There seems to be no end to the conundrum and mudslinging that has currently characterised the affairs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the national level, reports Peterclaver Egbochue
Since the emergence of senator Bukola Saraki, and Hon. Yakubu Dogara, as senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively in circumstances perceived by the leadership of the party as betrayal and effrontery, the party has not known peace. Political observers posit that this situation may have resulted in President Muhammadu Buhari’s inability to announce his cabinet 30-days after his inauguration.
Unfortunately, as party leaders are making effort to restore peace and sanity in the party, there have been accusations and counter accusations among interest groups, which has further deepened the crisis. The former National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, had on Monday accused Saraki and Dogara of being sponsored by oil subsidy thieves. But in a swift reaction, the duo of Saraki and Dogara debunked the accusation, describing it as a figment of imagination of Akande. Both legislators in their separate reactions have faulted this claim.
Dr. Bukola, said he exposed frauds in the oil sector. “If not for my efforts, the fraud in the oil sector wouldn’t have been exposed to the public,” he disclosed. It is believed that if he, together with some of his colleagues exposed the frauds and the rot in the oil sector, it is not likely that the oil barons he exposed would sponsor him. “Oil subsidy thieves never sponsored my Senate Presidency, Saraki added. In a statement issued on Monday and made available to newsmen, the senate President said, “Again, the attention of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has been drawn to a malicious, false and totally reprehensible news report, wherein it insinuated that the election of Dr. Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of the 8th Senate was facilitated by Nigerians associated with dubious claims in the infamous oil subsidy.
“The news report went further to give a negative and dirty impression that the emergence of the President of the 8th Senate is aimed to sabotage the anti-corruption posture of President Muhammadu Buhari, led Federal Government as well as sabotage the ‘Change agenda’ of the All Progressive Congress (APC). “One of such desperate attempts to justify this blackmail and others was the story published in newspapers of Monday June 29 2015 as contained in a statement issued by the former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande.
“We dare say that the entire story was the figment of the imagination of the author. We make bold to state that in the 7th Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki, was Chairman of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee, which exposed the fraud and mismanagement in the oil sector. “Until Saraki’s motion on the floor of the senate, no one was in the picture of the rot in the sector or took any action.
Therefore, surely, Senator Saraki will be the last person the oil baron will want to see as Senate President. No doubt, we make bold to state that Saraki is the last person to be so sponsored by the oil barons or cabals. “In that position, Saraki did not only lead his colleagues in exposing the rot in the scheme but made very strong recommendations on how the system could be reformed and made corrupt- free.
It is on record that through his motion on the floor of the Senate, the House of Representatives followed in what is to be known as Oil subsidy probe and to which Ministers of Finance and Petroleum summoned and at last over, N500 billion was saved. Certainly, Senator Saraki is the last person to be so sponsored by the oil barons or cabals. “During the Senate hearing on the missing $20 Billion, for those who attended the public hearing, Senator Saraki led the onslaught of difficult questions to both the Minister of Finance, Minister of Petroleum and other federal agencies despite being in the ruling party then. To this effect, Senator Saraki refused to sign the final copy of the committee’s report but rather put forward a minority report with a press statement that follow suit. “Saraki went further to oppose the inclusion of kerosene subsidy in the 2015 budget as well as his opposition to Petroleum Swop deal by NNPC. Let it be known therefore that the Senate Presidency of Dr. Bukola Saraki, would not in any way be a stumbling block against President Buhari’s posture against anti-corruption. “He pledged that the 8th Senate under him as the President would give all necessary legislative support to the administration to fight and reduce corruption as his previous actions and bold step taken against the so called oil barons indicates that Saraki is committed to anti-corruption.
