From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
THE drama, horse-trading and high-tech intrigues that characterised the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) recently, and speculated crisis rocking the party have been put to rest after the gladiators emerged from the conference hall at the party secretariat last week, beaming with smiles, a disappointing expectation of many.
In the build-up to the meeting, the future of the party chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was on the front burner. There were alignments, realignments and sharp division among party leaders, former and serving governors and other stakeholders of the party for and against Oyegun.
The postponements of the NEC meeting severally did not fuel tension within the party more than the speculations created by the 10-day compulsory leave Chief Oyegun embarked on. Despite several denials that he was not facing the exit door, which many held with pinch of salt, Oyegun, a cat with nine lives, did not only bounce back but survived his speculated sack plot.
Before the meeting, it was becoming glaring that the party was fast losing the goodwill and interests of many Nigerians. It was demonstrated by the unimpressive results the party recorded in several elections and rerun elections.
Consequently, to stop the situation from degenerating into a state of anomie, several strategic meetings were held at the State House, involving key actors and gladiators to maximally help paper the cracks created by the crisis rocking the party.
There were such endless crisis trailing the selection of the leadership of the National Assembly last year, the lingering tussle for the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees (BoT) involving two party heavyweights, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the sharing formula and beneficiaries of the appointments at the federal level were some of the crises that widened the cracks on the wall of the party.
The genesis of the crisis was the seed of discord the emergence of Dr Bukola Saraki as Senate President planted among the party members. The delay and President Muhammadu Buhari’s change of the status quo, in which state governors were allowed to nominate ministerial nominees from their state as contributed to the party crisis.
The dusts raised by the selection of the National Assembly leadership and nomination of the ministers were yet to settle when the speculations of President Buhari shutting the door behind party leaders like Tinubu rocked the party.
Interestingly, none seems to be weightier than the misunderstanding created by the future of Chief Oyegun as the party chairman. His political sin was allegedly incurring the wrath of certain persons with what many considered as his partial role in the politics of the emergence National Assembly leadership. It was so bad and enthralling that it pitched the current governors against their predecessors sharply divided for and against him.
The culmination of the speculated crisis rocking the party was the alleged supremacy battle among the parties that merged to produce APC splitting the party into three camps.
The contending forces according to investigation are the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) caucus.
However, reacting before the meeting, the National Auditor of party, George Moghalu, had dismissed the insinuations of any crisis rocking the party, insisting that such speculations were mere figments of the imaginations of mischief makers.
According to him: “The speculations that there are serious crisis in the party are mere figments of the imaginations of certain persons I can call mischief makers. As for the uncertainty over BoT chairmanship, I can tell you that the decision of who becomes the chairman is an exclusive reserve of the BoT members and the person to emerge as the chairman will be known very soon when we organise the inauguration,”
True to his claims, things are certainly not only looking up with the successful conduct of the NEC meeting, as there seems a gradual healing of the wounds and papering of the cracks on the wall of APC.
The survival of Oyegun as chairman indicates that the storm seems to be over; despite the disharmony such fragile peace has created especially among the greater number of governors shunning the NEC meeting on the uncertainty over his future.
Despite the rumoured crises, there were several takeaways from the NEC meeting, with the unfolding of numerous promises of hope geared towards reinvigorating already despondent Nigerians, traumatised by economic hardship.
Build up to the meeting
The heavy presence of security agents at the venue on the eve of the meeting indicated the high calibre of party faithful and loyalists expected to be part of the meeting.
Security scanner was installed at the entrance door of the secretariat, while the staff and visitors were subjected to a thorough security screening, before they were allowed entrance into the party secretariat to ensure that there were no security lapses.
Residents and businesses around the vicinity equally had hectic time as security agents restricted human and vehicular movements along the street, forcing many to take alternative roots to their homes and offices.
In fact, journalists that have covered the party since the successful merger last year where barred from covering the event despite arriving the venue as early as 6.30am the D-day.
Promise of hope
However, after several hours of fruitful deliberations, anger, acrimony and bitterness gave way for happiness, smiles, promises of hope and optimism. From the anticipated thunderous rumblings of destruction and despondence, came the promise of hope to the party faithful and Nigerians and essentially the perfection of plans for the party to jettison the challenges and wax stronger.
Beyond the party chairman’s admittance of teething tribulations to President Muhammadu Buhari’s confessions of failure in certain aspects, there were celebrations of achievements the current administration under the party have recorded so far.
Oyegun in his opening remarks captured the situation thus: “These are challenging times no doubt and this meeting is held at a period that calls for the best out of all of us. Firstly, it is almost a year ago when we won the national elections and secondly, that our dear president was installed as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Naturally, this would have been the time to roll out the drums and to celebrate loudly, but I think that being a government and a party that is responsive, we are very well aware of the hardships in the land and for that reason, it should be a period of introspection, a period for memories and a period for reminiscences.
“Yes, it is true, these are hard times, but hard times create challenges. Challenges call for men and women to agree in leadership, united, focused, passionate in the policies that they stand for, which means that this party must rediscover itself, which means that this party must stand as one behind the success of our president and for the policies that we stand for and for the promises he has made to the Nigerian people,” he said.
Perhaps, the bigger promise of hope came from President Buhari, who, after chronicling the achievements and challenges of the APC administration, asked Nigerians to look out for good times with the humongous amount of N3 trillion recovered from the implementations of the Single Treasury Account (TSA) to pluck the loopholes and diversion of state funds into secret accounts.
While lamenting the failure of his government in the elections held in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers, emphasizing that more Nigerians were killed or killed themselves in Rivers than in any particular state, he told Nigerians still doubting the achievements of the party that APC still has three years in the life of the administration.
“For the party, I will like you to continue to make sacrifice. I know you are being harassed since the election that they haven’t seen anything on the ground. Well, if you have any explanation that could be accepted, is that you have three more years to go.
“On the economy, the fall of oil prices after Nigeria has made itself a mono economy is a disaster. I wonder why people could not believe that in Nigeria, about 27 out of 36 states have difficulty in paying basic salaries of their workers.
“If from 1999 to at least 2003, oil is above 100 dollars per barrel and an export of about two million barrel per day, how come Nigeria failed to make some arrangement to cushion the effect of a probably volatile oil market? Again, it shows failure of the last administration.
“But we are now to pick the pieces as an APC government and so, there is no need complaining, but let us concentrate and see how much we can do with whatever remains of the economy.
“We realized that agriculture and solid minerals are two areas that can quickly come to help us to recover economically, at least in terms of employment and feeding ourselves and more importantly, saving the hard currency to make sure that what is left of our industries remain open, employing Nigerians and producing goods and services which is very important.
“The policy we are trying to implement is TSA. When we insist that we have to know what comes in and what goes out for us to make a comprehensive amendment to the economy. If you go and see the Central Bank Governor, he will tell you that in the TSA, we have more than N3 trillion. Where would this money have been if TSA was not in vogue?
“I was made to understand that vouchers would have quickly been raised towards the end of the financial year and cheques made. Whether they are going into projects or private pockets, nobody can prove it to you. But that money is there, it is identified, it is quantified and when the budget comes back eventually, the Ministry of finance will see how to allocate it to the rest of the country,” he promised.