■ With problems everywhere, national secretary says ruling party’s conflicts being addressed
By Omoniyi Salaudeen
IF for any compelling reason, another general election is to be conducted now, Nigerian electorate would certainly be in a dilemma as to which choice of alternative option between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the ailing opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would best serve their interest. Both parties are having difficult times managing their affairs. As former President Olusegun Obasanjo bluntly told Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, last week, when he paid him a courtesy visit at his Hilltop residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, PDP is already in a doom zone. It is in an intensive care unit, to borrow his exact words. Sheriff has seized the party by the scruff of the neck, while Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee battles to rescue it from the brink.
The future survival of the APC as a party in control of power is also not certain. Its internal power squabbles are also raising concern. From Kano, Kaduna, Zamfara, and Bayelsa to the far flung North-eastern state of Adamawa, there is one crisis or the other for the party to grapple with. Most of these state chapters have been split into factions as members disagree on the mode of running the affairs of the party. And, of course, some of these divisions are partly attributable to the scheming for the 2019 as well as power contention among different political cleavages that coagulated to form the APC.
Adamawa APC chapter has a huge collection of political bigwigs with conflicting interests. These include former vice president Atiku Abubakar, ousted governor Murtal Nyako, former minister of state for defence, Alhaji Abdulrahman Adamu and the pioneer National Vice Chairman of the APC in charge of North East and former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, among others.
The latest in the prolonged crisis within the Adamawa State chapter of the APC is the rivalry between the supporters of Governor Muhammadu Jibrilla Bindow, and the group loyal to former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who had recently defected to the party. Some observers believed that Ribadu was deliberately wooed back to the party as a way of checking Atiku’s influence on the party in Adamawa State. Ribadu was the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general election but lost to the incumbent governor. Giving reasons for his decision to reunite with the APC, he said that some of the issues that led to his exit in 2015 had been addressed in the last 15 months. His words: “I also did a deep and long reassessment of the circumstances that warranted my exit from the APC in the first place. I left the party in 2014 owing to fundamental disagreements with the ways the chapter of the party in my state was run after it fell into some hands. Some colleagues and I tried hard to save the then administration from an orchestrated impeachment plot, which was unfortunately carried out with active collaboration of some ranking party members in the state.
“However, events in the last 15 months have addressed many of the issues and healed some of the wounds. More so, with the genuine and sincere invitations I received since last year to retrace my steps into the party, I decided to return after consulting family and political associates at all levels.”
But on the other hand, some party chieftains felt spited when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Babachir Lawal, issued a directive that Ribadu and his counterpart in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) should be accorded a grand reception. The Chief of Staff to the governor, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abba Jimeta, addressing the APC supporters, said the directive was a grand design to undermine the state chapter of the party. “No matter how big you are, you cannot intimidate us. There is a grand design to undermine us. We got a letter from Abuja, asking us to organise a rally to receive somebody at the Ribadu Square. Whoever wants to join the party should go and register at his ward. We cannot stop him because the party does not belong to anybody. When we won election he was not in the APC; when we cast votes he was not in the APC. We no longer need anybody’s help; we know the suffering we went through to win elections, so nobody can railroad us,” he stated.
While allaying the fear of the party’s supporters, Ribadu declared that he did not have the intention of hijacking the party from Governor Jibrilla. He promised to work with the governor and other chieftains of the party to move the state forward.
Besides the Ribadu factor, Atiku’s body language has also shown that he is still very much interested in taking another shot at the presidency. Analysts believe that Atiku and Babachir would unavoidably lock horns as scheming for the 2019 general election gradually builds up. Babachir is a staunch supporter of the President and has been with him right from the days of the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
There is also insinuation of a frosty relationship between Governor Jubrilla and Murtala Nyako. Jibrilla had fallen apart with Nyako soon after he got elected as governor in 2015 and shifted his loyalty to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, perhaps, in the hope that he would get his backing for re-election. The recent visit of Abubakar to the party’s national secretariat in company with Governor Jubrilla lent credence to this insinuation. Atiku has been mouthing support for a restructuring of the country, a position that is at variance with that of the ruling party.
