After it successfully wrested power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last year, internal bickering is threatening the stability of the APC ahead of 2019 general elections. Some top politicians within the party have complained of not being carried along by the leadership of the party, while others are not happy that they have been left out in the sharing of the booty that come with its electoral victory.
Cracks in the party have become evident within the National Working Committee (NWC), with some officials constantly at loggerheads over loyalty to some leaders. The situation is same at the National Assembly, where members of the APC are engaged in bitter rivalry, both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
At present, some senators of the APC are bent on removing Senate President Bukola Saraki, who is also their member, while in the House of Representatives, erstwhile chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, also of the party, has made weighty revelations that exposed corruption in the budgetary process in the National Assembly. His allegations indicted the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara and other principal officers, who are mainly members of the ruling party. The padding scandal has embarrassed the APC and further exposed lack of internal cohesion within the party.
Several leaders of the party, including its presidential aspirants during the last election, are not playing any significant role in the affairs of the APC. Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Atiku Abubakar, Rochas Okorocha and Sam Nda-Isaiah, were all presidential aspirants in the 2015 general elections.
The cold war within the APC has affected the workings of virtually all its organs, making it unable to conduct congresses to elect officials at all levels. The APC has also failed to constitute a Board of Trustees (BoT), which was a bone of contention between Atiku Abubakar and the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu. When asked why the party has failed to constitute a BoT, the deputy national chairman, South, Engr. Segun Oni said: “We are looking at our constitution and we will come up with a solution very soon. Our constitution is also undergoing a review and it would come as part of that package.” Our reporter, however, learnt that there were moves to scrap the BoT from the party’s constitution.
Bickering within the national executive
There is a running acrimony among some officials of the party in the national executive. Their disagreement is hinged on loyalty to various camps that formed the APC. Of late, the most visible antagonist to the party’s order has been its deputy national publicity secretary, Chief Timi Frank. After the exit of the former national publicity secretary of the party, now minister of information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, from the party executive to take up a cabinet appointment, Frank, as his deputy, was expected to step in as his replacement. But that was not to be, as only the chairman, John Odigie Oyegun and the national secretary now speak on behalf of the party.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday on why he has not been allowed to speak for the party, Frank said, “A substantive head was appointed to become a minister, but you deprived his deputy who was meant to take over from him. That has shown that as a party, we don’t keep to our words. Internally, we should be able to know that what they’re doing is not fair. If they don’t like you as a person, the least they could do is to have respect for God.”
He also expressed sadness at the inability of the party’s leadership to resolve contending issues amongst its members, saying, “The party has to break its silence on some issues; and it has to start acting as a party. The functions and duties of a party aren’t just to conduct primaries or to go for campaigns, but to also reconcile issues and differences between party members. Why would the party wait for me to call for resignation or invite the other party involved in the National Assembly issues? Why would they wait for me to call them to invite Jibrin Abdulmumin who has already gone dirty with this struggle?”
The abandoned ‘goose that laid the golden egg’
Perhaps a major threat to the future of the APC is the neglect of top politicians in the legacy parties that collapsed in the merger agreement. Some stalwarts of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) have expressed worry over the manner with which the APC government failed to carry them along.
Such agitation, it was gathered, recently led to the formation of a group, which is a forum of the defunct CPC leaders. After a meeting in Abuja at the weekend, the group, which comprised of chairmen of the defunct CPC in 26 states, said in a communiqué that President Muhammadu Buhari should “remember the goose that laid the golden egg in the scheme of things.”
Also exposing the internal suspicion within the APC, the CPC block said, “The fact is that we can’t totally trust men and women from other political parties like the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Though we are under one umbrella, the APC, everybody knows where he or she belongs. So, we need to come together to support our own; this is politics.”
Some of the defunct CPC chairmen at the meeting include Sebastian Akpan (Akwa Ibom), Oko Agha Chris (Ebonyi), Comrade Francis Ikonomwan (Edo), Ahmad Dan-Zago (Kano), Mike Nwielaghi (Rivers) and M. A. Oderinde (Oyo).
Party members have not been happy with Buhari’s appointment of a number of PDP stalwarts when those who fought for the APC to win the 2015 elections have not been considered, it was learnt.
The Atiku factor
When Atiku Abubakar visited the national secretariat of the APC on July 18, 2016, not a few pundits were convinced that the move was in connection with his 2019 presidential ambition.
This was largely predicated on the fact that the former vice president had not visited the party secretariat since its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held earlier in April with President Muhammadu Buhari in attendance.
