From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
RECENTLy, the National Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja witnessed near total blackout due to the epileptic power supply from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and lamentably, the faulty standby generating set to complement supply at the headquarters.
Disappointingly, official party activities were virtually grounded even as office windows and doors were flung open to ventilate the offices and tackle the disturbing unbearable heat which made lives in the FCT very uncomfortable almost throughout last week.
In fact, it was so bad that the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was alleged to have resorted to using hand fan while receiving visitors and carrying out official activities in his office.
An angry staff who commented in confidence on the blackout at the Abuja headquarters, quipped: “We have been like this for some times now. The power supply to the secretariat has been unbearably very epileptic just as Nigerians experience in other parts of the country.
“Yes, we members of staff are concerned about the situation, but where will we complain to when our national chairman and other national officers were sweating while receiving visitors and carrying out official functions under that condition.
“If not for the generating set that packed up for few weeks now without any fund to fix it, we would not have felt the effect of the blackout like this. It is laughable that a ruling party like APC cannot mop up fund to fix our faulty standby generator.
“It is a confirmation of the harsh economic situation in the country and the cash crunch affecting the party. I don’t want to say that the party is broke but like the chairman confirmed sometime early this year, the party is really equally facing some financial challenges,” the source further noted.
Only last month, the staff at the headquarters of the party resolved to embark on a peaceful demonstration to protest sundry issues including their condition of service like the continued casualization and irregular payment of their stipends and salaries.
On daily basis, contractors besiege the secretariat over one form of non-payment of arrears of projects executed or the other. It was same for representatives of media organisations that repeatedly made passionate appeal to the national officers to offset the accumulation of APC’s advertorial slots, running into several millions of naira for several months without success.
The same way the debtors, media personnel and loyalists complain endlessly was exactly how the national officers and secretariat staff grumble for lack of fund to run party activities at the secretariat. In fact, the debtors’ files have continued to pile up without any hope of offsetting them for now.
The financial situation was so evident that the traditional-drumbeating entertainers hitherto raking in cool cash at the entrance gate of the secretariat by praise-singing politicians are seen sparingly now. They may have invariably discovered other money-spinning venues to eke out living since APC headquarters, a hitherto heaven’s gate has become a shadow of itself.
However, the inability of APC to fix a faulty standby generator for over few weeks running now was the climax and confirmation of the speculated financial quagmire the ruling party currently faces.
At the peak of the speculation that the ruling party is broke, the national chairman tactically admitted that the party is not immune to the financial crunch and harsh economic situation in the country.
According to him; “I understand that there has been speculation about the state of our finances, but it goes to tell you that just like the economy, the party is suffering the stresses and strains of funding like every other institution in our polity.
“It goes further to tell you that we are not the party that withdraws funds from either security votes or any government agencies but we are working on plans to raise resources from within the membership of the party. Those plans are maturing and will soon go into operation
“However, people must understand what change is. We can’t continue to throw money. We can’t go into public treasury to take money for funding the party. That’s change. So, we have got to be innovative to find means of raising funds.
“Of course, we are constrained, but we have had to be inventive. People are now saying somebody is not funding the party. That is normal. If tomorrow you hear that Mr. President is using public money to fund the party, won’t you scream? So, the change is actually affecting the party,” he quipped
Oyegun’s admittance and statement of fact was a further confirmation that President Muhammadu Buhari may have, through his new order, stopped funding the party contrary to the tradition of funding the ruling party from the Presidency.
The new order was a deviation from the usual practice of party functionaries providing funds to oil the machinery of the ruling party. Previously, especially during the days of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in charge of the country, the Presidency, the state governors and the Ministers contribute maximally to the funding of the party.
Today, the opposite seems to be the case. The posture of the current administration as government of transparency and incorruptibility seems to have made it impossible for the Presidency or party functionaries to fund the party.
The biting economic situation occasioned by the continued free fall in the price of crude oil has equally complicated the messy financial situation of the party. The global economic situation has equally made it pretty difficult for the governors under APC, struggling to pay the salaries of workers and also queuing up for bailout funds, to improve the finances of the party.
Akin to this is the internal crisis rocking the party, which has not only divided but also factionalised the once united APC that wrested power from PDP. There has been alignment and realignment along the divide of the parties that merged to form APC.
The intriguing crisis generated by the leadership of the National Assembly planted seed of discord that has germinated to widen the crack in the unity of the party. The cold war among the parties that merged to produce APC, has split the party across three camps.
The contending forces fighting to take maximum control of the party’s machinery include the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) caucus.
The leadership crisis equally fuelled the speculations that the national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, allegedly schemed out of reckoning in the emergence of the National Assembly leadership, may have withdrawn his funding of the party.
It was also speculated that the failure of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to get a unanimous endorsement to chair the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) recently renamed Council of Elders ahead of rival, Tinubu, has also resulted in his withdrawal of the funding of the party.
A national officer of the party who lamented the situation while speaking to Daily Sun in confidence said: “This is the unfortunate situation a ruling party like APC now found itself. I want to confirm that funding of the party has really become a disturbing issue among the party members now.
“There were so many contributory factors to the financial crisis crippling the party now. Don’t forget that in the past, the Presidency, State governors, ministers and other federal government political appointees contribute to the funding of the ruling party. But today, the change mantra we found ourselves has made that style practically impossible.
“Even if the State governors are ready and willing to contribute in funding the party, where will they get the funds when many of them are struggling to meet up with the statutory financial responsibility of running their states especially the payment of staff salaries? No matter how loyal they may be to the party, will they part with the bailout funds many of them depended on to run their states?
“How many APC controlled states are buoyant to the extent of the governors contributing to the funding of the party? You can now see why our chairman lamented the party missing all the oil producing states to the opposition party.
“Let me also confirm that the rifts rocking the party did not help matters. You don’t expect a leader like Asiwaju Tinubu already feeling short-changed to continue funding the party. It is the same apathy from other leaders like Atiku Abubakar who thought he would get maximum support from the party leadership to occupy the BoT chairmanship.
“The Ministers, who should fund the party, were not even getting enough to run their ministries let alone part something to fund the party. It is the same thing with the members of the National Assembly when you take into consideration the uneasy calm and cold war among the APC members at both Chambers of the National Assembly. It is really not the best of time for APC as the ruling party,” the national officer noted.
More financial shock waves seem to await the party as the hostile domestic and global economic situation has made it impossible according to Chief Oyegun to inventively think out of the box and generate fund for the party.
In the past, when the economy was buoyant, contractors and or companies would have been jostling to provide a new soundproof standby generator to the party secretariat, but it is not just possible today as many of them are even reducing workforce to tackle the global recession impact on them.
In this era of anti-corruption and transparency change mantra, even if the party settles embarrassingly for the last option of fund-raising to support the party, which generous Nigerian today will donate handsomely to the party without risking the probe of his source of such fund?
Again and equally more importantly, in a country like Nigeria where party members only see their membership as opportunity to enjoy a national cake by raking in available resources, payment of party’s monthly or annual dues remains a remote possibility.
With the preparations and strategic planning ahead of the 2019 general elections already beginning to hot up with the alignment, realignment of forces and with the possibility of some political parties merging as a force against the ruling APC, the present financial predicament of APC might spell doom for the party.