Continued power struggle between Governor Umar Ganduje and his immediate predecessor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, is at the heart of the crisis in the APC in Kano State. In the recent past, the National Working Committee of the party had made some spirited efforts to amicably resolve the lingering face-off, but neither of the two warring camps was ready to shift ground. Instead, some frontline supporters of Ganduje are hell bent on cutting Kwankwaso to size, threatening to expel him from the party.
To make good their threat, the party leadership announced the suspension of the state party chairman, Umar Doguwa, for alleged anti-party activities and named Abdullahi Abbass as the new acting Chairman. All this came barely 48 hours after the removal of the Chief Whip of the state House of Assembly also believed to be loyal to Kwankwaso. The action followed the endorsement of all the 44 local government chairmen but one.
It appears there is a determined effort to edge Kwankwaso out of the party. And the governor is pushing his way through, as overwhelming majority of members of the state House of Assembly had pledged their loyalty to him.
Before the tide turned against the suspended chairman, he had approved the inauguration of a disciplinary committee to penalise Kwankwaso for allegedly organising a violent rally while paying a condolence visit to the governor over the death of his mother. Since the incident happened, the APC has not known peace in Kano, as supporters of the two politicians engaged one another in war of words. While Kwankwaso’s supporters accuse Ganduje of betrayal, the governor’s followers accuse Kwankwaso of sabotaging the present administration.
In view of the development, speculations are rife that the Kwankwasiyya Movement may have rejoined the PDP in Kano. The insinuation came to the fore after the conduct of the by-election for Minjibir Local Government state assembly constituency. Results published by people believed to be members of the Ganduje faction of the APC indicated that APC got 21,970, while ‘PDP+Kwankwasiyya’ polled 1,238 votes, a way to show that there is a link between Kwankwaso group and the opposition PDP.
The crisis within the Zamafara State chapter of the APC was occasioned by the recent impeachment move against Governor Abdulazeez Yari by some members of the State Assembly. The lawmakers had accused the governor of “misappropriating N11 billion bailout fund and N1 billion agricultural loan released to the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), alleging “corrupt abuse of local government funds.” They also accused the governor of frequent foreign trips which had negative impact on the day-to-day running of government.
Although the governor survived the impeachment attempt, the dramatic way by which the operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) swooped on the Assembly and arrested the Speaker, Alhaji Sanusi Garba Rikiji and other principal officers has continued to raise curiosity over an alleged backing of some powerful forces within the corridor of power. The crisis also exposed the disunity within the party in the state. While the crisis was on, the party suddenly announced the suspension of the chairman of its Gusau chapter, Alhaji Shehu J. Muhammad.
Although the crisis seems to have been laid to rest, atmosphere of mutual suspicion still pervades the political environment in the state.
In Kaduna State, Governor Nasir el-Rufai has been having a running battle with a splinter group known as the APC Akida, which has constituted its own leadership structure at the state level. The group has Mr. Tom Maiyashi as its convener, Alhaji Ibrahim Yaro, deputy convener and Hafsat M. Baba as secretary. They accused el-Rufai of hijacking the party and unilaterally running its affairs.
Apart from the aggrieved members of Akida groups, some other notable leaders in the state like Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who served as interim chairman of the APC in Kaduna during the formative stages of the party, Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central senatorial zone and Isa Ashiru Kudan, among others, are also not in good terms with the governor. The face-off started soon after the party’s victory in the presidential and governorship elections, as El-Rufai allegedly excluded them from making input into the composition of his cabinet. Similar complaint also trailed the appointment of caretaker chairmen for the 23 local governments in the state.
But apparently indifferent to the criticism leveled against him, El-Rufai was allegedly quoted to have told those who were not happy with his appointments to go to a certain mountain, Kufena, and take a jump.