During that visit, Atiku, who was accompanied by Governor Muhammadu Jibrilla Bindow, also had the full complement of his media team. At the end of the meeting, which lasted for about an hour, curious journalists sought to know the reasons for his visit, but the former vice president simply said he had come to familiarise himself with the party leaders; but not many were convinced.
Apart from linking the visit to his perceived 2019 presidential ambition, it was strongly believed that the party leadership used the visit to express concern over his professed support for the restructuring of the country, a position that is at variance with that of the ruling party.
Apart from speculations that he may be eyeing the presidency in 2019, signs that Atiku may have pitched himself against the ruling APC in the aftermath of the 2015 elections emerged over the outcome of National Assembly elections.
The elections saw Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerge as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives despite being excluded by an APC mock poll. Atiku was suspected to have connived with Saraki to defy the ruling party, giving rise to reports that he might be sanctioned by the APC over his alleged role.
Perhaps the most evident sign of discord between Atiku and the APC is his consistent clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria despite the party’s stance against it. Atiku’s support for restructuring is viewed as a move to curry the support of sections of the country, especially in the South.
Atiku had insisted that restructuring Nigeria was the only solution to the problem confronting the nation. Speaking at the launch of a book titled, “We are all Biafrans,” the former vice president maintained that Nigeria risked being a failed state due to its present structure.
This was promptly countered by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who suggested that diversification of the economy would end the country’s problems.
Osinbajo had said that even if the country is restructured, the same problems would still linger if economic solutions were not put in place.
But Atiku recently maintained his position in a paper he presented at the late Gen. Usman Katsina Memorial Conference at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Memorial Hall, Murtala Square, Kaduna, on July 30.
He said different groups were aggrieved by what they perceived as a form of neglect from the government, and this had affected the country’s unity. He said he was a believer in the existence of one Nigeria, and urged the different components to look at restructuring as a solution.
It is against this backdrop that many believe that Atiku’s stance and body language have added to the crack in the ruling APC. His troubles have not gone unnoticed as the party is said to have wooed the former anti-corruption czar, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, back to the party as a way of checking Atiku’s influence on the party in Adamawa State.
A source close to the former vice president, who craved anonymity, told our reporter that Atiku’s call for restructuring dates back to 2014, saying: “It has nothing to do with his ambition. He has been consistent on this and he is not alone in the call. Even Vice President Osinbajo is in support of creation of state police; is that not restructuring? It is all about semantics.”
He said the former vice president had no problem with the return of the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu and other politicians to the APC in Adamawa State, asking, “How does that concern Atiku? The sky is big enough to accommodate everybody. Please, don’t create rift where there is none.”
Crisis at state chapters
Several APC state chapters have been split into factions as members disagree on the mode of running the affairs of the party. In Kano State, the internal crisis in the APC is mainly between the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso and the incumbent governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. Although the two principal actors have denied any rift, political happenings in the state suggest the contrary. The crisis in the Kano APC took a new dimension after the conduct of the by-election for Minjibir Local Government state assembly constituency. Results published by people believed to be members of the Ganduje faction of the APC indicated that APC got 21,970, while ‘PDP+Kwankwasiyya’ polled 1,238 votes. By implication, Ganduje’s loyalists now link the Kwankwaso group as being in alliance with the opposition PDP.
The sour political relationship between the two political gladiators became public after the death of Ganduje’s mother when Kwankwaso paid him a condolence visit at his home town in Ganduje. Since that incident, the APC has not known peace in Kano as supporters of the two politicians were engaged in political war of words. While Kwankwaso’s supporters accuse Ganduje of betrayal, Ganduje’s followers blame Kwankwaso of sabotaging the present administration.
It got to a boiling point after the death of the late Alhaji Tahir Hamisu Gurjiya, a State House of Assembly member from Minjibir. A slogan of ‘Muhadu a Minjibir,’ meaning let’s settle it at Minjibir, was introduced among followers of the two politicians. The slogan was signifying Minjibir by-election as a testing ground where Ganduje and Kwankwaso were expected to slug it out in a show of popularity.
Prior to the conduct of the by-election, the two APC factions in the state were engaged in the campaign of calumny among themselves. For instance, the state commissioner of information, Malam Muhammadu Garba, accused the Kwankwasiyya movement of plans to hire thugs to disrupt the election.
Garba, in a press statement issued two days to the conduct of the Minjibir by-election, alleged that the movement had orchestrated plans to unleash mayhem during the rescheduled election.
