Francis Moses examines the current in-fighting within the All Progressives Congress (APC), over who controls the soul of the party
From every indication, the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the last Presidential election, may have opened up a new vista of challenges to the party. Part of it is the on-going power tussle between a former governor of Lagos state and national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President. For some political watchers, the tussle over who controls the soul of the APC at the national level visibly played out at the recent events leading to the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki and senator Ike Ekweremadu, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as senate president and deputy respectively.
The party’s National Working Committee (NWC), consisting mainly members loyal to Tinubu, had organized a shadow election in which Senators Ahmad Lawan and George Akume emerged as the party’s candidates for Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively. Similarly, House of Representatives members- elect on the platform of the APC known to be loyal to Tinubu elected Hon. Femi Gbajiabiamila, as their candidate for the Speakership position with Tahir Monguno, as his deputy.
But this was not to be as the group opposed to Tinubu’s grip on the party were said to have initiated a plot to stop him. According to reports, Atiku and the five governors, who defected to the APC had a hand in the victory of Saraki and Dogara. They were said to have used their influence to make Saraki emerge Senate president, stopping Lawan, who is believed to be Tinubu’s candidate. A source close to Atiku’s camp reportedly disclosed that Atiku had long waited for the right time to fight Tinubu whom he alleged ditched him twice.
He pointed out that after the 2007 presidential election which Atiku contested under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he was not well positioned in the party due to Tinubu’s overbearing influence and he had to quit the party for PDP. He had therefore planned to clip Tinubu’s wings in the party. It was learnt that in supporting the aspirations of Saraki and Dogara, Atiku had argued that democracy could better be served when the principle of internal democracy is respected. This may explain the visit of Saraki to Atiku’s residence a few hours after his emergence, even as Tinubu’s camp was still enraged at the development. By virtue of their new positions as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Saraki and Dogara, have become automatic members of the National Executive Committee, the highest decision making body of the party.
Their positions also confer on them automatic membership of the party’s Board of Trustees and National Executive Committee. However, the Director-General of the Atiku Media Office, Mazi Paul Ibe, dismissed the insinuation that his principal had a hand in the emergence of the duo of Saraki and Dogara. His words, “Atiku did not orchestrate the emergence of the new leadership in the National Assembly and insinuating that amounts to nothing but political mischief, as he had refused to leave the party or work for the PDP even when the then President Jonathan was desperate for Atiku’s support. “The visits of politicians and APC leaders including that of the Senate President are common political rituals in Atiku’s Asokoro residence.
For the purposes of emphasis, the President has confidence in him and that explains why he had drafted him as an envoy of sorts in the race leading up to the emergence of a Nigerian President of African Development Bank. “It is baseless and unfounded to suggest that Atiku conspired with the PDP or Saraki to ‘sabotage’ the APC. He would have congratulated Senator Ahmed Lawan (or any other leader) if he had won. It is simplistic to attribute conspiratorial agenda to an innocuous congratulatory visit. “Atiku’s loyalty to his party is indisputable. He remains a loyal party member. He, in fact, threw his political assets behind the Buhari presidential campaign.
Any suggestion that he conspired with Saraki or anybody is the figment of someone’s imagination.” But in the view of a civil rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), the infighting in the ruling APC was a battle for the control of the soul of the party ahead of the 2019 elections. Ozekhome who disclosed this while speaking to newsmen in Abuja noted that the battle between Atiku Abubakar’s camp and Tinubu was simply over who controls the party’s machinery.
According to him, the emergence of Senator Saraki and Dogara against the wish of the party, had exposed the discord in the ruling party. This had led many observers and analysts to request the sanction of Saraki and Dogara, just as the leadership of the APC described the election of the NASS leadership as gross indiscipline with a promise to sanction the new principal officers for not following the party’s directive on the election of principal officers of the party. According to Ozekhome, the disarray in the different camps is centered on the fact that president Muhammadu Buhari, may be too old to run for office by 2019, and with power likely to remain in the north, the different groups are trying to firm up their grip and affluence in the party. “What we are seeing is the battle for 2019.
