Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
For 48 hours last week, leaders and delegates from the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the Eagle Square, Abuja, for the party’s National Convention.
At the end of the convention, which pundits believe is critical to the future of the APC, the delegates affirmed two-time governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as it new national chairman.
From President Muhammadu Buhari to former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, there was a consensus that the party struck gold with the election of Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the ruling party.
Therefore, for the APC leaders, the main task before Oshiomhole, who is a former president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), is to lead the party to victory in the 2019 general elections.
Fully agreeing with this expectation, President Buhari said: “I believe we have put in place an executive that we all can be proud of, one that would lead our party from victory to victory, from progress to progress, and one that Nigerians can be proud of. Together, we will all build a cohesive party, that will do our country a world of good.”
However, the expectations of the leaders of the ruling party, not withstanding, there are very big hurdles, both the party and the former Labour eader must scale, before it can achieve its desire of retaining power in 2019.
A fractured party
Although, the immediate past APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said the turnout at the just concluded convention put a lie to reports in the social and mainstream media that the ruling party was heading for the rocks, the reverse is actually the case.
In his valedictory speech at the convention, Oyegun had said: “If you read the social media and you read some of the headlines in our media, you will think that this is a party that was on the verge of implosion, that it has divisions within it that are fatal. But look around, what we have is colourful and one happy family “
But analysts say beneath this facade of a united APC, lies a seriously fractured party. The recent local and state government congresses held across the country have left the party broken in several states. In all, no fewer than 10 states emerged with parallel state executives.
The states where the APC has parallel structures include Ondo, Oyo, Delta, Kogi, Kwara, Zamfara, Enugu
and Imo. Even the hitherto cohesive Lagos APC, where Tinubu used to call the shots exclusively is not free from factionalisation. During the last party congress in the state, former National Legal Adviser of the APC, Muiz Banire led a “rebellion” against the former governor.
While in Rivers State, the ruling party is torn between the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and Senator MagnusAbe.Similarly, in Kano State, there is a serious tussle between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso. In the same vein, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, HonYakubu Dogara, is slugging out with the Bauchi State governor, MohammedAbubakar, over the control of the APC machinery in the state. From the intermittent skirmishes at the convention, it is obvious that all is not well with the APC. Recall that delegates from Delta and Imo states had repeatedly engaged themselves in fisticuffs at the convention venue as they battled for supremacy.
Already, the former APC National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunazo, is protesting the outcome of the convention, where he lost his seat to Emma Ibediro, a lawyer.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on the outcome of the convention, Dr Theo Ekechi, who spoke on behalf of the Izunazo supporters, accused the chairman of the Convention Committee, and governor of Jigawa State, Badaru Abubakar of manipulating the election for National Organising Secretary. His words: “For Akwa lbom, Anambra, Abia and Adamawa states the ballot boxes containing votes for National Organising Secretary after due conclusion of the casting of votes were brazenly destroyed in the full glare of the press, security men, returning officers and delegates by thugs and security men who accompanied the Governor of lmo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha to the affected pavilion.
“In the case of Imo State, Governor Badaru unequivocally demonstrated his bias, compromise and prejudice against the candidacy of Senator Osita lzunaso and his unhidden support for the sponsored candidate of his brother-governor, Rochas Okorocha. Imo State’s 226 duly accredited and seated delegates were willfully and skillfully excluded from voting by the convention chairman, Governor Badaru.”
But Governor Okorocha has since extended the olive branch to the Imo APC coalition to join him to make the party in the state stronger as they get ready for the 2019 elections.
Besides, the crises in some of the states, there is the issue of members of the nPDP, who are threatening to part ways with the ruling party except their grievances are addressed. The nPDP, which is a breakaway faction of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), consists of Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara; Senators Kwankwaso, Aliyu Wammakko, Governors Abdulfatah Ahmed and Aminu Tambuwal of Kwara and Sokoto states respectively, among others.
