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2019: APC walks a tightrope

 Stalwarts withdraw funding

 Party factionalised in states

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 Members of Presidential Campaign Council spit fire

There is an endless strife among power blocs, apathy at the presidency, occasioned by the withdrawal of funding from vested interests who feel that their aspiration might not be met within the APC in the foreseeable future, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered.

Based on what transpired in the past two years, many pundits have concluded that the APC is just an “accidental daughter” of some powerful forces with different mindsets, opinions and understanding.

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The APC came into being as a result of the collapsing of power blocs from the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a faction that left the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), and the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP).

While President Muhammadu Buhari is said to be “allergic” to the disposition of some of the owners of the legacy parties, serious disaffection is gradually overflowing, albeit in the media, because of the failure of the party to meet constantly for aggrieved members to ventilate their anger.

The party is also suffering from members’ disenchantment over appointments into boards of federal parastatals, ministries, departments and agencies.

APC’s image at the Presidency

There is no ambiguity in the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is not freely disposed to party politics when compared to what obtained during the days of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was not only the president but also the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The situation was the same to a greater extent during the days of the late President Umaru Yar’adua. And the PDP was conspicuously assertive during the reign of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Credible sources said that at present, the APC and its handlers only play a second fiddle, as some people have hijacked the affairs of the country. The sources noted that after the party’s presidential primary election, several forces who had wished a different candidate emerged put aside their differences and threw their weight behind Buhari to enable him win the general election. 

They worked collectively to emerge victorious through adequate funding and strategy. Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the party’s source of strength was the Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu camp from the South-West, the camp of Senate President Bukola Saraki from North-Central, legacy governors who revolted against Jonathan and the PDP, drawn from various geo-political zones; and to a certain extent, the influence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

It was, however, gathered that even after the elections, President Buhari did not change his posture towards the APC as a party and those who fought for it.

“For the past two years or thereabouts, the bulk of resources used in funding the ruling party was from Tinubu, Saraki and Atiku.

“They were servicing their political bases within the party, pumping millions on monthly basis, all in an effort to negotiate from position of strength in future elections.

“This is amidst disenchantment because both Tinubu and Atiku feel that they have not been adequately compensated; they feel that they laboured for the party but were surreptitiously sidelined when it came to sharing what I can call the spoils of war,” an insider in the APC who spoke in confidence said.

Buhari’s recovery and realignment

Another source in the APC said those funding its activities based their action on the belief that President Buhari would not contest for a second term, a development that would allow them to test their strength within the party in 2019.

However, considering his miraculous recovery from a life-threatening illness that sent him out of the country for several months, there are indications that the president might give the seat another trial in the next election; hence the “withdrawal of financing by hopeful power mongers,” whose expectation was somehow dashed.

Imminent rebellion over automatic ticket

Another pointer to the fact that the APC is a divided house came to the fore recently when the party’s leaders in the South-West, including governors, National Assembly members, ministers and others rose from an “exclusive stakeholders” meeting in Agodi Government House, Ibadan, on October 12 and declared that the presidential ticket of the party was open to all as the march towards 2019 general elections gets underway.

In attendance were the host governor, Abiola Ajimobi; Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos); Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun); Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); a former national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande; former governors Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo); Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun); Olusegun Osoba (Ogun); Adeniyi Adebayo (Ekiti); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti);  who is serving as Minister of Solid Minerals; Communications Minister, Adebayo Shittu; a Minister of State for Niger Delta, Claudius Daramola; Senator Adeyeye; Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuf, and the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, among others.

The party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who was billed to attend the meeting, reportedly shelved the decision at the last minute “because of stomach ache,” according to Chief Akande, the group’s spokesman. 

But Mr Tunde Rahman, Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Media, later held a media parley with journalists and allayed fears over the health of his boss, stressing that, “He (Tinubu) considered it wise to stay back in Lagos to attend to the ache, but he was part of discussions  at the meeting.” 

Many viewed Tinubu’s absence as a “tactical way of hitting the powers-that-be below the belt by proxy,” considering the weight of the issues discussed.

Speaking on behalf of the party’s stakeholders at the end of the meeting, Chief Akande said they were in Ibadan as a follow-up to the January meeting they held in the same town, to appraise the state of affairs of the party and how the zone fared in the scheme of things.

When asked about the position of the party on President Buhari’s rumoured second term ambition, Akande said, “He has not told us he is running for 2019. Anybody in our party is free to become the president of Nigeria as long as he indicates interest. 

“We have a process through which a candidate will be selected. If he is lucky to have the ticket, then we have no option than to present him as our candidate,’’ he said.

This comment is seen by pundits as a serious indictment and rebellious, considering the fact that in the past, right from the Second Republic, party leaders sold the dummy for a second term on behalf of their president and not the other way round.

Though some party leaders said Akande only voiced his personal opinion, the mere fact that Tinubu, his closest friend, did not object to the position, attests to the fact that Buhari would have to work hard to get new allies in the South-West, a region that actually sealed his deal in 2015.

