From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
On Tuesday, December 8, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Executive Committee (NEC) took far-reaching decisions during her emergency virtual meeting in Abuja. And for followers of the internal dynamics of the ruling party, the development did not come as a surprise.
It is stating the obvious that the emergency NEC meeting arrived at certain resolutions strong enough to make or mar the future and fortune of the party.
Predictable among the resolutions were the fresh mandate given to the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, extending its tenure by another six months that will last till June 30, 2021.
The diplomatic dissolution of the party structures from the polling unit, ward, local government, zonal to state levels, with members of the dissolved executives getting a safe landing to serve as caretaker members is another masterstroke to nail the coffin of detractors.
Other pronouncements include the controversial expulsion of the immediate past Vice Chairman, South-South, Hilliard Etta, according to NEC for not heeding the directive of the party to withdraw all legal cases from the courts and finally, the granting of waiver to new entrants to the ruling party to contest any position.
The resolutions, perhaps fruitful product of vigorous consultations and intense lobbying of relevant stakeholders were a perfect strategy deployed by the state governors to have a total grip and control of the party.
It was a culmination of the plan, perfectly orchestrated a few months ago to, not only pull the rug under the feet of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) and end the crisis engulfing the ruling party then but also to complete the total seizure of the party structure.
For the governors that have succeeded in hijacking the party structure with automatic conferment of the leadership of the party in their states to the detriment of other party chieftains and federal appointees, nothing would have been more comforting than those decisions.
The decisions, an outcome of many months of schemes and lobbying for endorsement to legitimatise the extension given to the Caretaker Committee and by extension completion of the governors’ total grip on the party, is the last straw to break the back of other gladiators strategising to capture the party structure ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Endorsements and vote of confidence had come from the party’s state chairmen and the non-NWC NEC members among many others for the extension of the period given the Caretaker Committee.
However, with the extension, the governors may have only won the battle but certainly not the war. It may apparently be a pyrrhic victory as gladiators have already kicked, threatening fire, brimstone and legal action to register their disagreement of the state of affairs in the party.
One of such persons, expectedly is the expelled former member of the Oshiomhole-led NWC, Etta, who did not only fault the legality of the national secretary of the Caretaker Committee, John Akpanudoedehe, convening NEC meeting but also waved aside his expulsion, describing it as an effort in nullity and futility.
While reacting to his expulsion, the former South-South party chieftain had quipped that: “My expulsion is a matter for the court to decide. I am already in court. The lawyers among them should have told them that they can’t make that pronouncement since I am in Court. Their action is a nullity because it is not even the NEC of the party that met. Their so-called acting national secretary has no power to convene NEC.”
For his denouncement of the legal action Etta instituted against the caretaker committee, many had concluded that he was only the face of the last battle the immediate past national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, will fight to regain control and headship of the party.
But Oshiomhole had on the eve of the NEC meeting issued a statement stating clearly that he was not a party to the litigation from Etta and not even interested in returning to the party secretariat as the national chairman.
With that statement, it was apparent that Etta would be used as a scapegoat to not only teach other party members a serious lesson of party discipline with the expulsion but also send a warning signal to others planning to foment trouble in the party.
“With the expulsion of Etta and Oshiomhole disassociating himself from the court case, I am not envisaging any backlash or serious fight from any camp again. The decision was a masterstroke taken to disarm any other person planning to foment trouble in any form and under any disguise. I don’t know where Etta and his co-detractors are driving their strength, but I don’t envisage that they will continue on this ignoble path,” a member of the immediate past NWC quipped.
The dissolution of the party structures from polling unit, ward to state level ostensibly marks the complete seizure of the party by the governors. With such arrangement, according to party chieftains, federal appointees hitherto posturing as the authentic leaders of the party in the state have been disarmed and made inconsequential in the scheme of things in the party.
What started with a trial version in Ebonyi State recently to ensure complete handover of the party in the state to Governor Dave Umahi, was replicated in other states by the dissolution and composition of the caretaker committees in the state.
