From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
In all ramifications, 2022 could rightly be described as a year the All Progressives Congress (APC) was perpetually in the eye of the storm. It is a historic year the ruling party went through the crucibles of the good, bad, ugly, and the most beautiful as a build up to an election year.
From the perennial administrative crises that rocked the party from the beginning of the year under the headship of Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee to the controversial national convention that produced the current national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, the ruling party, in reality, actually went through a combination of ragging storm and calmness.
It is a year the party also experienced a rancorous pre and post-presidential primary turmoil that saw the dramatic emergence of the party’s candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. APC also went through several other uneasy calms that pervaded both the national and almost all the state chapters of the party.
Apparently, 2022 is a year that the headquarters of the party experienced an overdose of police occupation, to restore peace or implement court judgments; it also witnessed countless threatening pro and anti-protests.
Equally, it is a year staff salaries and other remuneration complaints almost crumbled activities at the headquarters, and a year disagreements on the choice of the presidential candidate among members of the national leadership, the National Working Committee (NWC), almost ruined the party’s primary.
The party similarly witnessed the same scenario if not worst cases, at the state chapters where unending crises, in the form of litigations and unhealthy rivalries among stakeholders widened the crack within the party to the detriment of the party’s chances of victory at next year’s poll.
In retrospect, 2022 is a year the party’s national leadership, the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) and some powerful forces at the presidency squared up against one another in endless rivalries and survival of the fittest that sharply deepened the divide in the party.
Above all, in the outgoing year, the ruling party, consistently put its wrong foot forward and perhaps got it all wrong in the choice of a Muslim-Muslim joint presidential ticket, which is still hanging on the neck of the party like albatross and by extension its choice of the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, considering the multitude of challenges confronting him and the party.
Truly, in the contemplation of many party members, it is a year the ruling party battled myriads of insoluble unending uncertainties, anxieties, and apprehension that affected its several activities.
And miffed by what many party faithful perceived as an attempt by the then leadership to perpetuate itself in power with, perhaps the ultimate aim to manipulate the presidential primary to their favour, certain forces had staged a mutiny and palace coup against the Governor Buni-led Caretaker Committee.
During the insurrection propelled by the hands of Esau in the APC governors and the voice of Jacob in the implementers backed by the presidential cabal that almost impeached Governor Buni particularly, who was then on the hospital bed outside the country, in a disgraceful manner, peace had completely deserted the party.
The mutiny also almost consumed the caretaker committee Secretary, John James Akpanudodehe, until a last-minute intervention from the presidency and support from embatled Governor Buni finally came to rescue him and restore sanity in the hitherto troubled house divided against itself.
To save themselves from further embarrassment, the Caretaker Committee had reluctantly but hurriedly concluded the activities for the conduct of the elective convention that produced Adamu under questionable circumstances many considered as an imposition and by extension other members of the NWC.
Adamu’s emergence was so perceived as imposition because the former Nasarawa State governor, never indicated interest initially and never even campaigned for the position among the 11 heavyweight party chieftains that indicated serious interest to wrest the position from one another.
Notable eminently-qualified politicians that contested for the positions before Adamu wrested the ticket through the backdoor, include former governors of Nasarawa, Tanko Al-Makura, Borno, Ali-Modu Sheriff (SARS), Kashim Shettima, Zamfara, Abdula’Aziz Yari, Benue, George Akume and his Bauchi State counterpart, Isa Yuguda.
Others fiercely in contention then include former and serving lawmakers like the Senator representing Niger East District, Mohammed Sani-Musa, Danjuma Goje, former deputy national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Saliu Mustapha, Sunny Sylvester Moniedafe and Mohammed Saidu-Etsu among others.
But while they traversed the entire length and breadth of the country, canvassing and lobbying for the support of the delegates and even doled out a whopping sum of N20 million to purchase the rather exorbitant expression of interest and nomination forms, Adamu had watched from the wings after capitalising on his position as the chairman, national reconciliation committee to wrest the position.
If the amount the ruling party sold the nomination for chairmanship position shocked the party members and many Nigerians, the party also broke records this same year by scaling up the presidential nomination forms to an all-time high of N100 million.