Akande’s comment came five months after the party’s national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, was reported to have said that President Buhari would be given “the right of first refusal” for the party’s presidential ticket in 2019.

 “When we get to 2019, it is for him to decide if he wants to run. The party will be consulted. If he wants to run, good; and if he doesn’t want to run, the party isn’t bereft of capable hands,” Oyegun said.

But from all indications, Buhari is as fit as a fiddle at the moment, and sources said this is where the renewed revolt in the APC got its steam.

“Honestly speaking, not everybody in the APC wanted Buhari to come back from London this strong,” a close ally of the president who does not want to be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue said.

“Some thought he would pass on for them to have a leeway, others expected that even if he returned, he would be too frail to think of a second term. All of them have been disappointed. God is merciful, Buhari will outlive all of them,” he said.

Also, the party’s spokesman Bolaji Abdullahi, tactically downplayed the impact of Chief Akande’s comments on party cohesion and Buhari’s possible second term bid. 

“Did Chief Akande say he was speaking on behalf of the South-West APC? I don’t think so. I think he granted an interview and expressed his views on those issues. I don’t have the understanding that those issues represent the South-West APC. 

“The issue of automatic ticket for the president does not even arise because Chief Akande himself said the president had not indicated interest to re-contest. So, fundamentally, there is no basis to even debate over this. 

“To take it further, our constitution is very clear on this kind of issue. We will abide by our constitution on all issues,” he said.

Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State also said on Wednesday that the provisions of the party’s constitution would determine the procedure to be adopted in the election of a presidential candidate in 2019.

Asked to comment on whether the party was mulling an automatic presidential ticket for Buhari, he said, “This meeting has not deliberated on that; but the APC has a constitution. That is one of the items discussed on the amendment of the constitution in line with democratic principles.

The Presidential Campaign Council

A member of the party’s 2015 Presidential Campaign Council, Ibrahim Jirgi, said there were clear indications that the APC was beyond redemption because in a couple of months, the narrative would just be about re-election.

“There is nothing like APC in the Presidency. I am talking on behalf of many members. You would only appreciate what I am saying if you looked back to see how previous presidents worked closely with their parties.

“I am not saying the president should cede his powers to the party. What I am saying is that the party does not have his ears, and that is why it is a toothless bulldog. Everyone is doing what he likes because there is no leadership.”

Asked if those who served in the party’s Presidential Campaign Council would be willing to work for it in 2019, Jirgi said, “Every aspirant would be accountable to himself.”

He said that with the exception of a few, the over 3,000 people who worked for the success of the party under different committees have been forgotten.

“During the campaigns, most of us sponsored ourselves as members of the Campaign Council, but how were we rewarded? They allowed people from the PDP to hold sway in most Federal Government agencies; seriously sabotaging the government, left, right and centre. And you want us to come out and campaign for the APC again? What are we going to tell Nigerians? He asked.

Crisis in states

The APC is not only suffering at the centre but in many states, making it difficult for the party to consolidate on its gains and elaborate the popularity that sprung it to power in 2015.

From Kogi to Kano, Bauchi to Lagos and Kaduna, among many other states, it is one problem or another. Various committees set up by the party from Abuja to resolve the crises have not been able to do so.

Shuaibu Abubakar Rahama, a former deputy speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly and now deputy chairman of the APC in the state, has been suspended over alleged anti party posturing.

In an interview with our correspondent, Rahama said the APC was biting more than it could chew. He said that in Bauchi, for instance, the crisis could be the albatross of the party, and that was one place that Buhari got overwhelming support.

“There is no cogent reason for our suspension. The state treasurer of the party, Harsanu Guyaba, has been sacked, Comrade Abdullahi Orlando, who was a gubernatorial candidate, has also been sacked. Senator Ali Wakili, representing Bauchi South senatorial district, has been sacked; Aminu Tukur, who’s a member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, has also been sacked. Rep. Ahmed Yerima, who is a member of the House of Representatives from Misau, has been sacked. There are many others.

“I personally wrote more than 30 petitions. In fact, the national deputy chairman of the party, Sen. Lawan Shuaibu, wrote a letter to our state chairman and reminded him that in line with the party’s constitution, he had no power to suspend or sack anyone, but he failed to reverse it,” he said.

When reminded that Senator Chris Ngige was mandated to resolve the crisis in Bauchi, he said, “Well, you’ll be amazed when you look at the report of the Ngige committee. There was no reference to the fact that our suspension or sack from the party was illegal; or that we should be recalled, as a starting point for reconciliation. 

 “We strongly believe that the committee was not in Bauchi for the APC as a family but to do the bidding of some powerful forces.

“The APC is in disarray. There’s no sense of belonging; no sense of direction, and this is a disaster. You will understand what I’m talking about when it comes to the next election,” he said.

In Kaduna, it is Governor Nasiru el-Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani and co, while in Kogi, the fight is between Governor Yahaya Bello and Senator Dino Melaye, as well as many foundation members of the party who have been edged out.

The situation is the same in Kano, where Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso are at loggerheads. Lagos is not any better. The national legal adviser of the party, Muiz Banire, who is said to be the darling of Oyegun and President Buhari, is having a running battle with the state chapter of the party.