According to the statement, “Kwankwasiyya has hired thugs from the neighbouring Niger Republic, Katsina and Jigawa states to unleash mayhem on the innocent and law abiding electorate, with the aim of scuttling the entire process for selfish reasons.”
Reacting, a former commissioner of state affairs under Kwankwaso, Comrade Aminu Abdulsalam, described the allegation as unfounded and uncalled for, noting that it was surprising that instead of responding to allegations levelled against the government and the APC, the Ganduje-led administration was busy fighting an unnecessary war within.
He said: “I have personally heard PDP members accusing the APC-led government in Kano over the forthcoming Minjibir Local Government election, but I have never heard anybody from the government side responding to these allegations. This is surprising.”
On the APC crisis in the state, Abdulsalam disputed allegations that Kwankwaso had promised to align with the PDP to sabotage Ganduje during the conduct of the Minjibir Local Government by-election, saying, “Ganduje’s faction should come out and state where Kwankwaso made such statement.”
He said the APC crisis in Kano was not just about personality; rather, it was more of discontent and resistance. “Historically, a typical Kano man cannot be taken too far by any government without facing resistance. And the problem affecting the party is compounding on a daily basis. If not because of the friction within the party, APC would have been suffering more because it would be hit directly, being at the receiving end, but because of the friction, government is busy pushing all the blames to our own side despite the fact that we are also active members of the ruling party.”
Also, in what appeared to show that the division was deeper than what was being seen on the surface, Governor Ganduje has urged the national secretariat of the APC to take disciplinary action against some card-carrying members of the party who engaged in what he termed as anti-party activities before and during the recent by-election in Minjibir, apparently indicting the Kwankwaso-led faction.
He described the conduct of such members as shameful, saying even though the party won the election, the attitude of its deviant members must not be condoned. The governor made the statement when he received the results of the Minjibir by-election at the Government House.
“Although some unscrupulous APC members wanted to rubbish the party, I am happy that the party won the election and no violence was recorded during the exercise. Although we have fifth columnists among us, we won because the people are behind the APC. Nigerians are solidly behind the party because they are confident that President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated the commitment to return Nigeria to the path of progress,” he said.
The splinter group of the APC in Kaduna State, known as the APC Akida, which constituted a leadership structure at the state level, is yet to reconcile with the main organ of the party, two months after the group threatened to form structures at all levels of the state.
When the splinter group emerged, it appointed Mr. Tom Maiyashi as its convener, Alhaji Ibrahim Yaro as deputy convener and Hafsat M. Baba as secretary.
The main grouse of the splinter group is that the state governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, has ‘hijacked’ the party and is not willing to recognise their contributions to its success in the state.
Maiyashi confirmed this when he told newsmen recently that the group came into being because the APC had been hijacked and incapacitated, and because members were deprived of a major asset to exercise their rights.
“We believe in playing responsible and constructive roles in a situation where government appears to have shut out basic involvement of citizens in governance.
“We exist because our party structures do not exist or function in a manner prescribed by our party constitution. The interest of our members and one of our key goals is to help re-establish party structure at all levels,” he stated.
Our correspondent observed that the parting of ways for the two camps has been gradual.
On winning both the presidential and governorship elections, some of the party leaders in the state, like Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who served as interim chairman of the APC in Kaduna during the formative stages of the party, Senator Shehu Sani, who won the Kaduna Central senatorial seat, as well as Isa Ashiru Kudan and others, were taken aback by the disposition of the governor in constituting a cabinet.
Sani, who at the time expressed shock, said he was not consulted to nominate people from his constituency as the governor elected to continue as if they did not matter.
Later, when the administration was inaugurated, the same issue accompanied the appointment of caretaker chairmen for the 23 local governments in the state.
Hitherto preferring to ignore the group, Governor el-Rufai was compelled to make a comment on the issue when he went to a town hall meeting at Giwa Local Government of the state. There, he could not conceal his fury when he said in obvious reference to the group, that he could not be bothered by ‘ants when he was putting on an iron shoe.’
In a previous town hall meeting, the governor had said to those who were said not to be happy with his appointment to go to a certain mountain, Kufena, and take a jump.
Maiyashi, in an interview, assured that in the coming weeks, the APC Akida would intensify campaigns to mobilise members to protect what it called their legitimate interests. He called on the national leadership of the party to fulfil its promise to reconstruct the party at all levels in Kaduna State. He also called on Governor el-Rufai to lead with a sense of commitment, bearing in mind the ‘current difficult circumstance.’