“The initial fear and apprehension that the detractors of the governors cabal would hijack the nomination of delegates for the national convention to determine who emerges the national leadership and more importantly the proposed membership registration and revalidation have been completely eliminated by the dissolution of the state and zonal party’s executives,” the member of the Oshiomhole-led NWC told Daily Sun.
Appraising the actions of the Governor Buni-led caretaker committee, a party chieftain from Zamfara State who spoke to Daily Sun in confidence, blamed the whole intrigues and schemes about extending the tenure of the caretaker committee on ensuring that governors completely hijacked the party machinery and organs ahead of 2023 election.
“The whole game is about governors hijacking power to control the party structure ahead of 2023. This whole scheme is about the 2023 presidential election ticket. The clear mandate given to the caretaker committee is to roll out plans and timetables to elect new national leadership for the party bogged down with a lot of mess. What it means is bringing in a new national leadership to finish the tenure of the Oshiomhole-led NWC before the convention to elect national leadership to conduct the primaries for the 2023 general elections.”
“Even if Oshiomhole had served out his tenure, a new leadership would have emerged to midwife the primaries for the 2023 general elections. However, some people have decided that if the caretaker committee hastens to finish the assignment to midwife the election of new leaders to finish Oshiomhole’s tenure before the primaries of 2023, it may not favour them.
“Instead, they want to be the ones to organise the congresses so that they will have the advantage to produce the 2023 presidential candidate and others. They agreed not to finish the assignment contrary to the honest intention of the people that constituted the committee.
“Already, the caretaker committee which lobbied for extension has embarked on party membership registration and revalidation that will never end. It will use it as an excuse to continue in office and after the expiration, people will come up with the argument that the party cannot afford to organise convention twice before 2023”, the party chieftain lamented.
In what appeared like replying to him, another party chieftain and Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, argued that there is nothing unusual about the governors taking over the party structure, insisting that it is the trend all over the world.
Asked if he is not envisaging any implosion with the complete takeover of the party machinery by the governors, the Enugu state technocrat and politician, said: “All over the world, you hardly do without the governors. In reality, what is called government is the governors. In political science, they tell us that government is about the land, the people and the resources.”
Asked whether there will not be backlash in a state like Ebonyi State, where the governor who joined APC recently has been handed over the leadership of the party ahead of a leader like Ogbonnaya Onu, the hitherto leader of the party in the state, Okechukwu, argued that gladiators must be ready to sacrifice in liberal democracy.
The first litmus test will come next week, when the membership registration and revalidation exercise takes off in all the states. Would the detractors fold their hands and helplessly watch the governors ride roughshod on them in determining how the party is run in the state especially as the exercise will determine who becomes the delegate to the National Convention.
Sources at the secretariat claimed that the way the registration is structured, it will be in such a way that it will last many months through postponements, to make it practically impossible for the aggrieved to join the speculated third force.
Head or tail, indications that the ruling party may not be coasting to victory emerged shortly after the decision at the NEC meeting hit the airwaves, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) issued a statement, calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister the ruling party.
While faulting specifically the dissolution of its Exco at the ward, state and zonal levels, the opposition party had claimed that the APC has forcefully exited itself from the nation’s political firmament by such action.
But reacting to the attacks, the ruling party had said that the leadership of the opposition party has not only gone senile, but also lacks the capacity to provide rigorous and intelligent interrogation of the policies and programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration.
The APC had initially dismissed a statement credited to a spokesperson of the PDP as fake until further checks confirmed its authenticity. The PDP had called on INEC to deregister APC and declare vacant the seats of all its lawmakers. But the APC spokesman said: “It is now clear that the PDP’s disillusion following their rejection by Nigerians in the 2011 and 2019 general elections has degenerated into senility. It is common knowledge that the PDP leadership is currently facing a serious crisis of confidence as a result of its rudderless leadership. However, it will seem that the PDP crisis has been grossly under played”