•nPDP leaders boycott event, to announce return to PDP •Obasanjo leads ADC, 31 others in grand alliance against Buhari •Party rejects Okorocha’s delegates list
Ade Alade, Abuja; Willy Eya, Lagos
Today is the D-Day and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is agog as a total of 6,800 delegates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) gather for the long-awaited national convention of the party.
It appears, the national convention is the biggest hurdle the party is likely to surmount ahead of 2019 general elections as all the power brokers in the APC battle for the soul of the ruling party.
Initially, it seemed the party would never hold a convention as it had failed several times to bring all the power blocs and interests together to agree on the terms of the exercise. But after several postponements of the date, the day has finally come for the teeming delegates to elect new members of the new National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Predictably, the outcome of today’s exercise will either make or mar the party which in an unprecedented manner trounced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015 after the party’s 16 years of dominating the political space in Nigeria. For followers of the political trajectory of the APC, the tension-soaked convention will be one of the major determinants of its performance in the 2019 general elections.
However, all things being equal, today’s exercise may just be a formality if the power brokers in the party will agree to the consensus arrangement and endorse the unity list for the new NWC.
Already, the two major leaders of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari and former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu have endorsed the former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole to emerge the chairman of the APC in the convention.
President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly made it clear to the party leaders that he was interested in three positions, namely national chairman, national secretary and that of the national organising secretary.
The positions are zoned to the South-South, North East and South East geo-political zones, respectively. President Buhari was said to have asked one of his aides to advise the outgoing national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun and the national organising secretary, Osita Izunazo, not to seek re-election.
Speculations were rife that while Mr Oyegun announced his exit from the race, Mr Izunazo rejected the advice, opting to slug it out with other contenders for the position.
So, on one hand, if the two major actors in the APC power struggle(Buhari and Tinubu) have their way, the convention may just be a walkover for Oshiomhole and the development may reinvent the party to be well positioned for the 2019 general elections.
But on the other hand, politics is dynamic and peradventure events go otherwise, the party will be in a quagmire and may go the way of the PDP after its national convention ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Not a few believe that the candidature of Oshiomhole and the manner he emerged are not acceptable to many power brokers especially some APC governors. The former Edo governor in the views of many was more or less imposed on the party and not necessarily by consensus as the arrangement is projected to be.
Analysts argue that other aspirants to the chairmanship position including former governor of Cross River State, Chief Clement Ebri, and former Edo State governor, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor, had to shelve their ambition to assuage the interest of the president. Also, the consensus dummy was not acceptable to the outgoing chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun and his supporters who believe that President Buhari was literally arm twisted by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to force him (Oyegun) out of his position after the effort he has put into building the party. Oyegun’s supporters believe that but for the open partisanship and preference for Oshiomhole, the outgoing chairman would have re-contested and easily won as he had the support of many of the governors of the party.
Apart from the grievances of members opposed to the consensus arrangement, a major hurdle facing the APC is the backlog of litigations trailing its ward, local government and state congresses. The fear in many quarters is that even after today’s convention, any unfavourable judgment against the congresses can affect the outcome as one cannot build something on nothing.
Saturday Sun learnt that some state governors were not comfortable with the continued stay in office of some of the members of the NWC from their states. The governors were said to be suspicious of the outgoing NWC members who they felt might not be representing their interests well enough and may even work with rival interests to undermine them.
There were indications that members of the outgoing NWC seeking re-election were asked to all drop their ambitions, ahead of today’s convention.
Some officials seeking re-election include the national secretary, Mai Mala Buni, deputy national chairman (North), Lawan Shuaibu, national vice-chairmen, Hilard Etta (South-South), Emma Eneukwu, (South-East), national organising secretary, Osita Izunaso, and the national auditor, George Muoghalu.
It was gathered that save for Mr Buni, the names of the other officials have been dropped from the list of aspirants called the “Unity List,”
Recall that the political tempo in the party intensified after a waiver was granted to the outgoing NWC by the NEC with the implication that any member of the NWC could re-contest if he or she desired without necessarily resigning his or her position one month to the contest as stipulated by the constitution of the party. The APC constitution on holding a national convention states in Article 25 (A)(i) that “the National Convention of the Party shall be held once in Two (2) years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee and approved by the National Executive Committee subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and at least fourteen (14) days notice given to members eligible to attend.”
Also, the constitution provides that “the National Executive Committee may summon an emergency National Convention at any time provided at least seven (7) days notice of the meeting shall be given to all members eligible to attend.”
Before today’s exercise, the secretary of the convention committee, Victor Ndoma-Egba told journalists that the party was doing everything to resolve issues arising from states where ward, local government and state congresses were in one controversy or the other.
In Imo, one of the states which had issues from the congresses, the Federal High Court in Owerri had set June 22 to 26 as the dates for the hearing.
APC rejects Okorocha’s delegates list
Saturday Sun gathered that besides taking his battles to the courts, last minute move by Governor Rochas Okorocha to retrieve the party’s structure from a powerful group, Imo APC Stakeholders, failed to get him his desired relief. It was learnt that on Wednesday, June 20, Okorocha was in the presidential villa, Abuja where he presented a list of 70 Imo delegates from his faction of the party for endorsement by President Buhari, a request that was turned down. Not done yet, Saturday Sun also learnt that Okorocha took this same list to the convention planning committee on Thursday
evening but was again turned back. This left the governor in the cold and bitter.
“Okorocha’s case is bad because neither the president nor the party can do anything to help him. None wants to bend the rules for him because he didn’t manage his battles well right from his home state. The options left are his decisions to take”, a presidential source told Saturday Sun in Abuja on Friday.
The nPDP challenge
One major challenge the new leadership of APC will be contending with is the threat by a major bloc in the formation of the party, new Peoples Democratic Party, popularly called nPDP, to pull out of the ruling party. Top leaders of the group include Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Sokoto state governor, Aminu Tambuwal; former PDP chairman, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, among many others, including about six serving APC governors, over 30 senators and 80 members of the Green Chamber of NASS. Saturday Sun gathered that barring last minute change of plan, the powerful group, which camp has been swelling of late, might address a press conference today, Saturday, announcing their decision to dump APC for the PDP. Another source in the group however said its leadership might still change course by giving the Oshiomhole-led national leadership sometime to address its demands and grievances. “This way, the idea of pulling out may linger till late July when the National Assembly will be going for another long vacation”, the source added.
With the decision this week by President Buhari not to hold further talks with the leadership of nPDP, the APC and the group drifted far apart, leading the NASS leadership to deliberately boycott the budget signing ceremony in the villa this week. It was also learnt that Saraki and Dogara might again stay away from the party’s convention today.
Obasanjo, ADC and other parties
Obviously beyond the imagination of the APC, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is at the moment coordinating a coalition of about 31 other political parties, which will be led by his African Democratic Congress, ADC in a grand alliance with the PDP against President Buhari in 2019. It was also learnt that talks are on going with the Social Democratic Party, SDP led by Chief Olu Falae and Prof Jerry Gana to join the grand alliance that will produce a formidable presidential candidate that will confront President Buhari in 2019.
We’ll soon celebrate political obituary of APC -Dino Melaye
One of the top shots of nPDP, Senator Dino Melaye while reacting to the cat and mouse game between his group and the APC said the decision by President Buhari not to meet the bloc was a face saving measure because “we had since called their bluff by pulling out of further talks with them. In fact, calamity awaits APC, because we’ll soon celebrate the political obituary of APC.”