The Kaduna State chapter of the APC has, however, preferred to disown the splinter group, saying its leadership and members stand united with Governor el-Rufai.
The state acting publicity secretary of the party, Salisu Tanko Wusono, described the group as ‘illegal and unrecognised,’ and warned them to desist or face sanctions.
While the crème de la crème of APC supporters in Adamawa State dismissed as divisive, the recent call for the restructuring of Nigeria by Atiku Abubakar, his supporters saw his position as clever and a means to attaining political power.
Looking at his antecedents in politics, many dismissed his call for restructuring as another ploy to woo the support of the elite in the southern part of the country, especially the South-South and South-East which have been agitating for regional control of resources.
In Adamawa, where Atiku enjoyed unchallenged political control during his days as vice president (he has remained the biggest force since then), his ambition is currently under threat from unforeseen political alignments despite his alliance with Governor Muhammadu Jibrilla.
Pundits have it that the perceived alliance between Buhari’s loyalists, led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, and former Governor Murtala Nyako, may signal a danger to the ambition of Atiku ahead of 2019. Secondly, the return of Ribadu, as well as Marcus Gundiri, the former governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), is already creating tension within the party.
A chieftain loyal to the former vice president, who sought for anonymity, alleged that the return of Ribadu and others was orchestrated by Babachir and Nyako as part of a plot to take over the control of party machinery at the expense of Atiku and his major ally, Governor Jibrilla.
“The Atiku group recently met in Yola to discuss recent developments as they affect the presidential ambition of our principal. We viewed the machinations by Nyako, the SGF and others, which culminated in the return of Ribadu and Gundiri to the party. We viewed the development as an attempt to edge us out. As it is, we are not leaving the party,” he said.
He added that the group was planning a North-East tour to meet with APC members, with a view to gauging opinions on the presidential project. He lamented the fact that some APC chieftains, who benefited from Atiku, were sitting on the fence as they watched the unfolding events.
Many believe that powers within the APC are backing Ribadu to emerge as the governorship flag-bearer in 2019, as against Governor Jibrilla, an Atiku’s chief ally in the state, who is serving his first term and may seek re-election.
However, Uba Dan-Arewa, a chieftain of the party from the camp of the former governor, Nyako, noted that Jibrilla did not have the capacity to win an election without support from Nyako.
Governor Jibrilla had been a close associate of Nyako before he shifted loyalty to Atiku. Dan-Arewa accused the governor of plunging the party into chaos by betraying party members who worked for him to defeat Atiku at the primary election.
“You know that the former vice president attended the primary election to support Mijinyawa against Bindow, while Nyako was represented by his son. The delegates were not influenced by the huge money given by Atiku to defeat Bindow, they instead elected Bindow who was Nyako’s candidate,” he added.
Dan-Arewa, who said it was too early to talk of 2019 elections, said the Nyako political camp would rather work with Nuhu Ribadu and other returnees, as well as loyal party chieftains to promote the party, noting that Atiku had split his loyalty between the PDP, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and the APC.
All seemed to be well within the APC family in Zamfara until recently, when members of the State Assembly moved to impeach Governor Abdulazeez Yari. The assembly had accused the governor of “misappropriating N11 billion bailout fund, N1 billion agricultural loan released to the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and “corrupt abuse of local government funds.” The move was, however, seen as a fallout within the APC and is related to how public offices were being shared.
The lawmakers accused the governor of frequent foreign trips which have had negative impact on the day-to-day running of government, apart from imposing financial burden on the state. In an unprecedented move, operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) swooped on the Assembly and arrested the speaker, Alhaji Sanusi Garba Rikiji and other principal officers. The governor survived the impeachment attempt, but the saga exposed the disunity within the party in the state.
Amidst the impeachment crisis, the party suddenly announced the suspension of the chairman of its Gusau chapter, Alhaji Shehu J. Muhammad.
“I think the decision of the lawmakers to rebel against Governor Yari must have the political endorsement of a formidable force among the gladiators in the state. Even if the crisis is resolved now, it will definitely bounce back in 2019. Its true colour will be revealed that time; not necessarily in this form but in another political shape despite the announcement that truce had been reached and broken fences mended,” one of the political pundits said.
Whether the permutations and calculations of these observers are anything to go by, time will tell.
Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/more-trouble-in-the-house-of-apc/158114.html#u1QidDv4PdhvGVQZ.99