After winning the presidential elections and taking over the reins of government on May 29, 2015, the All Progressives Congress, APC almost immediately began to convulse. There were tales of betrayals and sidelining of those who laboured to put the party in place. The struggle for the leadership of the National Assembly proved a sore challenge to the party. Dr Bukola Saraki in connivance with Yakubu Dogara outsmarted the party and took over the leadership of the two arms. The party cried blue murder. The presidency was rattled but managed to wrestle with it. The ripples of the crises emanating from this lasted for the entire duration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term and even led to the eventual defection of Saraki and co- conspirators to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP .One of the earliest to quit the party was the two- term governor of Sokoto State Alhaji Attahiru Bafawara. The ex- governor, who was one of those who drafted the constitution of the party was irked because he was not accorded the status of a “founding father”. Senator Ali- Modu Sheriff, two- term governor of Borno State and Ibrahim Shekerau, also a former governor of Kano state equally left the party citing several reasons, prime of which was the loss of the party structure in their various states. Bickering by several stakeholders across the nation could be heard loud and clear. It was clear that things had fallen apart in the party and the centre can no longer hold. From ex- governor Murtala Nyako, Yahaya Kwande, Kawu Baraje, to a former deputy spokesman of the party, Timi Frank, a broad division had emerged. Midway into its first tenure in power, the gulf in the party widened and a splinter group known as the Reformed APC emerged with intent to move into the PDP. And it did.
Although the party coasted to victory in the 2019 elections , it was palpable that all was not well. There was a discernible lack of cohesion in the party and the absence of a strong participative president that holds the party together by balancing and satisfying sectoral, ideological, religious and identity interests whilst promoting popularity and consolidation through performance and dialogue. The party opted to rule the nation through a weak party structure and a seemingly unimpressive hold on governance, policies and appointments into offices. The party is underfunded, and generally inactive. It is like the proverbial marsh that stands aloof; acting as it were not the river’s kin. This situation has fueled erosion of popular support, malcontent amongst party chieftains and seeming imminent possible dismemberment. Nearly one year into a fresh term, the ranks of the nattering nabobs of negativism have swirled, while patronages at different levels have dwindled and are slowly spinning out.
Although the crisis that broke out in the party after the elections in 2019 had been linked to the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole’s Edo home state, it has taken different colourations and twists emphatically posting the involvement of interest groups in ostensible battle for positions ahead of 2023. Daily Sun can authoritatively disclose that early skirmishes between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his estranged godfather, Adams Oshiomhole were without trappings of interests over the former’s re-election bid. It was a misunderstanding that many hoped would be resolved quickly. But as it festered and deepened, defying all solutions, many politicians with an eye on 2023 general elections took advantage of it and moved in. Feelers within the party circuit opens a vista of power play and intrigues featuring the likes of Kaduna state governor El- Rufai, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, minister of aviation, Chibuike Amaechi among others who are leading the onslought. A stream of other party doyens numbering more in scores are surreptitiously in the battle of retaining the status- quo or retrieving the leadership from the current holders. Although Buhari has maintained an uncomfortable distance from the crises and the groups, it is roundly believed that it is a matter of time before his stance would be known. And that prediction came to pass. The fingers of his henchmen in the villa have indiscretly popped out in the schism. Most of those who are currently seeking for Oshiomhole’s pound of flesh were the same characters who plotted the ouster of Chief John Oyegun and brought him into power in the varnishing hope that he would do their bidding. Oshiomhole has proved to be a hard nut to crack, showing allegiance to only the president, the party leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, host of other sparring governors and aspirants and their godfathers in tow. In the battle to edge him out, none of the combatants has spared a thought on the spirit of the understanding that ushered him in as national chairman. Thus far, nothing in his conduct and body language in his more than one year old sojourn in office suggests he will break ties with the bond which in clear terms will railroad his sponsors to the presidential seat, beginning with the party ticket. This is where and why the efforts of his political assailants are yet ricocheting at ease. The gambit, Daily Sun can reveal, was a “rub my back; I rub your own “kind of agreement. The Edo APC therefore provided a veritable springboard for them to launch a war of attrition to remove him and put in place a chairman that will be amenable to their dreams and desires in the 2023 political contest. With president Buhari apparently not desirous of contesting again, the coast has been cleared for all those nursing presidential ambitions, and they are indeed falling over each other to seize the momentum. The men who are sitting astride the party to vent their spleen are like those men in the fictional sea song, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest”. A notable governor from the North West who has shown unflagging interest on who occupies the presidential seat in 2023 is also said to be behind the anti- Oshiomhole forces and has deeply penetrated the National Working Committee, NWC of the party. Virtually all of them were behind the ‘Oshiomhole 2018 national chairmanship project.” It was learnt that the real argument behind the new move to push him out is that “the reason for which he was brought in has been served. We brought him in because of his trenchant style of politics as we felt that it was what we needed to keep PDP at bay. He was useful and we won. 2023 is a different kettle of fish. We need a mild mannered, generally acceptable, and affable chairman to placate the electorate and win the people over. We don’t want ‘bulldozer’ to complicate things because the signs are there that the next elections will be better conducted than that of 2019”, one of the anti- Oshiomhole men, operating from the sidelines told Lookout. They had waited in vain for him to self – destruct since July last year. They laid in wait for him to fail in the two electoral contests in Kogi, and Bayelsa and for him to shoot himself in the leg through inappropriate political positioning, excessive sabre –rattling, and ineffective leadership. When these failed, the only option left was to latch on the crises in Edo state to dig in. There are no signs that there will be a let- up in the days ahead as the faceoff has assumed a frenetic “life and death dimension”. A pragmatic politician and former minister of Aviation, Chief Ebenezer Babatope , however believes that APC will not be the same again with Oshiomhole at the saddle. While not holding brief for his traducers, he wants Oshiomhole to really “re-examine himself critically”. He believes that his posturing and conduct as national chairman have been unsavoury, adding that whether the push to get him out is for 2023 or not,” he has done his bit and deserves some respite. “ He says more: “Every political party has the right to arrange its programmes and crises the way they deem fit. Crises are a normal part of politics and there is nothing strange about it”. As at press time, it was learnt that former Zamfara State governor Abdullaziz Yari is in pole position to succeed him if the move to replace him pulls through. The APC has no formal zoning formulae, but his choice was predicated on the reasoning that it will pave the way for Buhari’s successor to come from the South. However, some northern irredentist elements who want the presidency retained in the north are grooming aspirants from the South- south geo-political zone to replace Oshiomhole. Some of the notable names include former senate leader, Victor Ndoma- Egba , former Cross River State governor Clement Ebri, and a serving member of the House of Representatives Prof Julius Ihomvbre.
Some chieftains of the party contacted over this, preferred to play down the distress within the party, even while taking sides with opposing factions discretely. Two of them took the bath of the hornbill and opted not to rock the boat. The former Leader of the United Nigeria Peoples Party, UNPP, which was recently de-registered, and currently an APC chieftain Chief Chekwas Okorie affirmed that “the key to the survival of APC is in the party. The quest for power by the different tendencies in the party will be aggregated and diffused. Okorie continues: “The APC has grown from the small struggling party it was before 2015 and has the capacity to absorb shocks and reconcile the different tendencies within. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. When PDP was in power, there were crises everywhere and at a time in 21 states out of 36 states, but it survived. The crisis in APC is in just about 3 or 4 states and that will not shake the party. Crises are normal in a political party. It is not an anathema. The concern should be how the resolution is arrived at and the final result”. Remarkably, the president has not run the government on the basis of accommodation of the various tendencies in the party. Instead, what is happening is that his kitchen cabinet is influenced by nepotistic considerations while muffled murmurs from other sections of the country and party fester and blister. Vile propaganda, which has always been a formidable instrument of the party in advancing its interests are no longer catching on with the people. Lies, no matter the depth and sophistication are catching cold with the discerning public. The party has therefore resorted to groping and groveling to string a hold on membership and members of the public. This is a world apart from the bold audacity and trenchant maneuvers of its recent history. Apathy to its own cause and other mechanisms of survival has reached grotesque proportions. Loyalty of members to the party and government is shrinking on a daily basis. Entrenched leaders of the party make a heist of falling over themselves trying to curry favours. The National Assembly and Judiciary, two very critical arms of government have visibly been brought under the president’s arms. Okorie, continues. “This view represents the view of the opposition. I can talk authoritatively on this. It will not work like that. I am a member of the APC. Those who are saying that the party is set to die after Buhari’s second term are predicating it on the fact that the party is riding on his popularity and when he is no more there, the party will scatter. Like the phoenix, I believe it will grow from its own ashes. The signs are there, but the man is making no plans about who to succeed him. That means that his successor will emerge through a popular and democratic process and when that happens, the party will grow more in strength. I am not afraid that Buhari’s exit will affect the fortunes of the party post 2023.”