It is a straight fight between the Atiku camp and Tinubu’s camp. The thinking is that Buhari will be too old to run for office by then so the camps want to consolidate their grip on power before then.” the lawyer said, warning that failure to address the issue amicably would damage the survival and success of the party. On his part, the deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party Mr. Timi Frank, said that the incident in the National Assembly which produced Saraki as the Senate President and Dagora as the Speaker only saved the party from being sidelined by the PDP. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dagora who is not comfortable with the allegation that his group is working and planning towards 2019, dismissed this as baseless. He added that what happened at the National Assembly had nothing to do with that. Similarly, a close associate of Tinubu and former special adviser on Education to Fashola, Hon. Fatai Olukoga, said the Atiku group in the party couldn’t outshine Tinubu.
He said the ploy by Atiku in the party are clear to Tinubu, adding that Tinubu would bounce back to settle all scores in the party, describing Atiku and Saraki’s moves in the party as “child’s play”, saying it is too early for them to have started such politicking in the party at this time. He stressed that all the attacks against Tinubu by Atiku and his group is because Tinubu never supported Atiku to clinch the party’s presidential ticket. His words, “We don’t want to play to the gallery by picking Atiku as our presidential candidate because all powerful forces in the country were not in support of him standing as our standard bearer. So, we all know that it is because of this that he is after Tinubu.
“There is no way Atiku would have his way in the party as he came in when we have already done the necessary political arrangement among the political parties that merged. He came along with the PDP governors, so he is not a real APC man.” Speaking further, he asserted that Tinubu has his way of managing crisis in the party, pointing out that Tinubu’s role in putting structures together for APC and President Buhari to emerge cannot be pushed aside.
Battle For BOT Chairman Intensify There are indications that power tussle may derail the All Progressives Congress APC over who emerge chairmanship of its Board of Trustees. It was gathered that the tussle is between former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and a former Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Akande backed by power bloc led by a National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola, who seeks to influence decisions in the party.
Investigations further revealed that the struggle for the chairmanship of the APC’s BOT became more intense following the National Assembly leadership elections on June 9. While Atiku was reported to have supported Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, during the elections, Tinubu and the party’s National Working Committee were said to have backed Senator Ahmad Lawan and Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila for the senate presidency and the speakership.
However, The UNION gathered that Tinubu is trying to get even with Atiku by throwing his weight behind Akande. Meanwhile, the Action Group caucus of the (APC), has said those ganging up to fight the National Leader of the party Tinubu, would surely live to regret their acts of indiscipline and insubordination. In a release signed by the spokesperson of the group, Segun Dipe, it observed that some elements believed that their popularity could only be maintained by denigrating Tinubu and telling lies against him.
The group likened Tinubu to late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who despite all odds wriggled out of crisis set up by his betrayers while the betrayers fell into the pit they had dug for him. The group explained that the June National Assembly elections revealed the fact that there was a coup against Tinubu, Buhari and Nigerians. AG however said, it takes solace in the fact that public opinion is already drifting away from backing the conspirators. These ugly developments have attracted condemnation from stakeholders who believe the AP is taking squandering their post election popularity with their compatriots by threating them with open arrogance and intoxication with power. T Prominent amonf them is the Labour Party and opposition PDP leadership.
For the National Secretary of the Labour Party, Barr. Olukayode Ajulo the ongoing leadership struggle within the ranks of the APC may derail and distract President Buhari- led administration from delivering on its many promises to Nigerians during campaign. Describing the in-fighting between certain power blocs within the APC as borne of selfish interests, Barr. Kayode Ajulo, who is also the Chairman of Egalitarian Mission for Africa warned that the ominous signs being given by the leadership of the APC appears to be a confirmation of the popularly held opinion that the APC was a party of “strange bed-fellows” which was not built to last and would not stand the test of time.
