Speaking to Sunday Trust during the weekend, the National Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, indicated that the party’s presidential candidate on two occasions, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, left the party in good faith, although his group, the Buhari Organisation (TBO), would make his departure seem different.
“When we read his letter, it was quite interesting. It was not abusive, as we used to have it from his group, the Buhari Organization. Usually when we talk about ANPP they shower abuses on us. We wish Buhari a lot of luck,” Ume-Ezeoke said.
After months, even years of speculations that Buhari was leaving the ANPP, he finally put in his letter of resignation earlier in the month, mentioning ‘irreconcilable differences with the party’ as his reasons for quitting. He went directly into one of the newest parties, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
The ANPP presidential candidate in the 2003 and 2007 elections left the ANPP with a trail of claims that his departure had badly depleted and weakened the party, against counterclaims that the ANPP remained strong without Buhari.
Buhari and the ANPP began to go their separate ways not long after the April 14, 2007 presidential election when the party pulled out of the case it had instituted at the presidential election tribunal challenging the declaration of President Umaru Yar’Adua by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the 2007 presidential election.
The strangeness of ANPP’s situation was accentuated by the reality that Ume-Ezeoke who was Buhari’s running mate in the 2007 polls not only led the ANPP out of the court, leaving Buhari all alone; he also talked the party into the controversial Government of National Unity (GNU) mounted by President Umaru Yar’adua, a move by the ANPP which separated the party and Buhari further apart. Buhari was stoutly opposed to the GNU idea for the reason that, as he put it, “The 2007 poll has been the biggest electoral fraud Nigeria has ever known.”
He had asked, “How can I be a part of this obvious fraud?”
THE BEGINNING OF BUHARI’S EXIT
The relationship between Buhari and the party had worsened progressively from then on. It became a matter of what time he would walk out of the party.
When he finally made the move out of the party some two weeks ago, his supporters who appeared to be all set to mass out with him did so, it has been reported, including, of course, those in his home state Katsina, and those in Kano, the state where he has been said to be even more popular.
Daily Trust of February 8 reported that hundreds of members of ANPP, including the leadership and prominent stalwarts of the party in the PDP-led state ‘have denounced their membership of the party and crossed over’ to the newly registered CPC.
The report named the prominent persons that resigned their membership of the ANPP to include Surveyor Murtala Ibrahim Safana, Hon Hadi Sirika, Hon Lawal Garba and Hon Yusuf Sule Maiyawo, Hon Tukur Idris Nadabo ‘who spoke for the elders’, as well as Habibu Sule and Abashe Mashi ‘who represented the State Working Committee and the 34 local council chairmen respectively.’
Much like a pendulum, Kano State chapter of the All Nigeria Peoples Party is perceived by many as being no longer stable as Buhari, alongside other party strongmen, bowed out. Soon after he tendered his exit letter to the party’s national secretariat, politicians in the ANPP came in droves to throw in their party membership cards. While some spoke of defecting directly into the Congress for Progressive Change, others kept mom about their new political party.
‘ANPP HAS NO DEMOCRATIC CULTURE’
A founding member of the party and former deputy governor of Kano State Engineer Magaji Abdullahi was among the heavyweight politicians who voluntarily took their marching order out of the party.
Engineer Magaji said he was leaving the party because there was no justice from its leadership. He said the party was not democratic in nature, and that the recent party’s congress in the state was a sham.
Alhaji Ahmadu Haruna Zago, a former Political Adviser to Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, said he left the ANPP alongside General Buhari because the party does not have democratic culture. Alhaji Zago lost his job, it is said when he openly showed allegiance to Buhari and criticised the state government’s policies.
While criticising the state chapter of the ANPP for ‘manipulating election and imposing candidates on the party,’ Zago held that General Buhari’s exit from the party was a decision taken after due consultations.
He said Buhari is forging ahead with his life and that he is the presidential material to beat at the presidential poll due in 2011.