Peace has remained elusive to the APC in Bayelsa State since its standard bearer, Timpre Sylva, lost the governorship election to the incumbent Governor Sekiake Dickson. The crisis got to a head when the state Chairman, Chief Tiwei Oruminigha, announced the suspension of Sylva and other chieftains of the party over allegations of anti-party activities. However, the National Vice Chairman (South-South) of the APC, Hilliard Eta, following the intervention of the National Working Committee in the crisis, has ordered a return to the status quo, describing the suspension and counter suspension as unfortunate and disheartening.
He said: “The spate of suspensions, counter-suspensions and general disorganisations of the Bayelsa State chapter of our great party – the All Progressives Congress, is disheartening. That the state chapter could be on the warpath at a time that it should be cohesively charting ways to successfully prosecute the election petition tribunal case concerning the recently held gubernatorial election, in which Seriake Dickson supposedly won, is even more saddening.
“As the Chairman of the party in the zone, I am particularly miffed by the state of affairs in the Bayelsa APC and I publicly exhort the aggrieved parties to sheath their swords. Going by the provisions of Article 21 of the amended constitution of our party, the suspensions are null and void and done in bad faith. In the said article, our constitution lucidly outlines the steps to be diligently followed for a party member or executive to be suspended,” he stated. In spite of that, peace is yet to return to the state.
The crisis in the Ondo State chapter of the APC borders on the issue of primary for the choice of its standard bearer for the November 26 governorship election in the state. It all started when the state Chairman, Hon. Isaacs Kekemeke, was accused of working in concert with the National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to impose a particular candidate, Dr Segun Abraham. At the climax of the controversy, a splitter group within the party carried out a revolt against the chairman and announced his removal.
After two successive postponements, the party recently had a successful primary where a former president the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), emerged as its standard bearer under the watchful eyes of the national leadership and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). But there are still allegations and counter allegations of underhand dealings in the process. Some aggrieved aspirants accused the electoral panel of manipulating the delegate list in favour of a preferred aspirant.
According to Sunday Sun findings, the intervention of the presidency changed the game in favour of Akeredolu. Sources close to the corridor of power say President Muhammadu Buhari was against the alleged endorsement of Abraham by the National Leader and decided in favour of a fairly popular aspirant for two reasons. One, to avoid the unwholesome consequences of candidate imposition on the future of the party as well as the outcome of the November 26 governorship election. Two, to checkmate the overbearing influence of Tinubu ahead of the 2019 general election. Akeredolu was the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) but lost to the incumbent Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
The fallout of the primary is still causing some disquiet in the state chapter of the party.
The factional crisis in the Kogi State chapter of the APC was precipitated by the sudden demise of Prince Abubakar Audu, the governorship candidate of the party, whose tragic incident happened before the INEC could conclude the election, though he was already coasting home to victory. Trouble ensued when the party’s national leadership decided to settle for Yahaya Bello as a substitute for the late Audu instead of Hon James Faleke, who was his running mate in the election. The position of the party was hinged on the fact that Bello scored the second highest votes in the governorship primary. The decision pitched the party’s hierarchy against Faleke and Audu’s political family, who declared his first son as Faleke’s deputy. However, after a prolonged litigation battle, the court upheld the election of Governor Yahaya Bello. But then, the challenge has been how to forge the needed unity among different interest groups, especially family members of the late Audu and his teeming supporters. The disquiet in the party got to a head when the state executive accused Bello of sidelining members of the APC, alleging that 45 key political appointments made by his government were members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They also held the governor responsible for the crisis in the Kogi State House of Assembly and consequently insisted they were not going to have anything to do with the administration.
The ensuing imbroglio between the 14 lawmakers loyal to Jimoh-Lawal and the rival group almost led to a total breakdown of law and order within the assembly complex but for the intervention of the National Assembly which threatened to take over the functions of the legislature. Although the lawmakers might have put the crisis behind them, it cannot be said that all is well within the party in the state.
The latest in the lingering face-off between Governor Bello and family members of the late Audu was the recent arraignment of Mohammed Audu, son of the late former governor, along 15 other family members at a Lokoja Magistrates’ Court for allegedly waging a verbal war against the governor, an act considered to be a breach of peace in the North-Central state.
