The governing All Progressives Congress (APC) holds its first national convention today barely three years after it ended the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) 16-year rule in 2015. However, the frosty relationship between the top echelons of the party may be its albatross at the convention if not properly handled, and subsequently, could lead to post-convention crisis. CHIZOBA OGBECHE, BODE OLAGOKE, TOPE SUNDAY and ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU write.
All eyes are on the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) today as it holds its post-victory national elective convention in Abuja. The convention, which is expected to bring on board another set of the executives, may make and mar the political careers of some of the bigwigs in the party. The convention, which also determines who gets what in 2019, may send some of them into limbo; and may renew political rivalry among them.
In a quest to win the 2015 elections, members of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), and new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) merged to form what is now known as the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The merger, which many perceived as a strange marriage, aided the dislodgement of the PDP from power after its 16-year governance. But as soon as the APC clinched power, war of wits began among its members, the development which remains unabated till date.
The internal wrangling in the party became pronounced in June 2015, when the election of the 8th National Assembly leadership was due andmembers of the ACN, ANPP and CPC blocks were allegedly favoured without any consideration for the nPDP members.
For instance, Senator Ahmed Lawan of the defunct ANPP was picked as APC’s candidate for the position of Senate President, while Deputy Senate President was reserved for George Akume of the defunct ACN. In the House of Representatives, ACN’s Femi Gbajabiamila got the nod to be the Speaker as the CPC was to produce the Deputy Speaker.
However, against the will of the party, PDP defectors led by Bukola Saraki won the support of all lawmakers elected on the platform of the PDP in their quest to take the position of Senate President. The game in the lower chamber also changed as Yakubu Dogara, also a PDP defector, emerged as the Speaker.
According to pundits, that was genesis of the crisis in the relatively new party. This development also could be said to have laid the foundation for agitations for the rights and privileges of members of each of the blocks that formed APC.
The embattled National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was enthroned by Tinubu at the detriment of Chief Tom Ikimi. The duo Ikimi and Oyegun hail from Edo state, but in the bid up to the 2014 national convention, Tinubu rooted for Oyegun, a former governor, and abandoned.
Ikimi, who many had thought would take over from the then acting national Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande. The support Oyegun publicly gave to the leadership of both Saraki and Dogara upon their emergence as the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, started the frosty relationship between him and Tinubu. To this end, some party members who are loyal to Tinubu perceived his action as a betrayal.
Also, another sin Oyegun allegedly committed was his role in the emergence of Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress governorship election in Ondo state. Allegation was rife that the delegates’ list of the primary election, which was conducted by the Jigawa state Governor, Muhammed Abubakar, was doctored. Also, Oyegun later vetoed the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) which had cancelled the outcome of the said primary election. Till date, Dr. Segun Abraham, who came second in the election is still in court to challenge the result. The embattled Oyegun is also accused of allowing crisis rocking the state chapters of the party to fester under his watch.
The Tinubu c’ttee
Before President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned Tinubu to reconcile all the aggrieved members of the party, about 12 state chapters of the APC were enmeshed in crisis. From Kaduna, Kano, Kogi, Bauchi, Ogun, Zamfara, Oyo, Rivers, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Edo, Lagos to Enugu state, it is crisis upon crisis.
Expectedly, Tinubu who is aggrieved and not in consonant with Oyegun’s antics at elongating his tenure fought tooth and nail to stop him. His efforts, however, got the backing of President Buhari, who is working for his re-election. To this end, Buhari backtracked on his nod for Oyegun’s continuation in office, and called for a fresh national convention with a caveat that members of the NWC and the embattled party should he given the waiver to seek re-election.
Oshiomohole, the new bride
However, to some groups within the party, Buhari’s U-turn on Oyegun’s tenure elongation is an ample opportunity for them to root for a candidate who will correct the wrong and at the same time, do their bidding. In this category, however, falls Comrade Aliyu Adams Oshiomhole, a two-term Governor of Edo state.
While Oyegun was banking on the faint support he enjoyed from some governors, Buhari reportedly made his preference for Oshiomhole to be the next chairman of the party known.
And to drive his point home, Buhari, who appears to have learnt his lessons from the June 9, 2015 National Assembly election saga, reportedly summoned a meeting with all the governors elected on the platform of APC. At the meeting the president reportedly announced the former governor of Edo state as his candidate.
Though jolted by the Buhari’s action, Oyegun like typical politicians denied the Presidency’s endorsement for Oshiomhole. But when the coast became cloudy for his re-election, the Benin-born politician announced his withdrawal from the race.
As it stands, Oshiomhole will be slogging it out with only Mr. Clement Ebri from Cross River state following the withdrawal from the race by the duo of Mr. Ibrahim Emokpaire and Professor Osereimhen Osunbor, both from Edo state. With the gale of endorsements, the coast seems clearer for Oshiomhole, who has preached party cohesion and supremacy.
