APC convention: Dawn of a new era…?

Chief John Oyegu and Adams Oshomole
Chief John Oyegu and Adams

As defunct ACN and CPC displace other power blocks
As the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) holds its national convention this Saturday, TAIWO AMODU looks at how power play seems to be redistributing the control of the party, leaving the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) blocks firmly in charge.

ON Saturday, June 23, 2018, top chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) and its ordinary party faithful will assemble at the Eagle Square in Abuja to crown a new set of national officers to administer its national secretariat for four years. The much-awaited national convention, which by provision of its constitution is to hold every two years, had been put in abeyance, owing to nerve-racking intrigues amongst its stakeholders. Since the inauguration of the outgoing APC National Working Committee (NWC) led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun in 2014, there has not been a gathering of the highest organ of the party.

Next Saturday’s event may, however, turn out to be an anti-climax: there may be no contest in the real sense of the word as the party stakeholders seem to have prepared a harmonised list of anointed candidates for the positions zoned to the six geopolitical zones.

The motive is to ward off the crisis that may be thrown up by real, open contest. But whatever method it adopts to produce its national officers, the convention will certainly weed off certain power blocks while some will consolidate their grip in the already fractured platform ahead of 2019.

Sunday Tribune checks revealed that the party, which started at its inception in 2014 with four dominant opposition parties in the country, will be left with two power blocks deciding who gets what, when and how.

At its formative stage, four political parties coalesced to form the APC. The list included, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), led by former Lagos state governor, Senator Bola Tinubu; the Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC), with Muhammadu Buhari as arrowhead; a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA)

Senate President Bukola Saraki
Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and his estranged benefactor, Senator Osita Izunaso; the All Nigerian Peoples Party, (ANPP)), goaded into the merger deal by former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. Also involved in the historic political deal was a breakaway faction of the erstwhile ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP)

At its formation, Aliyu Wamakko and Rabiu Kwankwaso and Abdulfatah Ahmed, then sitting governors of Sokoto, Kano and Kwara, dumped the PDP for the erstwhile main opposition party in 2014 ahead of the general election. Also in the team were Murtala Nyako, Rotimi Amaechi and Saidu Dakingari, former governors of Adamawa, Rivers and Kebbi states, respectively. Other chieftains of the PDP, who defected to the APC, were Aminu Tambuwal, as sitting Speaker of House of Representatives, Senator Bukola Saraki and former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar.

Members of the nPDP have been licking their wounds, as they claimed that they have lost in the running of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the management of the party national secretariat and ultimately, distribution of political patronage.

In a petition dated April 27, 2018 and signed by former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, ( PDP) Alhaji Kawu Baraje and former Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, chairman and secretary of the nPDP, respectively, they accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of marginalising its members.

The petition which detailed the perceived marginalization of its members read in part: “At this stage, we would chronicle a few grievances which if addressed will lead to harmonious APC where justice, equity, fairness and peace will reign and enable APC avoid rancour, reinvigorate the pace of national development and face the 2019 General Election as one united party.

“Our grievances include: In the constitution of the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) the New PDP block was generally sidelined as virtually no position was conceded to it. The only member of FEC that belonged to former New PDP block comes from a state that contributed virtually no vote to the APC in the 2015 presidential elections.

“There have been no significant patronage and appointments to executive positions in various governmental agencies such as Chief Executives and Directors of government agencies and parastatals as members of our block of the party continue to helplessly watch as those positions are shared by the erstwhile CPC, ACN, ANPP and even APGA blocks of the party and those who have no party at all.

“In appointments into boards or various government agencies, very few former new PDP members were patronised. These are however not commensurate with our contributions to the growth and Victory of the party.”

Further checks revealed that the reconciliation talks between the aggrieved power block, the Presidency and the APC NWC has since collapsed with the nPDP accusing the Presidency of lack of sincerity.

