President Muhammadu Buhari, on February 6, designated Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as chief mediator in the crises-ridden APC. Now, three weeks later, more crises have come to the fore. The conflicts within the APC are not just about reconciling aggrieved members, or telling them to ignore the past and look to the future, as insiders say it is a source of concern, and that all those that matter must sit on a round table to call a spade a spade, and then forge ahead, so that the party would have an edge in 2019.
An aggrieved APC leader from the North West, who does not want his name in print, said President Buhari had allowed minor issues in the APC to fester, and have now grown. He said trouble in APC started when different people with different persuasions from the defunct legacy parties, including the Congress for progressives Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a portion of PDP and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) collapsed into one but strange force.
Another party stalwart said: “Let me tell you the truth, asking Tinubu who is widely seen as an interested party to champion the reconciliation move is like abdication of responsibility on the part of President Buhari.”
The chieftain, who spoke to Daily Trust days before Tinubu’s letter was leaked to the media on Thursday, said contentious issues in the APC far outweigh the capacity of the former Lagos governor. If that is the case, what about the contentious issues currently staring at the APC?
1. The Odigie-Oyegun incident
Tinubu’s latest letter to the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, accused the former Edo State governor of sabotaging the presidential mandate given to him to reconcile the party. The missive had undoubtedly exhumed the deep-rooted acrimony in the party that would make any peace effort difficult.
Tinubu in the letter which he copied President Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara, accused Oyegun of undermining his efforts. From the letter, it was clear Tinubu was angry with Oyegun’s resolve to go to Kogi State where he inaugurated officials of a parallel APC who have the support of Governor Yahaya Bello. In retrospect, Tinubu has not been happy with Kogi State since the death of then-candidate Abubakar Audu in 2015.
Tinubu’s anticipation then was that Rep Abiodun Faleke, who was to be Audu’s deputy as they cruised to power during the elections, should be sworn-in as governor but the whole process, which was alien to the Nigerian Constitution, was allegedly twisted at the APC headquarters under the watch of Oyegun, in favour of Bello.
But this is not all. In 2016, Tinubu had accused Oyegun of “sabotaging the will of democracy” in Ondo State by allegedly overriding the decision of the appeal panel which asked for a fresh governorship primary, following investigations that showed that the delegates’ list used for the exercise was tampered with.
Oyegun did not take the accusations lightly as he fired back in equal measure, describing Tinubu’s letter to him about the Ondo election as “reckless falsehood.”
With the Ondo episode in view, there were scepticisms when Tinubu visited the national secretariat of the APC some days after his appointment as mediator by President Buhari. While he told the Chief Oyegun’s led National Working Committee (NWC) to furnish him with records of all pending troubles in states, Oyegun on the other hand simply said they would accord the national leader all the support he needs to succeed.
And that was where the conversation ended until the latest letter from Tinubu which surreptitiously shattered the possibility of the two working together. Pundits say this is where the urgent need for Buhari to take over the reconciliation moves lies.
2. Expansion of Tinubu committee
In Buhari’s letter, Tinubu was given a blank cheque to reconcile APC without information on how long he should take to accomplish the mission or other people he should work with. It was only after further enquiries by the Daily Trust, that Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, said Tinubu will not be alone in executing the task.
“Of course, [Tinubu] cannot work alone. When the time comes, he will assemble a team that will work with him,” he said.
But many APC members said the decision to give the onerous mandate to Tinubu alone to do what he want was a political suicide, saying Buhari should have put together competent persons from all walks of life. “The assignment will involve resolving disagreements among party members, party leadership and political office holders in some states of the Federation,” the statement about Tinubu’s appointment, which was posted on Buhari’s Twitter handle said.
However, Ibrahim Jirgi, a member of APC Presidential Campaign Council in 2015, said, “This is the first time I am seeing this kind of one-man committee. Nobody doubts Tinubu’s capacity, but he is human, and cannot pretend to know everybody and every issue across all the states. Buhari should have selected at least six persons, one from each of the geo-political zones and then formally inaugurate them with clear mandate and time frame,” he said.
But a source close to Tinubu said the Asiwaju is now only testing the waters by moving with a handful of like-minds, just like during his visit to the APC secretariat, his meeting with the Senate president and his trip to Sokoto where he met with Governor Aminu Tambuwal and ex- Governor Aliyu Wamakko. “The idea is that the Asiwaju would select some people from the zones after he goes round so that the main committee would work for the real reconciliation,” the source, a senator, said.
3. Too many feuds and factions
This has been widely reported but analysts believe the APC must resolve them to make headway. In Kano, it is a fight between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso. Ganduje had recently said Kwankwaso would be replaced as senator by another fellow in 2019.
In Kogi State, it is between aggrieved excos of the state chapter of the APC who have been at loggerheads with Governor Bello for allegedly side-lining them since he assumed power about two years ago. The governor has created a faction and Oyegun has blessed them.
In Bauchi, it is between Governor Mohammed Abubakar and the speaker of the House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara as well as three senators from the state namely, Ali Wakili, Isa Hamma Misau and Nazifi Gamawa. They all accuse the governor of reneging the promises he made to the people during campaigns. The Senator Chris Ngige-led committee could not resolve the problem.
In Oyo State, it is between Governor Abiola Ajimobi and the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu. Shitu wants to succeed Ajimobi as governor but clearly, the governor has someone in mind, as evident in their utterances.
In Katsina, Governor Aminu Masari is finding it difficult to contend with threats from the APC splinter group called the APC-Akida comprising people like MT Liman, Sadiq Yar’adua, Sada Ilu, Usman Bugaje, and others.