Members brace up for NEC meeting

Now that the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the party has been fixed for October 31, 2017, it was gathered that key stakeholders are already preparing for blunt talks.

Sources said the party’s 24 governors were deeply divided along two major camps – one loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari and the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun and the other loyal to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. 

Those seen as close to Buhari include Governors Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi);  Aminu Masari (Katsina), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Solomon Lalong (Plateau); Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Samuel Ortom (Benue). 

The other governors, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered, are on the fence, waiting to see where the pendulum would swing. Several other members are leaning either to the side of Tinubu or Atiku.

A source said the absence of South-West governors, except the deputy governor of Ondo State, at the sixth APC National Working Committee (NWC) consultative meeting, held last Wednesday with the party’s governors and the leadership of the National Assembly, was meant to send a clear message to the party leadership after the Ibadan meeting.

“The governors wanted to make it clear that they formed the alliance that brought President Buhari to power and not the so-called cabal in the Presidency, believed to have hijacked him after the 2015 general elections.

“Left to Buhari, he wants only members of the defunct CPC in the new equation, but Tinubu insists that members of the defunct ANPP, the nPDP and a faction of the APGA and DPP must be accommodated,” he said.

 “Could Buhari’ have defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP with only 12 million votes without the involvement of former governors Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara); Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto); Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe) and Kashim Shettima (Borno)? He asked, adding that he should not take the alliance for granted.” 

But the spokesman of the party said they would address any form of division that might arise from the conflicting interests among power blocs.

Abdullahi said, “I’m glad you mentioned that we are an amalgamation of various interests. But political parties all over the world are amalgamations of various interests. So there is nothing essentially peculiar about the APC as a political party. 

“No political party arrives fully formed. Political parties are always work in progress. So there will constantly be issues, tensions and things to deal with. But as long as we continue to commit ourselves to the task of building the party, we will overcome whatever problem we have. I cannot tell you that we don’t have issues and people who are not happy about one thing or the other, what I’m saying is that our party is capable of dealing with any issue under the leadership of Mr President. 

 “We will continue to work on issues as they arise. That is why we continue to set up peace committees. Very soon, we are going to send a visitation committee to all the states to look at some of these issues and advise on the best way forward. I believe that when we come to the NEC meeting, people would have the opportunity to express whatever concerns they have. 

“Part of the reasons some of these issues fester and appear as if they were difficult to resolve is because of the difficulty we had in convening meetings of the various organs of the party. Now, we have overcome that and you will see changes.”

 Poor funding

Article 22 of the party’s constitution states that it shall derive funds from subscriptions; fees and levies on members; proceeds from investments; subventions; donations and fund raising; gifts and grants by governments, individuals or groups of individuals as approved by law; borrowing as approved by the NEC; and any other lawful means.

Despite these proposed sources of funding, the APC has not been able to fulfill its financial obligations adequately. The party not only struggles to pay salaries of its staff but also suffers to settle debts incurred due to services rendered by individuals and organisations. Media houses are also suffering from the paucity of funds that has been plaguing the ruling party. Reliable sources attribute the development to the surreptitious fight among major party leaders. 

On this, the party’s spokesman acknowledged that they were still facing challenges. 

Abdullahi, however, said the party’s present financial situation was better than it was in the past following the remittances it received from governors and members of the National Assembly.

“We still have funding challenge, but we are managing. We are getting some states to make remittances to the party. We are getting the National Assembly to make their remittances, and all that. But it is still very difficult. We are better than where we were a couple of months back,” he said. 

When further asked to explain the reasons why it was difficult for the party to follow what was provided in its constitution with regard to the generation of funds through membership, he said, “It’s because we are following it that we have suffered. If we had chosen to follow the dark past, we have 24 state governors; we would have just asked them to start bringing money. We are experiencing this because we decided to follow the difficult path. But we will overcome these problems and things will get better.” 

Abdullahi expressed hope that the funding challenge would not affect the coming convention, saying, “It’s not likely that the convention will be frustrated now because of lack of funds.

The delay in the conduct of the party’s mid-term national convention has been a subject of controversy. The national publicity secretary had announced that the party would hold its mid-term non-elective national convention not later than April 2017, but the decision was put on hold following the return of President Buhari to the United Kingdom (UK) for medical reasons. Sources said the delay was also occasioned by the fear of the unknown after the report that Chief Odigie-Oyegun might be replaced by a former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole. This, sources said, was the reason why the party’s leadership kept stressing that the mid-term convention was non-elective. 

After persistent enquiries about the date of the convention, the APC governors decided to take the case to the former acting president, Yemi Osinbajo. But Oyegun later said that the convention would be delayed till the return of President Buhari. 

Board appointments 

The delay in the appointment of party members into the various boards of federal ministries, departments and agencies created lack of confidence in the leadership of the party. Many members are already challenging the leadership on the consideration of some PDP appointees over members of the APC. This was listed among the issues fuelling crisis in Kogi and Bauchi states.

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