“For avoidance of doubt, we want to make it abundantly clear that it is totally false, untrue and calculated mischief to suggest that Senator Saraki’s emergence as Senate President was facilitated by oil barons. This is a case of calling the dog a bad name to hang it, another blatant lies that cannot fly. “Senator Bukola Saraki is determined and focused to achieve the Senate targeted legislative agenda and he is committed to support President Buhari to deliver on his promises to the people of Nigeria.” Similarly, the Speaker said he was committed to work for President Buhari to fight against corruption. According to the speaker, the first investigative motion adopted by the House was the investigation of fraud in the oil-swap contract awarded by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC).
It would be recalled that Chief Akande, had fingered fuel subsidy thieves, and corrupt businessmen as being behind the current crisis in the APC which culminated in the emergence of Saraki and Dogara as Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives, contrary to the wishes of the ruling party. In a statement on Sunday, the former governor of Osun State said those jittery of President Buhari’s constant threat of anticorruption battle encouraged and financed the rebellions against the APC democratic positions.
He said, “Before the party knew it, the process had been hijacked by polluted interests who saw the inordinate contests as a loop-hole for stifling APC government’s efforts in its desire to fight corruption. “Most Northern elite, the Nigerian oil subsidy barons and other business cartels, who never liked Buhari’s anti-corruption political stance, are quickly backing up the rebellion against APC with strong support. While other position seekers are waiting in the wings until Buhari’s ministers are announced, a large section of the Southwest see the rebellion as a conspiracy of the North against the Yoruba.” The former governor suggested a way out of the logjam in the party.
He said, “Now that the whole conspiracy has blown open, it is doubtful if the present institutions of party leadership can muster the required capacity to arrest the drift. It is my opinion that President Buhari, and the APC governors should now see APC as a wrecking platform that may not be strong enough again to carry them to political victory in 2019 and they should quickly begin a joint damage control effort to reconstruct the party in its claim to bring about the promised change before the party’s shortcomings begin to aggravate the challenges of governance in their hands.
“Some times in 2013, the Action Congress OF Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) resolved to merge and set up a merger committee to work out the modality for glueing together as one political party under one name, one constitution and one manifesto. “A splinter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) sought to be included in the merger. An application made to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to this end by All Progressives Congress (APC) National Interim Committee, composed of ACN, ANPP, CPC, and factions of APGA and Democratic People’s Party (DPP) was approved in July, 2013.
“Between Bola Ahmed Tinubu (an ACN leader) and Kashim Imam (a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader), the idea came up and was adopted that the new party should embark on a membership recruitment drive to certain PDP governors, whose main agenda was to see President Goodluck Jonathan out of power. “The recruitment efforts took APC leaders to Rivers, Kwara, Niger, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa and Adamawa states. Eventually, five PDP governors of Sokoto, Kano, Adamawa, Kwara and Rivers, together with the majority of their PDP National and State Assemblies members and other PDP National Assembly members from Gombe, Bauchi and Nasarawa, under the banner of the new- PDP, joined the APC.
“The APC thereafter organised membership registrations in all the over 120,000 polling units and followed up by using these registered members to conduct congresses in all the almost 8000 wards, in over 770 local governments, in all the 36 states (including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and a convention at the National level, thereby creating one united APC party structure all over Nigeria.
“With this air of oneness, APC went ahead to conduct primaries to select candidates for state governors and Houses of Assembly and for the presidency and the National Assemblies. “After the elections, which saw the APC to victory all round, a meeting was reported to have been held by certain old and new- PDP leaders in Alhaji Kawu Baraje’s house at Abuja to review what should be their share in this new Buhari’s government and resolved to seek collaboration with the PDP with a view to hi-jacking the National Assembly and, having got rid of Goodluck Jonathan, with an ultimate aim of resuscitating the PDP as their future political platform.
“Unknown to most APC members, while Senator Bukola Saraki was being adopted as the candidate for Senate President by certain old and new-PDP tendencies, the theory was being propagated that, like in most presidential democracies, the APC minority leaders in the old National Assembly (i.e. George Akume for the Senate and Femi Gbajabiamila for the House of Representatives) should automatically become Senate President and Speaker respectively, now that APC has the majority.
