Published On: Tue, Jun 19th, 2018

APC in dilemma over nPDP as convention holds

. We cannot be underestimated – Baraje

…we are hopeful of having our old members back – PDP

By OBINNA EZUGWU

This Saturday June 23, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will hold its all important national convention, the first since the crisis-ridden party took power in 2015, and it promises to be the defining moment in what has been months long rift over allegations of marginalisation by the New PDP faction of the party.

The APC has, however, with the swearing-in of state chairmen few days ago, managed to dampen the flame of crisis resulting from wards, local and state congresses which once seemed poised to rip it apart. And as far as Saturday’s convention goes, former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole is all clear to lead the party as its new chairman.

Having received the endorsement of all that matter in the party, including Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande and as well as the party’s governors, Oshiomhole would only head to the convention ground for formalisation.

But the post of chairman is only one of many National Working Committee (NWC) positions up for the taking and in all, there are over 176 aspirants jostling for different positions according to the chairman of the screening sub-committee of the National Convention Planning Committee, Aminu Masari who spoke in Abuja on Sunday last week.

Gov. Masari of Katsina state, stated that over 176 party members had purchased and submitted forms for screening.

“The total number of aspirants nationwide is about 179, although specifically, I cannot immediately tell you their geographic spread,” he said.

But the New PDP faction of the party comprising at the time, five sitting governors, including those of Sokoto, Kano, Kwara, Adamawa and Rivers States, and former Governors of Kebbi, Gombe, Osun, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, former acting National Chairman of PDP, sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives, many serving members of the National Assembly and many renowned politicians and PDP Elders, who moved to the APC in 2014, dealing a huge blow to the then ruling party, will be the biggest factor on the day.

The faction had cried foul over the way its members were “marginalized” in the wards, local and state congresses held and sought for outstanding issues to be sorted out prior to the convention on Saturday, but it hasn’t quite happened and Saturday holds all the stakes.

The defection of the New PDP members to the APC was the turning point for the APC; it was the moment the party took control of the bulk of the states and even the National Assembly and was convincingly poised to take power from the PDP. However, the group has been depleted as some of its key members such as Rotimi Amaechi minister of Transportation, Gov. of Adamawa state, and Kano state, Gandhuje etc have joined forces with Buhari.

It’s this feat that the group is threatening to replicate by leaving the APC in droves, and having seen talks with the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo break down over allegations of insincerity on the part of the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government, a lot will now depend on how the party is able to protect the interest of the block at Saturday’s convention.

In a protest letter a few weeks ago, spokesperson for the New PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje had outlined several grievances of the group, which principally bothered on perceived marginalisation, and requested a meeting with the President or the Vice President to, according to him, “find lasting solutions to the issues raised so as to prepare the party as a fighting force to deliver more pungently on its manifesto and face the 2019 General Elections with even greater commitment.”

The meeting, he had said, “will also enable us to work out modalities to ensure a level playing field for all in the Congresses and Convention of the APC.”

But it didn’t quite happen. Although the group’s request was granted, and talks with Osinbajo proceeded, they would later pull out of the engagement in the aftermath of Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s invitation by the police over allegations of funding the Offa robbery attack in Kwara State.

Announcing the decision to pull out of the talks, fortnight ago, Baraje said the presidency was negotiating in bad faith and was intent on blackmailing the principal members of the group.

“While we are truly and earnestly committed to achieving reconciliation, harmony, truce and cohesion in the APC as we approach the 2019 general elections, it appears that the Presidency is not interested in the talks and that they may have been negotiating in bad faith,” he said in a statement.

“We were alarmed that immediately after our meeting with the Vice President last week, the presidency misrepresented what transpired at the meeting by trying to blackmail some of the principal actors involved in the discussions in a national daily.

“Similarly, the leadership of the party (APC) went ahead to ratify all the Congresses from ward, local governments, states and zonal where many of our members have complaints, effectively presenting us with a fait accompli.

“The persecution of our members by using state security apparatus has continued unabated. We recognize the powers of the Police to conduct criminal investigations but by rushing to the public with the issue even when they have unfettered access to the leadership of the National Assembly   suggest an attempt to undermine, caricature and humiliate the institution of the legislature.”

The group noted further that:

“It appears that there is a fouled and toxic atmosphere and environment of intimidation and threat to life in which we now find ourselves which may no longer be conducive for members of the former nPDP to continue with the talks.

“Given the unfolding events in the last 24 hours, where the President of the Senate, His Excellency, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and His Excellency, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, the Executive Governor of Kwara State, both of whom attended the meeting with the Vice President on Monday 28 May, 2018, have suddenly been accused of sponsoring armed robbery by the Police under the directives of the Presidency.”

At the moment, the group’s fate hangs in the balance, and if handled in a way that does not adequately cater to their interest, the convention might be the tipping point that could see them opt out of the party.

Last week, Adamawa Central Senator, Abdulaziz Nyako gave the biggest hint yet on the plot of the New PDP when he told his supporters that he was preparing with the teeming supporters of his father and former Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako, to leave the APC due to marginalization and that he had spoken to former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso among others who assured him that there was a new party coming up.

“We have no option than to go; but we are still discussing the party to move to with our entire structure. I have spoken with Prof. Jerry Gana in SDP. I also spoke with Attahiru Bafarawa and fixed an appointment for him with Admiral Nyako. Bafarawa wants us to return to PDP,” he said.

“On Thursday, I went to Abeokuta and sat with (Olusegun) Obasanjo about ADC. He directed me to see Col. Oyinlola who assured us that we will be absorbed with our structures if we join the party. I also spoke with Kwankwaso before the congresses.”

He noted that the former Kano governor spoke to him about a new party coming up, emphasising that he was happy they were leaving the APC before it was too late.

“I was given the party’s constitution about a month ago, it’s a new party expected to be approved soon with four others by INEC.

“We have done this before, when we left PDP to form APC and this time around by the grace of God, our movement will not be in vain,” Mr Nyako said.

Meanwhile, the PDP said it is looking forward to receiving the New PDP back to the party’s fold where they originally belonged and that the party has learned its lessons.

“We are praying that God should let it happen (their return). We hope that the New PDP members and other members also will return,” said Mr. Taofic Gani, Lagos Publicity Secretary of the PDP.

“It’s dawning on everybody now and we are regretting it, we have no reason to deny that and it was a big mistake that we didn’t listen to the Northerners then on the issue of rotational presidency.

“If PDP had brought out anybody from the North, we would have won that election. It is the fact that Jonathan was candidate that led to the anti party activities.

“It was not an election against Jonathan’s performance; it was an election against his personality. Jonathan performed very well as everyone can see now, but it was an election against his personality. It was like, yes, you are a good man, but it’s not your turn, and that is what we are all regretting now.

“So, if we can get our acts together; if all these people can come back to the party, there is no way APC can win in 2019.”

He noted that as it stands, President Buhari cannot win in 2019 and his decision to contest is an attempt to destroy the country.

“As it is, Buhari is only showing desperation by deciding to recontest, probably because he wants to destroy this country, and I say this boldly.

‘If he does not want to destroy this country, he should step aside because all the indices that showed he was going to win in 2015, has shown now that he cannot win. So if it is obvious that he cannot win but because he is the incumbent, he wants to go into it, then there is something to it.”

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