Tussle, Tussle, everywhere

Nigerians are no strangers to tussles as we witness big and small tussles of various kinds every day. They range from family squabbles to community/ state tussles to even national fights. Nigerians themselves do not seem to agree on anything as we argue over virtually everything.

Legislators at state assemblies and the national assembly itself sometimes engage in shouting matches. Some members of the federal (executive) cabinet sometimes speak at cross purposes which amounts to a tussle.

Our judiciary is being overburdened with legal tussles by opposing teams, resulting in long queues of cases to be heard by them. Tussles between our security forces and insurgents/bandits in the north as well as dissidents/gunmen in the south continue; just as the perennial herders/farmers tussles in parts of the country remain.

Therefore, the jostling by members of a political party such as the All Progressives Congress for who becomes the state party chairman is expected. The fact that this position is elective connotes a tussle in itself.

However, the surprise is that one had expected such people as members of one political party with ostensibly one goal which is to serve the greater populace, to rally round the eventual winner with the mantra ‘no victor, no vanquished’ for the joint tussle with their common opponents in future elections.

Instead, what emerged was factionalization, parallel congresses like a disjointed family. More surprising is that as many as three factions emerged in more than one instance, each boasting of its authority and ‘heavy weight’ status.

Yet, it was apparently to reduce squabbles and make for a harmonious outcome that the party’s national headquarters urged states to adopt a consensus mode of election, quite apart from the financial incapacity, to save costs at least.

Shall we say then that it brought about the opposite? Even in instances where consensus candidates were generally agreed upon there were still some underground murmurings.

So the best option is to have direct elections with a level playing field for would-be aspirants such that whoever emerges winner would have done so in a transparent manner devoid of any shenanigans. It is unfair to sell participation forms to aspirants only for there not to be any election on the basis that a consensus candidate had been selected. There should be a conditional clause to make refunds to aspirants that had bought forms where consensus candidates are eventually appointed.

In Lagos state of all places there were three factions each coming up with its own Chairman-elect that includes a woman for one of the factions. One faction led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and other government appointees returned unopposed, all executive members that had been holding forth before the congress, thereby giving them the stamp of authority for the next few years at least. A second faction was by the “Lagos4 Lagos’ group. This is an umbrella group of persons that are not happy that most government positions in Lagos are occupied by ‘non-indigenes’ and wish to change the status quo. Their voices appear to be growing by the day. The third faction is known as the “Ambode Group’, the immediate past governor whose second tenure was truncated by the powers that be in Lagost state. What is clear is that these two other factions hold some grievances against the power broker in the person of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC’s national leader. Tinubu himself only came back home recently after a rather long stay abroad for medical treatment. Based on this multiple factionalisation which was apparently emboldened by his absence, one is wondering what might be if Tinubu is no longer around. What Lagos state APC ‘congresses’ threw up right before his eyes is food for thought for Asiwaju. I believe he is taking down notes and learning some lessons therein.

Another significant scenario played out in Akwa Ibom state. Here, as in Lagos state there were three factions, each led by people that consider themselves as political heavyweights. One faction is led by former governor now minister of the federal republic, Senator Godswill Akpabio; another by current national secretary of the APC’s National Caretaker Committee, Senator Akpan Udoedeghe and a third faction by a Special Adviser to the President, Senator Ita Enang.

So, just about anybody who wields some kind of political power can carve out a sphere of influence for himself? According to party rules, the person holding the highest political office should be the leader in that state. Some ministers consider themselves as equal in rank to a governor because their job titles encompasses the whole of Nigeria unlike that of a state governor that is limited to a certain space.

And now in Akwa Ibom we are seeing a case where a presidential adviser also sees himself as equal to a minister because they both attend some meetings at the federal level? There is also now a new dimension of a national officer of the party as in the case of Udoedeghe seeing himself too as a political heavyweight cum juggernaut and throwing his hat into the ring too. Ordinarily, Senator Akpabio is APC leader in his state as per party rules but the APC national secretary has used his position to good effect by ensuring that the national secretariat (organizer of the nationwide congresses) sent delegates to his own faction.

The Bunu-led APC national caretaker committee has let it be known that only congresses supervised by delegates assigned by it are recognized as legal, all others are deemed illegal. And the party’s Caretaker Committee Chairman being himself an incumbent governor, it is perhaps not surprising that it sent delegates to congresses led by governors, ignoring all others. Going by this the parallel APC Ogun state congress by its immediate past governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun is considered a nullity notwithstanding that it was attended by higher ranking elected political office holders. Ditto Senator Shekarau’s own parallel congress. It is noteworthy that both Governor Ganduje and Shekarau who had teamed up to fight a common ‘enemy’ during the 2019 elections are now themselves at daggers draws with each leading a faction of the party. In Enugu state, it was a tussle between old members of the APC, dating back to CPC days and new members, mainly defectors from the PDP.

What these fierce tussles that manifest in factions show is that there is disharmony within our political parties. A key reason for this is that there is no homogeneity among them. One solution to this is to have a strong party leader who nevertheless works in accordance with the party’s extant constitution. Of course, there is also the natural sifting of those whose convictions or real purpose for joining are not in tandem with those of the parties. Such natural filtering which is like separating the grain from the chaff would first engender tumult as we are seeing now, followed by new alignments, including formation of new parties. All said and done, the Abdullahi Adamu-led reconciliation committee of the APC has a lot on its hands with these factionalizations.

Ikeano writes via vikeano @yahoo.co.uk 08033077519

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