APC in Bauchi State has been enmeshed in the web of controversy between the anti-Governor Mohammed Abubakar group led by Galadima Abba and the rival faction loyal to the governor. While Abba group has accused Governor Abubakar of letting down the party in the state by appointing members of the PDP into his government and called for his removal, those in support of the governor dismissed the agitation as the ranting of an ant, saying the governor had not done anything wrong. Abba said when his group recently stormed the national secretariat. “Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abubakar has failed, he cannot pay salary of workers and unable to pay pensioners. Most of his appointments are PDP members while the APC appointees are being removed. We are calling on the national leadership to act fast by intervening in order to save Bauchi state from this debacle.”
But Umar Saleh, a leader of the group sympathetic to the governor said those raising the allegations had ulterior motives. The governor has done nothing wrong. Those that want to remove him have something to hide,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and some other critical stakeholders in the state like Senator Ali Wakil and Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, are also having issues with the governor for allegedly squandering over N8.6 billion bailout fund meant to pay salaries of workers. Also worried by the negative consequences of the governor’s action on the future of the party in the state, they recently took the matter to the national secretariat and met with the National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, for over two hours behind closed doors. Senator Ali Wakil (Bauchi Central) speaking with Journalists after the meeting, said Governor Abubakar had failed to fulfill the welfare pact he signed with the people of Bauchi during the election.
The problem within the ruling APC in Nassarawa State has its origin in the appointment of 11 sole administrators for the local government councils which led to the threat of impeachment against Governor Tanko Al-makura by the state House of Assembly. APC stakeholders in the state were at the forefront of the campaign against the governor’s unilateral decision, but the Assembly which has the power to call the governor to order was sharply divided between the pro and anti-governor groups. The disagreement between the six legislators who kicked against the swearing-in of the sole administrators without presenting them before the Assembly for screening and the 17 other members who threw their weight behind Al-Makura subsequently resulted in free for all, culminating in an indefinite suspension of the House proceedings. The state is still grappling with the crisis, though all appears to be well.
Beyond the crises at the state level, the peace of the graveyard in the APC is also an indication that all is not too well within the party. The uneasy calm partly explains why the party has not been able to conduct it congresses to elect officials at all levels. The move by the APC to constitute a Board of Trustees (BoT) in the recent past also had to be put on hold to avert open contention between Atiku Abubakar and the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu.
Sunday Sun findings further revealed that most supporters of the APC were dissatisfied with Buhari’s appointments. Many of them felt they had not been duly carried along in the scheme of things. This is as different blocs that came together to form the party look at each other with suspicion.
Asked to comment on the festering crises in the affected states in an interview with Sunday Sun, the National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, said a special committee had been set to look into the immediate and remote causes of the problems. His words: “Whenever there is crisis in any chapter of the party at any level, we normally set up a committee to look into the immediate and remote causes of the crisis with a view to resolving the issues. Conflict management is one of the main concerns of any party at any particular time. You cannot have a political party without a system or mechanism of resolving conflicts. People can disagree and agree. So, anywhere we have problems, we normally set up a committee to look into the issues. In Kano and Kogi states, for instance, the crisis is being handled by a committee headed by the Deputy National Chairman (North). You can see that it is a high powered committee that is vested with the powers to resolve the issues.”
Speaking further on the disagreement arising from the recent governorship primary of the party in Ondo State, he said: “We have processes of addressing complaints and issues arising from congresses or primaries. We have the appeal committee. Anybody that feels aggrieved will forward his complaints to the appeal committee, after which the appeal committee will submit the report to the National Working Committee of the party.”
Buni, however, insisted that he was unaware of the crisis in Kaduna State chapter of the party. “I don’t know the particular personality that is involved in the crisis you are talking about. You know our party is different from government. We don’t interfere with the affairs of government. What affects the party is what the party will set up committee to look into. I don’t know what specifically you are talking about. We only know of Kano where we have issues and we have taken some measures towards resolving the crisis. Whenever there is an issue, there has to be resolution. We can’t leave a crisis unattended to. We cannot allow a crisis to fester,” he concluded.