On Saturday, the delegates, using the harmonised list will affirm the immediate past governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the new national chairman of the APC for a four- year mandate, albeit subject to renewal. Seeking the exalted office with Comrade Oshiomhole is another former Edo state governor, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor and former Cross Rivers State governor, Clement Ebri

Another aspirant from Edo state, Ibrahim Ekopaire, withdrew from the race, during the week, as he noted that he has discovered that Comrade Oshiomhole is the most competent person for the position. The former Labour leader set to clinch the office is from the defunct ACN.

In the race for the office of the national secretary is the incumbent, Mala Buni and Waziri Bulama, an architect, of the defunct ANPP and CPC, respectively. Alhaji Kashim Imam a top chieftain of defunct ANPP from Borno but a strong confidant of Tinubu is also a strong contender. In 2014, Kashim Imam stepped down from the race following the persuasion of Tinubu for Buni from Yobe state to emerge.

A party source revealed that Mala Buni may be ditched by his home state governor, Ibrahim Geidam, leaving the race to Bulama and Imam. The CPC sentiment in the Presidency may sway delegates’ votes for Bulama, leaving Alhaji Imam, believed to be the anointed candidate of Tinubu, in the cold.

Certain members of the defunct CPC at a press briefing during the week in Abuja endorsed Bulama for the position.They called on the delegates to the convention to elect Bulama as the national secretary.

The group, on the platform of Southern Mandate of Nigeria (SMN), said Bulama was a pioneer member of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) who played a major role in the merger process of the All Progressive Congress (APC). In a statement signed by the national coordinator of the group, Comrade Ikonomwan Francis, they described Bulama as a political and administrative strategist, needed at a critical time in the party.

“Bulama led the strategy and planning committee of APC during the establishment of the party which gave the party a very strong footing that brought the APC to winning ways in the 2015 general election in spite of its short existence.

“He is a political tactician who is well acquainted with the principles of building a coherent party that can win election at all times. We know that there are so many persons jostling for the position but we need personalities who have the pedigree, political clout and sagacity to take our party to enviable heights.

Eclipse of ANPP, APGA?

Besides the nPDP, other power blocks that may lose out in the APC, after its national convention, are the ANPP and the APGA. The outgoing national chairman, Odigie-Oyegun is from the defunct ANPP.

Findings revealed that the positions zoned to South-East: national organising secretary, national auditor and national vice-chairman held by members of the defunct APGA and ANPP, respectively are being threatened.

Imo
The Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha is determined to ensure that Senator Osita Izunaso (from APGA) did not return as national organising secretary, while the Labour Minister, Senator Chris Ngige, from defunct CAN, is working in league with certain individuals who defected from PDP to remove George Moghalu as national auditor.

Despite the resolution of theAPC South- East caucus adopting Emma Eneukuwu as its candidate for the national vice chairman, his fate hangs in the balance.

2019 and sense of belonging

The incumbent president and the most likely APC presidential hopeful for the forthcoming general elections, President Muhammadu is from the defunct CPC, while his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is from the defunct ACN. The incumbent Secretary to Government of the Federation, (SGF) Boss Mustapha belonged to the ACN. Conceding the party strategic positions to the power blocks in control of the Presidency may leave other power blocks in the lurch, seething with rage and create distrust among its ranks.

Apparently conscious of the mutual distrust within the fractured party, Comrade Oshiomhole assured all the tendencies, during his formal declaration, of his commitment to create a sense of belonging and inspire camaraderie that has since taken flight in the party.

He said: “I want to assure our leaders, the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, our overall leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, and leaders of the National Assembly, all the governors elected on the platform of our party, all the state Houses of Assembly and all party leaders that I am cleared as to what my tasks will be if elected.

“I want to be of help, I want to be of use to all those who need it but I am not capable of being used. I believe that this needs to be clarified because there is so much suspicion in our political space. People fight often for things they are not even quite sure of what they think they are. They are fueled and sustained by suspicion. The way to eliminate suspicion, is to put on the table what is on the table. What is under the table, keep under the table until it moves to the top of the table.”

Will Comrade Oshiomhole walk his talks? Time will tell.

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