The APC should put its house in order, writes Habeeb Surji

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AHEAD OF 2023 ELECTIONS

Charity they say begins at home. This saying aptly captures the ongoing crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) when juxtaposed with the pledge by President Muhammadu Buhari to conduct free, fair and transparent elections come 2023.

The president had while celebrating his 77th birthday pledged to conduct credible polls come 2023. The pledge which came at a time rumour was rife that he is planning a third-term dominated the media space provided a relief to many in the country, especially members of the opposition parties. The president declared at the State House, “What I want to promise Nigerians is that I will work very hard on free and fair elections.

“All those that are going to succeed in the National Assembly and the presidency, they better work very hard because I will make sure, using the law enforcement agencies, that elections are free and fair. That nobody uses his office or resources to force himself on his constituency.”

If this presidential pledge is fulfilled, the country will be better for it. But a lot of things must be done by the president and the National Assembly for the fulfillment of the pledge. The amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act should be on top of every other thing.

The bedrock for a free, fair and transparent poll is internal democracy among the country’s political parties. The absence of this is the foundation for chaotic and malpractices-driven poll.

Can the president fulfill his pledge when his party is engulfed by crisis? The answer to this would be provided by the outcome of the 2023 poll. As it is, the National Chairman of the ruling party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is facing serious threat of removal from office.

The party’s stalwarts including governors who are of the APC are sharply divided. While some are calling for Oshiomhole’s removal, others are saying he should stay. The reign of Oshiomhole who succeeded Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the pioneer national chairman of the APC, is vitiated by crises.

With the way things are going the party may be split ahead of 2023 as those plotting Oshiomhole’s removal are doing so to gain ground ahead of the general elections. Since constitutionally, the president’s second and final term ends in 2023, key stakeholders have commenced machinations and scheming for the coveted seat.

Weeks ago, at a meeting with the president, governors of the APC exchanged hot words and shouted at each others over Oshiomhole. The meeting ended in a stalemate and when the governors emerged from the meeting, none of them agreed to speak to newsmen. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, also attended the meeting.

A national daily reported that five governors pushed for Oshiomhole’s immediate removal, saying he had mismanaged the party and this has endangered its future. They are Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu, who is also chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum; Governor Nasiru el-Rufai of Kaduna; Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau, who is chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum; Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State and Governor Andrew Obaseki of Edo. The latter is in a bitter political quarrel with his predecessor and former godfather, Oshiomhole. He is also up for re-election next year. It took the swift intervention of Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum to kill the plot hatched by the five governors.

Zulum was said to have spilled the beans when he saw that the quartet wanted to use the other governors to get the president’s backing for Oshiomhole’s removal.

It was reported that the governor told the president that some of his colleagues want to hijack the party leadership because they want one of them to be president in 2023.

“It is all about 2023. They want a pliant person as chairman, someone they can manipulate. That is why they want Oshiomhole out”, he told a stunned President Buhari, adding: “They want to hijack the APC for selfish reason,” the governor was quoted to have said.

A source privy to the meeting and how it went said Zulum told the President that El-Rufai and his collaborators had sinister motive. Zulum revealed that Bagudu once pleaded with him to support former Zamfara State Governor Abdulazeez Yari in his (Yari) bid to replace Oshiomhole. He challenged Bagudu to deny it.

In the same vein, a former Senator Kabir Garba Marafa has said that the plot to remove Oshiomhole was targeted at Buhari.

Marafa said what the party is witnessing was a proxy war. His words, “The fight is not against Oshiomhole, it is actually against the president himself. It is only that they don’t have the gut to say it now, but they will when the time is ripe. It is evident that the plot to unseat Oshiomhole by a gang of President Buhari’s adversaries has thickened. This plot is merely aimed at hijacking the party structures and hand it over to Yari – who till now is the arrow head of all the people that harbour lots of bitterness against the president – ahead of the 2023 general election. The Governors in concert with their cronies within and outside the party are doing everything possible to hijack the party structures to ensure that the president and his sympathizers are edged out of power equation in 2023,” he said.

Advising the President, Marafa told him to stop dining with the devils to avoid making a capital mistake. Saying, “Yari’s contempt for President Buhari is not new as it was on record that during the formation of the caretaker for the APC in 2013 from the defunct legacy parties, Yari, as the chairman of the committee that allocated the party positions allotted to Northwest had disdainfully insulted and denied President Buhari the privilege of making the first choice. He argued that Buhari doesn’t control any state in the northwest and that his party the CPC lacked the wherewithal to win election in any of the northwestern states.

“Yari would later allocate the highest position reserved to the zone (Deputy National Chairman) to himself (Zamfara state) followed by Kano State (National Treasurer), Sokoto State Zonal Vice Chairman leaving Buhari and his party, the CPC with Zonal Women Leader, thus holding the shortest end of the stick even though the president was unarguably the leader of the zone.”

Marafa also recalled how Yari connived with his colleagues in the Governors’ Forum to defeat the President and his men in the elections that produced the leadership of the two chambers of National Assembly in 2015.

To fulfill his pledge, the president must heed the calls by the governor and the former lawmaker, his diehard supporters.

Surji wrote from Abuja