BODE OLAGOKE, in this piece, writes on some of the major events that shaped the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in the year 2018, as part of preparations for general elections beginning next month.
For the ruling APC, just like it is impossible to erase the marks on the palms, the out gone year 2018 will always be featured prominently in the history book of the party, either for students of politics to learn from or to serve as a guide to the leaders of any given political party.
It was a year of decisions taken wrongly or rightly. Those decisions to some extent will play prominent part in the performances of the ruling party at all levels in forthcoming elections.
No doubt, the wrong decisions taken by the APC leaders had practically strengthened the almost dead main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This is evidence in the level of opposition the APC is getting as campaigns are ongoing. Also, the defections of prominent members as well as the angst with which the party is seen in some quarters bear testimony to this.
However, these are the major events that coloured the party in 2018:
Oyegun led-NWC’s tenure extension
The year 2018 began for the APC with the battle of wits among the movers and shakers of the party on whether the then National Working Committee (NWC) under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun should get tenure extension or not. While the proponents of the idea led by Kogi Sttae governor, Yahaya Bello, and some other governors in the good book of Oyegun felt it was justifiable, others read injustice and impunity in the idea.
At a particular meeting early in the year, attended by the President, Vice President and all other National Executive Council (NEC) members, the Kogi state governor at the middle of the meeting rushed out to inform newsmen that the meeting had approved the controversial tenure extension for the Oyegun-led executive, even though such was not part of the agenda for the NEC meeting.
Governor Bello said the tenure extension was taken in view of the need to avoid any confusion in the operation of the party ahead of the forthcoming general elections and to give the Asiwaju Tinubu-led reconciliation committee ample room to carry out its work effectively.
The Kogi governor was accompanied by the then National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, and the chairmen of the party in Plateau, Rivers, Anambra, Ondo and Nasarawa states.
At this meeting however, the party was silent on the conduct of its national convention and the amendment to the party constitution. He said: “At the end of the National Executive Council meeting today, a major decision was taken in line with the constitution of our party. We are all aware that the tenure of the current NWC and the executive members of this party both elected and appointed come to an end in June this year.
“Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the Congresses and convention and considering that our National Leader Senator Tinubu has been charged with the responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach the general elections with more dispute and crisis.
“So, relying on Article 13 of our constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out the function of the convention, the NEC has decided to extend the tenure of the current NWC and other executive committees at various levels for another twelve months, starting from June 30th.
“Let me tell you that this will not stop the convention of the party. But to go into elective congresses is what we are trying to avoid relying on the constitution of our party. As a matter of fact, Mr. President believes in ensuring that there are congresses and convention across board.
“However, how would you manage the crisis that will arise thereafter? Let me give you instances, in Ekiti and Osun states, there state congresses were postponed. Similarly, in 2014 ahead of the elections, just two states to avoid crisis talk more of the whole country. So, that is why this decision was taken.”
Speaking in the timeline for the Tinubu committee, he said “I don’t have the terms of reference that was given to our leader and I want to believe that there is no committee that is set up without timeline. So, I’m not in the position to tell you the timeline given to that committee.
“Also, every member of this committee whether one man committee or multiple man committee, I want to assure you that every member of the APC, we are cooperating 100 percent with our leader, Sen. Bola Tinubu.”
Buhari opposes tenure extension
It was, however, a big surprise for all and sundry, when President Muhammadu Buhari openly opposed the idea of tenure elongation for Cheif Oyegun’s NWC.
At a subsequent NEC meeting held in April 2018, the President told the gathering that he had to overturn the decision to extend Oyegun’s tenure by one year because it could cause division within the party.
Buhari said, “I think it is important for me to speak quickly on the contentious issue of the tenure of our National and State Executive Officers.
“As we all know, a motion was moved at the last National Executive Committee meeting of February 27, 2018, to the effect that when the tenure of the current executives expire in June this year, they should be allowed to continue for one year.
“This motion was duly carried by a majority of members present at the last NEC meeting, even though some of our party members have since spoken up very vehemently against it. Others have even taken the matter to court.
“On my own part, I have taken some time to review and seek advice on the resolution. And what I found is that it contravenes both our party constitution and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While the APC constitution, Article 17(1) & 13.2(B), limits tenure of elected officers to 4 years, renewable once by election, the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended), S 223, also prescribes periodic elections for party excos at regular intervals, which must not exceed 4 years.