“Certain leaders felt that most past Senate presidents had come from Benue State, which Akume represented and that Benue State should be made to assume the traditional home of all senate presidents. “At the same time certain, senators were clamouring for one of the most ranking senators anywhere outside the Northwest zone that produced the President. That was how Ahmed Lawan, who has been in the House of Representatives for eight years and in the senate for another eight years emerged as the candidate for the senate president.
“Democrats among the APC leadership insisted on selection by mock elections, rather than tribal or sectional considerations. As a result of primary elections, Ahmed Lawan and George Akume emerged as APC candidate for Senate President and Deputy respectively while Femi Gbajabiamila and Mohammed Monguno emerged as the Speaker and Deputy for the House of Representatives.
“Numerous among those calling themselves businessmen in Nigeria are like leaches, sucking from the nation’s blood largely through various governments and particularly through the Nigerian Federal Government. While all these schisms were going on in the APC, those who were jittery of Buhari’s constant threat of anti-corruption’s battle began to encourage and finance rebellions against the APC democratic positions which led to the emergence of Senator Saraki as the candidate of the PDP tendencies inside and outside APC.
“Before the party knew it, the process had been hijacked by polluted interests who saw the inordinate contests as a loop-hole for stifling APC governments’ efforts in its desire to fight corruption. “Most Northern elite, the Nigerian oil subsidy barons and other business cartels, who never liked Buhari’s anti-corruption political stance, are quickly backing-up the rebellion against APC with strong support.
While other position seekers are waiting in the wings until Buhari’s ministers are announced, a large section of the Southwest see the rebellion as a conspiracy of the North against the Yoruba.” Akande’s conspiracy insinuation may have also been reinforced by the report that Chief Ayo Opadokun, and other Yoruba leaders are regretting queuing behind Bola Tinubu to vote for President Buhari in the last general elections. But when contacted by The UNION, Chief Opadokun denied the report and declined to speaker further on the issue. However, from the tone of Chief Akande’s letter, it could be deduced that there is serious suspicion of conspiracy within the camp of the Yorubas in the APC. Meanwhile, APC leaders are still finding the NASS crisis a bitter pill to swallow.
If there is anything uniting the top hierarchy of the party, it is the single desire to settle the matter by any means possible. Yet there is no single simple way forward as those who had earlier regarded it as a storm in a teacup have begun to read deeper meanings into it. The UNION has learnt that part of the reason the party caucus meeting scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled was because of the inability of all the aggrieved party in the dispute to arrive at a common ground on the issues dealing with the NASS crisis, the major headache in the party.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who had earlier welcomed the election of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Speaker is said to be having second thoughts. He is said to have gone back on his earlier stand because some officials in the party who are being made to feel isolated or cheated after supporting the party to victory are mounting pressure on him to intervene before the crisis get out of hand and rock APC boat.
As things stand now, the struggle for power within the party is being fought by three political power blocs: the Buhari/defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) caucus; Bola Tinubu/defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)/South West caucus and the Atiku Abubakar/Bukola Saraki/ nPDP caucus. Meanwhile, there is every indication that the political tussle going on among the party members is connected to the political power blocs posturing towards the 2019 elections.
Even though President Buhari has not publicly declared that he will not seek re-election in 2019, political alignment by at least the Atiku Abubakar/Bukola Saraki/nPDP caucus has been reported. Atiku’s camp has not stopped there. Last week, the new leaderships of the Senate and House of Representatives rejected APC’s National Working Committee (NWC) approved list of principal officers which included candidates backed by Tinubu, viz: Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila.
Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila failed in their respective bids to emerge Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker, respectively. The UNION gathered that APC is insisting that the party’s wish should prevail over the matter as allowing the leadership of the National Assembly to remain, would amount to securing electoral victory for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to continue ruling.