By Willy Eya
FOR those who understand the dynamics of politics in Nigeria, one fundamental question that flashes through their minds is: how can the All Progressives Congress (APC) keep its house in order until the 2019 general election. Such a question naturally may not be unconnected with events in the ruling party since it took over power on May 29, last year.
Of course, it is no more news that the APC created a precedent in the nation’s political history by trouncing the then ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a general election that held between March and April 2015. The party not only won at the centre and in 20 out of the 29 states of the federation but had majority seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.
But despite such a clear advantage, many are tempted to believe that the APC’s major challenge is how to marry all the interests of the contending power brokers that formed the party ahead of the last general election.
Recall that four opposition parties regarded as legacy parties including the All Nigeria Peoples Party, (ANPP), the Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) — merged to form the APC.
However, even though many had imagined that the APC would experience such initial challenges that a new party taking over power would face but nobody expected that the problems could blossom and pose a real threat to the survival of the party almost one year of its life in power. Political observers are in agreement that so many factors contributed to the situation in the APC today.
The crisis of confidence among major political gladiators in the party started immediately after inauguration when President Muhammadu Buhari announced his initial appointments. Recall that out of about 30 appointments he made, only five were not from the Northern part of the country.
Analysts argue that those appointments considered as the bulk that would form the kitchen cabinet created the first negative impression in the minds of many APC members especially those from the South West. For the fact that the South West played a key role in the victory of Buhari in the 2015 election, many were shocked when it seemed that the zone was not adequately compensated in those initial appointments.
But if the South West was not given its due, it was worse for the South South and South East who were literally excluded from the list of the initial appointees by the president.
In many quarters, the argument is that President Buhari’s actions perceived to favour the North is one of the reasons for the cold war among top leaders in the party.
Battle for control of National Assembly
Not long after the inauguration of the present administration, a major issue that threatened the peace within the APC was the battle for the control of the National Assembly. Many believe that in the build up to the election of principal officers of the National Assembly, there was a fierce battle of influence among power brokers in the APC. As it seemed then, the three prominent power blocs were controlled by President Buhari, former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. There was also another bloc of the new PDP members who defected to the APC. But events of that era showed that at a point, both Buhari and Tinubu married their differences and called for the supremacy of the party in determining the principal officers of the National Assembly. In the public domain, it was common knowledge that the president and his kitchen cabinet did not want both Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara to head the Senate and House of Representatives respectively. There were insinuations that his choice for the Senate President was Ahmed Lawan from Borno State but he was schemed out of the race when Saraki played a fast one on him and aligned with PDP Senators to emerge the Senate President. Saraki was elected unopposed by 57 of 108 Senators and recall that many of the APC Senators were still waiting at the International Conference Centre for a meeting on the leadership of the Senate at the time Saraki was declared Senate President.
A similar scenario played out at the House of Representatives where the preferred choice of the APC, Femi Gbajiabimila lost to Hon Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the 8th House of Representatives. Dogara who represents Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa- Balewa federal constituency of Bauchi State defeated Gbajabiamila who was believed to have been the anointed candidate of the APC after scoring 182 votes as against his opponent’s 174.
What transpired in the election of principal officers of the National Assembly created a major crack in the ranks of the APC and since then, there has been a cold war in the party. Many believe that the current CCT trial of the Senate President is not unconnected with the manner he emerged against the wish of the party.
The Senate President is currently facing charges of false asset declaration and maintaining of offshore account while serving as Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011. The federal government amended the charges with two others including allegation that Saraki continued to receive salaries and emoluments as governor of Kwara State after the expiration of his tenure and at the same time, and from the federal government as a Senator between 2011 and October 2013.
Many argue that a fresh crisis would erupt in the APC in the event that the Senate President does not survive the challenges before him and is forced to resign or is impeached. Critical observers believe that Saraki has enjoyed popular support from his colleagues in the Senate and many of them would be ready to swim through the tempestuous ocean of politics with him if throws in the towel.
The calculation is that he may work at cross purposes with his party if the APC hierarchy fails to protect him from the current battle he is facing at the CCT.
One of the permutations is that the former Lagos State governor is not happy with the manner he has been treated by the president since he assumed office. In the estimation of many, President Buhari has not given Tinubu his due in the running of the APC led administration despite his contribution to the victory of the party in the 2015 poll.
Political observers argue that even though the former Lagos governor nominated the Vice President, Prof Osinbajo and may have also been compensated by the appointment of some of his loyalists, he is not happy that some of his political foes are being given prominence by the Buhari administration. At the realm of speculation, it is believed that the former Lagos governor is not happy with Buhari for appointing the former Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi as Minister of Solid Minerals and for making the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola a super Minister. In the estimation of political observers, Tinubu would have preferred some other loyalists in place of Fayemi and Fashola.
What many think is that the APC leader now applies a ‘siddon look’ approach to the fortunes of the APC even though he still carries on as a key member of the party.
Currently, the ruling party is witnessing a cash crunch and many argue that Tinubu’s indifference to APC is one of the causes as he is a good organizer who could not have allowed the fortunes of the party to go down if he is happy with the present administration.
The permutation is that if the Tinubu factor is not managed well, it could put the APC in a major crisis considering his influence among members of the party particularly in the South West zone.
Among many critical observers, the consensus of opinion is that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not yet done with his ambition to become the president of Nigeria. Not a few think that more than any other time, 2019 provides probably the best opportunity for the Turaki Adamawa to realize his long awaited dream.
Analysts argue that the former Vice President is not happy the way he was schemed out of the presidential race in 2015 to create way for Buhari to fly the flag of the APC in that general election. Even though he has been quiet since Buhari assumed office, it is believed that he is only waiting for Buhari to complete four years in office before he throws his hat to the ring again.
So, the major challenge facing the APC is how to contain the presidential ambition of Alhaji Atiku. There are even insinuations that the PDP is wooing him to come back to its fold to possibly pick the ticket of the party in the next presidential election.
Influence of new PDP
One power bloc that has remained a major factor in the APC is the new PDP made up of those who defected to the ruling party in the build up to the last general election.
In November 2013, what could be regarded as a political earthquake occurred when five state governors from the PDP defected to the APC. Following the crisis already brewing in the party, the governors with their supporters had earlier staged a walk-out at the PDP special national convention on August 31, 2013 to form the new PDP. The governors include Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Ahmed Abdulfatah (Kwara), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto).
But with all the PDP members having trooped to the APC, the challenge now is how to manage and accommodate their interests and ambitions in their new party. The new PDP defectors command a lot of influence in the party such that the original founders of the APC even feel threatened of being displaced by them.
So, the fear is that with more PDP members still joining the APC, there is a possibility that a time would come when they would dictate the affairs of the party. Worried by the influx to its fold, some APC members in what looked like raising the alarm have suggested that the party should close its gate to the defectors from PDP and other parties.
So, the question is: how can the APC manage its hard earned victory in the 2015 general election. Just barely one year down the line, the party members seem not to be speaking with one voice just like what happened to the PDP when its internal crisis boiled over. So in all of this, the question is: Will the APC go the way of the PDP by speaking in discordant tunes? Many pray that the APC should not witness an implosion like what happened in the PDP before it lost power to the main opposition party. But only time will tell the politics that would play out in the party ahead of the next general election.