“Furthermore, Article 31 of our party constitution provides that any principal officer wishing to re-contest or contest for another post must resign from his current post at least one month before the election.
“In this circumstance, what is expected of us is to conduct fresh elections, once the tenure of the current executives approaches its end. A Caretaker Committee cannot remedy this situation, and cannot validly act in place of elected officers.
“Furthermore, I think if we deviate from the constitutional provisions, we might be endangering the fortunes of our party. If the tenure of our party executives can be legally faulted, then it means that any nominations & primary elections that they may conduct can also be faulted.
“This is not to talk of divisions that would arise, and is already arising within the party, when some of our members feel that they are being denied the right to aspire to executive positions, or that internal democracy is not at play within the party.
“I am, therefore, of the firm view that it is better to follow strictly the dictates of our party and national constitutions, rather than put the APC and its activities at grave risk.
“Fortunately, we have already approved a timetable for the holding of congresses and elections. I think these should be allowed to go forward and all efforts should now be geared towards making them a great success.”
Being the leader of the party, nobody could speak against the decision of the president. Although, observers believe that Buhari had to change his mind against the earlier decision so as to appease a particular interest (Tinubu) within the party. So, the preparations for congresses and national convention started without further delay.
…And Oshiomhole takes over
Precisely, June 23, 2018, the ruling APC finally had its National Convention, which was overdue, according to the party’s constitution. The convention, however, produced the former governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole, as an unopposed candidate after all other chairmanship aspirants dropped their interests.
Pls use pixs of Asiwaju Tinubu, Chief John Oyegun-Odigie, Sen. Bukola
Oshiomhole and matters arising ahead of general elections
Although, the then national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had announced his decision not to seek re-election for the interest of unity within the APC, contrary to postulation. Chief Oyegun did explain that his decision was informed by his genuine love for the party and the need for it to reposition and be better prepared to face the 2019 elections.
“Even though, I had the desire to re-contest as national chairman of the party, I have decided that it is ultimately in the best interest of the party for me to withdraw from the race.”
Odigie-Oyegun explained that he, like most party members, felt it was better to allow the current party executives at all levels to continue in office. This, he said, could have possibly staved off the current level of discord which followed the recently concluded party primaries.
He, however, admitted that if the decision of the party’s National Executive Committee on tenure elongation was allowed to stand, it would have amounted to postponing the evil day.
Odigie-Oyegun said, “If this decision (tenure elongation) was sustained, we probably would have achieved our objective. But we would only have succeeded also in postponing the evil days, as it were.
“In retrospect, I am inclined to agree with the viewpoint that even a young political party as ours need to be subjected to the crucible of these contestations, which in any case, is the hallmark of progressive politics.
“In the end, even as difficult as the situation may appear at the beginning, the experience we would draw from managing the contesting interests, can only help to make our party stronger and more resilient.”
Oshiomhole vs Ngige
As new as he was, the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, will not forget in a hurry his face-off with one of the senior members of his party and a serving Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, over his refusal to inaugurate boards of parastatals under his ministry. Oshiomhole, who was coming to instill discipline into the party felt such refusal was a disservice to the APC and its members.
The party chairman threatened Ngige with a sack but the Minister did not also take it calmly with Oshiomhole. It was a drama that remained conspicuous on the front pages of national newspapers for weeks. Nigerians really enjoyed the war of words between the two leaders of the APC.
…And APC splits
It started like a rumour for some time until Engr. Buba Galadima, led other aggrieved members of the APC to form a splinter group called the Reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC). The rAPC had its members majorly among the National Assembly members.
The faction, which claimed to be the “authentic” faction of the party, said members of the nPDP, the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which had originally merged to form the APC in 2014, were members of the new bloc.
Also, the rAPC declared as null and void the elective national congress, which produced the National Working Committee (NWC), led by former Edo state Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as illegal, stating that the processes from ward, local and states congresses to the national were breached and the emergence of the new leadership was equally compromised.
At a press conference, the rAPC national chairman, Engineer Buba Galadima, said its members were frustrated by the APC government that failed to fulfill its campaign promises to Nigerians and tackle decisively the sustained killings across the country.
