The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) held its national convention on June 23, amidst contentions and acrimony among members in some states, with the threat by the nPDP of pulling out of the party. The emergence of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as National Chairman, however, appears to further suppress the bottled anger within. Has the convention healed the wounds? Will it mark the start of unity in the party’s affairs? Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA examines the issues in the aftermath of the convention.
THE national convention of the All Progressives Congress(APC) ended on June 24 2018, expectedly with all the hues and cries ahead of the D-Day. But in politics, where offences are hardly forgiven, you don’t expect issues to get swept under the carpet just like that. Still waters do run fast under and that appears the fate of the ruling party at the moment.
The party ran into troubled waters early in its push for the national convention. Some opinion leaders in the party had provided what they felt would look like a way out by seeking the extension of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee(NWC). It was meant to be a saving grace that would help avert the Armageddon, embedded in the conduct of a convention close to election year.
But with the alarm from the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, raising constitutional issues and possibility of a booby trap for President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term aspiration, the party did a rethink after its National Executive Committee(NEC) had approved one year extension for the Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC. The threat was already real as some lawyers also filed suits at different courts, seeking to compel the party to hold a convention.
The process leading to the convention was fraught with confusion and conflagrations from different states, as more and more issues reared their heads. Clear issues emerged in 24 states of the Federation, with factions emerging in all. Parallel conventions took place even in the most unlikely states of Lagos, Kwara, Delta and Rivers. Many chieftains of the party also boycotted one leg of the congress or the other. Those who predicted Armageddon ahead of the convention and opted for the one year extension believed they had been proved right as pressure mounted.
The factions in contention included the loyalists of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), headed by the President, Buhari, and the Action Congress of Nigerian (ACN) factor, headed by the former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu. This arm of the party was later subdivided into Lagos and Abuja factions, while Tinubu heads the Lagos end, which is considered the most potent and daring.
The series of contention forced what was initially an indefinite suspension of the convention, as no date was announced after the state congresses ended. The president, the governors and other stakeholders took time out to consult before it was finally agreed to hold on June 23.
Before the D-Day
Permutations piled up upon themselves as the different camps within the APC attempted to outwit one another ahead of the convention. The classical cases of feuds and contentions were witnessed in Rivers, Imo, Kaduna, and to some extent, Lagos. The battle for the soul of the party was intense and the issues were varied. There was the quest for the control of the NWC of the party and decide who produces the National Chairman. Because some members of the party believe that Odigie-Oyegun had shown his meek nature and conciliatory disposition to issues of party management, they believe he should continue in charge after June 23. That apparently informed the dual faced position arrived at by the last NEC of the party which granted waivers to members of the outgoing NWC to seek re-election without resigning their position.
That gave the impression that Oyegun might eventually emerge the chairman and retain his seat. But the battle for the top job was multifaceted. There are those who also believed that with Tinubu and Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state rooting for the emergence of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as new National Chairman, the battle was already won.
With some governors believing that Okorocha and Tinubu had colonised Oshiomhole and adopted him as their candidate, following the president’s adoption of the former labour leader, some of the governors shifted their gaze at Chief Clement Ebri, a former Governor of Cross Rivers State. Those who propped him into the race were said to be of the view that his characters were close to that of Oyegun, and that he would adopt constant consultations with elders.
He was, however, soon to give way for an Oshiomhole consensus two days before the convention.
One of the issues that also threatened the convention was the nPDP crisis. The nPDP headed by Alhaji Kawu Baraje had announced days before the convention that his group was pulling out of the talks with the leadership of the APC. There were fears that the development could pave the way for a repeat of the experience of the 2013 experience of the peoples Democratic Party(PDP) where some governors and a number of stakeholders walked out of the National Convention and eventually defected to the APC.
Other issues included Tinubu’s uncompleted assignment of reconciliation given to him by President Buhari, the displeasure among members of the NWC, whose tenure had been extended by a previous NEC and the parallel congresses held by different state chapters. The Ward, Local Government and State Congresses of the party held in May further orchestrated the division within the party. Already, there were cracks in states including Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Rivers, Kogi, Imo, Oyo and Kogi. But the congresses further widened the gulf as factional executive committees emerged at the state levels. In Kaduna state, the forces loyal to the State Governor, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai were at war with loyalists of Senators Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi and Shehu Sani. In Kogi, loyalists of the late governorship candidate of the APC, Audu Abubakar led by his erstwhile running mate, Hon. James Faleke are at loggerheads with Governor Yahaya Bello’s group, who are seeking to solely control the state. Senator Dino Melaye’s feud with the Governor of Kogi is another factor taking its toll on the state chapter of the party. In Kano, loyalists of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwansoare at loggerheads with incumbent Governor Abdullahi Ganduje. Similar cracks were observed in different states of the federation.
The nPDP Scare
Ahead of the national Convention, the nPDP faction gave members of the ruling party a huge scare. Many had predicted that the party would fall like pack of cards after the convention as the nPDP members are set to go. While Kawu Baraje, who issued a statement cataloguing the frustrations of his members in the APC did not announce their exit, it was clear that that faction was set for the exit door.
“The public may recall that there have been ongoing talks between members of the former nPDP, the APC and the Presidency in recent days, he said adding while a team of nPDP led by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and four others, were slated to meet with Vice President, His Excellency Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the group discovered that there was no commitment on the part of the APC and the Presidency.
His press statement read: “We were alarmed that immediately after our meeting with the Vice President last week, the presidency misrepresented what transpired at the meeting by trying to blackmail some of the principal actors involved in the discussions in a national daily.
