Monday Discourse

Internal wrangling, ‎non-compliance with its constitution, and absence of leadership are some of the signals that the ruling party is toeing the same destructive path that led to the downfall of the Peoples Democratic Party, writes Shola Oyeyipo 

The All Progressives Congress (APC) is indeed an extra-ordinary party. It is the party that defeated an incumbent. Not a mean feat in this part of the world. 

This was the first time in Nigeria’s political history that an opposition political party unseated a governing party in a general election and one in which power transferred peacefully from one political party to another. 

However, it appears that the party was formed for the purpose of defeating Dr Goodluck Jonathan because after ‎achieving this feat, the party has been struggling to remain united.  

Apart from its inability ‎to manage itself, the government formed by the party has also not been able to meet the yawning and aspirations of the electorate. This has led many to wonder what happened to a party that promised so much but delivering so little.

Apparently, the party’s strength is also its weakness. ‎Formed in February 2013, the party is the result of an alliance of Nigeria’s three biggest opposition parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – which merged to take on the ruling PDP.

Having achieved the purpose for which it was established, the party appeared not to have given adequate thought to what would happen after the election.

A chieftain of the party in Ogun State, Chief Bode Mustapha warned that his party was beginning to make the same mistake the Peoples Democratic Party made. He said: “Let us face it. When APC was coming, the mantra at that time was ‘Any Other But Jonathan’ (AOBJ), but that had come and gone. Now, the PDP is trying to put its house in order. Now, APC is beginning to make the same mistake that PDP made.”

Mustapha pointed out that one of the mistakes APC is making is imposing candidates and depriving party members the opportunity to chose the person they wanted.

Although the party has continued to manage the various power blocs that are spoiling for a show down by avoiding to hold some of its statutory meetings, this is not a sustainable tactic.  

Admirers of the party have waited endlessly for the party to get its acts together, consolidate on its unprecedented 2015 presidential elections victory and bring about the change it promised. But going by events that have characterised the activities of the party since it assumed power, such expectations are likely to wait much longer because of the discordant tunes within the rank and file of the party.

Indication that all is not well in the APC is evidenced in the fact that the party has continued to flagrantly flout some provisions of its constitution by not holding some of its statutory meetings some of which include the national caucus, the National Executive Council (NEC) and the National Convention 

For instance, while article 25 of the APC constitution expressly specified that “The National Convention of the party shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee and approved by the National Executive Committee,” but the mid-term convention earlier fixed for April 2017 has since been aborted twice, purportedly due to the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari who was away for medical reasons.

The inability of the operators of the party machinery to hold a convention has no doubt constituted a source of concern for party members, hence the promise by the National Working Committee (NWC) that a national convention would hold not later than the first quarter of 2017 but after the mid-term non-elective convention earlier slated for April had been postponed, no new date has been announced.

Many members of the party are dissatisfied with the way the party is being run while others who wanted to join the party are also being discouraged.

Mustapha again explained how bad the situation is when he said: “Again, having had the experience of being a member of the National Working Committee member of the PDP, while PDP was in power, the national exco meetings were always held, national caucus meetings were always held statutorily, NEC meetings were always held, and we NWC members who were running the party, met every week, but today and I think, what has caused that is because APC was hurriedly put together, without any ideology, without anything whatsoever, just to say, like I said earlier on, Jonathan has to go because the damage done to the economy, and to this nation, was enormous and we didn’t know it was this bad and it was only a snippet of it that we had. So, I agree with you, that the party is being run like a fiefdom.”

The convention is an important platform in the political calendar of every party, not only is it the highest organ of the party, it is mandatory, provides room for self-reappraisal and re-evaluation. During invention, vacancies at all levels of the party arising from deaths, appointments and others are filled by delegates elected to participate while the national leadership of the party is also elected at the meeting. 

The convention also provides a platform for power plays among the party heavy weights especially those with ambition. If it had been held it would have provided an opportunity for the president’s men – the ‘Abuja Boys’ as they are known in some quarters and other notables like former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who is already projecting his presidential ambition; former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is believed to have been edged out of scheme of things in the APC, Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso to mobilise their base and strategise for future election.

Truth is, whenever the convention holds, these major forces are expected to position their interests. The 2019 presidential election and the soul of the ruling party will be the motivation for the gladiators in the APC and in the light of current events in the party, it is going to be quite intriguing.

In fact, as far back as March 2017, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has watched with dismay APC’s refusal to hold a mid term convention within the stipulated time frame prescribed by its constitution. INEC has kept its silence on the issue, fuelling suspicion as to whether the commission would have the will to take on the ruling party on the issue.

Already, there is a constitutional crisis looming in APC as it struggles to agree on a date for its National Executive Committee meeting preparatory to the now overdue mid term convention. 

