The All Progressives Congress (APC) is having a tough season as frictions among its leaders, appear to be forcing realignments from within and outside the party ahead of 2019, writes EMAMEH GABRIEL
The governing All Progressives Congress (APC) rode to power at the center, barely 3 years after its multi-party coalition that pushed aside the self acclaimed largest political party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But today, the APC is in the eye of the storm. With the evolving internal power tussle within it ranks, can the APC write its future story?
There were predictions of doom days awaiting the APC from some quarters after the coalition in 2013, which eventually brought the party to power in 2015.
Three years after, the party has however managed to put up a united front.
But would it be for long? Although the seed of discord rocking the party was sown during the tussle for who gets what position, shortly after the famous 2015 victory, the crisis appears to have evolved into who takes what and how, ahead of the 2019 presidential race.
There are signs that there is an ongoing realignment among aggrieved members of the party, their loyalists and other forces outside the APC to wrestle power from the power that be and shift the party’s machinery to some power brokers ahead of 2019.
Interestingly, some analysts perceive that the tensions within the party have always been along lines of the defunct merger party of ACN, CPC, ANPP, part of APGA and New PDP.
How it all started
The ongoing crisis between the national chairman of the party John Odigie-Oyegun, and the former Governor of Lagos State, Ahmed Bola Tinubu has its root in the power tussle at the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly on June 9, 2015.
While its seems that the ACN ANPP, CPC blocks were consolidating on power within the party ahead of the formation of the NASS leadership, the New PDP camp felt left out.
With President Muhammdu Buhari, openly declaring that he would work with whomever emerged as leaders of NASS, it became an open affair.
On the day of the inauguration, APC had adopted, in a mock election, Senator Ahmed Lawal and Femi Gbajabiamila as Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives respectively. They had tried unsuccessfully to prevent the participation of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker, Yakubu Dogara in the contest.
But that was their greatest undoing as Saraki and other Senators elected under the platform of the APC, against all odds, formed a coalition with PDP Senators conducted an election that saw the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Senator Ike Ikweremadu as Senate President and the Deputy Senate president deferentially.
Similarly while same was playing out at the Green Chamber with Dogara emerging as Speaker, the party leaders and other incoming lawmakers were at the International Conference Centre, (ICC) venue of the meeting only to be informed that the damage had been carried out already with Saraki and Dogara already with new designation, apparently irreversible now.
Tinubu was said to be behind the adoption of the botched plan to install Lawal and Gbajabiamila as concession candidates but from the outcome of the election at NASS, it is evident that Tinubu is getting increasingly emasculated in the larger scheme of things within the party he helped to birth.
Next was the outcome of the Kogi State guber election. The intrigues surrounding the emergence of the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello, also emasculate the former governor, who was said to be instrumental to the pairing of Late Abubakar Audu, the original candidate and Hon James Faleke, whose ambition to become the guber candidate after the death of Audu was rejected by the party.
However, Tinubu’s recent outburst and scorching attack on the APC National Chairman, exposed some salient issues that have raised concerns in some quarters. Analysts believe that the party chieftain might not be having his way in the affairs of the party any longer as he is accustomed to. It is becoming obvious that the party hierarchy is alienating him.
At the moment, the National Chairman of the party is shrugging off impressions that he is battling to save his job. The concealed anger of Tinubu and other stakeholders of the party had detonated against him.
For some, Oyegun’s perceived sins had been piling up. From his lukewarm attitude to enforcing the mock election of the party for NASS seats, which cost the party the Deputy Senate President seat, to his handling of party primaries, he has my had it easy.
Tinubu and other powerful forces within the APC echelon have consistently tongue-lashed Oyegun for allowing Saraki and Yakubu Dogara took over leadership of the National Assembly under his watch.
The Edo born politician and former governor of Edo State has also been blamed for the manner the Budget Padding scandal and Saraki’s corruption trials have played out.
It is obvious that Oyegun is not in the good book of most stakeholders in the APC.
The ‘‘Oyegun must go’’ simmering recently made public is not new; it is long overdue but the APC primary in Ondo State rekindled it.
Tinubu had waited for the best opportunity to strike and the outcome of the Ondo primary provided him a perfect opportunity to unleash all the venom he seemed to have nurses against Oyegun.
Tinubu’s candidate for the Ondo Governorship election, Michael Olusegun Abraham, had lost out to Rotimi Akeredolu who was believed to have the backing of the national chairman, Oyegun. Tunubu had alleged that Oyegun had played a trick with the National Working Committee to rig the election in favour of his anointed candidate.
