With the crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress in virtually all the states, will the party formed to oust Dr Goodluck Jonathan as president survive this latest onslaught, Tobi Soniyi, Segun James and Shola Oyeyipo ask
In the Beginning
For the All Progressives Congress, these are not the best of times.
In an interview with THISDAY, Dr Umar Ardo, a former governorship aspirant in Adamawa State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party but chose to work for the election of Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 said: “Just wait for the congress of APC. They’ll break into three with one faction coming into PDP, one will remain with Buhari and the other will remain independent. That will be the end of APC and the party will suffer a crushing defeat.”
Everyday, APC appears to be racing towards the above prediction.
For long, the party remained combustible. The crisis now rocking the party is traceable to how APC came to be. It was a gang up against the Peoples Democratic Party formed with the sole purpose of stopping Dr Goodluck Jonathan from retaining power.
Four political parties namely: Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which was dominant in the south-west, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), headed by former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
After the merger, former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi read a joint statement signed by the merging parties. He said then: “At no time in our national life has radical change become more urgent.” Ikimi was of the ACN then.
“And to meet the challenge of that change, we…. have resolved to merge forthwith and become the All Progressive Congress.”
As the past three years have shown, beyond the plan to stop Jonathan, and some ideas hurriedly put together to persuade the electorate to support the new party, the four parties that merged had nothing in common.
That lack of unity of purpose is at the core of the crisis threatening the party today.
The President Didn’t Help Matter
When Muhammadu Buhari became the president, he quickly alienated the political interests that coalesced to get him the power. He also failed to unite the party. He failed to encourage the holding of statutory meetings of the party thereby denying members the opportunity to air their grievances and the party the opportunity to address those grievances. The result is that members bottled up their anger and waited for opportunity to explode. The congresses provided them with a perfect opportunity. Today, the party’s leadership must be regretting the decision to overturn the one-yea extension granted all the party executives.
Aside from the failings of the president, the battle to control the party at the national level has been fierce. This pitted the National Leader of the party, Chief Bola Tinubu and the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and their loyalists against each other. The story is not different at the state level.
Last Friday, the nation was treated to an orgy of violence and wanton destruction of public properties when suspected thugs broke into a high court in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital, chasing away lawyers, judges and litigants.
The senator representing Rivers south-east, Magnus Abe had gone to seek a court order to restrain the faction under the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi from holding the local government congress of the party on Saturday.
The motion followed a controversial ward congress held on May 5. Abe had alleged that there was no congress across the 319 wards in the state but Amaechi said the exercise held peacefully.
While appearing in court, Abe was resisted by suspected thugs, who reportedly fired gunshots randomly to deny him access to the courthouse.
The intruders vandalised vehicles in the court premises and locked up the main gate of the court before leaving.
After the police had taken control of the situation, Justice Chiwendu Nwaogu, granted the order restraining the APC in the state from holding the council congress. The said the order would not be obeyed. For a party that is in opposition to be in such a disarray, it will take a miracle to win the state during the next general election.
Before the mayhem in Rivers, APC’s secretariat in Imo State had been set ablaze. A week earlier, the same office was vandalized during the controversial ward congress of the party.
The Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, irked members of the party after he endorsed his son in law Uche Nwosu, to replace him in 2019.
He was carefully edged out during the ward congress. The governor has since complained publicly about the outcome of the congress saying that he was sidelined because he refused to support the party’s national chairman. The governor said that no congress took place in the state, accusing the congress committee of hijacking materials for the said congress.
Many office equipment and important files and documents were reportedly destroyed in the fire.
The APC chairman in Imo, Hilary Eke, who confirmed the fire, said the fire was deliberately lit by some unidentified persons who attacked the secretariat at about 6.30 p.m.
“I have already petitioned the inspector General of Police over the attack on the secretariat the other Saturday. My duty is to report to the police and the police have the duty to investigate,” he said.
The story from Anambra is equally not very palatable. Former governor and Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, narrowly escaped being lynched.
He was attending a stakeholders’ meeting of the APC in a hotel in Awka with the view to harmonise the results of the party’s ward congress when aggrieved members and thugs struck.
Ngige narrowly escaped. He was whisked away by security operatives who fired into the air to scare away the mob who charged at him. The allegation against him was that the meeting, called at his behest, was to manipulate the result of the ward congress in his favour.
The Anambra APC candidate in the November 18, 2017 governorship election, Dr Tony Nwoye, had accused Ngige of plotting to hijack the party in the state.
In Ekiti State, the acrimonious primary to select the party’s governorship candidate for the state showed the level of desperation among those who claim they want to serve their people. Little wonder it ended in chaos.
