tinubu got support from the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, another strong force in the party.
The former Vice President had in a statement decried the decision of the national chairman to jetition the recommendation of Ondo Appeal Panel in favour of Chief Rotimi Akeredolu.
Atiku said “the party leadership should always be guided by respect for the rules, fairness, equity, neutrality and respect for democratic consensus.”
He contended that since the APC found veritable reasons to review the outcome of the gubernatorial primary election it conducted in Ondo State, and was able to establish valid grounds to cancel that election and call for a fresh one, the decision to deviate from its own resolution is a negation of due process and an unfashionable hollow in democratic best practices.
“It was wrong for the APC to have set aside a resolution it had reached aimed at resolving the crisis in our party in Ondo State. It is a recipe for acrimony and division.”
The former Vice President also said that pretending a problem doesn’t exist won’t make that problem go away, and therefore, advised the leadership of the party to do a soul searching and address why this problem arose and escalated.
The APC chieftain charged the party on the promotion of rule of law and due process in the conduct of its affairs noting that they are germane to the unity and stability of the party.
Before now, the party’s crisis management skills had served, such that it had measurably contained inevitable conflict of interests among its members.
Where this leaves the party is anyone’s guess and the impact it may have on the state election can only be best imagined even as the clock ticks away.