With the outcomes of its congresses so far, the proposed national convention of the All Progressives Congress proves a major challenge. Onyebuchi Ezigbo writes
The All Progressives Congress (APC) began the conduct of its congresses a fortnight ago in preparation for the national convention scheduled for June 2. The exercise has so far taken place in all the wards, and local government areas in about 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja. But the outcomes have been a mix bag of the good, the bad and the ugly.
While the exercise went well in some states, it was tale of crisis and violence in many other states. In states like Kaduna, Kano, Kogi, Oyo, Lagos, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Enugu, Imo and Anambra, there were disputes during the congresses leading to parallel congresses being held in some of these states.
Crisis in the Kaduna State chapter of the APC continued and even got deepened with the conduct of the ward and local government congresses. The tussle for the control of party structure got even messier as the faction led by the governor of the state, Nasiru El-Rufai had a field day positioning its loyalists while the group led by Senator Shehu Sani and Senator Hunkuyi boycotted the exercise, protesting lack of fairness.
Similarly, in Kano State, it was a revival of the war of attrition between the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso. As reports had it, the governorâ€™s men took charge and participated in the congresses with the exclusion of the Senator Kwakwanso loyalists, who stayed away in protest.
The situation in Rivers State was rather worrisome as the exercise turned violentas supporters of the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi clashed with those backing Senator Magnus Abe. There was also an ugly incident in which some party thugs and hoodlums attempted to shut down the entire judicial system in Rivers State in order to prevent the court from ruling against the conduct of the local government congress slated for last Saturday, May 10.
Some aggrieved members of party believed to loyal to Senator Abe had gone to the court to request an order stopping the local government congress but in the bid to forestall any injunction that could stop the congress, the APC leadership allegedly mobilised supporters to lock down all the courts.
In fact, protests over the congress in Rivers State have gone beyond the level of the appeal panel set up by the party or it National Working Committee to handle. The disagreement between Amaechi and Abe has been taken to President Muhammadu Buhari for resolution.
For the Enugu State stakeholders, it was a nightmare as two political gladiators, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama and the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON) Osita Okechukwu organised parallel congresses leading to the emergence of two sets of party executives at the Ward and local government levels.
The experience in Anambra and Lagos, the exercise was said to have turned bloody in one of the venues for the congress with one person reportedly dead during clash between rival party supporters. It was a different story in Cross River State, where some concerned party stakeholders seized materials for the local government congress and deposited same with the police on suspicion that the congress committee had been comprised.
From all indications, the party is presently beset with serious challenges, which might threaten its unity and oneness as the date for the national convention approached.
Apart from the dispute arising from the congresses, there is the resurgent issue of complaint about marginalisation by the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party bloc in the APC. The group, last week, issued a seven-day ultimatum to the APC and met with the national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun at the national headquarters in Abuja, demanding that the party addressed their grievances.
In the letter jointly signed by the chairman of group, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje and Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, they alleged that of all the various entities that came together to form the APC coalition, it is only the nPDP bloc that has been so marginalised, oppressed and neglected by the APC-led administration.
In the letter, the group said: â€œWe, the members of the APC, who moved over from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to form the APC before the 2015 general election in Nigeria are desirous of strengthening our party especially now that new party congresses have commenced and the convention and another round of general election is imminent. Obviously, this cannot be achieved without addressing fundamental issues which we wish to raise in this letter.
â€œWe, therefore, wish with due respect, to re-state our expectation then and now that the APC we all laboured to build would be one united, inclusive, cohesive and progressive party devoid of divisions, factions, cleavages and tendencies. We envisioned a political party promoting equal rights for all Nigerians and ensuring rapid and even development across the country. Of course, there is no gainsaying the fact that the lofty ideals enumerated above cannot be attained without ensuring justice for party faithful and citizensâ€.
So far, the out-going National Working Committee have not yet made any noticeable move to negotiate with the leadership of the nPDP on their demands and their ultimatum has expired. The threat by this group is potent and cannot be wished away.
Although the situation may not be exactly similar to what it was when the group almost caused stir in the countryâ€™s political atmosphere by defecting en mass to the APC, an opposition party, the ruling party is not enjoying a healthy ride presently to warrant any form of mass exodus from its fold.
All the indices point to the fact that if the APC failed to manage the present crisis well, it could lead to an implosion in the party similar to what happened to the PDP prior to the 2015 general election.
Perhaps, it is an opportunity for all those, who had canvassed for some kind of tenure extension for party executives till after the 2019 election to grin with smile and to push the blame of the present predicament on the other stakeholders that supported congresses and elective convention.
But the two persons on whose shoulder the whole situation seemed to rest is the president and a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The duo played a key role in seeing that the party was pulled from the brink when crisis over elongation raged.
Tinubu appeared to be disappointed in what happened during the congresses of the party. The former Lagos governor, who was recently appointed by the President to take charge of reconciling warring groups in the party, was reported to have blamed the crisis rocking the party on greed, selfishness and desperation by some members.
However, now that the crisis predicted by the pro-elongation group appeared to be rearing its ugly heads, it behooves these leaders to rise to the occasion and resolve the issues in such a manner that it would not lead to an implosion.