APC: Defection looms as nPDP threatens to pullout

  • One of the building blocks of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) has fired a letter to the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, alleging marginalization. In this report, ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARI’YAU examines the issues that are threatening to implode the ruling APC

For a long time, the move has been widely anticipated because all seems not to be well within the All Progressives Congress (APC). In fact, it has been a question of ‘when’ APC will be hit by mass defection and not ‘if’ it will experience it. Last Wednesday, the internal feud blew open and right now, defection looms on APC’s horizon. Significantly, some members of the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), one of the building blocks of APC, met with Chief John Odigie- Oyegun, the national chairman behind closed doors.

Afterwards, they submitted a letter to him, listing a litany of grievances, including marginalisation. In the letter, the nPDP members want to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari over the issue. In fact, they gave a two-week ultimatum for the meeting to hold. However, former National Secretary of nPDP, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, one of the signatories of the letter, left APC even before the deadline. According to reports, others will follows suit but the mass defection will take place during or after the national convention.

nPDP’s grievances

In the letter, the group had complained of how it was used to win elections and dumped after victory. Buhari, according to nPDP, never publicly acknowledged its contribution, ‘’ in the face of clear evidence that the total number of votes scored by the APC in states where leaders and members of the then new PDP block held sway made the difference.’’ In particular, the group is miffed that nPDP is generally side-lined as virtually no position was conceded to it at the Federal Executive Council. In addition, there has been no appointments to positions in various government agencies, the nPDP further pointed out, ‘’such as chief executives and executive directors of government agencies and parastatals’’.

In contrast, ex Congress for Progressive Change(CPC) members, as well as their Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) counterparts, including those in the All Nigeria Peoples Party(ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) shared positions amongst themselves. Similarly, the group further said, the nPDP block was subjected to a vicious opposition, when two of their members wanted to run for the senate presidency and speakership of the House of Representatives, as if they were not legitimate members of the APC family. In summary, the group said that there is general lack of consultation, non-recognition and even persecution of former nPDP members and leaders by the party and government.

Specifically, the letter mentioned the group members that contributed APC’s victory in 2015 and they include, the then five sitting governors, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, the Sokoto state governor, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano state and Alhaji Abdul-Fatah Ahmed, the Kwara state governor as well as Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa state, incuding Mr Rotimi Amaechi, the then governor of River states. Collectively, former PDP governors like Adamu Aliero of Kebbi state, Governor Danjuma Goje of Gombe state and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the Osun state governor also played a major role in the victory. In addition, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal, many serving members of the National Assembly such as then Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon Yakubu Dogara, made major contributions to bring about this government.

The letter, dated April 27, was titled ‘Request for Redressing of Grievances of the Former New PDP Block within the APC.’’ Ironically, the nPDP members didn’t threaten to leave APC but said that they want to strengthen the party, especially now that congresses have commenced, ahead of national convention and another round of general elections. However, a highly placed member of the group, in a telephone interview, told Blueprint Weekend that they were merely laying the ground for the final defection during the convention.

Oyinlola resigns appointment, leaves APC

Significantly, one of the signatories of the letter, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, has left APC even before the expiration of the seven-days ultimatum given to Buhari. In addition, the former governor of Osun state has also resigned his appointment as chairman of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). Dated May 9, the letter was addressed to the president and categorically, Oyinlola said he wants to “chart a new course in my politics outside the ruling party”. However, he expressed appreciation for the special privilege that the president gave him to serve his fatherland in that capacity.

As NIMC chairman, Oyinlola said that he ‘’gave the job the dedication it deserved and would have loved to continue but I regret to inform Your Excellency that I have a new, greater political engagement that will make that difficult and even impolitic.’’ Oyinlola, a retired general, told Buhari that ‘’as one of my bosses in the army, I believe you would understand my stand given recent political developments. The training I got as a decorated officer and gentleman precluded me from engaging in any act that could amount to disloyalty and conflict of interest. However, there is time to take a job and another time to leave it and move on. For me, the time to work on something else in the interest and service of our people is now.”

Saraki may follow suit

Speaking to our correspondent, a source said that barring any change in plans, Senate President Saraki may also follow Oyinlola’s footsteps. However, unlike the former nPDP chairman, Saraki and some legislators may re-enact the August 2013 scenario, when he and seven Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors as well as former Vice president Atiku Abubakar had walked out of the special delegates convention. Eventually, five of these nPDP became arrows-heads of APC after the merger. Emphatically, the source told Blueprint Weekend that Saraki and Co, ‘’if all things go according to plan, will defect during the coming APC national convention. ‘’ According to him, ‘’the senate president is sick and tired of how he is being harassed in the APC and by the federal government.’’

