In 2017, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was two years plus on the saddle, but it continues to be enmeshed in controversies which some say could adversely affect its fortune in future elections. BODE OLAGOKE writes.
For the governing APC, the year 2017 has gone down in the annals of history as one characterized by internal and external crises which threatened even the foundation of the party, leaving the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) under Chief John Oyegun, the National Chairman helpless. As has been the case with many political parties in Nigeria, internal democracy seems to have been the dominant issue that created wrangling in the ruling party.
Even now not many of those crises that came to the fore in 2017 and which the party was almost torn to shreds have been amicably resolved. Nonetheless, political analysts are unanimous that no political party in the world, even in advanced democracies, is free of such.
At the beginning
The ruling party began year 2017 with the carry-over of acrimony following the results of the Kogi, Edo and Ondo governorship elections, which pitched the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, with the APC national chairman, John Oyegun, who was said to be enjoying the backing of the presidency in the choice of who flies the party’s flag in those elections.
As this was going on, some other leaders of the party in the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, among many others felt sidelined from the ruling party.
Expectedly, some of these stalwarts did not only stay far from the National Secretariat of their party, they also refused to pay both their statutory financial contributions and other commitments to keep the running of the APC smoothly.
Therefore, shamelessly the governing party at a stage could not pay salaries, electricity bill, contractors and most especially, advert placements in the media which made the media representatives covering the party came up with a threat to stage a protest.
Internal crisis across the states
From the South to the North, from the West across the East, the party in the year 2017 battled with so many issues engendering fears that if not checked timely, it may significantly weakened the overall fighting power of the party in the fast approaching 2019 general elections and indeed, any other election that may come up in between at state and local government levels.
From faraway Bayelsa to the distant Kano, across to Gombe then Kaduna, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Yobe and still counting, the APC chapters in these states erupted in one form of crisis or the other. The leadership at the centre, added to the issues by adopting poor administrative approaches to simple matters thereby worsening them. Though the national leadership intervened in all these troubled spots, these problems lingered and surprisingly the party somehow went on to win elections conducted in some of these places.
To this end, the leadership of the party has been occupied with the task of inaugurating and dispatching teams to these troubled areas in the hopes of keeping the state of the union strong and stable even though the desires and aspirations of some have nonetheless been threatened the delicate peace pact being put in place at every level.
Oyegun must go protests
There were palpable fears and threats against the seat of the APC national chairman, Chief John Oyegun, as regard his leadership style. Some vehemently protested against him on the grounds that he harbours autocratic tendency and therefore engineered several calls for his removal. They insisted that the Oyegun-led NWC could not organise any convention because he was afraid of the likely outcome for him and his cohorts. But like cat with nine lives, the Benin Born Chief survived it all.
Prominently among the voices that called for Oyegun’s sack was the party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Timi Frank. There were other groups who staged protests at one point or another asking for the change of APC leadership, even at a time rumours were high that the immediate past governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was favoured to replace Chief Oyegun, who incidentally is a former governor of Edo as well.
Unforgettably was a massive protest at the party house by some youths on the aegis of Save APC and Democracy Youth Vanguard who demanded that its national chairman, Chief John Oyegun, should be removed.
Other demands listed on various placards by the youths included: “Audit APC account now, No to non-elective convention, APC must support anti-corruption” among others.
Speaking with newsmen during the protest, leader of the group who identified himself as Peter Oyewole, said since 2015 when the APC won the presidential election, the party’s finances has not been audited and made public as stipulated by law.
“Since 2015, the budget of the APC has not been made public. Since 2015 the ruling party has not held a single meeting. These are enough violations to remove the national chairman. We demand the removal of Oyegun now.
“We are also saying enough is enough to imposition of candidates at all levels by the Oyegun-led NWC that is currently going on in this party, because in any party where there is imposition there cannot be fairness, any party where there is imposition there cannot be equity, the imposition in the APC today is just rubbishing the anti-corruption war of President Buhari.
“So, the current national chairman we are having in the APC cannot work in support of the APC’s and President Buhari’s agenda. If Oyegun is not removed he will continue to rubbish the efforts of the President, especially in fighting corruption because you cannot give what you don’t have. The high level of corruption and imposition going on under Oyegun are alarming.
“If Odiege-Oyegun is not removed within the next one month, the APC youth will picket this national secretariat and make it a no- go- area to everybody: both staff, the officials and even the security staff will be chased out of the secretariat and none of them will be allowed to come in here.”
President Buhari’s ill health
For several months in 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari’s health challenges significantly slowed down the activities of the governing party. Until he fully recovered and returned to the country, the party could be said to be grounded.
Expectedly, the party had to put up several defences on why certain things were either half done or left undone. Several party issues that needed the president’s express input were suspended or shelved completely.
This generated a state of unease within the rank and file of the party’s leadership and followership within the space of time that the President was away.
Violation of APC constitution
Within the period under review, one of the serious issues that the party had to grapple with was violation of important provisions of its own constitution with regards to holding its national convention, which is meant to appraise its state of affairs and make necessary adjustments. However, even after it eventually set April 29, 2017 date, it remained a hectic issue. Many insisted that since the last convention of the party was held in October 2014, same should have been convened in 2016 in line with party constitution.