The grand plot
Although the APC managed to return to power at the federal level in the 2019 elections, there are clear indications that all is still not well with the party. Rather than thaw, the crises in the party have increased both in scope and velocity. A good number of the chieftains are still bitter over the style and content of governance of President Muhammadu Buhari ,but are helpless. Senator Dino Melaye, a former member of the party who defected to PDP ahead of the 2019 elections is of the view that the breakup of the party is unstoppable. Added to the whole brouhaha is the haranguing of the national chairman by the party chieftains. He was questioned before the last elections by the Department of State Services, DSS for allegedly receiving bribes to manipulate the party’s primary elections across the country. Majority of the state governors are openly feuding with him. Almost unceasingly, protests against him to force him to resign from office have been raging in the federal capital territory and in some state capitals across the nation. His residence in Benin was attacked recently amidst growing tension in his sour relationship with his godson, the governor of Edo state, Godwin Obaseki. The incendiary within, got to a head last December that Buhari was forced to intervene by meeting Oshiomhole and the state chairmen of the party. He also met the governors elected on the platform of the party. The two meetings were part of concerted efforts to avoid the party’s disintegration after Buhari’s second term, a source at the meeting told Lookout. Discreet investigations reveal that the core objective behind the simmering crises in the party is either to snatch the party from the current leadership base or weaken it ahead of 2023, a situation that will see the emergence of a new crop of leaders through democratic ethos and principles. It was the former Imo state governor Senator Rochas Okorocha that first raised the alarm that the party “will disintegrate after Buhari’s second term”. Other chieftains of the party, who had veiled interest and were disenchanted with the rapid descent of the party took up the gauntlet and echoed similar views. The feeling was right. Having raised Buhari to the status of a titular ruler, a leader who has the sole armament to smolder and weld the party together, the call was interpreted as a clarion call for the perpetuation of Buhari in Office. Apart from the limited dissentions in his party, he has been made to wear a big shoe which no one in the party at the moment, despite pretentions can readily fill. The controversy the call generated added to the already over boiling convolutions in the party. A good number of chieftains in the party harbouring presidential ambitions are latently bidding their time and watching the president’s lips and body language before deciding which side to back. The simmering “watch- and -see attitude has engendered a meltdown. The tinder box is waiting to explode. Former minister of Aviation and chieftain of the PDP, Chief Femi – Fani Kayode sums it all up in these words. “The APC is a rainbow of many colours. I have always said they are strange bed fellows. What united them at first was the morbid desire to oust Jonathan and grab power. Having succeeded in that, it is not difficult to see that they are finding it very difficult to get along together. The cracks in the party that emerged immediately after taking over power in 2015 have continued to widen every day. The attempts to patch it have not worked.”
Discret investigations by Lookout lend credence to this line of thought. The support that the president and party are getting at the moment is predicated on the cadence of solidarity those of them with vaulting presidential ambitions will get in the run- up to the presidential party primary. Already, interest groups in the party are touting former Lagos State governor and acclaimed leader of the party as the undisputable choice for Buhari’s succession. Others are positioning the vice- president, Yemi Osinbajo also for the plum job. The monolithic north has been playing the ostrich. As at press time, no party chieftain from the zone has expressed the intention to succeed Buhari. The burgeoning deep feeling of alienation by the South- east bloc within the party who are undisguisedly routing for a non- existent zoning principle that will make their zone clinch the seat is another bar. In furtherance of this strain, they are putting in so much grit to popularize their party in the south –east. Nothing is spared in this direction including outright and outrageous rigging of the last elections and other alleged illegal compromises of the courts. A possible splinter of the APC in the South- west on account of the perceived presidential ambitions of gladiators from the zone will ultimately spell doom for the APC. Having swept to power in 2015 with the tacit involvement and alliance of the South west, the party will be left broken, disconcerted, disheveled and standing on a limb. There are also fears which are imminent of a possible implosion that will lead to incendiary backlash. In fact, a school of thought posits that the heightened insecurity in the country, orchestrated and protected by irredentist party men within the corridors of power will be the single most determinant factor in the final melt down that will herald the collapse of the party. Some pacifists within the party are mulling setting up a “bridge Party” that will cushion the impact of the fall. Those behind the new move are the “ halks” in the northern wing of the party with the lukewarm