In the inner APC circle, Oyegun is frequently ridiculed for his inability to put his foot down in the face of any amount of pressure on him to go with the party’s plan.
But it appears the presidency is not readily buying into the remove Odigie-Oyegun campaign just yet. If anything, the cosy relationship the national chairman enjoy with the seat of power still continues. What’s more, the national chairman appears to enjoy a backing from the ANPP/CPC camp of the party.
An APC Board of Trustees (BoT) member, Hajiya Fatima Mohammed has spoken in defense of Odigie-Oyegun.
She described the call for the national chairman’s removal as laughable, saying “when I read it, I laughed. APC is a merger of four and half political parties. They are defunct CPC, ANPP, ACN, new PDP and half of APGA. So it cant be business as usual. You can’t say because you don’t like my face and so I can’t be. In the era of ACN, He was the alpha and omega of the party. He could do whatever he likes. But APC is a national Nigerian party. So no individual can get it the way he or she wants.”
She further passed a vote of confidence on the leadership of Odigie-Oyegun.
“The national chairman of our party, that I know is a man of integrity. I worked with him for three and half years in the national working committee of defunct ANPP. He was deputy national chairman. While I was national financial secretary. And all the time we had problems in the state he was the one that solved the problems. He would proffer advise to solve the problems.
“Because we worked closely at party level, everybody knows of his excellent record as a permanent secretary in this country before he became governor of Edo State. He has high level of integrity.”
However the likes of deputy national publicity secretary of the party, Timi Frank, see things differently. For them, the national chairman has not lived up to expectations.
Tinubu is already beating the drum to build public support both within and outside the APC. In his words; “If Tinubu is to choose between John Oyegun and progress toward a better Nigeria, the choice has already been made.’’
Tinubu had in one of his press statement released recently that the National Leader position given to him, though he accepted it with all humility to serve the purpose of the party and the country, was a Greek Gift.
While Tinubu is flying the kite for the removal of Oyegun as the National Chairman of the party, there are those already throwing their weights behind the campaign. Tinubu has almost lost relevancy in the decision making body of the party he helped build to take over power from the largest political party in Africa in 2015. He lost in his first attempt to install his loyalists in leadership at the National Assembly and the outcome of the Ondo primary may further provoke his ambition to realign with other political forces ready to lend their fangs for a shift in the political equation in the APC.
Aregbesola and Fayose
It came to many as a surprise when Tinubu’s henchman, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state, visited Governor Ayodele Fayose in Ado-Ekiti.
What’s more, Aregbesola had described “Fayose as a reliable person” and that in spite of political differences, he and Fayose shared many things in common, and that “sooner than later, there will be realignment of forces’’.
Although the APC in the state swiftly condemned the visit labeling it as contempt for the party’s leadership in the state, no sanction was carried out on the Osun State Governor. Aregbesola was in Ado-Ekiti at the instant of an invitation from Fayose for the 20th Year Anniversary of Ekiti State.
While Aregbesola’s visit to Fayose is still raising questions from some quarters, Fayose’s recent press release in Tinubu’s defense has further lay credence to speculations that Tinubu has something up his sleeve.
Fayose had in a press statement released through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and News Media, Lere Olayinka, accused leadership of the ruling APC of not only trying to humiliate and reduce the political influence of the national leader of All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu but also that of the Yuruba race at large.
In his words: “humiliation of Tinubu is also humiliation of the Yoruba race’’. “Yoruba leaders must be protected.” The governor said further, “even though I am not a member of APC and I will never be, I have been elected to stand in defense of the Yoruba nation, once again by saying no to the continuous dishonourable treatment being meted to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, having paid his dues.”
“If Tinubu is allowed to be embarrassed and disgraced just the way our past leaders were humiliated by these same elements, the Yoruba nation would have been made to suffer for uprightness’’.
Fayose continued, “when other tribes protect its own, it is becoming historically common among the Yorubas to allow themselves to be used against their leaders just for momentary political gains at the expense of the collective interests of the Yoruba nation. “Tinubu is a prominent stakeholder, we should not sit back and watch while those he used his own sweat to make conspire with others to humiliate him’’, he added.
Femi Fani-Kayode joins in
The former Aviation Minister was the least expected to interfere in the crisis between Tinubu and those he described as ‘‘small cabal of power-brokers’’ in the APC. Fani-Kayode also accused the APC and the Buhari administration of orchestrated plot to push Tinubu away after all he (Tinubu) had sacrificed for the party. To Fani-Kayode, the former Lagos State governor who was used as porn was responsible for the creation of the APC and its subsequent victory at the 2015 presidential election, thus he deserves a footing space in the party.
