The All Progressives Congress has been stuttering since May 29, 2015, when it was declared winner of the keenly contested election between it and the Peoples Democratic Party. But it’s easy to make a logical case for the APC. It was an amalgam of strange bedfellows, who came together for the sole purpose of sending the PDP packing. But what was supposed to be its foundation – a sound ideology assisted by planning and development focus – was hardly a concern. Not many paid attention to it. PDP’s 16 years was too much to deal with. The reviled former President Godluck Jonathan did not only expose the inadequacies of his party, he also made mockery of its successes over the years by not being able to make hard choices in times of crisis. Thus, the consensus to chase the PDP away was a done deal and so it was defeated. But who could have thought that APC actually learnt nothing from the misfortune and abuse of power by the PDP? Sadly, it is what it is: an even more disappointing adventure. With President Muhammadu Buhari’s vanishing mystique and his body language virtually insipid, the APC is becoming a shadow of itself –rudderless and disappointing – save for the remainder of the incumbency weight it still savours. However, with the developments so far unfolding, APC’s 2015 victory appears cursed and the indicators are manifesting as it approaches 2019, write Olawale Olaleye and Tobi Soniyi

The one thing no one could hedge a bet on as far as the pending implosion in the All Progressives Congress (APC) is concerned. That it would implode is a fait accompli. Even more pathetic was that the leadership was somewhat arrogant about its failings. They have clearly learnt nothing from the misfortune of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2013, knowing full well that it was such poor leadership that eventually paved the way for their victory. And to think the journey towards 2019 smacks of déjà vu, evidently patterned after some of the events of 2013 and 2015, the party is walking into ditch with its eyes wide open.

The emergence, in the week, of a splinter ruling party, the reformed APC, is a major pointer to what to expect in 2019. There is no denying the fact that the grounds had been prepared for this event some months back. What was left behind was the opening from possible reconciliation in the event that the party leadership and the presidency were disposed to closing ranks.

But with this development, the journey towards the 2019 elections has begun, sadly, on a tottering note. Suffice it to say that some of the events leading to the 2015 elections threatened the peace and unity of the country save for the leadership disposition of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who openly confirmed that his ambition was not worth the blood of any one Nigerian.
Curiously, the events certain to usher in the 2019 elections share closely with those that shaped and defined the 2015 elections. But what cannot be said of this present leadership as the nation journeys through the difficulty of another election cycle is her disposition to the peace of the nation especially that Nigeria has lost more people to criminal herders than the PDP did to Boko Haram terrorists under her. And that would form the real debate around the 2019 polls.

FLASHBACK TO 2013
As if playing back a major event in history, the breaking away of some members of the APC to form what is now known as reformed APC quickly brings to memory, the event that led to the formation of the nPDP in 2013. In the countdown to the 2015 polls, some members of the PDP had staged a walkout at the PDP special delegates’ national convention in August of 2013 and christened their breakaway group the “new PDP”.

In this group was former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, seven governors of the PDP, their senators, House members and other supporters, all of whom walked out of the convention venue of the PDP, a move which therefore deepened the crisis that engulfed the then ruling PDP.

With governors of Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto, Rivers, Adamawa, and Kwara States, even though Jigawa and Niger governors didn’t eventually join the APC, PDP was badly depleted as they left the Eagle Square venue of the convention for the Yar’Adua Center, Abuja, where they addressed a press conference to detail reasons for their action.
Since that Eagle Square drama, the fortunes of the PDP had washed out and the power game heightened, resulting ultimately in the ouster of the party in the 2015 polls.

The problem then with the PDP was that first, the governors and other top notch party members, aggrieved with its leadership wanted then chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur out of the way, because according to them, he was running the party like his personal estate. It was a tough decision for the party leadership and then president, but eventually, he yielded his office and a new leader, Adamu Mua’zu, a former Bauchi State governor, emerged.

The group also quarreled with alleged ineligibility of Jonathan to continue in office. They all reckoned his failure in terms of capacity particularly, that corruption had skyrocketed in his time. They also disagreed with the fact that Jonathan had an understanding with the party leadership to run for just a term, which was one of the reasons he (Jonathan) fell out with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who stood for him in 2011 on the understanding that he would not seek re-election.

These internal discontents paved the way for the staggering opposition against Jonathan and it was clear that except for the unexpected, perhaps miracle, the former president was going to lose the election. Today, however, everything seems to be coming back to reckoning as 2019 inches closer.

INTRODUCING THE REFORMED APC
On Wednesday, a group of APC members, led by a close ally of President Buhari, Alhaji Buba Galadima, broke away from the main party to form what is now known as the reformed APC. The group, which addressed the media on the state of the party in specific and the nation in general, didn’t mince words about its disaffection that has become almost irreparable in the APC.