His words “The in-house squabbling within the APC is too early and too soon; it gives validity to the position of many stakeholders in the polity that it is nothing but an amalgamation of selfish interests who do not have the national interests at heart. “By virtue of President Buhari’s electoral victory, Labour Party have the opposition status automatically conferred us party, particularly when PDP is bereft of what to do but national interests remains a more pressing priority and for Nigeria’s sake, statesmanship has to displace opposition politics and come to the fore. It is therefore necessary for us to address this ominous signs we perceive with the ranks of the APC, in the interest of the entire nation”. The National Secretary expressed dismay at the ill-timing of the squabbles of the APC, wondering if they truly desired the success of their erstwhile candidate who is now the “captain of the Nigerian ship”.
“Is this the time for such wrangling? Is this the time for power tussles? The continued tussle leads some of us to wonder whether indeed the APC are aware that their tussles would inevitably have dire consequences on the President Buhari administration’s ability to deliver on its many promises. “There must be a point of politics, and a point of policies; it appears that the chieftains within the APC have a problem distinguishing between the two, and they are certainly oblivious of the fact that their prolonged power struggle at this point in Nigerian history is unwarranted,” Ajulo said. The Legal luminary also expressed great indignation at the comment credited to the APC spokesman, Lai Mohammed, in which he stated that “President Buhari is not the leader of the APC”.
“Can you imagine such impudence? To me, it is certainly the height of recklessness to assert that the President is not the leader of the party on whose platform he was elected to his position. “Is he (Mohammed) saying that Nigerians have been taken for a ride? Is he saying that the president has a don from which he must take orders? Is he saying that President Buhari has a leader? If that is the case, we demand on behalf of the 15 million Nigerians who voted him in, that they should disclose the identity of the true president of Nigeria immediately. “If the president is not the leader of the party, Nigerians demand to know who the president is obliged to take orders from,” he said.
Faulting the party’s inclination to embrace the “winner takes all” position, he fingered that tendency as the underlying cause of the party’s woes. “It is very strange and un-statesmanlike that up till now, the APC is yet to reach out to the leadership of other political parties who participated in the electoral process. One would have thought that in the spirit of good sportsmanship, the party would have initiated meetings with other stakeholders in the other parties to commence the great work of rebuilding Nigeria. The National Secretary charged President Buhari to emulate the example of the Abraham Lincoln-led administration in the aftermath of the American civil war.
“We call Buhari to walk the talk by inviting all leaders of the four major political parties who have members who were elected into offices for consultations and cooperation on how to navigate the stormy waters in which the nation is presently anchored, the turnout of events leading to the emergence of Senator Saraki and Yakubu Dogara is a clear indication that APC cannot do it all alone,” he said. The National Secretary also insisted that the president must also steer clear of all attempts being made by certain power blocs within the APC to “tele-guide” his choices and decisions as regards policies that would affect the millions of Nigerians under his watch. “Nigerians oppose any and every attempt by any cabal to hijack for themselves, the president of over 170 million Nigerians.
Only 15 millions Nigerians voted for, the remaining 165 million Nigerians must be carried along. We will not accept and cabal to hijack our commonwealth to them alone. Nobody should be seen to be given the president orders in secret,” he said. However the opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has said it has recovered from the unprecedented electoral defeat it suffered during the 2015 general elections.
The party therefore, said it has begun moves to take over power from the APC in 2019. According to a statement by Chief Olisa Metuh, in Abuja over the weekend, one of the moves aimed at winning the elections in the future was the election of the Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, as the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. The PDP spokesperson added that the recent political events in the country have continued to vindicate the PDP as the only true national platform committed to national interest, where all citizens as equal partners are free to hold opinion and aspire to any position. Metuh charged members of the party in states of the federation to close ranks; to work with their leaders at all levels to ensure that the PDP comes out stronger to regain power at the center in 2019.