For Oshiomhole, the major hurdle in his quest to lead the party to victory in 2019 is this litany of crises suffocating the APC across the country.
How quickly these crises are resolved would determine to a large extent, how far the ruling party would go in next year’s polls.
The APC chairman is not oblivious of this these challenges. In his acceptance speech after he was sworn-in, Oshiomhole said: “I am aware that there are challenges here and there. The new leaders elected will be able to surmount those challenges. We will find a way to look for a way to resolve these issues. In states where there are crises, we will find a win-win solution.
“I am used to solving challenges. We will organise summits where we will discuss on the way forward. We have the grace and the will to fix our problems. APC will not only be a platform to elect people. We will make it like the
ANC. We are ready to accommodate all the complaints of every member of the party. We can only pay back by ensuring that we rebuild our party
as we march towards the 2019 general elections.”
Oshiomhole may succeed in brokering a truce between members of the nPDP and the party. But the challenge is how he is going to resolve the wrangling that has torn some of the state chapters apart.
For instance, how is the new APC leader going to address the situation in Imo State, where the party has broken “irretrievably”, after a coalition of party leaders “seized” the structure from the state governor?
Also, how would Oshiomhole resolve the case of Bauchi APC, where Dogara and his supporters have gone to court over the outcome of the state congress.
It is not that reconciliation cannot be achieved in the APC. But analysts say Oshiomhole is coming on the saddle, a little too late. The fact is that time is against the former labour leader, especially as nominations for the 2019 general elections are scheduled to commence six weeks from now. Like is usually the case, the nomination for the next general election is bound to throw up new challenges for the ruling party.
Besides, analysts say President Buhari’s style is likely going to make it difficult for the party to resolve the crises arising from the congresses. Unlike what obtains in the PDP experience, where those who lost in congresses and nominations for elective offices are quickly compensated with ministerial, board membership and other appointments, the President is never in a haste to make appointments.
For instance, it took over six months for him to appoint ministers. Similarly, the government waited for over two years, before the boards of the various parastatals were reconstituted.
What this implies is that warring party members are not likely to embrace the olive branch very quickly, making Oshiomhole’s quest to lead a united APC to the 2019 general election a herculean task.
Executive/ legislature rift
Since the inception of the present administration on May 29, 2015, the relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive has been very frosty. This sour relationship has impacted negatively on the running of government.
Recently, after a joint executive session, the federal lawmakers threatened to invoke relevant sections of the constitution against President Buhari if he failed to implement resolutions reached at the session. Not a few blamed the hostility between the executive and legislature on the inability of the APC leadership to moderate relationship between the two arms of government.
Apparently worried by this state of affairs, Oshiomhole during his visit to the House of Representatives, prior to the convention promised to build “a healthy bridge” between the executive and legislature,
if he emerged national chairman. To achieve this, he said he would “develop appropriate tools and identify people with the experience and the connection to be able to bring to effect the principle of separation of powers.” Whether or not he can achieve this given that a lot of water has passed under the bridge will be determined with time.
On a personal level, one issue Oshiomhole would have to contend with from time to time are allegations of corruption leveled against him by one Bishop Osadolor Ochei. The cleric had gone to court to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the former Edo State governor for allegedly corruptly enriching himself during his eight-year tenure as governor.
Expectedly, the PDP has latched on to the allegations to taunt the APC leader and the ruling party. In a recent statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the opposition party asked Oshiomhole to submit himself to the EFCC for investigations.
The party said until the former Edo governor is cleared of the allegations against him, he lacks the rectitude to speak publicly as a leader. It noted that since one of the campaign promises of the ruling party during the 2015 general election was to fight corruption; it would be incongruous for Oshiomhole to go about his new assignment with allegation of corruption, even as tiny as a strand of hair.
Oshoimhole is no doubt a very smart politician and veteran of many battles, but will he be able to surmount the present challenges and lead his party to victory in next year’s election? Time will tell.