With a distinct recall of some of the events that culminated in the 2015 elections, the group said the fusion into APC was based on the “strong belief that Nigeria had come of age, but was severely underperforming and unable to meet its potential for good governance. The Nigerian people entrusted power to the APC based on its promises and potential.”

It, however, said it was “sad to report that after more than three years of governance, our hopes have been betrayed, our expectations completely dashed. The APC has run a rudderless, inept and incompetent government that has failed to deliver good governance to the Nigerian people. It has rather imposed dictatorship, impunity, abuse of power, complete abdication of constitutional and statutory responsibilities, infidelity to the rule of law and constitutionalism. It has failed to ensure the security and welfare of our people and elevated nepotism to unacceptable height.”

Above all, it passed a judgment that the APC has failed to deliver on its key promises to the nation, and that there was no evidence of any political will to reverse the decline of the party, while leaders who created the “circumstances continue to behave as if Nigerians owe our party votes as a matter of right,” reiterating that the “The APC government has been a monumental disaster, even worse than the government it replaced.”

It, however, descried as the final straw, the congresses and convention of the APC held recently. According to it, “the Congresses were intensely disputed as it was conducted with impunity, total disregard for due process, disregard for the party Constitution and naked display of power and practices that have no place in a party we all worked the very hard to put in place.”

The rAPC was of the view that the fate of a party in such a state a few months to the elections is best left to sheer imagination, but reckoned it was not a fate it was willing to abandon millions of its members to. According to the group, “There were parallel congresses in 24 States namely: Abia, Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Niger, Ondo, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto and Zamfara.

“These congresses in wards, local government areas and states all over the federation produced different sets of delegates. We, therefore, had an unfortunate situation, where the party has been seriously factionalised and divided in not just 24 states but the 36 States and Abuja FCT. The so-called National Convention of the APC was even worse. The National Convention of the party was ridiculed with constitutional infirmities that were so glaring and obvious that no fair minded person can claim that a legitimate and lawful executive emerged from that process.”

Under the circumstances, rAPC said the patriotic elements and most of the original founders of the APC found themselves in the opposing side of the charade, adding that most of the delegates, who bought and paid for forms for the congresses and convention and were elected delegates had come together to “take control and give legitimacy to APC to be now known as and called REFORMED-APC (R-APC),” adding that the R-APC as constituted has officers in all the wards, 774 local governments, and all the 36 states of the federation including the FCT.

The rAPC, its leadership claimed, included all the progressive forces in APC, including most of the leading members of the defunct nPDP, CPC, ANPP, ACN and others. It promised to work with like-minded political parties and groups to offer Nigeria qualitative good governance in 2019.

“Nigeria faces an existential threat arising from three years of near destruction of this country and the exacerbation of our ethnic, religious and divisive cleavages. We will in concert with others offer real change to Nigeria. Not fake change.
“It is clear that our party needs a leadership that will live by its founding ideals. We have therefore decided to legitimately lead those members to work to rebuild our nation more firmly on genuine democratic principles, to enshrine good governance and restore the faith of Nigerians in the possibility of the existence of a prosperous, secure and peaceful nation.”

A BALANCE OF POWER
One of the devastating effects of the developing intrigues within the ruling party is the fact that the eventual quitting of these elements would leave the balance of power heavily tilted in favour of rAPC and their allies in the National Assembly. Although clear faces cannot be put yet to some of those, who are sure to join the rAPC but are still in the main APC, it is definitely going to leave the APC terribly devastated by the time they show their faces and move en mass to the rAPC.

This, of course, automatically leaves the main APC in a position of seeing huge disadvantage in terms of number and the capacity to mobilise support ahead of 2019. This is even more disturbing for the APC because by the time the proposed alliance takes place, any collaboration amongst the parties like rAPC, PDP, APGA and others leaves the main APC nowhere and it could begin to count it losses therefrom.

Thus, if the main APC is going to go about this breakaway with arrogance as it is likely to do, it should do so with utmost caution, taking into account some of these extrapolations that are already common knowledge. The direction of power play would start, definitely from the parliament as the crisis that seems to be consuming the party actually started from the National Assembly.

WAITING ON THE COALITION
As the nation marches towards the 2019 presidential election, history is on the verge of repeating itself. This is because the one takeaway from the recent breakaway of some APC members, who have formed the rAPC is that they are likely to go into an alliance with other parties of like-minds, perhaps, for the presidential poll alone, because of the factor of time.

The ruling party was able to pull off its 2015 victory, because of its merger with other parties, which produced the APC. Although the APC was originally an amalgam of four legacy political parties – ACN, CPC, ANPP, APGA, it took the support of a faction of the then ruling PDP called the nPDP to seal the fate of the PDP and put the APC on a sure footing.

