Except the dispute between the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, John Odigie-Oyegun and the party’s National Leader, Bola Tinubu is first resolved, the ongoing efforts to reconcile aggrieved members of the party will fall through, write Segun James and Shola Oyeyipo
Just when it seems that the steaming crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) cannot get worse, it does. For much of the past years, as the APC plunged into deep political turbulence, President Muhammadu Buhari played the ostrich. He did nothing to allay the fears of party’s loyalists. Instead, he chose to be silent; and in the political sphere, silence means trouble. While the president turned a blind eye, the leadership of the party made frantic efforts to cover-up the extent of the crack within the party, but it is now obvious that if left unresolved, the in-fights are capable of affecting the fortunes of the party negatively.
Today, the day of reckoning has finally arrived. The APC is going into an election very divided and there is no hope in sight.
As election draws nearer, the president suddenly realised that it is suicidal to go into a general election as a divided house. He chose the National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu to lead a consultation, reconciliation and confidence building team with the hope of bringing cohesion into the party.
Aside the fact that observers are bewildered over the choice of the APC National Leader for this job because he is considered as an aggrieved party too, many doubt if he would be able to put aside his differences with the party’s national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun to enable him make a success of the task ahead of him.
Tinubu’s terms of reference are clearly spelt out; to resolve disagreements among party members, party leadership and political office holders in states such as Kaduna, Zamfara, Oyo, Adamawa, Kogi and several other states of the federation, including in his domain, Lagos.
Tinubu accepted the assignment. However, his unfinished business with Oyegun would turn out to be the obstacle. Time, it is said, heals old wounds. But in the case of Tinubu and Oyegun, this is not so.
In the course of carrying out his assignment, Tinubu accused the national chairman of trying to sabotage his effort. Tinubu’s accusation did not come as a surprise to many. In 2016, he had asked for the removal of Oyegun from office accusing him of anti-party activities. From all indication, the cold war between the two of them is still steaming hot.
The battle lines are drawn in the quest for the control of the soul of the APC.
At a recent National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC, Oyegun’s tenure was extended, in contravention of the party constitution. Members of the National Working Committee (NWC), the 36 state executive committees, including the FCT, also benefited from the extension.
The reason given for the tenure extension for the elected and appointed executive officials of the party was instructive. According to the proponents, it is the cleverest way to avert a pre-election crisis that might arise from the multiple congresses and convention ahead of the 2019 elections. This is because they are not unaware of the fault lines among major stakeholders.
So, as the the fault lines remained, Tinubu again accused Oyegun of frustrating and compounding his reconciliation efforts by taking “improper unilateral decisions” on issues affecting national and state chapters.
Among others, Tinubu accused Oyegun of refusing to cooperate with him by not releasing information needed for the resolution of crises in state chapters and allowing the crises in the state chapters to fester by not taking appropriate actions.
So, it is the view of Tinubu that Oyegun’s “inappropriate unilateral decisions” had created new difficulties for the reconciliation team. He specifically noted that in Kogi State, Oyegun’s hasty decision to inaugurate a parallel state executive committee has affected the peace process and that his indifference to the leadership crisis in the Kaduna State APC was what led to “demolition of property and threat of violence”.
To Tinubu, “Lack of openness and fairness, has led to internal crisis in some states.” He maintained that the principles of internal democracy and the “institutions of the party” have been undermined.
The APC’s national leader expressed his frustration with Oyegun in a letter dated February 21 and titled: ‘Actions and conduct weakening the party from within.’ He copied President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
Tinubu sounded a warning to Oyegun and by extension to his party. He said: “To lessen animosity and return the party to the path of internal democracy and openness, I beg that you refrain from taking any more improper unilateral decisions with regard to the national and state chapters of the party.
“As the chairman of the party you must work within the confines of the duties and responsibilities enumerated under the party constitution. If you continue to do so, I fear you may undermine the party in no small degree. You may well cause internal fractures and dissension difficult to repair yet visible to all.
“I fear this can undermine our goodwill with the electorate and make the approaching challenges to the party materially more difficult than they need to be.”
Tinubu did not shy away from the fact that his relationship with Oyegun is not at its best, but he emphasised that the interest of the party should take precedence over disagreements between individuals in the party.
“Whatever personal qualms you may have with me are secondary at this point. You have a moral and professional obligation as the party chairman to act in the party’s best interests,” he urged.
Surely not a man of many words, Oyegun, in his two-paragraph response to Tinubu, refuted the Lagos politician’s allegations. Though, he did not respond to some of the specific allegations raised against him, he pledged support forTinubu’s reconciliatory assignment.
Obviously, the president had waded into the matter. The APC chairman met with President Buhari over the matter less than 24 hours after Tinubu’s letter, but the extent to which the two party leaders have been reconciled remained unknown.
