Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The ugly incidences playing out since the commencement of the congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) across the length and breadth of the country are sad the confirmation that the ruling party had postponed the evil days too long.
The national secretariat of the party has been practically turned into a theatre of war and seat of justice where the victors and the vanquished seek succour for their faceoff. In fact, the secretariat has become a political mecca of sort to protesters, both the aggrieved and the conquerors.
From Port Harcourt, Rivers, Imo and Delta states where ugly incidents of deaths and uncivilized abuse of the justice system were recorded, to almost other states where the exercise went awry, the situation was the same.
There were complaints of electoral violence and fraud, intimidation, imposition, kidnapping and/or arrest of congress committee members, setting party offices ablaze and other undemocratic practices.
The actions and inactions of the APC gladiators are blue confirmation that such behaviours are in the DNA of most Nigerian politicians regardless of party affiliation.
Never in the history of party politics in Nigeria did an insignificant election like a party’s ward congress recorded such level of tension, scheming and flow of blood as seen during the APC’s efforts to elect party officers at the grassroots, Local Governments and states.
Complaints, violence, anger, murder, threats and counter-threats among others had trailed the conduct of the APC congresses. In Kaduna, it was a straight battle between the state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and the National Assembly members from the state.
In Oyo State, it was survival of the smartest between the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu and the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi; while in Rivers, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe took political indifference to a shameful height.
In Anambra State, the exercise almost cost the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, his life during a confrontation with other party chieftains like Hon Tony Nwoye, over allegation of attempt to impose wimps and caprices on others.
It was more dramatic and pathetic in Imo State where party chieftains have now triumphantly outsmarted Governor Rochas Okorocha in his plans to impose certain loyalists as officers of the party in the state. In Cross River, the Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Usani out-maneuvered Senator Eno John and estranged APC National Working Committee (NWC) member, Hilliard Eta.
Stakeholders, including the Special Assistant to President on Prosecution, Obono Obla, Deputy Chairman, John Ochalla, and other party officials rejected and disowned the congress committee.
Ditto in Enugu where the combined efforts of the state party officials and other chieftains proved to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, that he may be a diplomatic strategist, but still a political neophyte. In Delta State, the battle between embattled Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Great Ogboru, among others, against certain party chieftains even resulted in the death of a candidate.
It was a winner takes all in Edo State where the joint forces of the immediate past governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the incumbent, Godwin Obaseki, forcefully retired the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, by stopping him from even daring to visit the state during the exercises.
In Bauchi State, a faction loyal to the Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had dared Governor
Mohammed Abubakar by conducting parallel congresses.
In fact, one of the leaders of the faction, Senator Nazif Suleiman Gamawa (Bauchi North) had accused the Dr Tony Macfoy-led congresses committee of bias and doing the bidding of the governor. Senator Gamawa had described as ‘big lie’ Macfoy’s declaration of the exercises as free and fair.
For the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Kabiru Marafa, congresses did not hold in Zamfara State, since according to him, the exercise was manipulated in favour of certain persons.
Contrary to the announcement by Governor Abdulaziz Yari, Marafa had insisted that they were not part of the unity list in Zamfara, arguing that the committee deceived the people.
The ill wind also swept through Ebonyi State where former governorship candidate, Senator Julius Ucha, accused members of the Oyegun-led NWC of plot to destroy the party before quitting. He described the congresses in the state as a sham, insisting that it was a plot by the NWC leadership to stage a comeback during the national convention.
To say the least, the exercises recorded sad tales of failures in every part of the country with the resonation of same ugly stories from the ugly conduct of congresses by the ruling party.
Among other signals, the ill feelings were confirmation that only a tiny rope has been binding the party stakeholders. It was a confirmation that the structure and foundation holding the ruling party was not solid enough to bond the forces at war within the party.
The odds against APC ahead of 2019
Shortly after the tenure extension of the national and state officers was aborted and the handwriting on the wall became bolder that it was the end of the road for the party bosses, the NWC seems to have hatched a new plan to retain as many NWC members as possible.
According to the estranged National Vice Chairman South-South, Hilliard Etta, judging by the manner the congress committees conducted the exercise; it was pretty obvious that they acted the script the national leadership handed down to them. In most states, it was the same incident of committee members absconding with sensitive materials, going into hidings and/or endorsement of the unity lists.
Confirming the conspiracy theory, Hilliard claimed that the composition of the congress committees was geared towards retaining Oyegun before the pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari truncated such arrangement.
“I have told my colleagues in the NWC that we have failed and should leave the stage for others to come in and move the party forward. Let me reveal to those that are not yet in the know that the congress committees were constituted in such a way to favour the re-election bid of the chairman.