As the party goes to the election today, one of the issues that have festered for long is the crisis that emanated from its ward, local and state congresses. The reasons for the crisis are not in the coffin, rather they are in the public glare because certain key actors wanted to control the machinery of the party to ensure that they maintain convincing level of influence, determine who becomes delegate at the elective national congress scheduled for today in Abuja.
Some notable states where tension reigns are Kaduna, Bauchi, Kwara, Delta, Kogi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Enugu, Ebonyi, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos, Imo, Zamfara, Kebbi, Adamawa and Osun, respectively. Worst cases are those in Kaduna, Bauchi, Imo, Rivers and Kwara.
The fallout of the congresses across the states showed parallel congresses and executives were produced in most of the states. Besides, incidences of violence, some aggrieved members of the party have taken their state governors, lawmakers and NWC delegations and the INEC to court.
Convention c’ttee composition
Another major issue that may still have negative effect on the outcome of the convention is the way and manner the membership composition of the convention planning committee was handled.
Not too long ago, some of the protesters who said their names were initially on the published lists publicly accused the presidency of replacing about 50 names from the original list. Those affected most were majorly members of the aggrieved nPDP in APC.
Even some National Secretariat staff equally protested angrily almost to the point of fisticuff with the accreditation committee, complaining that they were not carried along in the process. As at Wednesday night, names of some people who are perceived to be against the Senate President in Kwara state were reportedly dropped as the convention planning committee members.
The Unity List concerns
Though the Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) National Convention Central Planning Committee, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, has denied the existence of the existence of a ‘Unity List’ for the party’s convention holding today, there are growing concerns among the APC members over a purported list of preferred aspirants for the various elective posts, said to have been put up by some key stakeholders in the party.
But there are strong indications that all the APC governors have agreed and ratified the list ahead of the convention in order to serve their interest and sell their candidates to other zones.
Interestingly, some key members of the party have vowed to kick against any list if at all there is any. Also, they have threatened to walk away should that be the order of the day.
Chairmen of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-east have warned President Muhammadu Buhari to disassociate himself from the purported unity list in circulation, threatening that the re-election bid of the President was at the stake if in the region.
Addressing newsmen at the APC national secretariat yesterday, four out five state chairmen from the South-east said any attempt to ignore the earlier endorsement of the out-going national officers for re-election will be an aberration on their part.
The state chairmen which include Chief Ben Nwoye of Enugu, Eze Nwavhkwu Eze of Ebonyi and Donatus Nwankpa of Abia and Emeka Obasi of Anambra.
Speaking on behalf of the chairmen, Nwoye said it was not possible to have a unity list ahead of today’s convention without considering the interest of South-east people in the ruling party.
He said: “You cannot have a unity list when one geo-political zone is not considered; that is a misnomer. You cannot consider that to be a unity list. If you meet in a hall where you have just governors and South-east has just one governor, and that one governor is the only opinion you took out of five states and you produce a list; that is not a unity list.
“In fact that is a disunity list and the only way you can correct the disunity list is through democratic list. If that individual is popular, they take on and they show up instead of canvassing and waiting for former this and former that making phone calls to people that if they produce this so called unity list which I tag disunity list, it will cause Mr. President the election in south east, it will cause disaffection.”
Continuing, he said: “We are doing this not because of us. you cannot disregard Jim Nwobodo, you can’t disregard Orji Uzor Kalu, Ogbonaya Onu, Chris Ngige, Martin Elechi, Sulivan Chime, Andy Ubah, Ugbo Orji, Benjamina Umagimoju and state chairmen. These are great leaders.
“These state chairmen have raised the statue of our party in the south-east. We were being called Boko Haram, but we stood our ground. At the point we were standing our ground, most of the people they are listening now were not there.”
The nPDP agitations
One issue that will also form the fulcrum of the party’s success or otherwise is the how the agitations of the members of the nPDP are resolved.
In May, this year, after a closed door meeting with the APC National Chairman in Abuja, the leadership of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) expressed dismay over its members’ alleged neglect by the APC and the federal government despite their contributions to the eventual success of the fledgling party in the 2015 general elections. The group, led by former acting national chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, told the press that it had forwarded a letter dated April 27, 2018 to the APC National Working Committee, copied the President, and other relevant leaders of the party.
In a letter titled “Request for redressing of grievances of the former new PDP block within the All Progressives Congress”, it said among others that despite their contribution to the success of the APC, their members have been relegated to the background in the scheme of things in the party.
Explaining in graphic details, the nPDP adduced that its members’ contribution to the overall victory of the APC thus: “The stubborn facts are as follows: In Kano state, APC scored 1,903,999 in 2015, and in Kwara 302,146. ln Sokoto state it scored 671,926, and 374 701 in Adamawa In Kebbl state, APC had 567,883 votes and 885,988 in Jigawa.It was the same story in Gombe (459,898); Kogi (284,851) and Benue (373,961) votes.
The group, though its position was later countered by Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led group, requested to meet with the President and threatened to pull out if its requests were not met.