Former Member of the House of Representatives, Umar El-Yakub also joined the bandwagon, saying General Buhari was their political mentor and that they were ready to follow him to any party he defects to.
Senator Rufa’i Sani Hanga who once represented Kano Central Senatorial District at the Senate is also among the key members of the ANPP that dumped the party because of General Buhari’s exit. His exit, like that of Sule Yahya Hamma, Danbilki Kwamanda, Balarabe Wakili, Nasiru Sa’idu Adhama, among others, did not surprise the people.
But the political decision of a serving senator, Mohammed Bello, seems to hang in the balance as he neither showed much allegiance to the ANPP as before, nor tendered his resignation. But, speaking to Sunday Trust in an interview published last Sunday, Senator Bello described Buhar’s exit as a big blow to the party.
Another big fish that jumped out of the ANPP on the day General Buhari did is a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Shekarau, Alhaji Sagir Panshekara. The former chairman of Kumbotso Local Government Council said they were leaving because they wer not enjoying their stay in the party, and that their mentor’s presence was what delayed their walking out.
Panshekara, who dumped his position alongside his party membership, declared that wherever General Buhari took a step politically, they would follow suit.
However, the state chapter of the ANPP last week reacted to the exit of Buhari from the party, saying the party’s former presidential flag bearer exercised his political rights by moving out to another political turf.
The chairman of the Kano chapter of the ANPP, Alhaji Sani Hashim Hotoro made the remark while addressing a press conference, saying the ANPP recognizes the right of its individual members to take their own decision and that based on that, Buhari as an elder of the party equally enjoys such right.
“If one of our elders took a decision to step out, we cannot change that decision. Buhari is a man of honour in the eyes of the Kano ANPP,” Hotoro said.
Another leading member of the party in the state, Hon Suleiman A. Kawu Sumaila, adopts the same ‘Good luck to Buhari’ approach. Speaking to Sunday Trust early last week, Hon Kawu who is the Deputy Minority Leader in the House of Representatives said it was all right for him whatever Buhari made up his mind to do.
He said, “We gave him our support. We voted for him twice in his quest to become president under our party. I pray for him.”
Kano remains about the most pronounced of the theatre of brushes which Buhari had while in the ANPP. It has been strange considering that the state is widely believed to have also been where he got his biggest support in the two times he sought to become president. He was so popular in Kano that it was said the incumbent governor Ibrahim Shekarau won his election as governor in 2003 chiefly because Buhari was in Kano to present him to the people just before that election. But the relationship between the two soon soured and Shekarau went into the 2007 election with reservation being expressed by some that because Buhari and Shekarau had parted ways, Shekarau would be highly unlikely to get his re-election bid.
While Buhari remained patched in an ANPP he had so much trouble relating with where it concerned Governor Shekarau, members of Buhari’s TBO blamed Shekarau of being ungrateful to Buhari and refusing to accord him due regard. The members were therefore in constant altercations with the Shekarau camp.
TBO WAS BUHARI’S PROBLEM
On their part, members of the Shekarau camp blame the TBO of being the problem that Buhari had.
“TBO people were not helping Buhari,” a former aid of the governor, Alhaji Hassan Indabawa, told Sunday Trust last night. He added, “The TBO fought Governor Shekarau more than the opposition PDP. Their exit will not affect the ANPP. Those who are complaing are people who wanted favours that Shekarau did not consider wise to grant.”
The Governor’s spokesman Sule Yau Sule toed similar lines. He said, “It’s unfortunate that Buhari had to leave. Nobody wants to lose a family member, especially when such family member happens to be as important as your former presidential candidate. But, it’s Okay. The ANPP will forge ahead. We had eight state governors before he joined the party. Buhari’s people were the ones who didn’t treat him well. They were more interested in their own personal interests than the interests of Buhari. But, on a personal level, Governor Shekarau had no problem with Buhari and he did so much for Buhari.”