It raked in over N32 billion across the country on just the sale of forms alone. And while the presidential nomination form went for N100 million, the governorship form was sold for N50 million; Senate, N20 million; the House of Representatives, N10 million; and the House of Assembly, N2 million almost twice the price they were sold in the 2019 general election.
A rundown of the generated revenue showed about 23 aspirants picked the presidential forms; the countless number of governorship aspirants purchased forms that amounted to about N2.8 billion, and roughly N6.54 billion was generated from the sale of senatorial forms.
The ruling party equally reportedly made over N10.8 billion from the sale of forms to a minimum of three House of Representatives aspirants from each of the 360 federal constituencies and N7.93 billion from a minimum of five aspirants that contested in each of the 991 House of Assembly seats across the country.
But the pains of doling out such humongous amounts of money to purchase the nomination forms were less excruciating than the troubles of managing the pre and post-primary elections after Tinubu’s emergence.
The presidential aspirants did not only take leave of absence, abstaining totally from almost all party activities, but also swore never to campaign for the party’s candidate while some even instituted legal action against the candidate and the party.
From Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and almost all the deeply aggrieved aspirants of South East geopolitical zone extraction especially Ogbonnaya Onu, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Rochas Okorocha, among others, it has been literally like a leprous treatment to the party’s candidate.
Another issue of historical reference in the year 2022 worth mentioning was the protracted rift between the NWC, the presidential candidate, and the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the party. Despite Asiwaju’s visit to the party’s secretariat to calm tensed frayed nerves, the damning letter from the NWC that read the riot act to its candidate to shape in or risk abandonment had surfaced.
After several failed attempts to compel the PCC and its candidate to observe the protocols, the party’s national chairman, in a letter he personally signed had pungently warned Tinubu to checkmate the calamity dangling before the neck of the party.
The strongly worded letter read: “May I, therefore, point out to Your Excellency, that winning elections is a cooperative, as well as a collaborative effort, done in a transparent and disinterested manner by all parties concerned, by respecting established boundaries and acknowledging the contributions of everyone.
“The NWC believes that any sign of disarray in the party’s ranks will undermine the spirit and ethos of the campaign and give undue alarm to faithful members and followers of the party across the country.
“At the same time, such a development would undoubtedly come as ‘Manna from Heaven’ for the opposition parties, whose only desire when all else fails, is to see the introduction of rancour, division and disinclination in the leadership of our great party.
“I am sure you will agree with me that this is an eventuality that we must do all in our power to prevent from happening. You will also agree that we owe it a duty as leaders to provide guidance by example to the rest of the party including the PCC, to abide by agreements and adhere strictly to the work ethos that has been adopted by all of us.
“It is only by doing so that we will establish the premise for victory and gain the trust and confidence of our dear countrymen and women. Without further admonishment or complaints, I wish hereby to call upon you to restrain the PCC from undertaking solo projects of this nature, and agree to work with all stakeholders towards taking our party to victory.
“I shall not find it necessary to reiterate the importance of the party in the overall scheme of things in these campaigns, and the singular position of the NWC in driving the process towards our securing of victory in the polls.
“It suffices for me to convey the general and overwhelming sentiment of the NWC with regards to the ill-timed and unfortunate release of the PCC list, which confounded rather than pleased the members and whose withdrawal will assure the NWC of Your Excellency’s respect and disposition towards the party, as well as the magnanimous spirit of cooperation towards achieving,” the fuming NWC noted in the letter it later denied and withdrew.
However, on the flip side, there are many positives points the party scored through the new national leadership and even beyond. On record is that the party has been able to curtail the crises from escalating to the point of the party breaking into factions like the G-5 currently ravaging the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The ruling party proved doubters expecting the party to implode after both the national convention and presidential and other primaries wrong as it remained united even with what many believe is a peace of the graveyard.
Again, the future of the national chairman, Adamu, after Tinubu’s emergence, hung in the balance due to his presidency-backed position in endorsing the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as the preferred presidential candidate.
The position apparently polarised the party’s stakeholders, resulting in the fear to organise National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting within the three months statutory period stipulated in the party’s constitution, which limited the powers of the NWC after the expiration of the powers ceded to it.