connivance and participation of moderates from the South- east and South- south geo- political zones. Most of the party chieftains are dead on producing Buhari’s successor and have distanced themselves from the moves. At the moment, there is no concrete move to register a party that will midwife this plot. But the drawing board is set and will soon rev into motion as events in the party and polity unfold. Further investigations indicate that the presidency is yet to be appraised of the development and therefore the likelihood of its success without the involvement of the presidency is remote. One of those behind the scheme; a maverick politician from the North- east , Abdulkadir Ahmed, however told Lookout that his group is working based on selfless northern patriotism.” We will not fold our arms and watch power slip out of the hands of the north. The last five years have been rosy, not because of total appropriation of power by the north, but because the northern agenda of the president has helped in building confidence in the north for one Nigeria.” Asked what his group will do if eventually their dream fails to fall in place, he has this to say: “It is the desire of every good northerner who understands the dynamics of power in Nigeria not to let the opportunity of Buhari’s ascension to power fizzle into dry dusts in our mouth. APC is surely going to die. There is no doubt about that, unless we want to live in self – denial. The pro- north policies of the government are causing ripples in the south and it is a matter of time for rebellion which is building up to burst out. The party will soon lose its popularity in the South west very soon. What is holding it in the South- west is because they are still being accommodated in the scheme of things. Their son is the vice- president and there is a smattering of their kinsmen in the corridors of power through appointments.. We are not deceived. We know what will happen in the aftermath of Tinubu , for instance, not getting the nod to fly the party’s flag in 2023. Yes, we know.” The fragile peace and cohabitation is because of the carrots they are reaping through their positions in government. The day the sense that the milk will stop flowing creeps in, you will see the much expected realignments.” If this comes to be, APC will be like the famed Dinosaur, which mammoth size did not prevent from going extinct.
Death by installments
In 1977, Nigeria’s famous playwright, Duro Ladipo, in acknowledgement of his impending death crystallized the notion that he was “dying by installments”. Ladipo had been in and out of hospital owing to a crippling ailment. It was not long after this statement that he bowed to the cold hands of death. The same obviously applies to the APC. Its inability to hold on to its launch pad dreams, the cursory approach to governance, the intrinsic devaluation of the core values of the redemptive Nigerian dream which draws strength in unity in diversity and the macabre dance of insecurity championed by clannish interest groups have combined to fester a pervading sense of invidious error of choice and hopelessness in the people. The party, according to Senator Shehu Sani in a recent interview said the party is surviving on a strand of grace and will be dead as soon as that grace is removed. He said “It is not all the time that a party gets a huge opportunity like the one APC got in 2015 and proceeds to squander all the chances and the popular goodwill of the people. Through acts of omission and commission, the APC is irrefutably offering another party a chance to bounce back”. But the party apparatchik would brook none of this. National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lanre Onilu debunks all insinuations that the party is grinding to death. He said that the doomsayers equally predicted death for the APC before the 2019 general elections but our party and president Buhari swept the polls emphatically and is waxing stronger and stronger. It is a sad commentary on the nature of Nigerian politics. It is instructive that there are dare – devil death wishers who will stop at nothing in seeing the party go. Never”. Femi-Fani Kayode , speaking on “ APC’s Cult of death”, describes the party as “ smelling like rotten Chinese fish and a Calcutta brothel”.
The party is currently embroiled in crises in Edo, Bayelsa,Anambra, and Ondo states. Buhari had at the party’s National executive Committee meeting recently, urged all members to unite. Sensing trouble, the president has come out to say that history would not be fair to members if the party collapsed after his second term. The die is cast. The survival of the party will be hinged on far reaching factors including a reversal of most of the controversial policies that have pitched the north against the south and elevated deep- seated feelings of alienation and conquest of the south by the north. The opposition PDP succinctly captures the imminent disintegration of the APC on the attacks by the party members on the leadership of the party. The opposition party said that by taking up arms against the leadership of the party, there is nothing more left of it except to die. Kola Ologbodiyan, the party’s publicity scribe who made the assertion said that it amply captures the mood of Nigerians.” The indisputable fact among Nigerians is that the party has become torn apart within its core. The manifest greed and ravenousness of its leaders, particularly in the presidential villa, in addition to endless infighting over positions and looted resources has further exposed the party as a soulless mob.”