In Kaduna, there is serious revolt against Governor Nasir El-Rufai from the camp of Senator Shehu Sani, and there’s former APC chairman in Kaduna State, Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed who blamed the governor for dividing the party, culminating in the formation of APC Akida faction in the state. Senator Hunkuyi, whose house was demolished last week, has also created a different faction.
In Zamfara, Senator Kabiru Marafa is at daggers-drawn with Governor Abdul’aziz Yari; while in Imo, Governor Rochas Okorocha has perfected plans to plant his son-in-law as successor.
4. Conventions, congresses, and even more congresses
The tenure of APC officials at the ward level in all the 36 states across Nigeria lapsed yesterday, February 24; but indications are clear that party leaders in Abuja have been overwhelmed by other issues and, and therefore forgot about this important party constitutional matter.
The tenure of the Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) would also lapse on June 13, this year amidst speculations that the leaders are planning for tenure elongation beyond 2019. For now, all activities lined up ahead of the congresses at ward, local government and state levels on one hand; and at the national convention on the other hand have been shrouded in secrecy.
At present, the tenure extension saga is a serious issue within the party as sources said most of the 24 APC governors and leaders such as Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande among others are not on the same page with current NWC members who supposed to ease out in June and pave the way for others ahead of 2019.
It was gathered that based on advice on the negative implication of having new party leaders at this crucial moment, President Buhari is somehow comfortable with the tenure extension plan for the current APC leaders.
The NWC had met in the last week of January, this year, but the crucial issues discussed have not been made public till date.
Before the meeting, party members across the state and political pundits had expected that a time table for congresses and convention, as well as the party’s plan for 2019 among other issues would be unveiled. And when the media speculated that tenure elongation and automatic ticket for Buhari were among issues discussed, the PDP leaders dismissed all the issues raised.
Contrary to what was speculated, the NWC was convened to deliberate on activities of the party for 2018 not 2019. Sources said unless the APC handlers respect the letters of their constitution by ensuring that leaders emerge as at when due, they would continue to have credibility problems, even as 2019 approaches fast.
5. Absence of Board of Trustees
Though its role is strictly advisory, the BoT is the conscience of any political party and evidently, the APC is yet to have a visible one. Pundits say it would be a huge joke for the APC to approach the 2019 elections without one. The BoT which normally has founding members in its fold plays a vital role in appealing to traditional and religious leaders for support. It is the BoT that advises elected officials of the party on how to uphold the creed of their offices and call them to order whenever they are carried away by influence.
Affter the general elections that gave them power, there were insinuations that Tinubu and ex-VP Atiku Abubakar were fighting for the position. But in September 2015, Tinubu denied any rift with Atiku over the seat.
Atiku has since defected to PDP without actualizing any of his dreams in APC.
In a December 2017 interview with Daily Trust, a chieftain of the APC, Alhaji Yahaya Kwande said, “I am an elected member of the Board of Trustees of my political party, it is the apex of our organization that will be supervising the working of the executive, whether they are in line with our manifesto.”
Article 13.2 (X) of the APC Constitution (October 2014 as amended) had clearly stipulated the powers of the BoT.
Some party leaders are suggesting that Buhari should simply take over as national leader of the party and work towards making Tinubu the BoT chair.
6. 2015 campaign council members left high and dry
Ahead of 2015, the party formed what came to be known as APC Presidential Campaign Council. The party unveiled the names of Buhari as Chairman, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as Alternate Chairman, Atiku Abubakar Vice Chairman (North) Tinubu as Vice Chairman (South) and then Governor Chibuike Amaechi as Secretary/ Director-General.
Beside the remaining 57 members, the presidential campaign council was thereafter extended to accommodate over 5,000 people drawn from across the state and subsumed under various committees as coordinators. “Where is the fate of the over 5000 President Buhari’s campaign coordinators and the APC campaign council members that were drawn from all over the country?” Ibrahim Jirgi who is member of one of the media committees, asked.
He said many members of the APC are angry because fact the journey hasn’t gone far.
Jirgi said though Buhari had appointed 209 board chairmen and 1,258, the largest since he came to office in 2015, those on the list have not been inaugurated. “The members with ambitions would have to vacate the seat by August. Do you think they would achieve anything?” he posed.
Apart from members of the presidential campaign council, sources said some of the people that served in the 19-member Transition Committee appointed by Buhari to liaise with the then-president Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government to ensure a smooth transfer of power “have not been carried along till date.”
The source said now that it is obvious the president will go for a second term, the services of those people would be needed.
7. A potent National Assembly cabal
At present, sources say APC will do extra work to convince some senators and members of the House of Reps to first remain in the party and then support it to win elections at different levels. An insider disclosed that the division in the senate has increased. “Some of the ex-governors in the Senate are already having meetings because they heard that by the time the APC wins again, especially with Buhari as president, all pending corruption cases against them would be dusted by anti-graft agencies,” he said.
Many senators defended Buhari over some issues have been cut to size with threats of suspension. The memory of the cases of senators Ali Ndume, Omo-Agege and Abdullahi Adamu easily come to mind. The situation is the same in the House of Reps.
About two weeks ago, a member of the APC from Kwara State, Rep Aliyu Hamman-Pategi, spoke while contributing to the debate on a motion about how the Nigerian legal system is being manipulated by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.
Hamman-Pategi, a staunch Saraki loyalist, questioned the sincerity of the reconciliation move, saying President Buhari has been angry with some of them since the contest that led to the emergence of the presiding officers of the National Assembly on June 9, 2015. He said the president called them to a dinner where he expressed his anger that APC members allowed PDP into his government by the emergence of Sen Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President.