‘‘And neither does this matter begin or end with the way and manner in which the Ondo state governorship primaries were conducted or its final outcome’’, said Fani-Kayode who added that the crisis between Tinubu and Oyengu ‘‘goes much deeper than that and the Ondo affair is only symptomatic of a much deeper malaise and wider conspiracy to humiliate the National Leader of the APC by forces within his party that are even greater than him’’.
‘‘Those forces represent the hidden hand. They are a small cabal of power-brokers who constitute the leadership of the Buhari-led CPC. These people believe that they were born to rule and that they own Nigeria’’.
‘‘They simply used Tinubu’s old ACN as a compliant and ready piggy-back to catapult their way back to power and once they achieved that they never looked back’’.
‘‘That is their way. It is also a classic and vintage Nicollo Machiavelli move. He (Machiavelli) tells us that the first thing that a Prince must do once he has achieved power is to destroy those that put him there. And that is precisely what those that seek to do Tinubu in are doing’’.
Fani-Kayode further expressed disappointment that it is ‘‘not just Odige-Oyegun that has turned his back on him but also his former political protegees and former ACN associates like Tunde Fashola, Ibikunle Amosu, Kayode Fayemi, Biodun Ajimobi, Olorunimbe Mamora, Niyi Adebayo, Rotimi Akeredolu and numerous others’’.
‘‘Their objective is to establish a new political order in the south west which is beholden to them alone, to replace Tinubu as the National Leader of the party and to utterly demystify and crush him in order to prepare the ground for the emergence of a new and more compliant Yoruba running mate for either Buhari himself or El Rufai in 2019’’.
Just when many thought there was silent rivalry between Tinubu and the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the later’s reaction to the Ondo saga put a while new perspective to the tussle within.
It is gathered that the two heavy weights were eyeing the chairmanship of the party’s BoT.
But Atiku seems to be riding in the same boat with Tinubu now. The former Vice President was one of those the presidential ticket of the party eluded during the party’s convention as result of Tinubu’s influence then. But the both of them may have found a common ground for realignment.
Atiku has continued to make his position known from some of his recent articles, challenging the status quo. After the fallout from the Ondo governorship primary election, Atiku who made his position known in a statement by his media office said the APC was supposed to be an impartial entity in the arbitration of crisis among its members in any given election.
In the statement, Atiku said, “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’’.
Northern leaders pass vote of confidence on Buhari
In a different twist, northern leaders led by a former Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spoke on behalf of the northern elders at the Northern Group’s Summit recently organised by the Northern Elders Forum in Kaduna.
In the summit, they reiterated their unflinching support for President Muhammedu Buhari if presented himself for Presidency in 2019 despite the avalanche of criticisms the president is lashed with daily due the harsh economy situation the country.
“Today, we meet in Kaduna in a vastly-improved security atmosphere, with the Boko Haram sect pinned to enclaves. Some will say thank you to President Buhari; we will say, you have delivered on one of your promises, which was to improve our security.
Baba-Ahmed said despite the current economic woes in the country, the North did not make mistakes in voting for the President, adding that ‘‘those who are disposed to listen please listen. Northern votes were not wasted in electing President Buhari.
“In 2019, we will also use our votes in a manner consistent with our interests as northerners. We did not make a mistake in putting up a solid, united front as northerners in spite of our ethno-religions differences.”
Could be recalled that few weeks ago, a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Ahmadu Ali affirmed that Nigerians will vote for President Muhammadu Buhari if he decides to present himself for another term in office.
In all, what this portends is that new factions of alliances are already putting weights together to either retain power or grab for a change of the status quo. Will the APC survive the imminent battle steering at it?
What next for APC?
Odigie-Oyegun will be issue as long as the tussle lasts but whether or not he is the brain behind Tinubu’s ordeal, remains a conjecture.
Also while it is hard to predict whether or not Tinubu will have his way with the removal of the APC national chairman, analysts believe that the rising crisis of confidence within the party remains a cause of immense concern.
So far, Tinubu still represents the voice of the APC in the South West politics today.
There are concerns that the simmering friction, if not contained early, might affect the pace of progress in the Buhari administration. The party’s chances at the ballot in 2019 will most likely also depend on how the crises in the party are managed.
The expectation is that the APC and its leadership would be mindful of the fact that the battle is serious and capable of endangering the reputation of the party; those behind the bickering must be rational enough to call themselves to order and proffer solutions to the issue at stake.