Today, those, who helped the APC to win and by contrast sculpted PDP’s loss, are on the march again. After going back and forth with the leadership of the ruling APC, both groups were unable to reach a consensus. And even though members of the new PDP were eager to strike a deal with the leadership of the APC, (because they actually came up with specific demands), the APC leadership chose to ignore them. The thinking in the APC was that they could not go anywhere because it was not smart to do so.

Particularly, like the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-rufai once alluded to this, corroborating the arrogant belief in the leadership of the APC that members of the nPDP were not capable of stopping Buhari’s re-election. He said since 2003, Buhari had been winning elections in Adamawa, Kano and Sokoto states, where most of the nPDP members hail from.

Although he agreed that some of the grievances of the nPDP members were legitimate and should be looked into, he however maintained that “Who are these new PDP people that are threatening? They are Kwara, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Rivers but I don’t think Amaechi is part of them. So, let’s take these four states, go back to 2003 and check. Buhari then under the ANPP won in all these four states.
“Go back to 2007, Buhari won in these four states. Even when Shekarau was running as a presidential candidate in 2011, Buhari defeated him in Kano. I have no doubt in my mind that even if the people threatening to leave decided to leave, it will have absolutely no impact on the presidential election.

“The President will win Sokoto, Kwara and Adamawa easily. Kano is already in the bag, I mean if you saw the crowd that welcomed the President without the former governor, Kwankwaso, Kano has always been the President’s base,” he said in a sense that seemed to discountenance the importance of the aggrieved APC members in the presidential election.

At first, Buhari seemed disposed to meeting with them, he probably changed his mind after listening to people like El-rufai. That decision may turn out to be the president’s major undoing if the opposition succeeds in unseating him in 2019.

Today, member of the nPDP have decided to take their future into their hands and announced the formation of rAPC. Just like the nPDP, the rAPC will most likely align with the opposition PDP to wrest power from the APC in the presidential bout.

Again, with the formation of rAPC, the chicken might have finally come home to roost for the APC. But will the opposition be able to form a united front to stop the president? Events in the next few months will shed more lights on this as the nation frontally battles the challenge of 2019.

THE ROAD TO 2019
The fact that the APC has elected to be arrogant about the plight of its aggrieved members is not going to change the reality of the ongoing power game. Of the many meetings held lately between the nPDP members and the leadership of the APC as well as the federal government, the aggrieved members were allegedly poorly treated such that reinforced the need for them to leave.
And after several meetings, which included those with the APC leadership and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the nPDP suspended further talks after one of them, Senate President Bukola Saraki, was linked to a recent robbery in Offa, Kwara State by the police.

But concerns in the APC on the implications of ill-treating members of the nPDP had since scaled up. And this has been variously linked to the fact that in spite of Buhari’s avowed popularity and the unity that the party enjoyed ahead of 2015, his victory against Jonathan was not outstanding as he was only able to poll some two million votes. But with the aggrieved members of the APC effectively in control of their states, particularly Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Adamawa, Benue, Kwara, Kogi and Gombe, the APC might have run into trouble ahead of 2019.

Ironically, some of these considerations were still under probabilities then as the aggrieved members had not decided whether or not to leave. In fairness to them, observers reckoned, they had waited this long to explore all the possibilities of reconciliation. But two weeks after its national convention and it did not seem like their plight matters to the leadership, with the elections fast approaching, they eventually called it quits with the APC, thus effectively changing the equation ahead of the 2019 polls.
Nothing is as it is anymore till the 2019 election comes and goes. The truth is that the voting record that Buhari enjoyed before he became president and also leveraged in the 2015 election was constant, because the people believed in his ability to change things. His messianic posturing was also conceded, because at those times, he had not been tested and since his stint as a military head of state could not form a good basis for assessment, he had it all slanted in his favour.

But over three years in office, Buhari has shown that this is the best he could offer. Technically, the voting pattern cannot remain the same again except there is the assumption that people who had been churning out those votes were stupid before he was tested and even if after he was and failed, they remained in that state.

It would be sheer lies for anyone to assume that the 2019 election is a walkover for the president. Even where they attempt to rig, the resultant effect being the fallout of the stiff opposition that would arise would be catastrophic. There is no debating the fact that the victory of the party in 2015 was cursed ab initio.

It was made possible by people of differing backgrounds, philosophies, ideologies and even personal dispositions. There was no clear understanding on how the government would run or who would play what role. They all just came in with the euphoria of having decimated a common enemy and landed in chaos worse than they could ever imagine.

Unfortunately, if the rAPC in its proposed alliance with other parties, the PDP especially, did not take these fundamental flaws into account going forward, the nation might be going round in circle and it would have been just another wasted effort coalescing to send Buhari back to Daura, Katsina State.