In what many consider as a direct result of the cold war between the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and some forces within the party, his National Working Committee has not really been favoured by some power brokers within the party and as such there have been battles of wits for  the control of its national secretariat, a situation that would play out when the convention eventually holds.

The Underbelly in APC

If there is one thing that political observers of the situation within the APC agreed upon, it is the fact that there is a widespread disaffection within the party. However, many of the aggrieved parties appear to have resolved to stomach their disenchantment till the right time before they speak out. A simple pointer to that was the outburst of the First Lady Aisha Buhari, who alleged that some cabals have taken over the presidency

The root cause of the fault lines in the party is simply that the APC started on a faulty note of incompetence in the sharing of the national offices. The problem started immediately after the presidential election when the leadership of the party was unable to collectively arrive at how to distribute the national offices.

An agreement that was worked out by the NWC which allocated principal offices of the National Assembly to the various geo-political zones became contentious and was marred by intrigues. It was because the party failed to take charge that the opposition PDP had the opportunity of participating in deciding how the four top positions in the National Assembly would go. This was what led to the takeover of the leadership of the National Assembly by dissident elements within the system. 

While the party preferred the duo of Senators Ahmad Lawan and George Akume for the office of Senate President and Deputy Senate President, the pair of the APC’s Senator Bukola Saraki and the PDP’s Senator Ike Ekweremadu eventually clinched the two leadership positions. Similar scenario took place in the House of Representatives where the party preferred Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Mohammed Moguno as speaker and deputy speaker, but they were defeated by the unofficial candidates of the party, Yakubu Dogara and Lasun Yusuf. These developments polarised the APC from the onset and also brought into the fore the fact that the party was constituted by strange bed fellows..

The 2919 Presidential Race

Another hurdle that the APC must cross which is capable of exposing the degree of fragile peace in the ruling party at the slightest opportunity is the 2019 presidential election. While it is yet unclear whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari, despite his health challenges would be considering a second term after 2019, there are members of the president’s party who are eyeing his job. Others who are not seeking to be president fear that if the party presents an ailing candidate it may lose the election. Yet, the shenanigans within the party will not allow such a voice of reason to prevail. 

Already former Vice-President Abubakar, who was the second runner up at the last presidential primary of the APC has already tactically indicated his desire to take over from Buhari.

That much the Minister for Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan said when she said that she would rather go with Atiku in the 2019 election.

“Let me tell you today that if Baba said he is going to contest in 2019, I swear to Allah, I will go before him and kneel and tell him that ‘Baba I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve your government as a minister but Baba, just like you know, I will support only Atiku because he is my godfather. If Atiku said he is going to contest.”

Though the minister later apologised to her party for the opinion which she openly expressed, the truth is that some underground scheming is already on among the party bigwigs who have been left in the cold by the party. As 2019 draws closer, the party risks an implosion. 

The Tinubu, Kwankwaso Travails 

Another formidable power bloc in the APC is the Tinubu-Kwankwaso bloc and both men have had not too good experiences since the last presidential election. The crisis reached it climax on Sunday, September 25, 2016 when Tinubu demanded the resignation of the national chairman, Odigie-Oyegun.

The former governor of Lagos state accused Oyegun of engaging in undemocratic actions in Ondo State, particularly by sending the name Rotimi Akeredolu to INEC against the decision of the appeal panel that recommended a fresh primary for the governorship election in the state. 

In what reminds one of efforts by former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to breed new political allies while he jettisoned those that brought him into power, there has been a gradual but well-coordinated plot to reduce Tinubu’s influence in the party  by forces within the APC as the groundswell towards  the 2019 presidential election continues. 

In Kogi, Ondo and at the National Assembly levels, Tinubu’s interests were stampeded. Not only that, his former allies like former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola; former Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi: APC National Legal Adviser, Mr. Muiz Banire with whom he has apparently fallen out, were appointed ministers into Buhari’s cabinet without his input. Those at the helms of affairs seem to have resolved to whittle down his influence in the party he sacrificed so much to bring about and give it electoral victory.

Just as his Lagos counterpart, Kwankwaso, a serving senator has been at loggerheads with his successor, Governor Umar Ganduje in Kano state. In fact, in March last year, the leadership of the APC in Kano State initiated moves to suspend him over what it termed anti-party activities. Kwankwaso who came next to Buhari in the APC primary still has his eyes on the presidency and he is still not a push over in northern politics. 

Atiku Cries Out

Recently, Atiku Abubakar, accused Buhari’s government which he said he helped into power in 2015 of scheming him out.

Abubakar’s accusations at the government came same day Aisha Alhassan, said she would support the former vice president even if Buhari runs for election in 2019.

In an interview on the Hausa Service of the Voice of America, VOA, Abubakar said he had been side-lined despite his efforts in making sure that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was defeated in 2015.

He said, “Honestly speaking, I’m still a member of the APC; I was part of all the processes, including campaigns until success was achieved.”

