When it comes to pressing the self-destruct button, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has no match. It happened in Zamfara state, when internal bickering made a mess of their successes at the poll, after the 2019 general election. They won all the posts contested for in the election only for the war of internecine between the Kabiru Marafa faction and that of the immediate past — the then outgoing governor — Abdulaziz Yari to conspire with leadership ineptitude at the national level to deny them the opportunity of savouring the sweetness of victory. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) you would say.
All efforts (as an after-thought, though) by the then party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to broker peace between the warring factions proved unsuccessful. (Oshiomhole himself got consumed by similar war, within the party. Sorry for the digression). The resultant legal tussle would later go the whole judicial hog, as the supreme court delivered its judgment, upturning their victory on the ground that there was no properly conducted primary election and therefore, nullified their victories, declaring candidates of other parties (majorly of PDP), who scored the next highest votes be sworn-in. That was how Bello Matawalle and other PDP contestants got ushered into office by the rashness of APC stalwarts in the state. Matawalle would later defect to the APC. Even at that, the state chapter of the party is still in troubled waters, as the Governor Matawalle and Kabiru Marafa factions conducted parallel congresses last November. And that does not suggest a total harmony between Matawalle and Yari’s faction either. An enemy of my enemy does not necessarily translate to being my enemy.
The story is no different in Rivers state, where the unending battle of supremacy between the minister for transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Magnus Abe, senator representing Rivers south-east senatorial district, as to who controls the party machinery in the state ensured that the party was barred, by a court judgment, from fielding candidates in 2019 general election. This then gave the Governor Wike-inspired PDP in the state a clean sweep at the poll leaving the party and its teeming loyalists stranded. Ordinarily, one would have expected the party’s leadership to learn from these bitter experiences, but far from it. History keeps repeating itself.
Go to Ogun state; Governor Dapo Abiodun and his immediate predecessor, Ibikunle Amosun will each, tell you “why there would be no peace”, unless things are done, in accordance with their respective terms. In Imo state, it is a game of “who-blinks-first” between Governor Hope Uzordimma and Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who is bent on having his son-in-law occupy the Douglas House as his immediate successor. In Gombe state, the governor, Mohammed Yahaya, and a former governor of the state Mohammed Goje are at each other’s throats; ditto for Ganduje, governor of Kano state, and one of his predecessors, Ibrahim Shekarau, are battling for the soul of the party.
In Kwara state, there is no love lost between the governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, and the party’s state caretaker chairman, Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa, popularly known as BOB. On the same side with BOB, seems to be the two ministers from the state, Lai Mohammed, the minister for information and culture, and Gbemisola Saraki, minister of state for transportation. The governor, meanwhile, enjoys the support of almost all the elected public office holders; talking about federal and state lawmakers. I am not sure if Ovie Ọmọ-Agege and Festus Keyamo would agree to drink water with the same cup, as they aim for the control of the party’s machinery in Delta state. Lagos and Ekiti, are not left out of the internal bickering that has since 2015, characterised the existence of the party. This dates back to early June 2015 when Bukola Saraki emerged as the senate president, against the wishes of the greater faction of the leadership of the party. In Osun, the minister for interior, and the immediate past governor of the state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s loyalists do not see eye-to-eye with those of the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola. The list goes on and on.
The latest on the list of the crises rocking the party is the one that saw some members of the party approach the federal high court in Abuja seeking an injunction, to restrain the Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker and extraordinary convention planning committee (CECPC) from holding the national convention next month, not minding the danger of not holding the convention as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the director-general, Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, wrote a memo to the APC hierarchy, asking the CECPC to proceed with the convention plan or resign. Nothing describes “commotion” better succinctly than this.
A political party (though, seen as a special purpose vehicle by Nigerian politicians in their quests to grab power at all costs) is defined as “a group of people who holds similar political ideology, and work fervently to get the control of government in order to implement this ideology”. When a group of people who are from different backgrounds, with varied interests comes together in such a number, conflict becomes a matter of course. Bearing this in mind, the leadership of a focused party forges an in-built mechanism for conflict resolution, among the people of conflicting interests within the fold. This is what is badly needed, but sadly lacking, in APC. That is one area where the opposition PDP towers above the ruling APC. PDP might look disorganised, viewed from the outside, they have that institutionalised way of resolving their differences.
It would be recalled that sometimes last November the crisis rocking the party, took a more comical dimension, when one Prince Mustapha Audu, under the auspice of one of the support groups in the party, the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) announced the purported disbandment of the Buni-led caretaker extraordinary convention planning committee (CECPC). The movement would later name Audu as chairman of the new CECPC with a mandate to conduct the party’s national convention on February 26, 20222.
The group also named Senate President Ahmad Lawan and house of representatives speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila into the new CECPC as representatives of the national assembly.
However, Buni and the secretary to the CECPC, John Akpanudoedehen responded, calling for the arrest of Audu and his co-travellers for what they called “treasonable felony”. Mustapha Audu is the son of a former governor of Kogi state and a late chieftain of the party,. Abubakar Audu. We might not have heard the last about that short, but tumultuous drama in the ruling party, as the Kogi state chapter of the party, had disowned Audu; denying knowing him as a registered member of the party at any level within Kogi state.
It is believed by some political commentators that, the only unifying factor holding the different fragments of power blocs within the party together is President Muhammadu Buhari; and that, considering his imminent departure, once he completes his tenure, come May 29, 2023, the party would implode, and thus become history.
If history is going to serve as our proper guide, then one would say that the current reconciliation efforts being made by the “reconciliation committee”, headed by a former governor of Nasarawa state, Abdullahi Adamu is an exercise in futility, as an average Nigerian politician has this attitude of, “My way or No Way”. That might bring to the fore again, the judicial remark in the supreme court judgment on the last year’s Ondo state gubernatorial election, wherein the victory of Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) was upheld, might have inadvertently Stoke up, another round of crisis in the party. The victory, which rested on a split judgment of four against three out of the seven justices on the election panel, had managed to scale through because the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) failed to join in the matter, Buni, whose legitimacy as the chairman of the CECPC is under question. If he has been joined in the suit, as a co-defender, and the supreme court declared him as an illegal occupant of the office of caretaker, then all the nomination he had done, including that of Rotimi Akeredolu, would become null and void. Many party stalwarts, especially those who know a thing or two about the law have warned that Buni’s occupation of the office while serving as the executive governor of Yobe state is in contravention of section 183 of the 1999 constitution and article 17(4) of the party’s constitution the interpretation of which is that, Maimala Buni could not function both as a state governor, and at the same time, acting chairman of the APC. Therefore anything built on that would be null and void.
Immediately after the judgment was delivered, a strong member of the party and the current minister of state for labour and employment, Festus Keyamo SAN, in a leaked internal memo reportedly sent to the leadership of the party, warned of the grave danger in Mai Mala Buni carrying on, as the party’s national caretaker committee chairman. But the party’s national legal adviser, Babatunde Ogala, waived the admonition aside, giving section 183 a different interpretation from what Keyamo perceives.
It is therefore instructive for the party to expect litigations from any of those factions that they are unable to reconcile and reintegrate into party reckoning, the majority of whom have decided to fight from within, rather than defect. A well-articulated legal argument, anchored around the above-quoted sections of the relevant laws can upturn any victory at the poll against the party. It is on this note that genuine lovers of the ruling party should be worried, and thus pardoned for feeling that, APC might just be building castles in the sky, as the 2023 general election approaches.
Abubakar writes from Ilorin. You can reach him via 08051388285 or [email protected]