APC Gladiators Take Temporary Reprieve

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that the peace brokered by President Muhammadu Buhari in the All Progressives Congress may have given the warring parties a chance to restrategise

The intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari may have only brought a much needed temporary reprieve to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party at the centre. While the warring gladiators may have sheathed their swords for a season, they have only retreated to fashion out strategies for an impending future fight for the control of the party.

The immediate prize in focus is which zone retains the National Chairman of the party. The immediate two past chairmen of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Comrade Adam Oshiomhole were from Edo State in the South-south region. As the tenure of the recently dissolved 17-member of the National Working Committee (NWC) was abruptly cut-short, there is an understanding and pressure from a certain quarter of the party return the leadership of the party to the region that held it in the dissolved NWC. While, many are at home with this suggestion, there is contention over which of the South-south states should produce the National Chairman of the party.

This time around the contest is between Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi from Rivers State, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from Delta State and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom State. The emergence of Senator John Akpan Udoedehe as Secretary of the APC Interim Committee constituted by Buhari lends credence to the suggestion that Akpabio may have an advantage, even if temporarily.

The Akpabio lead is a continuation of the firm grip which he has subjected the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under, completely sidestepping the candidates of the NDDC for the office of Managing Director and Chairman of the NDDC Board, who were nominated by Amaechi, Oshiomhole and Omo-Agege, cleverly persuading Buhari to institute an Interim Management Committee (IMC), which is carrying out functions that are meant for a statutory NDDC Board.

Leaders from South-states, other than Edo have resolved that the National Chairman of the APC will not go back to Edo State. are also eligible to seek elective positions whenever the convention holds within the next six months. Though, Senator Bola Tinubu, National Leader of the APC has hinted that members of the dissolved NWC may run for office again in the next six months when the elections are due. Chief Hillard Eta from Cross River State, a former National Vice Chairman, South-south of the party was one of those touted as Acting National Chairman during the confusion that ensued following the suspension of Oshiomhole. But there has been no strong voice from Cross River State pushing for the office. Eta became the choice of the majority members of the NWC to act as National Chairman because he was the highest ranking member of the party from the zone of the suspended chairman.

APC Will Emerge Stronger

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the APC from Imo State, Chief Longers Anyanwu has disassociated himself from the prevailing sentiment that the series of crises bedevilling the political party may eventually lead to its implosion and natural death. Aligning himself to the popular maxim that things have to get worse before they become better, Anyanwu expressed confidence that the APC will emerge from these multiple problems a stronger political institution.

“What we see today as the problem is a solution in the sense that it is better that all these things are happening now so that it can be solved. It is a distraction to President Muhammadu Buhari who is trying to remain neutral by facing issues of governance in the face of the challenging global economy and the COVID-19 pandemic, but they keep dragging him into it. I am happy that he has risen to the occasion and finally decoded to intervene. There are too many cases in court. On one matter, you have up to 14 litigants, is that healthy?” he queried. This is a vibration that points to where the pendulum is swinging.

“The APC,” in his estimation, “does not have a problem.” The Imo State born politician who was the founding National Chairman of the Accord Party said, “What you see now is a selfish struggle by individuals to control the party ahead of the 2023 general election. These powerful individuals were capitalising on the fact Mr. President decided to watch from a distance, being the statesman that he is. Unfortunately for them, the APC is so big that it can’t be kept in the home or pocket of an individual or group. It will tear that pocket. They want to subsume the party or institutionalise themselves by embarking on a bitter political vendetta or Pull-Him-Down.”

“APC will survive. The gladiators will be drowned if they do not make room for peace and reconciliation.”

Also tracing the root of the APC crises to power play ahead of 2023, an APC stalwart from Rivers State, Prince Tonye Princewill, who is an ally of Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi said the Governor El-Rufai/Rotimi Amaechi interest in the APC persuaded Mr. President to agree to attend a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party called by Chief Victor Giadom, a factional Acting National Chairman of the party.

According to him, “the court says Giadom should hold that office for two weeks. What I suspect some people do not want is for Senator Bola Tinubu, the APC National Leader to be in total control of the party, which is what would have happened if the status quo had remained.”

Tinubu is the Issue

He explained, “the fear is that the Kwankwaso, Bukola Saraki and Atiku Abubakar elements have left the party, while the Congress Progressive Change (CPC) have a marginal presence, leaving the party largely in the hands of Tinubu. With Mr. President’s move, it is clear that Tinubu may not be the preferred APC presidential candidate in 2023.”

In order to put the party back on a strong footing he advocated for a neutral, but strong and respected individual that can assume headship in interim capacity, to remove the present gladiators out of the way and give the APC room for a fresh start, when the time comes for selection of the NWC.

