As Buhari Struggles to Win Back His Base

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President Muhammadu Buhari’s style of leadership has alienated many of his supporters, a development that poses a threat for his re-election campaign, writes Segun James

The All Progressives Congress (APC) is in trouble, in real trouble.
In the first instance, these are remarkable times for politicking in the country. In the smouldering economic and political landscape of Nigeria, the future of the ruling party and the nation lies squarely on the shoulders of one man – President Muhammadu Buhari – and things couldn’t be in worse shape than it is now.

In the second instance, three years after the optimism that heralded the coming of Buhari as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the political situation in the country is frightening and chaotic. And all these are due to the happenings within the APC; now, the party may be heading for a disaster.

When Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29th 2015, he carried a huge burden along based on promises he made to Nigerians.

Three years down the lane and barely eight months to another election circle, the burden has not eased; but more surprisingly, he has offered himself again to contest for a second term in office.

A Nigerian president’s most important power is not the power to veto or override the resolutions of the National Assembly without repercussion. It is the ability to discern the mood of the nation and the thinking of the people. It is this that will determine if he would be judged as a good leader.

The constitution gives the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces so much powers, making him almost a maximum leader, though with some checks and balances. Few other democratic countries enjoy as much powers as the president.

As the saying goes, absolute powers corrupts absolutely, hence, the President has been at loggerheads with the National Assembly. He disregards the resolutions of the National Assembly and spends money without appropriation. He is beyond the control of the people’s representatives in the National Assembly and cannot be called to order.

Few political relationships are as volatile and important as that between Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Although they were a formidable combination when they teamed up in the past as Minister of Petroleum Resources and Head of State respectively; and more recently to fight the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and political enemies, but today they are at loggerheads.

Obasanjo, who had vowed to stir clear of politics has returned and is now leading the opposition against Buhari. Incensed by the continued activities of Obasanjo, Buhari sent a jab at the direction of his former leader and critic, accusing Obasanjo for wasting over $16bn on phantom power project, an insult that forced the former president to call him an ignorant.

Today, President Buhari’s style of leadership has alienated most of his supporters, a situation which is threatening to break the party as the nation races toward the February 2019 election.

When history comes to assess the president’s response to national integration, it may judge him the moment a battered nation voted him in as president in order to return to the country the values which many believed the president possessed-– anti corruption and zero tolerance for nepotism, but the action of the president has betrayed these values.

In fact, it is unfortunate that the corporate existence of the nation is today being threatened by the very actions of the president. A man who fought to keep Nigeria one in the civil war is now the man whose actions are threatening to break the country.

Six months down the line, this year has turned out to be exciting one for politics. The political rites of passage have begun and politicians have stated their games; horse trading, names calling and handshakes across political divide have become the order of the day. Known enemies have suddenly become friends and new enemy lines are springing up.
But it is obvious that, all is not well within the APC. There are crises everywhere and many members are threatening to decamp from the party. If President Buhari knows this, he certainly is not showing it or more precisely, he doesn’t seem to care about who comes and who leaves. Or does he?
But indication of the true reflection of the situation within the APC can be gleaned from the recent uprising against the leadership of the party’s national leader, Chief Bola Tinubu by the party faithful in Lagos State, the most strategic stronghold of the party.

In Lagos state, the coming out of the cold by opposition within the APC to challenge the continued leadership of Tinubu and the second term bid of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was the first indication of the crack within the party, a crack which has today snowballed into a national crisis.

Although the crisis within the party had been simmering for some time, it took the formation of a group within the party, United Broom Movement (UBM), by Mr. Fouad Oki, to crack open the discontent within the system.

During the last party congresses held across the nation, parallel congresses were recorded in many states.

In Lagos members held two different congresses to elect new executive for the state chapter of the party. A faction of the chapter held its congress at the Airport Hotel, Ikeja and elected Dr. Fouad Oki as the new chairman of Lagos APC. Fouad was the Director General of the campaign organization of Lagos Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode in the 2015 election.