Armed men and demonstrators disrupted the process. Ballot boxes were smashed and ballot papers torn and voting was suspended. Even though the rescheduled primary produced former governor, Kayode Fayemi as the winner, the process has already been tainted by the violence marked the first primary and withdrawal of other candidates who said the process was flawed.
While announcing his decision to withdraw from the primary, one of the contestants, Babafemi Ojudu accused the National Chairman of the party Odigie-Oyegun, of conspiring against the people of Ekiti State to foist an unacceptable candidate on them.
The former senator who represented Ekiti Central between 2011 and 2015, said he was embarrassed by the events leading to the aborted primary.
In Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ondo states, APC is in crisis. As the general elections draw closer, these crises will deepen further and make winning elections difficult for the party.
Up north, APC is a fractured political party. In Kaduna, there are at least three factions of the party. In February, a building used by one of the factions was demolished by the state government. Senator Suleiman Hankuyi, the owner of the demolished building alleged that the state governor Nasir -el Rufai personally drove a bulldozer accompanied by armoured tanks to destroy the house located ayt118 Sambo Road. The governor and Hankuyi belonged to different factions of the party in Kaduna State.
The governor and another Kaduna senator, Shehu Sani have been at loggerheads.
The national headquarters of the party set up a committee led by a former Ekiti State governor, Segun Oni to resolve the crisis in Kaduna. However, it does not appear that the waring factions want to sheath their swords.
Recently, all the three senators in the state opposed the $350m foreign loans applied for by the state governor.
In Kano, the quarrel between the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje and his former boss, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will make the state that gave Buhari the highest votes an easy target for the opposition. Well meaning individuals, organizations and the leadership of the party had intervened to reconcile the two but all efforts have so far failed to yield results.
The intervention of the national leadership of the party which led to the removal of the Alhaji Umar Haruna Doguwa as the state’s chairman of the party before the expiration of his time and his replacement with a Ganduje loyalist as a caretaker chairman, further alienated Kwankwaso’s supporters. With both sides ready to do battle with each other, the party may be in for a big loss in Kano.
From Katsina to Zamfara states, the struggle for the soul of the party is intense. While the party in Katsina has managed to put things under control, Zamfara remains volatile.
New PDP Serves Notice
While most of the other states, except a few, are all battling with the aftermath of the wars congresses and face risks of more divisions at the council and the state level, the APC faces yet another potential challenge. The defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), which blended into the APC before the 2015 general election, is threatening to pull out of the party.
It was gathered that members of that group had written President Muhammdu Buhari and the party leadership alleging marginalisation and expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo. After the congresses, across the country, which left many party loyalists aggrieved, they issued a threat to leave.
While it is yet unclear how the APC leadership hopes to handle the situation, it is rather curious that former Governor of Osun State and who coordinated the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, has formally resigned from the APC.
He had also announced the fusion of the movement with the African Democratic Congress (ADC). Oyinlola was the National Secretary, nPDP. He was once the PDP National Secretary too.
As the APC crisis unravels, the main opposition party is not just sitting by. It is reaching out to those who left the party to join APC to return home.
PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it had addressed many of the issues raised against it by a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ologbondiyan said that new reforms and rebranding efforts had returned PDP to the much-desired political platform that would represent aspirations of all Nigerians, ahead of the 2019 general elections.
These reforms, according to him, were particularly the full entrenchment of internal democracy, all-inclusiveness and re-engineered mechanisms for good governance.
“In the last five months, since the coming of the new leadership, under Prince Uche Secondus, the PDP had undergone extensive re-engineering in direct responses to suggestions, criticisms and wide-range of constructive counsels from Nigerians across board.
“The transparent processes, leading to the peaceful conduct of an open, credible, free and fair governorship primary in Ekiti State.
“This is at a time when other political parties are enmeshed in impunity-induced crisis and violence is a loud testimony of the democratic credentials and principles of the repositioned PDP.’’
He added that the reconciliatory efforts of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led committee, and other efforts at rebuilding the party, through its contact and integration committee, were already yielding results.
“Our party remains the only political platform with genuine followership and structure in all the electoral wards across the local government areas, states and the six geo-political zones in the country.
“It is also instructive to add that majority of Nigerians still identify with the PDP as the vehicle for national cohesion, unity, economic prosperity and personal freedom of our citizens.
Ologbondiyan said the PDP’s initiative towards the nation’s economic recovery had commenced with the development of a robust and all-inclusive blueprint that would reopen the “currently locked-down economic space.’’
According to him, the repositioned PDP remains the best channel for the coalition of true democrats, who are desirous of removing the incompetent Buhari Presidency from Aso Rock, through the ballot, come 2019.
Except the APC puts this race to destruction on a reverse gear, sooner than later, people will heed the call by PDP.