Article 25 (A) (i) of the APC constitution stipulates 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 and at least fourteen (14) days notice given to members eligible to attend.
This is in spite of the constitutional provision, there is also a caveat stating 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.
APC NEC meeting
After several postponement, the APC finally held its National Executive Meeting (NEC) where its National Chairman and the President were unanimously given a vote of confidence contrary to expectations, especially that of the national chairman.
The well attended meeting had President Muhammadu Buhari, about 21 governors, members of National Assembly led by Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, state chairmen and members of the National Working Committee in attendance.
Those in attendance include Governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Jibrilla Bindo (Adamawa), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Tankk Almakura (Nasarawa), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara) and Nasir elRufai (Kaduna).
Others are Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Mohammed Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo).
The senators present at the meeting include Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, Senate Minority Whip, Francis Alimikhena, Senators Abdullahi Adamu, Binta Garba, Andy Ubah, Magnus Abbe, Dino Melaye, Ahmed Sani Yerima, Gbenga Ashafa and Barnabas Gemade.
Buhari promises cabinet expansion
At the NEC meeting, President Buhari gave insight into a possible shake up in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) with a view to injecting fresh blood into the cabinet and ensure that more party loyalists are involved in the running of the government, but two months after no action has been taken by the president
“On the other hand, I am keenly aware that our supporters are very eager for these appointments to be announced. By the Grace of God these appointments will be announced soon. Especially now that the economy is improving, we will have the resources to cater for the appointees.
“By the same token, the compressed Federal Executive Council will be expanded to bring in more supporters at Federal Level, with fresh ideas to be injected into the government.”
…And Atiku resigned
Another unforgettable event that caused uproar in the ruling party was the sudden resignation and subsequently defection of one of the main financiers and heavyweight member, Atiku Abubakar back to the main opposition PDP. Though, the party facially appeared not worried but politics is a game of numbers, especially when it comes to an heavyweight politician like Waziri Adamawa.
Giving the reason for leaving the ruling party, Atiku Atiku attributed it to failure of the APC at the centre to meet its campaign promises to Nigerian people and even further raised lamented how can a federal executive council be formed without a single youth among them?
“But more importantly, the party we put in place has failed and continues to fail our people, especially our young people. How can we have a federal cabinet without even one single youth? A party that does not take the youth into account is a dying party. The future belongs to young people.
“I admit that I and others who accepted the invitation to join the APC were eager to make positive changes for our country that we fell for a mirage. Can you blame us for wanting to put a speedy end to the sufferings of the masses of our people?”
Blaming the PDP as a policy
The year 2017, just like 2016 and 2015 when it took over, the APC has continued to blame the party it overthrew almost three years ago for most of it inadequacies. It seems blaming the PDP even the simplest undoing of the APC has assumed the status of a policy for the ruling party.
As the 2017 was coming to an end, the nation witnessed an unbearable fuel scarcity, couple with the effects of economic recession, which was said to have been exited but surprisingly, the APC leaders and its spokesman could still attribute these to the legacies of the then ruling PDP.
At the end, Oyegun narrates ordeals
Even with his tenure yet to end, the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has recounted how he survived several attempts to remove him from office as leader of the governing party.
According to Odigie-Oyegun, his several political trials stemmed from his unflinching loyalty to constituted authority at all times, a posture that severally frustrated contending interests within the Party.
“The timing of the investiture was significant given that I had just survived another attempted coup which died with a whimper. For a Bini group, my own people to say ‘oga we want to honour you’, I thought finally yes I deserved this honour. I thank you for doing this to me. This is one of my proudest moments”, The APC national chairman stated at the well-attended award reception.
“I grew up in an environment of strong family ties, where bringing disgrace, dishonour to the family is the worst thing you can possibly do, because your own family will be the first to disown you. So all my life, this is the circumstance that has conditioned me. One, I do nothing that will not make me sleep soundly at night. I do nothing that I will be afraid to see as a headline in any of the national dailies. Yes, I have been through several trials, and I have overcome them all. Why have I done so? Because at the end of the day, however detailed, however forensic, your examination, you will not find that John Odigie-Oyegun have done anything dishonourable.
“And so with all the hue and cry, at the end of the day when we sit down, yes you want John Odigie-Oyegun out, fine. Tell us what he has done? The whole situation fizzles out, because the only thing you can punish him for is loyalty. And we Edo people are loyal. If we believe in something, we make sacrifices to ensure that those ends are upheld and met”, Odigie-Oyegun said.
The APC national chairman compared President Buhari to some eminent Nigerians such as late INEC Chairs, Justice Ephraim Akpata, Abel Goubadia, lawyer/activist, Gani Fayehinmi, Afrobeat pioneer and activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who according to him were not popular for simply throwing money around but for their inspiration to others.
“The example of these men is noticed, it inspires other people. So by their conduct, they are probably doing a lot more good than those who just handover cash. There are so many ways to the top. People like Justice Ephraim Akpata, Abel Goubadia, Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti were popular, but they controlled nothing. The same attribute is what our president has. He controls nothing. He does not have mansions, but the whole nation has accepted him because of integrity”, he said