Though the nPDP has twice held meetings with the leadership of the APC, it eventually ended further dialogue insisting that the main issues were not being addressed. It demanded for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
But their hope seemed to have been dashed following claims that Mr. President is not favourably disposed to such meeting, but would wish they continue talks with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
“I am not ready to sit down with any faction. If they have problems, they should go to the party. I will not interfere. Governors as party leaders in the states should deal with all issues. Where there is a need, the party leadership can come in. “I will not get involved,” the President reportedly said.
IGP on hitch-free convention
Meanwhile, to ensure a hitch-free National Convention, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, directed the deployment of 5,000 personnel, two helicopters, and six Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs).
This is as the Police boss also directed that only one aide would be allowed to accompany their principals into the convention venue.
The directive was contained in a press statement by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCPJimoh Moshood, yesterday, in Abuja.
He said: “A total of 5,000 Police personnel comprising the Police Mobile Force (PMF); the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU); Special Protection Unit (SPU); the Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD); the Police Mounted Troop; the Dog Section (K9); the Force Criminal
Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCIID); the Police Air-wing and the Force Armament Unit have been deployed.”
The spokesperson said the personnel are to be supervised by Deputy Inspector General of Police, Department of Operations, Joshok Habila, in order to ensure adequate security of participants at the convention, just as security coverage had been provided also at all accreditation centres.
According to him, personnel of other security and safety agencies have been deployed to complement the Nigeria Police in ensuring a hitch-free convention.
Moshood added that only accredited delegates and party officials bearing the APC clearance/identification tags would be allowed into the venue. “Personnel of all security and safety agencies deployed for the security of the convention must also wear the certified identification tag conspicuously at the venue.”
He said Police personnel deployed were under strict instructions to be civil, polite but strict and firm.
Okorocha’s minority report
Indications emerged last night on how the governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, who headed the screening appeal panel, submitted a minority report against the out-going National Organising Secretary Osita Izunazo and two other national officers.
The other two national officers Okorocha was said to have written against in the minority reported submitted to the chairman of the convention committee are the out-going National Auditor, Chief George Moghalu, and the National Vice-chairman from South-east, Emmanuel Enekwu.
It was reliably gathered from a top member of the party from South-east APC that the governor, who is the chairman of the Screening Appeal committee, and other members of the panel refused to append their signatures on the main report submitted to chairman of the National Convention, Governor Abubakar Badaru.
The source, who is highly in the know of happenings in the party, also revealed that the party leadership, however, rejected Okorocha’s report which, it said, was against the one signed by the 12 other members of the committee.
A bloc of the party in South-east has not hidden its plot against Governor Okorocha’s bloc which recently led to parallel congresses in the five states of the region.
Another party leader, who preferred anonymity, said some leaders of the party, excluding the only serving governor from the region, were selected to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday night to see whether the list of aspirants from the region could be pruned down or not.
The leaders selected to meet the president included a former governor of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu, Voice of Nigeria’s Director-General, Osita Okechukwu, Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonayan Onu and deputy governor of Imo state, Prince Eze Madumere.
The source said: “The meeting with the President is meant to see how interest of all the groups could be taken care of because Mr. President wouldn’t want to handover the party to a particular group against the other. So, the meeting became necessary.
“Already, the South-east cannot produce consensus candidates for the positions of national Organising Secretary, National Auditor and National Vice Chairman (South-east).
“Senator Osita Izunaso, who is the current national organising Secretary, has been advised to withdraw from the race, while Governor Okorocha’s candidate, Barrister Emma Ibediro, will not make it because the entire South-east APC is not comfortable with any nominee brought by Okorocha.”
5 states not sure of participation
There are fears that poor logistics and uncertainties as regard attendance of the delegates from five states chapters and lack of accreditation of journalists and observers expected at the meeting.
As at the time of filing in this report, journalists, observers and other officials were seen hanging around the national convention secretariat to get accreditation, but were left unattended to.
A member of the Convention Evaluation Committee, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said: “Apart from Security committee, all other committees have not met the expectations of the party leaders.
“Some of the officials and delegates are yet to get their accreditation while some states don’t even know their fates as regard today’s event of our party.”
It was also gathered that six chapters of the party which included Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Delta states were not sure whether the their delegates would be allowed into the convention venue due to various legal battles arising from the recent local government and state congresses.
But when asked for reaction, Secretary of the Convention Planning Committee and former Senate Leader, Ndoma Egba, confirmed that the party had received the court ruling in respect of delegates from some states and was studying the court processes and would take a decision on them “before the convention.”
He said “we have received court processes in respect of some States and we are studying the process and probably, by this night, we should be able to arrive at something.”
Also, the chairman of the planning committee and governor of Jigawa state, Abubakar Badaru, who inspected the Eagle Square, venue of the convention yesterday, expressed satisfaction on the preparation so far.
Speaking on behalf of the committee, Oyo state Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, said the party was ready to hold “a very successful convention.”
“We are very happy about all preparations. Everything is in place. Politics is about conflict and resolution,” he said.