Also, the other faction of APC which is believed to have the backing of Tinubu held its congress at the APC state secretariat on Acme Road, Ikeja.

Fouad, was a vice chairman of the state party before he was suspended in March 2018 for his activities. Even though his suspension was never ratified, his action has today polarized the party in Lagos.

A faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State is holding a parallel congress in the state.

In Nigerian, there are two ways of dealing with aching problems in the polity: one is to blame the opponent or the previous government for every wrong situation, even those that happened before that government came to be. The other is to pretend or fall silent in the hope that the problem will simply go away with time.

These two strategies have been adopted by President Buhari and the APC in the past, but the situation in the party has come to a head that members are now asking critical questions about the goings-on not only in the government but within the party.

Today, members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) a bloc within the APC whose fusion into the party helped swing the 2015 election into APC’s hands are aggrieved. At this critical time, the group has been threatening to pull out of the APC.

At the National Assembly and state government level, the internal crisis rocking the party has escalated to the point that the leadership of the National Assembly and some state governors are set to defect to the African Democratic Congress (ADC).

Also set to defect along with National Assembly legislators is the bulk of membership of the Peoples Democratic Party.

According to a former governorship candidate of the PDP from the southwest, negotiations between the ADP, the leadership of the breakaway newPDP and the PDP is at a final stage; and that the announcement of the outcome of the negotiation is expected within the next few weeks.

The former candidate who sorts anonymity said that the reason why the PDP might collapse into the ADC is because of the ignominy Nigerians associated with the PDP and that the process of registering a new party may take a long time.

He also hinted that most dissatisfied members of the ruling APC in the country were expected to be part of the new party.

“Just wait. The APC is set to implode. After that, we will unveil plan. APC will die after its national congress I assure you. We are waiting for the party to conclude its congress. There will be nobody left when we make our move,” he said.

The nPDP, led by a former acting chairman of the PDP and now a chieftain of the APC, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje had met with the national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun to discuss and possibly resolve their differences.

The APC chieftain commended members of his group and concerned Nigerians who share their views and concerns about the plight of the nPDP members in APC, but hinted that the next line of action of his group would be determined by the outcome of meeting with the President and his deputy.

The group, which played a very vital role in the victory of the APC at the 2015 presidential election is aggrieved and has complained of what it described as the lack of patronage and maltreatment of its members by the APC-led federal government.

The group’s complaints which were conveyed in a well-worded protest letter addressed to the APC leadership also issued a seven-day ultimatum to the ruling party for its response.

Before the expiration of the ultimatum, the leadership of APC met with Baraje but could not reach an agreement on how to resolve the issues in contention. They however, agreed to continue the discussions on a future date.

Baraje said that after the group’s deliberations, the group has constituted Committees to take charge of the various issues especially on how to rescue Nigeria from economic, social, political and especially security challenges.

The new PDP members include: Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State; Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who has already decamped to the ADC, a move which suggested where the group may be heading; Admiral Murtala Nyako (Rtd), Senators Mohammad Adamu Aliero, Danjuma Goje, John Owan Enoh, Andy Uba, Ibrahim Gobir, Rufai Ibrahim, Ibrahim A. Danbaba, Suleman Nazif, Isa Hamma Misau, Muhammed Ubali Shitu and Shehu Sani.

Others are Senators Dino Melaye, Suleiman O. Hunkuyi, Shaaba Lafiagi, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, David Umaru, Barnabas Gemade, Alhaji Abubakar K. Baraje and several members of the House of Representatives among others

At this time of unprecedented concern about security of life and property and the political system of the country, the crisis in the APC, if not properly handled, may spell a doom for democracy in the country.

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At this time of unprecedented concern about security of life and property and the political system of the country, the crisis in the APC, if not properly handled, may spell a doom for democracy