The opposition party said that the APC has never been a genuine platform for governance, adding that neither the predisposition nor the design for operable people- oriented policies and programmes has elevated the party from imminent death.
Inclusivity as Albatross
Malam Ismaila Funtua, a chieftain of the APC recently scorned the quest by the Igbo to produce president Buhari’s successor in 2023, claiming that the clamour might not see the light of the day because the people have refused to play inclusive politics. The issue of inclusive politics in APC has stood like a sore thumb since the inception of the party. The outburst of the president after the 2015 elections on 95% and 5% is still fresh in the memories of people. So much so is the concerns expressed in this regard that came to be at the core of the 2019 campaigns. But despite the concerns, the president has not done much to assuage the feeling of exclusivity in his appointments and other political patronages. It has drawn deep flaks for the party and is at the root of its disconnection with the people. Apart from the Igbo ethnic group, the Middle Belt comprising the states in the North- central geo- political region which has been the traditional political ally of the north is currently at daggers drawn with the APC – led government owing to incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen on their farms and people. There are suggestions that the attacks which have not been met with requisite clampdown by security agencies is discretely supported by the government. This has fueled bad blood and reprehension between the people and the government. This bad blood may likely lead to electoral loss in the enclave for the APC as we count down to 2023. Already the party has lost immense steam and vitality in the zone. No less important is the schism between some Northern elders and the government. Under the auspices of Northern Elders Forum,( NEF), The APC – led government has received sustained umbrages from this group led by Prof Ango Abdullahi.
“ It is shocking that in spite of unprecedented consensus among Nigerians that the administration requires a new resolve, approach and leadership in the fight against the nation’s multiple challenges, President Buhari appears either totally isolated or in deep denial over the result of his failures to secure Nigerians”. The rejection of the president by this group and by extension the party, despite the huge perception that he has only worked for the perpetuation of northern interests is confounding. Where else will he find reprieve? This is perhaps the end game for APC. Rejected in the South- east and South- south, buffeted in the South- west, pigeon – holed in the North central , and now pilloried by the north, the party gravitates from incipient paranoia to a dry patch of wasteland. The convulsions are accelerating with confounding rapidity. Politicians of all hue and persuasions are daily defecting to the party, causing confusion. Reforms might be too late in the day for the party and the result will be a stinging death that will be to no one’s applause.
The end game
Despite the deepening crises within the fold of the party, many chieftains are cashing in on the absence of zoning formula to begin early to position themselves for the presidential slot of the party. Former president of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN hopes that the jostling for positions for the 2023 elections will not tear the party apart. He recommends cooperative federalism as the only thing that will keep the party together. He says: “ Now that we have come to the end of elections by the decision of the supreme court, cooperative federalism or by its more popular name “restructuring” may be the way to go, but it has not been understood and generally accepted”. There are growing speculations that though Buhari has publicly said he is not interested in grooming a successor, but feelers in the presidency suggest that he may be grooming his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo to succeed him in the same manner he has kept all his service chiefs and principal officers of his government in power since 2015. If this materializes, it will be a long drawn conflict between the president and the APC caucus and cabal that is planning to field a northern candidate. Proponents of this view insist the plot has gone far and that is why “all ministers report to the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari and not to Osinbajo who is number two man and a fierce loyalist of Buhari. The favoured candidate of this group is Ambassador Babagana kingibe a former secretary to the government of the federation, (SGF) during the late Umaru Yar’adua’s regime. The looming showdown will ultimately bring the party to its knees.” Also waiting in the wings to snatch the apple are the Jigawa governor, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and his Kebbi State counterpart, Abubakar Bagudu.These two, it is believed, hold the ace in the ultimate end- game.
The sustained attempt to remove the chairman of the party Adams Oshiomhole from office has broken up the unity and cohesion remaining in the party. The APC governors Forum has broken into two on account of this with about 11 supporting him and 5 against him. Within the APC National Working Committee, NWC, his support base has also been eroded, throwing the party into confusion. The national vice chairman, North- east, Comrade Mustapha Salihu and the Deputy National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom are leading the onslaught.
. Broken into two at all levels, ambitions boiling over and power play at its height, who will save APC?