Just as the ruling All Progressives Congress is settling in for another four years in the saddle, a new wave of crises is again threatening to tear the party apart, ahead of the 2023 polls, writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has been on the edge since the emergence of the tough-talking former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as its national chairman in 2018. And since assuming duty as the chief executive officer of the ruling party as he often likes to be addressed, there have been some ruffled ankles among those who felt uncomfortable with his style.
His messianic disposition in handling issues in the party and penchant for delving into the political territories of those regarded powerful forces had seen him step on the toes of political heavyweights. The diminutive former labour activist-turned politician had also taken his fight against some governors, whom he accused of pursuing a selfish agenda to build their political dynasties in the states.
Although the party had been grappling with the trouble caused by a badly conducted congresses inherited by the Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee, the seed of the present discord in the party was sown during the primary elections that preceded the just concluded 2019 general election.
It first began with the decision on which mode of the primary election to adopt by the party. The APC was drawn between the choice of either direct or indirect primaries and it chose to apply both. Many political analysts saw that move as a potential landmine capable of causing confusion within the party and undermine its electoral chances. But the party leadership felt otherwise and approved the dual approach for a primary election.
One of the reasons that propelled the decision of the party may have been to avoid any legal distraction that could arise based on the discrepancies witnessed during the conduct of party congresses in some states. The party did not also want the ‘sins’ of some of the state governors and other chieftains, who allegedly manipulated the congresses to their advantage to affect President Muhammadu Buhari’s bid for a second term.
This was why, in deciding to use the dual method for its primary elections, the APC insisted that its presidential candidate, Buhari, would emerge through the direct primary election. There was however confusion in the application of the approved guidelines and modalities for the conduct of the primary election with many of the state chapters of the party finding it difficult to agree on the method of the primary election to use.
This resulted in parallel primary elections being conducted public in many of the states and the subsequent emergence of rival candidates, who laid claims to party tickets. The cases of Rivers, Ogun, Imo, Zamfara, Enugu, Cross Rivers, Adamawa and Delta States will easily come to mind.
The fight over the governorship primary elections in these states went so dirty and there were multiple court cases, which led to some of the losses recorded by the party. A lot of arrows have been fired in the direction of Oshiomhole by those party stakeholders, who felt hurt by the positions taken by the APC national leadership.
For instance, the immediate past governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha has accused the party’s national chairman of being responsible for the rancorous primary elections and by extension the misfortune that befell the party.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Sam Onwuemeodo, the ex-governor said: “Adams Oshiomhole was determined from the outset to destroy APC in the South-east and unknown to party chieftains from the zone, who had genuinely supported his chairmanship.
“He is playing the politics of 2023 in 2019 and in playing it – he has thrown caution to the wind. In all the South-east states, there are crises and all arising from the fraudulent manner he conducted the primaries”.
Another party chieftain, who has criticized Oshiomhole’s role in the build-up to the last general election, is the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, who accused the APC chairman of committing horrendous atrocities against the party. He said Oshiomhole had mismanaged the primary election process.
Okechukwu said: “The intra-party feud before his ascendency as the chairman was escalated due to his narcissism. Comrade Oshiomhole is Mr. Know-it-all, intolerant and totalitarian. These are not good attributes in democracy. If President Buhari was not made of sterner stuff, he could have been bruised by the mangled primaries across the federation. This is why we are bleeding in our traditional strongholds like Bauchi”.
The criticisms by Governor Okorocha and Okechukwu may be described as an impulsive attack since they both contested for elective positions and were part of the party primary election but this certainly cannot be said of the recent strongly-worded letter calling for the resignation of Oshiomhole from office by the party’s Deputy National Chairman, Senator Lawal Shuaibu.
In the letter addressed to Oshiomhole, the party scribe lamented the string of losses that APC has recorded in the 2019 general election.
While venting his anger over the misfortune that befell the party in some states, the Zamfara-born politician said: “We had 23 states in 2015, but after the 2019 election, we lost seven states! We also had 60 senators in 2015 at the end of the election count – we now end up with 57 senators in 2019! You were not brought in to lose an election. It is absolutely unacceptable.”
Dwelling on the serious implications of this, Shuaibu said what it entails is that for any Senator to become a presiding Officer, he needs to go and kneel down before the PDP Senators and beg for support. And to make things worse, he argued that Oshiomhole boasted that APC would not allow any PDP Senator to be appointed as Committee Chairman except the committees statutorily meant for the opposition members of the Senate.