The truth is simple: as long as Tinubu and Oyegun work at cross purposes, the party will remain divided. This is simply because the forces behind Oyegun and Tinubu will remain at loggerheads. Hence, a true APC reconciliation should start between Tinubu and Oyegun.
For instance, obviously not an admirer of Tinubu having benefited from Oyegun’s anti-Tinubu agenda in his state, the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), had to clarify an earlier report that he said the reconciliation committee led by Tinubu had no business in Ondo State on the grounds that there is peace. This is an indication that some people in the Oyegun camp are still spoiling for war. On the other hand, supporters of Tinubu are always battle ready. He has been pleading with them to shied their swords.
Other leaders remain aggrieved. Last year, a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar left the party when the situation became unbearable. Many others merely remain in the party but their spirits have left APC. It is bad enough that the party has not governed well, it is even worse that the party is divided.
Except the leaders agree to put their differences aside and work together to build their party, they will soon realise that they have no party they can call their own.
Importantly, the allegationn of the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary, of the party, Timi Frank, in a letter to President Buhari on October 3, 2016 that Oyegun had not resolved any crisis within the party should not be waved aside.
“As far as I am aware, APC under Oyegun has not been able to resolve any crisis in the party since we became the ruling party. Chief Oyegun has shown that he lacks the capacity to resolve all the crises currently rocking our party in nearly all the states of the federation. Not even personal grudges and rifts between party members, e.g Senator Shehu Sani versus Governor El-rufai in Kaduna, or Senator Kwankwaso versus Governor Ganduje in Kano, Senator Goje versus Senator Nafada in Gombe, and lastly, the rift between late Chief Audu’s family against Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State . The crisis rocking the Bayelsa State APC which is also divided against itself as well as Delta, Ondo and Ogun States are visible examples to mention a few,” Frank had pointed out.
It is important that the party chairman becomes a strong force in the reconciliation process if the APC is truly committed to its ongoing peace initiative. The president and other leaders of the party must lead an underground reconciliation to ensure that the warring parties are sincerely pacified. That is the only way to create room for unity of purpose.
As the saying goes, when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. But who suffers when there are many elephants up in a battle among themselves? Who will count the cost?
This is the mythical situation in the APC right now as the race towards 2019 election hots up. Will the party be at the starting block unified? This is the question as the party is enmeshed in one crisis or the other in almost every state in the country.
Today, the APC is facing a crisis; a crisis of effective leadership. While the president is still an army general in his thinking and his doings, he is leading a party that is so factionalised, that if elections were to be held today, many members would certainly work against the party.
Crisis in APC States
Today in almost every state in the country, the APC is at war against itself and in some cases, in disarray. Here is a look at some of the states where there are deep-seated crises.
Lagos State, to a lot of people has been in the firm grip of Tinubu since he became the governor in 1999. It is believed to be safe for the APC as the national leader has firm control. But the situation took a surprised dimension when a new group the Broom United Movement sprang up to challenge the status quo in the state.
One of Tinubu’s most ardent loyalists Fouad Oki who was the director general of all the governorship campaign organisations in the state suddenly created a stir. Oki made it clear that he is no longer with the leader; and he is ready to challenge the system.
At the inauguration of BUM, Oki has this to say: “Our party was formed on 6th February 2013 in anticipation of the 2015 elections. On March 31st of that election year the party won the presidential election in addition to other elections at the state and parliamentary levels. However, the party like other political parties was weak, unstable, lacking functional party apparatus, while also suffering from low organizational capacity and lack of internal democracy. This was manifested in their party primary elections and the ensuing candidate selection process. This created several challenges which were padded for the elections to take place, hoping that the party will revisit these issues after the election.
“The Broom United Movement is a forum within our mass-based progressives party, the All Progressives Party (APC) which has adopted the focus of creating what can be termed a rainbow coalition of all members in one big and united enclave that will accommodate all shades of opinions, views and aspirations in a collective and healthy competitive atmosphere.”
The action of Oki was a big blow to the hegemony of the national leader, who until recently has used Lagos to leverage in negotiations with other power bloc in the country.
Today, the state chapter of the party has suspended Oki and his supporters, a move that has exacerbated the crisis as most members are now insisting they may not work for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, even if Tinubu endorses him for a second term.
When the national leader accused the national chairman of sabotaging his efforts in reconciling the party, he gave Kogi state as an example of such activity.
Tinubu alleged that Oyegun had set up another state party executive to rival the exco on ground. Tinubu was soon proved right when the chairman of the APC, Kogi chapter, Alhaji Hadi Ametuo, was expelled from the party.
He was immediately replaced by Ibrahim Ahovi, leader of a faction loyal to Governor Yahaya Bello. Ametuo was reportedly found guilty of anti-party activities along with his team. Ahovi announced the expulsion of Ametuo and others during a press conference in Lokoja. Ahovi said the expulsion was with immediate effect.
