From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
With the conclusion of the ward, local government and state congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the stage is now set for the conduct of the long-awaited National Convention of the party to elect its National Working Committee (NWC) members, which by extension will resolve the lingering controversy surrounding the zoning arrangements for the 2023 presidential ticket of the ruling party.
The ruling party which prides itself as a model with the claim as the only political party to have successfully conducted membership registration and revalidation exercise, as well as congresses, however, has to contend with the realities on ground that seem to suggest that the party may be hunted by the rancorous and acrimonious congresses capable of threatening its build up to the 2023 polls.
Truly speaking, with almost all the states replete with one form of crisis or parallel leadership to the point of producing two or three chairmen, the fallouts of the congresses could be a time bomb that may consume the party. Although ward and LG congresses have been a celebration of resentment and animosity, the recently concluded state congresses may have heightened the fragile peace among stakeholders in the party.
From Lagos, Akwa-Ibom, Kano, Bauchi, Kwara, Rivers, Niger, Osun, Delta, Adamawa, Taraba, Cross River states to almost all the Southeast states, the unending bickering and acrimony have persisted since the conduct of the exercise due to the emergence of parallel leaderships.
The tension is still apparently palpable in almost all the states to the point that some party chieftains and leaders are defiling all the threats and warnings from the party’s national leadership to institute legal actions against the party.
In Ogun State, for instance, the faction loyal to Governor Dapo Abiodun did not only threaten to expel former governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, but disturbing reports also have it that the fracas has degenerated to an intolerable level.
The situation is more discouraging in Osun State where the immediate past governor, Rauf Aregbesola, may have dragged the ruling party and estranged godson to court perhaps out of frustration.
From the Southeast, Southwest, South-south, Northwest to North-central, among other zones, the magnitude of the crises situations portray danger to the future and fortunes of the ruling party.
It was that bad that APC could rightly be described as a house of commotion and a party presently divided against itself. And despite the endless threats from the national leadership to sanction aggrieved litigants, the crisis has continued to deteriorate unabated.
Worried and determined to arrest the development, the national leadership, in its wisdom, had recently constituted the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Reconciliation Committee, but the escalating disquiet and feelers from almost all the states indicate that the committee may even be dead on arrival just like others before it.
With the volume of divisions within the party from the grassroots to even the national level, bookmakers have argued that the Senator Adamu-led committee may achieve little or nothing in restoring peace ahead of the party’s planned National Convention.
For some, if the reconciliation committee performs wonders in resolving the warring factions, a more humongous crisis capable of rocking the party’s foundation will come from the internal wrangling among the members of the legacy parties that merged to form the APC, over who should produce the next party’s national chairman. Already, the gladiators are at each other’s throats over such primordial sentiment before the recently-concluded state congresses across the country.
Again, other looming crises capable of imploding the ruling party include the confusion surrounding the zoning formula between the North and South, the battle among the power blocs to control the party’s structures, the much-touted undocumented agreement between Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari, the unconfirmed interest that may pitch Vice President Yemi Osinbajo against Tinubu, his godfather, and the deserved endless agitations by the Southeast geopolitical zone to produce the next president in 2023.
The ruling party may not have openly made a clear pronouncement concerning the zoning arrangements it plans to adopt for both the party’s national leadership and elective positions, but there are, however, strong indications that the inability of the legacy parties to arrive at a consensus might pose greater threat to the party’s fragile peace.
Considering the fact that greater number of the aspirants clamouring for the chairmanship position are majorly from the North, which indicates that it may have been tactically zoned there, the lingering issue of which of the legacy parties should produce the next chairman is tearing the party apart.
The debate is laced around the fact that since other legacy parties like the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) have all produced the party’s national chairman previously, it is now the turn of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) to produce the next party chairman.
A chieftain of the party who spoke to Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity said: “The issue of which zone produces the next national chairman of our great party may have been resolved with the majority of the aspirants indicating interest in the position, coming from the North. Our biggest challenge, however, is the interests and disagreements between members of the legacy parties over who deserves to produce the next national chairman.
“Some of their postures include the claim from the CPC members that since ACN produced the first interim chairman in the person of Chief Segun Osoba and again Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the ANPP produced Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, it is, therefore, their turn to take a shot at the position,” the source argued.
But what becomes of the members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) in the power sharing equation, he replied: “I don’t think that nPDP members are actually interested in the party’s chairmanship position. In the contrary, they seem to be more interested in the presidential ticket.”
The internal wrangling and cold war among the legacy party members seem to be child’s play to the expected clash of interest by various presidential aspirants ahead of the 2023 polls. Unlike the PDP, where political watchers could easily identify those nursing the ambition, such interest has continued to exist in the realm of speculations in the APC.
Supporters to certain APC chieftains had alluded or openly disclosed the presidential interests of their political icons like Asiwaju Tinubu, Prof Osinbajo, the governor of Ekiti state, Kayode Fayemi, his Kaduna counterpart, Nasir el-Rufai, Kogi’s Yahaya Bello, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and the numerous party chieftains of Igbo extraction, among others.
Endorsements and counter-endorsements have come from certain socio-cultural pressure groups, but the political indicators have not clearly projected certain persons above the others.
Again, the political climate and calculations may have already become unfavourable to some of them especially after losing out of the power play after the recently concluded congresses.
For example, the Asiwaju support groups may have flagged off campaign to formally confirm his interest in the race, they have equally flew the kite of a gentleman agreement between him and President Buhari, but certain storms and forces that may constitute a cog in the wheel of his actualisation of such ambition may have already started gathering momentum.