“However, there was nothing they could do again when it became obvious that the tide is against him. We have shown overtime that we don’t have what it takes to manage the crisis within the party now,” Hilliard submitted.
Although the NWC, through the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, had maintained that the exercise was commendable and relatively peaceful judging by the reports from the congresses committee and Congresses Appeal Panel, the signs are ominous that the fallout of the congresses really widened the cracks in the party.
The ward, local government and state congresses may have taken place, but instead of uniting the party, the exercise has created more divisions and cracks within the party.
The big gamble
In all of these, there must be losers and victors. In the case of Amaechi versus Magnus Abe, there is high possibility that the presidency will sacrifice Abe for Ameachi, considering what he would bring to the table in the President Buhari’s re-election bid.
However, the situation looks very dicey in a state like Imo, where the presidency would face a herculean task in deciding where to pinch its tent between the chieftains of the party popularly known as the allied forces or coalition and Okorocha.
For the allied forces to whittle down Governor Okorocha’s powers in the state means that the presidency would reappraise the choice of Okorocha, more so as the coalition seems to have all the big names in APC in Imo, leaving Okorocha with a few supporters.
The calculations are the same in most of the states and the ability of the presidency to make the right political calculation the better result it will get for the 2019 Presidential election.
With threats of litigations overwhelming the party and the certainty that it may go into the 2019 general elections as a divided house, with the insipid build up, it is gradually becoming obvious that bleak future faces the APC in its determination to retain power beyond 2019.
Rather than the situation getting better, it is rather getting more worrisome. Still smarting from the ill feelings of the congresses, the ugly incidents of threats and counter threats by the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) in the APC 2014 merger had rocked the party.
Ultimatum from the Kawu Barage-led faction of the nPDP over allegations of witch-hunt and marginalisation had jolted and deepened the graveyard peace in the party, resulting in the springing up of another nPDP faction led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin to counter and whittle down any potential threat from the other faction.
Again, the recent alarms by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki that the Federal Government wants to rope in the Kwara State governor and himself into the Offa bank robbery incident and panic buttons from other aggrieved party chieftains are obviously having ripple effects on the party towards the 2019 general elections.
To worsen the APC situation, the reconciliation move to settle certain gladiators may have broken down irredeemably perhaps due to the face-off between the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the party’s boss, Oyegun.
Reacting to the situation in a chat with Sunday Sun, embattled former Deputy National Secretary of the party, Comrade Timi Frank, said that the party got what it bargained for.
“I was not surprised with the fallout of the APC congresses and the volume of crises rocking the party now. As a matter of fact, it has vindicated me because at a time, it was as if I was the only voice crying in the wilderness, warning of the doom that awaits the party.
“I had warned that the national chairman lacks the capacity to organise any election. We saw it manifested during the party primaries in some states. I also warned repeatedly that it might be too late to amend the situation. I had cautioned again that the earlier we tackle the crisis facing the party, the better for us, but they paid no attention and left it too late,” he noted.
Comrade Frank is certainly not alone in this line of thought, as a member of the NWC told Sunday Sun in confidence that the situation portends great danger to the party ahead of 2019.
According to him; “Yes, because party politics is a human organisation and individual interest, the crisis is bound to happen. I must admit that the situation is scary and worrisome because there is this increased desperation for power that will naturally affect our 2019 outing.
“The dangerous scheming by certain persons to impose loyalists on another aggravated the crisis. The scheming is targeted at disrespecting and spiting certain members of national leadership of the party. It has now become a case of if you have the money, I will prove to you that I have more political sagacity,” the NWC member lamented.
Wriggling out of the logjam
For Comrade Frank, only divine intervention can rescue the party from the mess it plunged itself into now. According to him, “the way forward is to hand over the APC to God to intervene in the crisis facing it ahead of 2019.
“It is only God that can decide the fate of the party now because it has become too late in the day to resolve the issues confronting the party. Doom and disaster await the APC if it goes into the 2019 general election as a divided house,” he warned.
Although the APC seems to have squandered its goodwill with the failure to put its house in order, many, however, still believe that the ruling party can leverage on what many political watchers described as President Buhari’s cult image to turn around the declining fortune of the party.
In that category is the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu. Reacting to the effects of the bad blood created by the congresses on the party’s future, he told Sunday Sun that; “I strongly believe that the party will manage the problems very well.
“However, regardless of the situation, one good thing APC has which no other party has is the personality of our president. The appealing almost cult image of Mr President is what makes the APC different from other parties. Many people, regardless of whether they gained anything or not in this government, will still vote for President Buhari any day.
“So, that symbol of unity President Buhari represents, that symbol of affection and the symbol of appreciation is still there.
Whatever may be the case, APC will still win the 2019 general elections by the grace of God.”