Walking a Tight Rope

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‎If no steps are urgently taken to address some of the factors responsible for the bickering and outbursts within its rank, the ruling All Progressives Congress may not survive the next election cycle, writes Shola Oyeyipo

As each day passes, the politically savvy are already drawing their conclusions – the probability that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), could go to the 2019 general election as one united party is very unlikely. The predictions by some leaders of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the APC, which was put together by the merger of four political parties, would not be around for a long time could materialise faster than expected.

Aside the recent position taken by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank that the party might not survive beyond 2019 unless urgent steps are taken to rebuild public confidence, THISDAY can reliably confirm that the option of forming a new party is already one of the considerations of the aggrieved APC members.

Last Tuesday, when ‎Frank spoke with journalists in Abuja, he specifically noted that the ‎”revolt” by state governors over recent ambassadorial appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari, and the open protest by one of the party leaders, Bola Tinubu over happenings within the party are clear signs that all is not well with the APC.

Like Tinubu, he also insisted that Odigie-Oyegun’s resignation and the overhauling of the party are the steps that could help save it at this point. This is similar to the agitation that eventually brought the Peoples Democratic Party to its knees when the party refused to heed calls for the removal of its former National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur by party leaders. When Tukur was later removed, it was too late.

Frank said: “The truth is I’m speaking the position and minds of a majority of our party leaders, who believe that the national chairman has to resign and he must resign, whether he likes it or not. I’m not alone in this. At the appropriate time, more leaders will speak out. We have between now and February, 2017. If we don’t harmonise our differences, some of us will have no choice but to take the next step to pursue our political future. If the crisis within the party is not resolved, there will be no APC in 2019.”

Though a section of Nigeria criticised the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, when she weighed in on the ongoing crisis in the APC, berating President Buhari’s actions on the grounds that they are leading to disappointment and frustration among party members, her main concern was that some people in the party are aggrieved and genuinely so, because they prominently laboured for, and helped the APC to power in 2015 and they are now being relegated to obscurity.

Before the main rebellion that might involve millions of Nigerians, the APC government is already contending with gross animosity among some of its formidable members, who are feeling cheated by the flagrant neglect of party supremacy by the “cabal” believed to be manipulating the president.

While the misgivings that attended the recent Ondo State governorship primary of the APC, leading to open castigation of Oyegun by Tinubu was yet to abate, ‎in addition to other underlying grievances which remain unresolved, President Buhari, as if committed to dismantling the fledging party, further incurred the wrath of leaders of the APC over the choice of nominees for non-career ambassadors.

In utter disregard for the place of the party in the government, a larger number among the 23 APC governors are angry because their candidates for the ambassadorial posts were rejected by the presidency as governors, APC leaders and ministers, who are party leaders in many states, especially where the governing party is not in control, were sidelined in the appointments.‎ The issue formed part of the reasons for the recent visit of the APC governors to President Buhari.

In what showed the lack of proper consultation in arriving at the nominees, Pauline Tallen, a former deputy governor from Plateau State, rejected her nomination as ambassador. Though she stated that she would not be able to pick up the appointment because she needed to take care of her ailing husband, truth also is that she rejected the nomination because her choice would disrupt the power sharing formula on the ground in the state. More importantly, she did because her governor was not consulted and pronto, the governor came out to hail her position.

‎Another non-career nominee, Usman Bugaje from the President’s home state of Kastina, also turned down his nomination. Though Bugaje was yet to release a statement on why acted so, the public is fast connecting his action to politics. Some have even reckoned he did because he is unable to defend some of Buhari’s actions, both locally and internationally. And since the job of the ambassador is to clean up the mess of the country and by extension, its leader, he did not find himself doing such “filthy” job for Buhari.

‎Sadly, there is no indication that the animosity gradually brewing in the ruling party is about to go away. The president is not prepared to heed the calls of his party men and some of the affected persons. Already there are insinuations that the former vice president, Abubakar Atiku and Tinubu are considering quitting the APC and join forces ahead of 2019.

Tinubu and Atiku were displeased by the activities of some forces within the party, which led to the emergence of Yahaya Bello as governor of Kogi State as well as the recent Ondo governorship primary, where the delegate list was purportedly manipulated to ensure that Tinubu’s preferred aspirant lost out.

Even where an appeal committee nullified the primary result, Oyegun sent Rotimi Akeredolu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the party’s candidate and this further widened the gulf between ‎Oyegun and Tinubu, with Atiku supporting Tinubu.

‎Though it not clear whether or not President Buhari is backing the “cabal” allegedly manipulating things within the party and government, the main concern of the aggrieved party members is that he has continued to look the other way while the APC forces rely heavily on federal might to perpetrate their acts within the party.

It is no longer secret that a Plan B – an ongoing underground political re-alignment between some prominent figures across the six geo-political ‎regions, who are working to create a new political party to undo those manipulating the Buhari government, is already on. This plan will soon become public knowledge except steps are taken to stem the tide.

That a former governor of Ebonyi State, Senator Sam Ominyi Egwu, recently attested to it that some aggrieved APC leaders are closing ranks with some aggrieved key figures in the PDP to form another strong opposition party to contend with the ruling APC in the 2019 general election is a further confirmation that ‎the plan might come to light soon.

“Let me tell you, this agitation for formation of new party is not only in the PDP, it is also in the APC where some leaders are not happy the way they are treated,” Egwu‎ reportedly noted.

The tendency that the APC may not survive the impending implosion is heightened by the fact that those behind the disaffection in the APC are hell-bent on continuing with what caused Mrs. Buhari to openly express her reservation; trying to dominate the party machinery ahead of 2019 and working tirelessly to cut some persons to size too.

The danger for the APC is that as a collective, it is yet to stabilise ‎and consolidate the interests of everyone, who participated in the emergence of President Buhari as Nigeria’s president. Thus, where Atiku and Tinubu pull out of the arrangement, the handlers of the APC must be making contingency plans.

Such plans must also include spending a lot of money just like the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan did, because if the party would ever record victory in another general election without reversing the current trend, it would be in their dreams.

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Another non-career nominee, Usman Bugaje from the President’s home state of Kastina, also turned down his nomination. Though Bugaje was yet to release a statement on why acted so, the public is fast connecting his action to politics. Some have even reckoned he did because he is unable to defend some of Buhari’s actions, both locally and internationally. And since the job of the ambassador is to clean up the mess of the country and by extension, its leader, he did not find himself doing such “filthy” job for Buhari