Except something urgent is done, the crises in some state chapters of the All Progressives Congress are serious enough to undo the party in the next elections, writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has been managing intra-party crisis within its ranks for some time but it appears the situation is getting out of hand each passing day. From the South to the East, West and North, the national leadership of the party has not been able to completely wriggle out of most of the conflicts that have tended to pit its members against each other in the past. The case of the bitter squabble amongst the members of the APC National Assembly caucus comes to mind, ditto the power tussle amongst the political gladiators in the ruling party at the centre.
It took the leadership of the party rather too long before arresting the situation. The party also had battle with complaints and agitations over the handling of governorship primary in some of the states, where elections took place in recent times. Although such internal squabbles among the contending forces had not really caused much damage to the electoral interest of the APC, it nonetheless had put the ruling party on the edge.
The disquiet within the party has also been heightened by agitations trailing appointments made by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. A good number of the party stakeholders from the various states controlled by the APC have come up with complaints that the way the appointments were made did not favour those who actually laboured for the victory the party recorded at the polls.
In the same vein, the recent state congresses ordered by the party leadership as part of preparations for its non-elective convention had sparked off crisis and is compounding the already tense situation. At least, as at the last count, no fewer than ten states controlled by the APC are currently engulfed in one form of crisis or the other. Some of the states where the party is presently experiencing intra-party crisis include, Kano, Ondo, Rivers, Kaduna, Bauchi, Kogi, Ogun, Bayelsa, Edo, Lagos and Adamawa.
In Kano, the tussle is between the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso. What started like a mere face-off between the governor and Kwankwaso later spilled over to the leadership of the state chapter of the party, leading to the suspension of the state chairman and Organising Secretary. The suspension of the two men believed to be loyalists of Kwankwaso by the committee set up by the partyâ€™s National Vice Chairman, and headed by Senator Mohammed Magoro has since sparked off more trouble in the state executive.
Those loyal to Kwankwaso have rejected the committee report saying the men were being punished for supporting the former governor, now a senator from the state.
A group loyal to Kwankwaso, and led by the National Treasurer of APC, Alhaji Bala Muhammed Gwagwarwa recently petitioned the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, urging him to step into the crisis in the state chapter and reverse the sack of the state party chairman and the Organising Secretary. They accused the National Vice Chairman (North West), Inuwa Abdulkadir of bias in favour of the governor. In its response, the National Working Committee asked the warring parties to return to status quo ante to allow for further reconciliation.
The crisis in the Kogi State chapter of the APC has three key actors: the governor of the state, Yahaya Bello, senator representing Kogi West district, Dino Melaye and the state chairman, Alhaji Hadi Ameato. The crisis has since snowballed into a major issue, recently leading to a plot to recall Melaye from the senate by some members of his constituents, believed to have been sponsored by the state. It has also caused fracas in the state House of Assembly as loyalists from each side of the divide battled to control affairs.
In a bid to resolve the crisis in the state, the leadership of the APC set up a reconciliation committee headed by the former National Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mr. Tony Momoh. In their report, the committee blamed the lingering feud on the absence of a cordial relationship between Governor Bello and the party in the state. The panel also attributed the festering crisis to alleged high-handedness of the governor in dealing with other party leaders.
Other reasons given by the panel included poor stakeholdersâ€™ consultations, lack of political reconciliation with Audu/Faleke group, arrears of workersâ€™ salaries and internal security. The panel also said some members accused the governor of dictatorial tendencies and of carrying out continuous membership registration without consulting or relating to the party leadership in the state.
In the end, the Momoh-led peace committee failed to reconcile the warring parties in Kogi. Another committee was therefore set up and headed by Idris Garba with others like Umar Kareto (North east), Rufai Garba (North west), Don Etiebet (South-south), Paricia Etteh (South west) and Joseph Orji (South-east). This too is yet to yield positive result.
Similarly, intra party crisis has enveloped the Kaduna State APC. The arrow-heads in the conflict here are the state governor, Malam Nasiru el-Rufai, and Senator Shehu Sani. The two gladiators have been involved in a power tussle but what blew open the conflict was the recent conduct of state congresses in all the states.