“But sadly, soon after the formation of government; I was side-lined, I have no any relationship with the government, I’ve not been contacted even once to comment on anything and in turn, I maintained my distance. They used our money and influence to get to where they are but three years down the lane, this is where we are.”

He applauded the president on the successes recorded so far in the fight against Boko Haram, but said it was not yet time to celebrate and jubilate because a lot is yet to be done and “the ruling government had failed in many fronts.

“Yes, there were successes but not comprehensive success because the Boko Haram miscreants are still very active, killing our people and many local government councils in Borno and Yobe are under their firm grip. People cannot dare go back to their dwellings” 

“This thing baffles me; I never imagined that Nigeria will fight a protracted battle with Boko Haram for five years. At a time, we fought the Biafra war, which was more complicated because of the terrain in the South but the Biafran soldiers were roundly subdued in 30 months. But here we are, fighting an endless battle with the Boko Haram and there’s no end in sight”. 

Abubakar said little was achieved on corruption asking “How many people were arrested, prosecuted and jailed? How much was recovered from the looters?” 

The Discordant Tune

The signal that intrigues will characterise the 2019 presidential election and that the election will be as fiercely contested is seen in how Atiku has said without mincing word that the Nigerian citizens are yet to witness the change promised them by the APC.

While the government is still researching and trying to come up with its definition of restructuring, Atiku has aligned himself with Nigerians on the topical issue. Recently, he told a large crowd of academics, students, politicians, and others who were gathered at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), in a lecture organised by the Senior Staff Club of the University that Nigeria had failed to realise her potentials, hence the refusal of the political leaders to restructure the country.

“Restructuring will help to bring the benefits of change we promised the people in the last election which we have not seen,” and “We need restructuring in order to address the challenges that hold us back; these problems will remain un-addressed unless we restructure‎.”

According to him, “Issue of restructuring is beyond resource control; there are more important issues. In my own vision, restructuring will not make some states richer and some poorer; it is a win-win situation for all the States. Nigeria will derive more revenue after restructuring.” 

His equally carpeted the APC decision to set up a 10-man committee on restructuring headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, describing it as needless and that having an el-Rufai, with an anti-restructuring posture to head the committee was laughable.

The way stakeholders in the South are making their position known on the topic of restructuring is instructive. The southwest is likely to give massive support to whoever comes with a clear road map to actualising the restructuring agenda. And with Atiku already leading the restructuring debate, the indication is that the APC is like a house divided against itself because there are grievances that will be brought to fore as the move towards the 2019 general election continues.

Even if Buhari is impressed upon to seek a second term and he picks the APC ticket, the process of winning a re-election would be a lot more difficult than it was during first term because from the look of things, he is bound to face some resistance from those that gave him the biggest supports back then. 

In the Beginning

Prior to the formation of the APC and its victory in the 2015 elections, Buhari had previously contested (and subsequently lost) the Nigerian presidential elections of 2003 and 2007 as the presidential nominee of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the 2011 Nigerian presidential election as the presidential nominee of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

Apart from making Buhari’s dream of becoming a reality, the APC won the majority of seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 2015 elections, though it fell shy of winning a super-majority to override the ability of the PDP to block legislation.

The formation of APC was not without hitches. In March 2013, it was reported that two other associations – African Peoples Congress and All Patriotic Citizens – also applied for INEC registration, adopting APC as an acronym as well, reportedly “a development interpreted to be a move to thwart the successful coalition of the opposition parties, ahead of the 2015 general elections.” It was reported in April 2013 that the party was considering changing its name to the All Progressive Congress of Nigeria (APCN) to avoid further complications.

 However, the party received approval from the nation’s Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) on 31 July 2013 to become a political party and subsequently withdrew the operating licenses of the three predecessor parties (the ACN, CPC and ANPP).

In November 2013, five serving governors from the governing PDP defected to the APC, as well as 49 legislators who will now join the ranks of 137 legislators in the APC as a result of the prior merger of the smaller opposition parties. This initially gave the APC a slim majority of 186 legislators in the lower house out of a total of 360 legislators; however, subsequent political wrangling and pressure from political factions and interests outside the National Assembly gave the party only 37 additional legislators thus giving the APC a nominal majority of 172 out of 360 legislators, as opposed to the PDP’s 171 (though some smaller PDP-allied parties hold the balance of the other seats. 

This was further confirmed when the party seated 179 members on January 15, 2015 when the House resumed after a long recess to finally affirm its majority. The governors who defected to the APC were Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State and Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State. 

It had been previously reported that Governors Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and Sule Lamido of Jigawa State were to set to defect from the PDP to the APC; however, both ended up remaining with the PDP.

In the 2015 elections, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu ran as a senatorial nominee of the PDP for the Niger State east senatorial district, losing in a landslide to the APC’s David Umaru.

The APC is generally considered to be a centre-left political party that favours controlled market economic policies, and a strong and active role for government regulation