Acknowledging stripping NWC of the statutory powers NEC conferred on it, a member of the party’s leadership said that the national leadership no longer takes decisions outside its scope of authority.
“We are aware that the power NEC gave to the NWC has elapsed after the expiration of the 90 days. And that is why NWC is no longer taking any substantive decision outside its scope and limit. NWC members have tried to restrict themselves to taking decisions within its mandate.
“They are mindful of the fact that some decisions are now a no-go area for the NWC. They are also aware of the fact that they cannot take any decision that will expose the party and give the opposition any undue legal advantage. The reality on ground is that if they don’t do so, anybody that drags our party to the court will certainly be to our detriment.
“Already, we are desperate to hold a NEC meeting. It has become very important to either extend the absolute powers NEC ceded to the NWC or retain and exercise its statutory powers,” the NWC member noted.
However, despite the stormy relationships among the leaders and stakeholders, the ruling party has remained united in pursuit of the common goal of ultimately winning next year’s presidential election.
Unity in crisis is not the only positive side of the party this year. Another success story is the transformation that has turned the national Secretariat of the party into a huge reconstruction site with many APC ticket-desperate conscious governors jostling to deploy huge funds to be part of the transformation agenda.
The Buhari House, purchased earlier this year, currently wears new attractive looks befitting of a national secretariat of a ruling party. It also bore eloquent testimony of the success story of the party. Apart from the befitting edifice, the national leadership also rewarded themselves in a shower of blessings by allegedly jerking up their remunerations and personal benefits.
But regardless of the side of the coin anybody wants to perceive the year for the ruling party, Deputy National Organising Secretary, Chidi Nze Duru, argued that it is a rewarding year for the ruling party.
Speaking to Daily Sun, the former House of Representatives member opined that: “party politics is about managing expectations of diverse people for a consensus. Our party has done well in the aspect of managing contending issues. We have addressed them as they arise.”
“There are quite a lot of positives to take from it. Our party conducted a very successful national convention and other conventions across the country to elect party officials from the grassroots to the national level. Putting together structures of the party across the country was no mean feat.
“It is also the first time, in the history of the party, we scored a very reasonable pass mark in the conduct of party primaries to the extent that our gates and doors were opened to listen to various aspirants in the number of constituencies which helped us to record a near perfect primary to produce the candidates we have at various levels,” he argued.
Reacting further, Duru said: “We are now preparing for the election, we believe, hope, and trust that the success we recorded this year will reflect on electoral victory next year, during the presidential and state elections.
“Yes, the year has been turbulent for our party, but we have been able to manage the crises. We needed to prove to Nigerians that we are the party in power. It was binding on us to ensure that we had a successful national convention and party primaries regardless of the drama associated with them.
“At a point, it looked as if the convention would not hold, but once certain issues were sorted, we deployed every machinery to ensure a successful convention was conducted, which produced the current national leadership of the party.
“Our ultimate target was to meet up with the promise we gave to Nigerians to conduct a free, fair, credible primaries that ensured one person claimed the ultimate prize. The resolve to pacify the unsuccessful aspirants at the poll has been rewarding to a large extent,” he noted.
On the leadership crisis, the complaints from the staff about neglect and other issues, Duru said: “challenges will always be there in party politics. But the hallmark of it is that we have addressed those challenges, overcome them and learn from them.
“Yes, I admit that there are leadership issues and one of them leading to the presidential primary was that the NWC could not take a decision on who the candidate will be. But, the leadership provided a platform that guaranteed a transparent process. There were individual preferences, but it did not mar the opportunity of enthroning transparent processes.
“Don’t forget that it is still a learning curve for the party and if there are other agitations like delay in payment of staff emoluments, or remunerations and incentive to the workforce across all formations, there is room for discussions and resolutions,” he said.
Regardless of his opinion, the daunting task before the ruling party, particularly to retain its seat at the Presidential Villa and maintain the governorship seats at the State level and majority at the National Assembly, is enormous and challenging.
The year 2022 may not be entirely bad, but the ruling party is on a threshold of history in 2023 should the plans to consolidate on its hold on power fail to materialise.