According to him, the action became necessary following Ametuo’s failure to appeal the decision of the North Central Zonal Executive of the party which had earlier pronounced him guilty of anti-party activities and recommended his expulsion to the national body.
Governor Bello until the “coup” has been having it tough with the party faithful in the state. Oyegun supports the governor’s faction; and he was in concert with move to expel the party leadership, a move which Tinubu frowned at as it happened after he was appointed the reconciliatory committee chairman.
It is obvious that there is no love lost between Tinubu and his former protégé, the Ondo state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. Following the setting up of the national reconciliation committee, the governor made it clear that there was nothing for Tinubu to reconcile in his state.
He said Tinubu would find no work to do in his reconciliation efforts in Ondo State as there was unity in the state chapter of the party. But, that is not the case in Ondo. There is division within the party in Ondo.
The governor spoke against the backdrop of earlier reports quoting him as saying that Tinubu had no business coming to the state.
However, in a statement signed by his Commissioner for Information, Yemi Olowolabi, the governor however said the former Lagos State governor was welcome in the state.
The Kaduna chapter of the party has been engulfed in crisis for some time now. The battle for the soul of the party in the state between Governor Nasir el-Rufai and the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani and other leaders led to the demolition of a factional secretariat of the party by the state government.
The crisis took another dimension when the faction led by S.I. Danladi Wada released guidelines and timetable for the forth-coming local council election.
The working committee of the faction which released the details explained how they planned to conduct the state’s local council poll.
In a statement, Wada maintained that “the state working committee of the APC wishes to inform all members, especially the aspirants who intend to contest in the forthcoming local government elections that the guidelines and timetable for the party’s primary elections for chairmanship and councillorship candidates have been released.”
This was done to the chagrin of El-Rufai. Above all, this has further widened the gulf between the warring factions.
Cross Rivers State
The Cross Rivers state chapter of the party is also engulfed in crisis despite the fact that the party is still struggling to find a foothold east there. Some members of the state executive committee kicked against the plan to conduct an elective congress on Saturday to fill vacant positions in the state leadership of the party.
The congress was scheduled by an ad-hoc committee of the National Working Committee. The ad-hoc committee headed by the Deputy National Chairman (South), Segun Oni, was set up by the NWC to look into the crisis in the state chapter of the party.
Cross River is among the states President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Tinubu to intervene and reconcile the members.
This is one of the states worse hit by internal crisis within the party. Supporters of both Governor Abdulahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso have been engaging themselves in battles that have many maimed.
Things got to a head recently when ahead of visit to Kano by Kwankwaso, the Presidency had to summon him and Ganduje in order to avert breakdown of law and order in the state.
The governor, accompanied by two serving senators and two members of the House of Representatives from the state, met with the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari at the Presidential Villa behind closed doors.
Political situation in the state was so tense that the Kano State Police Command advised Kwankwaso against embarking on the visit in order to avert a breakdown of law and order.
The State Police Commissioner, Rabiu Yusuf, had on Jan. 27, advised Kwankwaso to shelve the visit as security report had indicated that the controversial visit might lead to political unrest. Yusuf also warned that the law would be allowed to take its full course in the event that the controversial visit resulted into violent clash in the state.
Governor Rochas Okorocha’s decision to endorse his son-in-law, Mr. Uche Nwosu, as his possible successor has thrown the APC into further crisis.
Nwosu is married to Okorocha’s first daughter and currently serves as the chief of staff at the government house, Owerri. The endorsement came just a few weeks after Buhari had appointed Tinubu to head a reconciliation mission within the APC, from the national down to the ward level.
Hopes in the Horizon
Following the intervention of the president who may have suddenly woken up to the realities in the party, the national chairman, has offered his hands of fellowship to Tinubu on his assignment. In a letter to the national leader, Oyegun said he supportted Tinubu, contrary to claims that he was frustrating the latter’s reconciliation assignment.
“I thank you for your letter dated February 21, 2018, for your prayers and good wishes for my health. I wish you the same and pray that our good God keeps you strong and grants you His peace.
“Let me once again formally congratulate you on the peacemaking assignment Mr. President has entrusted you with.
“It is most challenging but I believe you will ultimately justify the confidence reposed in you by Mr. President. In this, you have my fullest support”, Oyegun wrote in the letter dated February 23.
Because past break ups aren’t risky enough, apparently, the leadership of the APC took it for granted that the situation would pan-out over time, but five years into a party built on a shaky foundation, the bubble in the party is about to burst.
As the APC continues to plunge into the abyss, the saying that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat becomes pertinent as the party continues to slide down the road once taken by the Peoples Democratic Party into oblivion.