Significantly, Saraki’s cat and mouse relationship with the federal government started when he became senate president. According to reports, Saraki had approached President Buhari to seek his blessings and enquired whether the president had a candidate. Buhari, according to reports, said he had none and that he will work with anyone who emerges senate president. Thereafter, Saraki congregated a coalition of senators, called Like Minds, to champion his bid and there were 25 of them. In the end, the Like Minds entered an alliance with 49 PDP senators, led by the immediate past Senate President, David Mark, to outsmart the Unity Forum of APC senators, who supported Senator Ahmed Lawan, for the senate presidency.

In the deal, PDP senators said that they will support Saraki, if only Senator Ike Ekweremadu will become the Deputy Senate President of the 8th Senate. On June 8, the Saraki-Ekweremadu ticket defeated the Lawan-George Akume tag team to emerge winners. However, the APC Unity Forum group of senators shot itself in the foot on the inauguration day.

Before the election commenced, the then APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had issued a statement, summoning APC senators to a meeting with the president at the International Conference Center (ICC). According to the statement, the meeting was scheduled for 9am, as at the time the senate was being inaugurated, to discuss the way forward on the election. Consequently, many pro-Ahmed Lawan APC senators went to the proposed meeting but Saraki’s supporters proceeded to the National Assembly. At inauguration, Saraki emerged unopposed as senate president. From then, Saraki became a marked man as APC hawks have been doing everything to harass him and he has been responding in equal measure.

In September 2015, the federal government had preferred an 18-count charge against the senate president, bordering on false asset declaration and other related offences. Subsequently, Saraki was dragged to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). The case almost grounded senate sittings as Saraki was required to be present at the tribunal, which he always went with a retinue of his supporters. In addition, the case also put the position of senate president to disrepute, especially when Saraki was put in the dock. Similarly, Saraki challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal up to supreme court, before the real trial started.

In the end, the two-man panel of the CCT headed by Danladi Umar, had held that the prosecution failed to establish any prima facie case against Saraki. Umar, in his lead ruling, had exonerated the senate president, holding that the failure of the prosecution to obtain Saraki’s statement and make it a part of the proof of evidence was fatal to the case.

However, displeased with the judgement, the federal government appealed the tribunal’s verdict on June 22, 2017. In December, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had sent Saraki back to CCT to face charges of false declaration of assets. In particular, the appellate court had ruled that the senate president did not sufficiently answer three of the charges.

On his part, Saraki has also been putting hurdles on the path of the executive branch of government. On July 4, 2017 the senate had resolved to suspend all issues relating to confirmation of nominees submitted by the executive, over what it termed as moves to reduce its legislative powers. According to them, the embargo would remain until the issues of confirmation as contained in the constitution and the laws of the federation were adhered to.

On April 7, the senate president voiced out his frustration with the executive, especially its penchant for labeling law makers unprintable names. In particular, Saraki had expressed concern over Lai Mohammed’s tagging of senators as looters. Saraki who spoke on “Strengthening Executive-Legislature Relations” at a retreat, said it was wrong for an arm of government to call members of the other arm looters. According to him, ‘’in a situation where a particular arm of government stands up and calls people from another arm of government thieves, looters and other names, how can we work together? How?’’

All these considered, reports indicate that the senate president may leave APC, along with Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Senators Shehu Sani, Dino Melaye and Suleiman Hunkuyi , including other aggrieved law makers like Senator Isah Hamma Misau out of frustration. However, Blueprint couldn’t reach the other lawmakers or their aides in order to get an independent confirmation.

…Tambawal too

In recent times, sources said that Tambawal spends more time outside Sokoto state as he still eyes the presidency. In 2015, he was at a crossroads between running for governorship and contesting against President Muhammadu Buhari. However, wise counsel prevailed as he had age on his side because he was just 49 years old. At 57, after Buhari’s two terms, he will still be eligible for the top job. However, it seems that the former speaker doesn’t want to wait for so long as he is considering contesting on his former platform, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Significantly, an aide who does not want to be named had earlier dismissed the speculation as rumor, when Blueprint Weekend made enquiries. However, reports indicate that he is one of the few presidential hopefuls that PDP is considering, assuming he crosses over.

