JOHNCHUCKS ONUANYIM writes on the plethora of crises rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2019 general elections and what it portends for the ruling party
Two months to the general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) seems not to have put its house together for the polls. The ruling party seems more divided than united. This was not so three years ago, when it was in opposition and defeated the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The major threat today might not be the opposition party but the internal wrangling in APC.
That there is no cohesion in APC is an understatement. Every member of the party is aggrieved one way or another for one injustice or the other. The only binding force according to most members of the party at the moment is President Muhammadu Buhari. Members of the party who are aggrieved over the leadership of the party would say they are still in APC because of the President.
Such persons are numerous to mention. They include the Governor Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara); Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu; Minister of Niger Delta, Usani Uguru Usani; Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, among other party chieftains and members.
In fact, the list of those still in APC because of Buhari and not because of the ideology of the party is endless. Ironically, some persons believe that the political stature of the President has been fractured. To this class of persons, the perception of the person of Buhari in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 cannot be said to be the same today.
The belief that Buhari has shed some political weight as a result of his three and half years in governance is evident on the fact that some of those who campaigned for him are expressing regrets.
Staunch believers of President at some point have expressed their disapproval of his governance style. In this group are the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former Minister of Petroleum, Prof. Tam David West and his long time ally, Engr. Buba Galadima as well as other notable opinion leaders in the North.
Though it might not necessarily be the fault of the President that things are not working as expected, but people put the blame on him. Those who hold those view, are of the view that he never believed that a leader has limitations.
Before Buhari was voted into office in 2015, he was a role model to so many in terms of leadership qualities hence he enjoyed a kind of cult-followership. But some observers believe that the story is not the same at the moment.
Another issue the APC is confronted with as it approaches the elections is the credibility of members of its National Working Committee (NWC). The present NWC was elected on June 24 but it seems to have been rocked by crisis more than the one it succeeded, which stayed for four years.
Some party members said this had to do with the leadership style of the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. They cited an instance of the planned removal of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki for defecting to the opposition PDP.
The defections of Saraki and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogora were major crisis that party members and political pundits believe were not properly handled. Instead of reprimand, the duo received sympathy and support from outside and even within the party.
As the leadership of APC was battling with the defections and removal of the leadership of the National Assembly, the party entered into the primaries. Oshiomhole and NWC members made promise of return tickets to the federal legislators. The promise was aimed seeing to the removal of the Senate President and the Speaker. The party, however, did not consider the interest of other party members aspiring for National Assembly seats.
It was the in the confusion of looking for who to satisfy that the party’s leadership tinkered between direct and indirect primaries as well as consensus.
The inability of the party to adopt a particular mode of primary made members and other leaders of the party to view activities of the NWC with suspicion. In fact, some persons accused the Oshiomhole-led NWC of bias in adopting the mode of primaries. According to some party members, the decisions of the NWC members to stagger the primaries at will, was wrong. In some states, different methods of primaries were adopted for the governorship and National Assembly primaries.
For instance the DG of VON, Okechukwu, who was Enugu West Senatorial aspirant, questioned the rationale behind the decision of the NWC to change the mode of its primaries midway. The party in the state adopted the indirect primaries before the leadership of the party cancelled it and changed it to direct primary option.
The controversy over the primaries opened the party to all kinds of litigations. Members who felt they have genuine cases against the party decided to approach the court and instituted court cases against the party and members.
With such cases in court, it would be difficult for the party to have harmony and work in unity. Some party members believe that the outcome of the litigations in court might not be favourable for the party as the court may upturned so many decisions taken by the party and that has started happening.
A federal high court in Abuja penultimate week declared Ikechi Emenike as the winner of the Abia State APC governorship primary. The party had earlier declared Uche Ogah as the winner and candidate of the party.
To stop this drift was the reason the party after the NWC meeting, issued a warning to members who had taken the party to court. The NWC threatened to invoke the provisions of the party’s constitution that stipulates that no party member should take the party to court without exhausting the internal mechanism of conflict resolution. But, to many party members, is like beating a child and asking the child not cry.
There is hardly any state that there is no litigation against APC and its leadership. However, the President and leader of the party has given his nod to aggrieved party members to seek justice in courts.
The President, through his media aide, Femi Adesina issued the statement countering the position of the NWC on party members going to court to seek redress. According to the President, the court should be the last hope for any aggrieved party.
The position of the President in the opinion of some members the party runs contrary to the provisions of the APC constitution and jeopardizes the decision of the leadership to instill discipline in the party.
However, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, rose in defence of the President as he has stated that he was not working at cross purposes with the party. According to him, the President believes that party members have a right to approach the court after exhausting the internal mechanism of conflict resolution.
Also a chieftain of the party, Waziri Bullama, said the position of the President did not in any way undermine the decision of the NWC. According to him, the intervention by the President was to stabilise the party, so that people would not think that the leadership is autocratic.
The arguments, notwithstanding, APC is viewed as a party with internal problems more than external. The national chairman, who seems to admit this fact, explained that it was as a result of the premium on the party’s ticket.
According to Oshiomhole, four years ago, there was less crises in the party because not many people wanted to associate with it.
The APC national chairman, who spoke, while inaugurating the National Peace and Reconciliation Committee said: “Four years ago, around this time, we were in opposition and therefore, the value of our ticket was certainly not near where they are today. More women and men of conviction now subscribe to contesting election on our platform. I believe that to our collective credit, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is our candidate in the next presidential election, assisted by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, we have all worked very hard and we have been very well led by Mr. President.
“As they say, you can never underestimate the power of example. We have not solved the problems of Nigeria, but those with good memories will have no difficulties in comparing the previous 16 years of PDP rule and the past three and half years of this administration.”
Going forward, observers are of the opinion that the NWC members should be reconciled. There is no doubt that the members of the NWC are divided over one reason or the other. Recently, the APC National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala, in a letter to the national chairman, accused him of usurping his functions. This allegation has not been address as it ought to. The national chairman rather said that legal adviser should understand that he is the Chief Executive Officer of the party.
To most observers and analysts, for APC to do well in the next elections, President Buhari, the national leaders of the party, NWC members and the Peace and Reconciliation Committee must address with sincerity, the issue of reconciliation. Where there might be need to make genuine commitment, the party should make to assuage all nerves.
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