Princewill submitted that the APC may have been saved. “This is a victory for all progressives. No Victor, no Oshiomole. No victor, no vanquished. The President has shown leadership and an external force has acted upon the party to put it back on track. The people chosen to run the affairs in the interim are fair, seasoned and progressive. I have no doubt they will reflect all shades of the party and can help us usher in a new dawn. As a Rivers man, they should look before they leap into my state. It is tricky there. Water as you know can be very slippery. Some will say it is Rivers state that put us here. Let it not do it to us again. I want to thank Victor Giadom for kick starting this peace, Comrade Adams Oshiomole for accepting it and most of all, the President for midwifing it. It is not yet time to celebrate. Implementation is where problems exist. But we pray for God’s guidance and wisdom in the affairs of men.”

The implementation that Princewill referred is nothing else but how the various interest groups that constitute the APC will get hold of national offices in party that can give them advantage to decide its presidential candidate and take other key decision concerning the 2023 national elections.

At the weekend, Tinubu who is rumoured to nurse a presidential ambition issued statement saying he has not made up his mind to run in the next presidential race. Political pundits are of the opinion that Tinubu’s presidential ambition may the final blow that will tear the APC into shreds if not well managed. His Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) within the APC is feared and treated with a lot of circumspection by other intra party groups like the New Peoples Democratic Party (NPDP) led by Amaechi and the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) led by Buhari.

The interim administration is clearly in the hands of the CPC elements in the APC. And everyone has been falling over themselves to show loyalty Buhari. Former APC National Chairman, Oshiomhole told the media that he accepts what the President did to save the party in good faith, while Buhari addressed the concerns of those who think he has drawn a battle line with Tinubu. He said his friendship with the APC National Leader can’t be ruptured by external forces.

The Push from Southeast

The future of the APC may be decided within the life of the interim committee as the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states would have been decided in quick succession on September 19 and October 10 respectively. If the APC wins the election in Edo, particularly with Pastor Oasgie Ize-Iyamu as the flagbearer that will be the ultimate endorsement of the sense of judgement of Oshiomhole and of he does not return as National Chairman, he would be back in good reckoning and his hand strengthened to become of the kept decision makers in the party.

In contention also for the office National Chairman is the Southeast region, where the party is eager to make an impression. A key partner in the APC was the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), led by Chief Ogbonaya Onu, the Science and Technology Minister. With the surprise emerge of Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State flying the APC flag, the Southeast region is ready to stake all it has to occupy the top office in the party. It is believed that there will be a dramatic acceptance of the APC by the people of the Southeast in 2023, particularly if the President is able to deliver the Second Niger Bridge before the election year..

Proponents of a Southeast APC National Chairman are hoping that the President can persuade Labour and Employment Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige to exit the Federal Executive Council to serve as National Chairman of the APC. The snag, however, is that the position will automatically halt the quest for an Igbo presidential ticket in the APC.
Leading Igbo caucus members of the APC like Senator Rocha’s Okorocha who has never hidden his intention to take a shot at the presidency will find it difficult to sell a different narrative from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) assertion that the APC hates Igbos.

Again, Tinubu may not be persuaded to work for a Southeast APC national chairman, as this would mean that both the Presidential candidate of the APC and its national chairman come from the South, a situation that influential APC leaders from the North like Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nadir El-Rufai are not likely to accept.
As things stand no one is sure of how Mr. President’s mind is working with his choice of the interim leadership of APC. The Governorship selection process in Ondo state will give a clearer picture of where the party is heading.

QUOTE 1

As the tenure of the recently dissolved 17-member of the National Working Committee (NWC) was abruptly cut-short, there is an understanding and pressure from a certain quarter of the party return the leadership of the party to the region that held it in the dissolved NWC. While, many are at home with this suggestion, there is contention over which of the South-south states should produce the National Chairman of the party.T his time around is between Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi from Rivers State, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from Delta State and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom State. The emergence of Senator John Akpan Udoedehe as Secretary of the APC Interim Committee constituted by Buhari lends credence to the suggestion that Akpabio may have an advantage, even if temporarily

QUOTE 2

A key partner in the APC was the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), led by Chief Ogbonaya Onu, the Science and Technology Minister. With the surprise emerge of Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State flying the APC flag, the Southeast region is ready to stake all it has to occupy the top office in the party. It is believed that there will be a dramatic acceptance of the APC by the people of the Southeast in 2023, particularly if the President is able to deliver the Second Niger Bridge before the election year..

Proponents of a Southeast APC National Chairman are hoping that the President can persuade Labour and Employment Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige to exit the Federal Executive Council to serve as National Chairman of the APC. The snag, however, is that the position will automatically halt the quest for an Igbo presidential ticket in the APC.

Leading Igbo caucus members of the APC like Senator Rocha’s Okorocha who has never hidden his intention to take a shot at the presidency will find it difficult to sell a different narrative from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) assertion that the APC hates Igbos