…Kwankwaso also

Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has been going all over Nigeria and making consultations, preparatory to throwing his hat into the presidential ring of contest. However, President Buhari’s declaration to seek a second term has thrown spanner in works of his plans. Specifically, Kwankwaso stands no chance in winning the All Progressives Congress(APC) presidential primaries. For this reason, the former governor of Kano state may vote with his feet and according to reports, he may either defect to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) or return to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However, one of his supporters say he is still undecided as to where he will pitch his tent.

Before then, Kwankwaso has laid the ground for defecting and still retaining his seat. Last week, the feud between him and Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje reared up its head on Saturday, as reports indicate that two congresses were held in Kano state. Alhaji Haruna Umar Doguwa, chairman of the Kwankwasiyya-led faction claimed that parallel congresses were held in all the 44 local government areas. Doguwa explained that his faction ‘’secured forms form the APC national headquarters for the aspirants that come through us and they made payments through banks. They brought their bank tellers to us as evidence of payment and we allowed them participate in the congress.”

The factional chairman promised to also conduct the local and state congresses as scheduled in the time-table released by the APC national body. Thereafter, the faction will submit the results of the ward, local and state congresses to the party headquarters in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution, Doguwa had reassured.

As things stand, Ganduje’s candidates will be recognized by the national leadership of the party and using this as an excuse, sources said that Kwankwaso will leave APC, citing factionalisation of the party, to enable him to retain his position while he pursues his presidential ambition.

Following Atiku’s foot steps

In the same manner, former Vice president Atiku Abubakar had left APC in a huff, citing marginalization. Last September, he granted an interview to the Hausa service of Voice of America(VOA), where he virtually gave APC ‘’a yellow card’’. Substantially, the interview sounded like the nPDP letter as Atiku recalled how he was ‘’used and dumped’’.

According to him, President Buhari has sidelined him despite his contributions to bringing the president to power.‎ Atiku recalled how he used his contacts and resources to help APC to defeat the ruling PDP in the 2015 presidential election. “But sadly, soon after the formation of government; I was side-lined, I have no any relationship with the government, I’ve not been contacted even once to comment on anything and in turn, I maintained my distance. They used our money and influence to get to where they’re but three years down the line, this is where we are,’’ he had lamented.

On November 24, 2017, the former vice president finally said good bye to APC. In his farewell, Atiku said that APC had promised to be fair and just when he was being wooed to the party. However, later events proved otherwise, Atiku had said in a statement that he personally signed. He had noted that ‘’while other parties have purged themselves of the arbitrariness and unconstitutionality that led to fractionalization, the All Progressives Congress has adopted those same practices and even gone beyond them to institute a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced.’’

According to him, an APC governor had written a secret memorandum to the president, where ‘’he admitted that the All Progressives Congress had ‘not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance. Of the party itself, that same governor said ‘Mr. President, Sir Your relationship with the national leadership of the party, both the formal (NWC) and informal (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso), and former Governors of ANPP, PDP (that joined us) and ACN, is perceived by most observers to be at best frosty. Many of them are aggrieved due to what they consider total absence of consultations with them on your part and those you have assigned such duties.’’

Atiku further recalled that ‘’since that memorandum was written up until today, nothing has been done to reverse the treatment meted out to those of us invited to join the All Progressives Congress on the strength of a promise that has proven to be false. If anything, those behaviours have actually worsened. 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.’’

In the end, Atiku has said that ‘’after due consultation with my God, my family, my supporters and the Nigerian people whom I meet in all walks of life Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa has resigned from the APC.’’

PDP: Waiting for defectors

Last week, PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus had inaugurated a Contact Committee on Friday. According to him, the committee institute an open door policy in the party and to deploy the members’ vast network to bring in new members who can help in rescuing this country. In addition, the committee was mandated to propose strategy to drive and galvanise a national coalition towards the successful prosecution of the 2019 general election. Also, the committee was tasked to discuss details of all the positions of interested parties and report back to National Working Committee(NWC). Afterwards, the committee’s report and recommendations will be transmitted to the National Executive Committee of the party.

Specifically, former governor of Cross River State, Senator Lyon Imoke is the chairman of the committee, while Sen. Umar Ibrahim and Amb. Ibrahim Kazure are members. Other members are Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state, governor of Taraba, Arch Darius Ishiaku and former Osun state deputy governor, Mrs Erelu Obada. Also, Ambassador Aminu Wali, former Chairman of the party, Dr. Muhammed Haliru Bello and former Publicity Secretary of the party, Sen. Ben Obi are members, so are former governor of Niger State, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, Mr Gabriel Suswan, former governor of Benue state.

Nigerians, like PDP, are waiting to see how APC will weather the coming storm.

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