At the media parley, which had former leader of the nPDP, Alhaji Kawu Baraje in attendance, Galadima said the rAPC would work with like-minded political parties and groups to offer Nigeria qualitative good governance in 2019.
Saraki, Kwankwaso, others dump APC
In a resemblance of the day some PDP leaders joined the APC before the 2015 general elections, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara and 14 other senators denounced the APC and announced their return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Saraki on his Twitter handle said ‘I wish to inform Nigerians that, after extensive consultations, I have decided to take my leave of the All Progressives Congress (APC)’
Among the APC senators that also defected to the PDP alongside with Saraki were the Senator, representing Kano central, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, Abdullahi Danbaba, Sokoto, Isa Misau, Bauchi; Suleiman Nazif; Baki Shittu, Jigawa; Monsurat Sunmmonu, Oyo; Bayero Nafada, Gombe and Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Ogun.
…Governor Ortom, Tambuwal, Ahmed too
While the Kwara state governor, Abdufatai Ahmed left at the same time with Saraki, his Sokoto and Benue states counterparts, Aminu Waziri Tambuwa and Samuel Ortom, with their massive supporters, also joined them in PDP.
APC primaries: Direct or indirect controversy
Then came the time for the nationwide primary elections of the party to produce the party’s candidates at all levels, but the decision to either stick to indirect or embrace direct primaries as canvassed by its national chairman, Oshiomhole, backed by its National leader, Ahmed Tinubu, caused not a little damage to the party.
At the end of the day, some states settled for direct primary while some other preferred indirect primary.
It must be placed on record that this singular decision by the NWC under Comrade Oshiomhole did not go down well with so many members of the party. They grudgingly went through the process with a lot of unsatisfactory results, factually in the states of the federation.
The outcome of the primaries led to some of the unsubstantiated allegations of bribery against the national chairman, to the extent that some serving governor had to allow their preferred candidates who could not make it at the APC elections to decamp to another parties.
For example, Governor Rochas Okorocha in Imo state, is currently supporting his son in-law in the AA while Governor Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun state has declared that his party, the APC cannot win governorship election in the state because he prefer his anointed candidate, who has joined the APM.
Peace and reconciliation panel
To go into the coming elections as a united force, the Oshiomhole NWC set up a 7-man peace and reconciliation committee for the six geopolitical zones with the mandate to turn in their reports in 3 weeks but almost two months after their inauguration only two out of the six panels could be said to have done the needful.
APC spokesman, Onilu speaks
For the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the 2018 was significant in many ways for the party.
“Importantly, we witnessed in this past year the shameful attempt by the political predators to launch themselves back into reckoning. Those who were roundly rejected by Nigerians in 2015 for their grievous crimes of corruption, impunity, and maladministration once again struggled to rise up from the dungeon the people of this country had dumped them. They were fierce and reckless in their wicked attempt to return to power to continue their primitive appropriation of our commonwealth for themselves and their immediate family.
“The actions from these elements who have raped our nation for close to two decades were disruptive to the course of progress being vigorously pursued by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. The year 2018 particularly was a tough year for the APC government as we had to confront the monsters who have found their way into the ruling party during the merger in 2014, pretending to have cured themselves of their insatiable greed and callous selfish disposition.
“These enemies of our country found out that the beats have changed and their strenuous efforts to steer the APC administration towards their ignominious ways, as they practiced under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had become impossible under President Buhari. Predictably, the forces of evil finally gravitated towards themselves and are now ensconced in their wicked nest, called the PDP.
“Unfortunately, they did a lot of damage to our determined efforts in the last three and half years, by constituting themselves into a stumbling-block, using their vantage position in government in conjunction with their associates outside of government who have been deploying their ill-gotten wealth to pervert justice, create a state of insecurity, propagate falsehood and promote dissent. It was a callous strategy design to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of this country.”
Onilu believes that “as frustrating as their activities were in 2018, they met more than their match in President Muhammadu Buhari.”
With all that had happened in 2018, political analysts believe that it will take a pragmatic leadership in the Oshiomhole-led-NWC and President Muhammadu Buhari to, in a shortest period of time reunite the party, in a win, win approach, bearing in mind that the general elections commence in weeks, to confront it with a strong and undivided force.