Such factors, according to political watchers, include the intense fight for the soul of the party which has balkanised the Lagos chapter of the party, resulting in the emergence of parallel state party chairmen and the expected battle from the Osinbajo political camp.
“Many things may count against Asiwaju,” an APC chieftain told Sunday Sun in confidence, explaining that: “the incidences in Lagos and Edo governorship election were clearly a miscalculation for Asiwaju.
“When the appeals to him to endorse Ambode’s second term failed and when he mistakenly involved himself again in the Edo governorship crisis and almost succeeded, his actions sent negative signals to the northern oligarchy that if he could be that powerful without presidential powers, he may be a dictatorial president if he finally becomes president in 2023.”
Notwithstanding, so the effects of the purported dismissal of any existing agreement between Mr President and Asiwaju to take the 2023 presidential ticket as claimed by the Minister of Transportation as one person who should be in the know of such plan due to his crucial role as the Campaign DG in the election of President Buhari in 2015, or the schemes in Lagos to relegate him to inconsequential political relevance, Asiwaju still remains a force to reckon with in APC ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
For some Nigerians, Prof Osinbajo stood a vantage position to be the biggest beneficiary should the attempts to crumble the Asiwaju political dynasty materialised. Yes, his interest has been secretly projected by his teeming supporters, but he is another person secretly eyeing the exalted presidential seat in Aso Rock.
“I can confirm to you that there is the likelihood that the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led national leadership may likely recognise the Ambode faction in Lagos and once that is done, the Asiwaju political dynasty has crumbled. If this circumstance plays out, Osinbajo will certainly be the biggest beneficiary,” an APC chief told Sunday Sun.
But, it is not obviously going to be a two-horse race between Asiwaju and Osinbajo, if they finally declare their interests, with the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) comfortably in charge of the party structure presently.
With the yam and knife in their custody, it may have rekindled the speculation of the apparent interests from many of them.
Those speculated to be nursing such presidential ambition, according to various reports, include Fayemi, El-rufai, governors of Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu; Kebbi, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu; Kano, Umar Ganduje; Borno, Prof Babagana Zulum, and Yahaya Bello, among others.
If the various interests projected to be interested in the ticket are still in the realm of speculation and uncertainty, the deafening agitations for president of Igbo extraction in 2023 have refused to ebb despite the hostilities that tried to eclipse and crush it.
From the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other Igbo socio-political and cultural organisations, the demands for an Igbo presidency in 2023 have reached a crescendo despite the escalating insecurity in the zone.
In all of these, however, the future of APC is apparently shrouded in uncertainty. The reason may not be farfetched because APC is a confirmed party of body language. Regardless of the torrent and magnitude of the charging storm, decision and resolutions will only depend on the interpretation of the body language of President Buhari and/or the presidency by extension.
“Aspirants for the 2023 presidential election don’t need to hit the gem to train and build muscle for the battle ahead on how to pick the ticket. It will not also be determined by the volume or decibel of noise the aspirants make.
“In fact, you don’t need to front yourself too much because whoever the power that be projected, will formally present himself. I can tell you that interested persons are not declaring because they are waiting for the endorsement from the decision makers,” a privileged APC chieftain told Sunday Sun.
Head or tail, the ability of the ruling party to deploy every internal resolution mechanism to solve the lingering crisis rocking the party will certainly be the tonic or determine the dynamics of how the political undercurrent and intrigue of the 2023 presidential election will play out.
To underscore this assertion, an APC chieftain and the Director General Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, had while cautioning his party wondered why anybody could dissipate much energy on the party’s national chairmanship position and the presidential ticket when the party is collapsing under the weight of the crisis in almost all the states, heightened by the rancorous congresses.
“I think we should solve the escalating crisis on ground before thinking about the national chairmanship position or even who gets the presidential ticket. If the party is claiming that there is no crisis trailing the congresses, we should ask those making such claims how many leaderships the congresses produced in their states.
“Perhaps, we have to specially ask my good friend, the National Secretary, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, James Akpanudoedehe, who is dismissing the crisis, how many parallel leaderships that emerged from the congresses in his home state, Akwa-Ibom.
“If he is saying that there is no issue in the congress conducted in his state, we have to ask him whether it will be in the interest of our party to ignore the Godswill Akpabio and Ita Enang faction. As I said earlier, national chairmanship position is a secondary issue for now.
“What should concern us now is how to harmonize the parallel leadership that emerged from the congresses and resolve the crisis rocking many of the state chapters due to the fallout of the misunderstanding from the congresses. This resolution is what is going to help our party replicate our previous electoral victories,” he suggested.
The VON DG was not alone in the prediction of doom for the ruling party.
The former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, had equally warned that lack of internal democracy among other dynamics would result in the implosion of both the APC and PDP
“People have captured and controlled political parties for self-serving objectives, so no energy is devoted to organising primaries. Governors deploy state resources to control political parties in their states to decide which candidate will emerge. It is all driven by self-serving objectives and it is political rascality.
“After 22 years of democracy, we have still not freed ourselves from this overbearing control of people who just use parties as special purpose vehicles for winning elections by hook or crook. That is why many of us are beginning to think that these so-called dominant parties are really a huge disappointment, a disgrace to the democratisation process of our country, and if we are hoping for change within these political parties, I regret to say it will be very long in coming. This is why many of us are pushing for a new purpose vehicle for democratic elections and to ensure that we move in the right direction,” he argued.