Shuaibu’s letter further stated: “In advanced democracies, people who fail to add value or build on what they met on assumption of duty normally resign honourably. In that connection, therefore, I want to advise you to take the path of honour, to step aside and allow the Party to embark on the onerous task of reconstruction and rehabilitation in those states it was weakened by the effect of manner the last primary election exercises were conducted or even the task of recreating the party where it is on the path of extinction, arising from the loss of a sitting APC Government, for example in Zamfara State, where you directly personally created the problem leading to the painful complete loss of APC’s electoral fortunes”.
According to Shuaibu, the national chairman cannot exonerate himself from blame on what happened to APC in Zamfara State, thereby destroying the hopes and aspirations of 534,541 APC members” he said.
In the letter titled “APC: Its fortune and misfortune, time to act!” and made available to journalists Wednesday morning, he also said, “It is my honest opinion that your ability to ensure this party flourishes is deficient as you lack the necessary composure and you also don’t posse the capabilities and the requisite experience to run a political party”.
While accusing Oshiomhole of incompetence, Lawal said: “under normal circumstances, when you take over as a project, it is expected that you bring to bear, your wealth of experience to the new job, which will be seen in your capacity and capabilities as value addition. In a political party like the APC, you are expected to also introduce a new approach to strategies through committees that will work and submit recommendations
“It is my honest opinion that your ability to ensure this party flourishes is deficient as you lack the necessary composure and you also don’t possess the capabilities and the requisite experience to run a political Party.”
Regarding the strained relationship between the party national leadership and some chieftains of the party, the deputy chairman said the respect APC was commanding among its members and sympathizers has been completely eroded, while the goodwill has equally evaporated with the type of attitude of threats to members that Oshiomhole deploys, including senior members like governors, senators, ministers, and other government officials, whose functions do not fall within his jurisdiction.
“As I know, the relationship between party and government are cooperation and collaboration to ensure that the government’s programmes are implemented in line with the party manifesto, but not shouting and giving marching instructions to government officials on television screens or on the pages of newspapers, and more often than not, they call your bluff and make you look helplessly unimportant in the scheme of things”.
Expectedly, Oshiomhole has not been short of words in responding to the attacks on his performance. First, he has justified the intervention of the national leadership in the Imo State chapter, saying party moved to stop his plan to enthrone a political dynasty for himself.
Oshiomhole also told journalists that the party felt bad over the disrespect the former governor had shown to religious leaders. In the case of the crisis in the Ogun State chapter, Oshiomhole said the party was out to ensure that its decisions are respected and that justice and fairness prevailed.
Also, a group loyal to the national chairman tackled Senator Shuaibu describing him as one of those who are not comfortable with the kind of discipline the National Chairman has been instilling in the affairs of the APC since he assumed office in June 2019.
In a statement jointly signed by the President of Middle Belt Vanguard, Comrade Musa Ohimini Alechenu and Secretary, Meliga Godwin, they said Shuaibu was speaking for himself and not for the other members of the APC National Working Committee.
“In every society, reforms don’t come easy and it is very unfortunate that at this point in time, Senator Shuaibu and his co-travellers will expect business as usual. While we want to state that those words were personal to Senator Shuaibu and not the opinion of members of the NWC or NEC and of course majority of our party members, we call on Senator Shuaibu to apologize to the leadership of this party in the next 14 days or enjoy the wrath of the party”.
The post-election APC is beginning to show frightening signs of the nature of political intrigues that may engulf the party as 2023 approaches. The current move against Oshiomhole, which is now coming from within the NWC might take a wider dimension in the days ahead.
This can also have an impact on the APC-led administration. Already, several political gladiators have started to position themselves to contest for presidency on the APC platform.
One of the national leaders of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is known to have shown interest in the exalted position. The new chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Kayode Fayemi is also being tipped in many quarters as a decent face in the 2023 presidential race. There are those who consider the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Babatunde Fashola as sound material for the job.
Another stalwart of the APC and former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi is lately being pushed from the South-south axis to take a shot at the coveted position once the race opens. There are also strong indications that the immediate past governor of Ogun State and senator for Ogun Central, Ibikunle Amosun may not be averse to the idea of increasing the list of the presidential hopefuls.
With such an early scheming for the 2023 presidential run and a brewing crisis in the APC, the ruling party risks the danger of degenerating into a disunited entity in the foreseeable future.