“Similarly, the leadership of the party [APC] went ahead to ratify all the Congresses from ward, local governments, states and zonal where many of our members have complaints, effectively presenting us with a fait accompli.
“The persecution of our members using state security apparatus have continued unabated. We recognize the powers of the Police to conduct criminal investigations but by rushing to the public with the issue even when they have unfettered access to the leadership of the National Assembly suggests an attempt to undermine, caricature and humiliate the institution of the legislature.
“It appears that there is a fouled and toxic atmosphere and environment of intimidation and threat to life in which we now find ourselves which may no longer be conducive for members of the former nPDP to continue with the talks. Given the unfolding events in the last 24 hours, where the President of the Senate, His Excellency, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and His Excellency, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, the Executive Governor of Kwara State, both of whom attended the meeting with the Vice President on Monday 28 May, 2018, have suddenly been accused of sponsoring armed robbery by the Police under the directives of the Presidency.”
With President Buhari declaring that he would not meet separately with the nPDP members since it was a party affair, tension had gripped a section of the party that the battle to contain the nPDP insurgency had been lost. But a day before the convention, Baraje told newsmen his members would participate in the convention, thus bringing down the tense atmosphere to a bearable measure.
At the convention, the president’s will prevailed with the unopposed emergence of Comrade Oshiomhole. But there were three different lists tagged ‘Unity list’ on parade at the convention. One was sanctioned by President Buhari and the governors, the other was said to have emanated from Lagos axis while a third was said to have emerged from the el-Rufai caucus. The different lists were circulated among the delegates to indicate which candidate would be voted for. Some of the positions with keen interests were the National Secretary of the party, the National Organising Secretary and the National Publicity Secretary. While the main unity list with Buhari’s support had Mallam Mai Buni as candidate for the post of secretary, the Tinubu Caucus was said to have sponsored Mallam Kashim Imam. The same was said to have cropped up with the position of National Publicity Secretary, where Bolaji Abdullahi emerged on the Buhari and governors’ list while Lanre Issa Onilu was promoted by the el-Rufai and Tinubu camps.
With the emergence of the new National Working Committee however, the real task of party engineering under Oshiomhole is unfolding. A flurry of congratulatory messages poured in as Oshiomhole was announced the new chairman. Many basked in the euphoria of the moment but a former governor of Nasarawa state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, was one of the few who recognised the task at hand. He said in his congratulatory message that the task before Oshiomhole was grave but surmountable.
The senator, who is leading one of the Buhari support groups, said party members and leaders should however trust in the pedigree of the one-time president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and former governor of Edo State to lead the party to success.
Adamu said: “When in 2015, Nigerians invested their mandate in the APC to provide good governance, we were never under the false impression that it was going to be an easy task.
“But through the provision of good and sharply-focused leadership by President Muhammadu Buhari, we have, so far, made significant progress and there is shared commitment to deliver on all of our campaign promises.
“It is in the context of this commitment that I congratulate our party and President Buhari on our choice of Comrade Oshiomhole as the new navigator of our party. I also congratulate Comrade Oshiomhole on his well-deserved election as national chairman of our party at this time.
“The task ahead is grave. There is, however, no doubt that there is enormous goodwill both within and outside the party to draw from in securing a second term in office for President Buhari whose dedication to ensuring national redemption cannot be faulted.”
Oshiomhole: The Morning after
The Oshiomhole agenda has started unfolding days after his emergence. First he has the unresolved nPDP battle to settle, while also contending with the myriads of parallel congresses that flowered in the states ahead of the convention.
It was learnt the new chairman does not want to shy away from the nPDP crisis and that he has put in place a channel to reach out to Senate President, Bukola Saraki and other members of the nPDP.
It was also learnt that the former labour leader intends to resolve the issues of parallel congresses and the emergence of parallel executives in the states. Some stakeholders who had insights into the Oshiomhole agenda said that the chairman intends to ensure harmonisation of executives and structures in states including Kaduna, Kogi, Ondo, Imo, Ogun, Oyo, Rivers and Bayelsa states.
The insiders confirmed that the development was already causing jitters among some stakeholders who believed that the national convention had already ratified whatever was done before the convention.
He said to be working on some power sharing arrangements in certain states, something that would run contrary to the winner takes all that unfolded in some of the states.
The stakeholders are particular about Bayelsa State, among others, where the interest of the incumbent leader of the party, Timpre Silva, could be threatened if loyalists of Mr. Timi Alaibe, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC) are accommodated. Oshiomhole is believed to be disposed to accommodating Alaibe’s men, having worked for the former NDDC chief in the 2016 governorship contest in the state.
In Ogun State, the National Chairman is said to be working on a complete harmonisation of structures between loyalists of ex-Governor Olusegun Osoba and the incumbent, Governor Ibikunle Amosu.
Something similar is also said to be in the offing for Kogi APC, where the new National Chairman is said to be planning a united front between the faction loyal to Governor Yahaya Bello and the former running mate to the late Audu Abubakar, Hon. James Faleke.He is also said to be moving towards bringing Senator Dino Melaye back fully into the APC fold in the state as well as at the national level.
A source close to the party had said: “The governors are jittery as never before following the unfolding reconciliation plans of the new National Chairman. Many of them had to stay back in Abuja to embark on some lobbying when they got hints of the planned reconciliation moves.”
Which way nPDP?
Will the nPDP agitation fizzle out just like that? That’s not likely, said a source who insisted that the misgivings appear fundamental. But will Oshiomhole break the dice on this matter? It is a matter of time.
However, it has been said that the disagreement between nPDP and its host party the APC is all about power sharing. In politics, they say, power is not given on a platter, maybe the decision to stay back is only postponing the evil day.