By Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Ahead of tomorrow’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party’s national caucus will hold crucial talks with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa today, THISDAY has learnt.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of a growing disenchantment among party leaders and the rank and file over perceived marginalisation by the president who they accuse of sidelining them in the appointments he has made since he assumed office in 2015.
THISDAY, however, gathered that Buhari and his loyalists might seek to use the leadership meeting to try to secure a badly needed vote of confidence for his administration.
Securing the confidence vote has become very necessary in view of the president’s unconcealed interest in running for a second term in office in 2019.
Among those expected to attend the crucial meeting are the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun; the National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara; all the APC state governors; and former interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar might not attend the meeting as his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe told THISDAY that he was outside the country.
A lot has happened in the APC in the last two years, leaving the party largely polarised and appears to be on the brink of implosion.
Most of the political gladiators in the party have either clashed over competing interests or engaged in verbal exchanges over the handling of issues relating to the party and its administration.
The APC administration led by Buhari has also come under sharp criticism from both within and outside the ranks of the party for what many described as the poor handling of the affairs of government.
While some APC stakeholders have accused the president of not carrying them along in terms of appointments, other Nigerians especially from the opposition have criticized the administration for its alleged bias in its anti-corruption war, sectionalism and poor performance, among other issues.
A top party member who spoke to THISDAY at the weekend said that the battle line has been drawn between the pro and anti-Buhari elements and that the meeting at the Presidential Villa promises to be a heated one.
For instance, the source said the National Working Committee (NWC) led by Oyegun, which has long been alienated from the president since his medical trips to London is expected to ventilate its grievances at the meeting.
It further was learnt that the NWC would be leading a protest on the poor funding of the party’s operations, which has been blamed on the president.
Another issue that might come up during the meeting is the complaint by the Atiku that he has not been carried along by the Buhari administration and the party.
Party leaders who spoke with THISDAY yesterday in confidence said that the meeting is crucial to the survival of the party.
An aggrieved member of NEC said: “APC is at a point of rebellion and an unmanageable stage, and the grenades are about to explode,” adding: “If we refuse to take critical decisions at the meetings, we will have missed the huge opportunity to save our party.”
He explained further: “Our party members are not happy with the current state of affairs in our party and government; they worked and laboured to install a government but those who are currently being appointed in key positions of government today were not with us during the campaign.
“The danger I am seeing, which many of those surrounding the president are apparently not seeing is the coming national convention of our party that will commence in February next year.
“In the past few years, the party structures at all levels were rendered useless; they were used and abandoned. Are you going to remove them and elect new members, thinking they will be happy? That will be the end of APC.
“They said the leadership of the party is not active and as a result some governors and senators want the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun removed for selfish political motives.
“My question is: Do they expect the national chairman to start fighting the president on the pages of newspapers? Do they expect him to start shouting, when he has access to the President?”
Throwing more light on the difficulty the national chairman and his colleagues have going through, the NEC member said they had informed Buhari in the past about sorry state of the party, “telling him that the leadership of the party was not happy”.
The growing discontent in the party also found expression in last weekend’s outburst by one of the president’s close associates, the Comptroller-General of the Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), who lamented that the administration was increasingly losing grounds due to the infusion of people who did not share his vision or never took part in the journey to get to the corridors of power.
Ali had said: “Let me say here without fear of being contradicted that I think half way through the journey, we are losing our core values. We are losing our vision and mission and I think that the idea of our being here today is to look critically at what we need to do to get back on track.
“There is no doubt that we have derailed because we are not doing what we say we want to do. Why is it so? We need to find an answer to that. If we do not find answer, then what should we do to get us all back on track?
“We owe this great nation and the 180 million Nigerians the duty to give good governance. Good governance is what they voted for and good governance is what they expect and deserve.”
A chieftain of APC in the FCT chapter, Alhaji Tijani Abdullahi Markafi, said that topmost on the agenda of the meetings slated for today and tomorrow would be the need for urgent reforms in the area of party discipline, finance and organisation, saying the party would need to agree on an effective reward system for stakeholders on account of being members of the party in government.
According to him, “During the 2015 elections, Nigerians – young and old – who voted en masse for APC were certain that President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership would save the country from the throes of the misrule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“In fairness to the new administration, it addressed itself to the onerous task of rebuilding the country and delivering on election promises which were largely hinged on curbing corruption, restoring the economy and security of the nation.
“However, there are different perspectives on the extent to which it has successfully tackled these challenges. While spokespersons for the government are beating their chests on how successfully interventions have positively affected the situation, opposition elements have remained unimpressed.”