Following alleged manipulation of the congress, some top leaders of the APC from the state stormed the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja to register their displeasure. The aggrieved stakeholders led by two serving senators, Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi, met with the National Chairman of the APC and the National Working Committee behind closed doors, where they submitted a petition demanding the cancellation of the exercise in the state.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Hunkuyi said APC in Kaduna State was gradually collapsing and that unless the national leadership intervened urgently, the party might die.
â€œWe, the leaders of the APC from Kaduna State, have come to the national secretariat to lay our complaints to the national leadership on the just concluded congress to elect ad hoc delegates for the national convention. Unfortunately, elections did not hold in Kaduna and this culminated in the manufacturing of results that were presented to the election committee chosen to conduct the exerciseâ€. Kaduna is still battling with its problem.
Bauchi State chapter of the APC is presently witnessing a power tussle between two political heavy weights from the area, Governor Mohammed Abubakar of the state and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara. While the governor has most members of the state executives of the party on his side, Dogara has almost all the lawmakers from the state in the National Assembly to his side.
The two sides have accused each other of non-performance. However, at the heart of the crisis is the tussle for the control of the party structure ahead of the 2019 general election. Like the case in Kogi State, the APC national leadership had set up a peace and reconciliation committee. The peace panel, chaired by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, was mandated to identify reasons for the crisis and to reconcile the feuding parties. The peace move is still a work-in-progress.
The Six Othersâ€¦
Apart from the five states above, there are six others like Rivers, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Edo, Lagos and Ogun States, where the conduct of the state congress had triggered crisis and for which the party is battling to contain. For instance, the brewing crisis in the Rivers State chapter between a former governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and Senator Magnus Abe is caused by a clash of interest, which has been linked to the control of party structure ahead of the 2019 elections.
While speaking on the formation of peace committees, Oyegun said the calibre of personalities chosen for the assignment is a reflection of the seriousness with which the party takes the disputes in the states.
â€œIt is clear that in a few of our states, we have fairly serious issues to contend with â€“ Kogi, Bauchi and to some extent in Kano. There are differences in a few other states but probably not of the magnitude that we have in these states.â€
In Bauchi State, Oyegun said that there are differences between the state administration and most of the representatives of that state in the National Assembly.
â€œKogi is an equally very challenging assignment in the sense that it has a history behind it. The circumstances that led to the emergence of the Governor of Kogi State also have to be considered a factor. The unfortunate manner of the transition of the leader in that state also has a bearing on it.
â€œSo, it is not only an emotional situation, it is also a highly sensitive situation that you are going to confront. It also has very serious implications for party discipline in Kogi, because we have the unusual situation of a party pitting itself against its own government.â€ The truth is that the crises in some of state chapters of the APC have lingered for a while and in some cases, threatening to engulf the national leadership. In addition, some notable personalities in the party have either been suspended or expelled by the local chapters of the party even without referring to the national leadership of the party, like the case in Lagos in which the ward executive recently announced the suspension of the partyâ€™s National Legal Adviser, Dr Muiz Banire, over alleged anti-party without recourse to the national leadership.
Sadly, the intra-party crisis have continued to defy solution at least at the moment as all the peace efforts including those of the reconciliation committees set up by the party have failed to reconcile the warring parties. This is certainly worrisome for the party as the situation is beginning to have adverse effect on the plan of the ruling party to organise its non-elective convention, which is already overdue.
Concerned by this ugly trend and as part of preparation for its non-elective national convention, the NWC has decided to set up a committee to resolve all outstanding issues in order to forge a united front, going to the convention.
In a statement issued by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party said it had also ordered a reversal of all actions taken as a result of the internal crises, leading to suspensions of party leaders and other members.
What this means is that the party is undertaking fresh intervention initiatives to resolve the disputes before going to the national convention. But with the huge threat posed by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the APC leadership will no doubt be hoping to leverage on the image of President Buhari to put its house in order to catch up with lost grounds.