POWER tussling is deepening in the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) over what has come to be known among party bigwigs as “bonus” states, even as blocs and tendencies strive to take central control of the platform ahead the 2023 general election.
The “bonus” states are chapters where the party is in opposition.
APC currently controls 22 states with the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), ruling in 13 states of Abia, Adamawa, Akwa-Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto and Taraba.
The All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) controls only Anambra State.
In succession, PDP lost three governors, in Zamfara, Cross River and Ebonyi to APC, turning the former ruling party to a minority party in the SouthEast, where its initial clean sweep of five states is now reduced to Enugu and Abia.
The 14 states are now deemed bonus to the power bloc that can install state executives in all, ahead of the national convention of the party, without discounting the influence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the leader.
Such power bloc is expected to gain a head-start against others and be difficult to stop from having a major say in the new national working committee expected to emerge before the end of the year.
The non-APC states were firmly in the grip of deposed national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole before he was ejected midway into his term.
The presidential aspiration of Senator Bola Tinubu was reportedly primed to benefit mainly from delegates from then-17 non-APC states, if Oshiomhole had stayed till 2022 when his tenure was to officially end.
The choice of a new national chairman and secretary for the party is now building new anxiety among power blocs, considering the dawning reality that the new NWC, would be mainly responsible for resolving the parallel congress crisis in about 23 states at all levels. In the South-West, where majority of the state chapters, is witnessing internal strife, chieftains are pointing to recent history when Oshiomhole dumped nearly all the sharing deals put together by Oyegun to assuage discontent over 2018 congresses.
The report of the reconciliation panel headed by a former senate president, Ken Nnamani, recommending power sharing in state chapters like Lagos, Oyo among others, was thrown out by the Oshiomhole leadership.
The hope initially pinned on the yet-to-be inaugurated Senator Adamu Abdullahi-led reconciliation committee is also gradually fading as the Buni leadership vacillates on empowering the team to set forth at its assignment.
A senior APC source told Sunday Tribune that the current apathy towards the appeal panels sent to states to listen to grievances of aggrieved factions, coming off the local government congress is largely due to the reality that the Buni leadership which set them up won’t be around to implement most of the recommendations expected from the Abdullahi’s committee and appeal panels.
Most of the panels are already tidying up their assignments due to aggrieved factions in more than 23 states, practically boycotting them.
In Delta State, the panel, according to Sunday Tribune findings, received only two petitions, though parallel congresses had been the order of the day as gladiators refused to sheathe swords. The panel had submitted its report, with one of the petitions, succeeding. In Lagos, days after the appeal panel met stakeholders, no petition had been submitted to it as publicly disclosed by the panel leadership. When one of the factional leaders was contacted by Sunday Tribune, he showed a complete lack of enthusiasm, saying his faction was just putting something together to present to the panel.
The local government congress appeal panels ran into credibility crisis, due to the decision of the national caretaker committee to retain the services of members, earlier sent as appeal panels on the ward congress crisis. Instead of swapping them as expected by some aggrieved factions, the national leadership didn’t only retain the panels, but sent exactly the same people to the same states where they earlier served. Their earlier assignment was fraught with allegations of bias, compromise, favouritism, backhand dealings and bribery made to the Buni leadership.
In Lagos, a member of the appeal panel (name withheld) was identified during the hearing of petitions from the ward congress to be heavily affiliated to a major faction of the party and allegedly pencilled in, for the state secretaryship of the party. He went ahead to participate in the proceedings, despite the demand, to recuse self. He is back as a member of the local government appeal panel.
A senior party man who sat on an appeal panel mocked the perceived ridiculousness on the part of the national leadership, of not releasing the approved results of ward and local government congresses and still going ahead to set up appeal panels.
“What exactly are they asking us to consider when approved lists are withheld. As we speak, nobody can claim to know the factions in states where parallel congresses took place, that were favoured. Anybody saying his faction is authentic is lying” the source said.
Reminded that Lagos State chapter had sworn in ward executives, the party leader, with strong footing in Abuja, laughed it off, calling the development, “their own arrangement”.
Despite the shift in the state congress to a new date (October 16), signals from many of the crisis-ridden chapters, are pointing to parallel congress arrangement as feuding parties refuse to yield ground, amid threat of expulsion from the national caretaker body. Sunday Tribune further learnt that the crisis in state chapters is primarily fueled by the refusal of chieftains to toe provisions of party’s constitution on leadership hierarchy in non-APC states.
While serving governors are leaders of the party where in power, Article 11 of the party’s constitution puts the leadership mantle on former elected leaders, like ex-governors among others, who should ordinarily constitute the state congress, which is constitutionally-superior to the state working committee. But over the years, governors, also members of the state congress, have largely refused to inaugurate the body, paving the way for the current crisis. Party officials in non-APC states have also refused to recognise the leadership of members of the state congress, as currently playing out in Oyo State where the headship of former Oyo governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala, is being resisted by acting chairman, Chief Akin Oke, Sunday Tribune has learnt.
From the leadership vacuum in the non-APC states is the reported gradual emergence of a congregation of those seen as Villa boys, taking over the party structure, even when not so recognised by the party’s constitution. The emerging leaders are believed to have the ears of the president and would eventually morph into a solid bloc for him, when he begins to make strategic political decision on the future of the party and the presidency.
In this class is said to be the deputy senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege and Minister of Youth and Sport, Sunday Dare.
Former Delta governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan is by the constitution of the party, the leader in Delta State chapter, but Omo-Agege, is in firm control.
In Oyo State, former governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala should be the official leader, but Dare’s advantage over him isn’t lost on party faithful. The minister is believed to be a close ally of a highly-influential Villa aide.
In Akwa-Ibom, the caretaker national secretary, John James Akpan Udo-Edehe, has almost swept out former governor Godswill Akpabio.
In Rivers, former Senator Magnus Abe, has been challenging the leadership of former governor Rotimi Amaechi at every turn.
Edo is also contentious, despite Oshiomhole being a former governor. Party’s governorship candidate in 2020 poll, Pastor Ize Iyamu, is being accused in certain quarters of hijacking the congresses.
In Anambra, both Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige and APC governorship candidate in the November 6 poll, Andy Uba, were both elected governors at different times and had their elections quashed.
As former governors, Ngige, being the first to be elected, should be the state APC leader, but Uba appears to be firmly in control of the party structure.
A party faithful told Sunday Tribune that resolving the leadership crisis requires not confusing party structure with political structure.
Using Anambra, Ogun, and a couple of other states as examples, he pointed out that those who think they have taken over the party structure, might just discover late that the political structure has been taken away by opponents.
He warned that Uba trying to exclude Ngige from his campaign might be disastrous, just as sidelining former governor Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun.
In Enugu, though two members of state congress former Senate President Nnamani and former governor Sullivan Chime are in same camp, they are facing stiff leadership challenge from some state officials of the party.
The expanding gubernatorial field in Oyo State is also creating fresh bubble. The rumoured governorship aspiration of a former Group Managing Director of a first generation bank, Sunday Tribune gathered, is causing a row.
Of the five aspirants believed to be eyeing Governor Seyi Makinde’s job, four, Chief Niyi Akintola SAN, Joseph Tegbe, Adebayo Adelabu and Senator Teslim Folarin are from Ibadanland, while only Dare is from Ogbomoso. The group supporting Tegbe is also believed to be behind the ex-GMD. Those pushing the Ibadan project in APC are currently nursing the fear that the multiple aspirants from the zone could gift Dare the ticket.