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Published On: Sun, Jul 15th, 2018

Coalition against Buhari: Birds of different feathers

… APGA may be the president’s answer

By OBINNA EZUGWU

With a promise to “rescue Nigeria,” and rescue everybody and everything the Coalition of United Political Party (CUPP) signed off at the end of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony that brought it to be on Monday in Abuja. It is a coalition that even President Muhammadu Buhari’s long time strategist, Kayode Ogundamisi admits, is “truly worrisome for the APC, especially the president, Muhammadu Buhari.”

President, Muhammadu Buhari,

But an unlikely ally, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) could provide the president with much needed moral bolster going into the 2019 polls.

Formed by a merger of 35 political parties, including the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP) Social Democratic Party (SDP), Action Democratic Party (ADP) and many others, the coalition has in its rank political heavyweights such as former vice president and presidential hopeful, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; former Kano state governor and another presidential hopeful, Musa Kwankwaso; Senate President, Bukola Saraki, yet another presidential hopeful; House of Reps Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; Buhari’s long term ally, Buba Galadima, and virtually all governors of the PDP.

The CUPP is, in every sense, a marriage of convenience; the type that brought the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to be in 2013, and certainly Buhari’s seat is now more threatened than ever. With now a clear majority in both chambers of the National Assembly, the Reformed APC (R-APC) having joined forces with the PDP, it’s looking very much like Deja Vu for the APC.

In 2013, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje led a group of PDP stalwarts, including Saraki, Kwankwaso, Dogara, Atiku, Attahiru Bafarawa and many others to join the newly formed APC as nPDP, in a move that effectively sealed the then ruling party’s fate. This time, it is Buba Galadima leading the same crop of politicians out of APC and back into a PDP-led alliance in the name of R-APC.

It was in part, the mass disaffection against the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan promoted as being grossly corrupt, that provided the lifeblood for the APC in the lead up to 2015 election, and ensured that the party was able to achieve victory in 2015; it is the same mass disaffection with Buhari whose government is accused of thriving in nepotism, incompetence and of abetting genocide, that has led to the coming onboard of CUPP.

“It’s an interesting development. It’s truly worrisome for the APC, especially the president, Muhammadu Buhari,” Ogundamisi told Channels TV. “Let us look at the man leading the charge in the R-APC (Galadima), people can call him rabble rouser, but this is one guy I know that President Buhari himself would not take on face value.

“He is a grassroots mobilizer and I think the inability of the President to provide leadership for his political party has led to disaffection right from within the leadership of the National Assembly and some governors within the political party, but I don’t think the coalition is something that would bring automatic victory for the PDP.”

Senate aspirant, Chief Abia Onyike told Business Hallmark that the CUPP merger is a very positive development that would lead to the removal of a “dictator like Buhari.”

“It’s a very positive development because to remove a dictator like Buhari you need a very cohesive opposition front, which is what they are doing. It’s a merger, a coalition of several political parties. And of course, it is coming on the heels of the division in his political party.

“You need all the forces, including other popular democratic organisations within the society to be in the alliance, so that you will have a popular democratic movement to push him out power.”

While many have raised concerns about the possibility of the divergent interests in the coalition reaching a consensus, Onyike insists that such concerns are unfounded.

“It’s a merger, it’s not an ordinary coalition. All the political parties that are represented would drop their individual identities and adopt a common name. A merger produced the APC, a new merger is now producing CUPP so all those fears are unfounded. They would have single candidates for all the positions.”

Describing the MoU as a watershed moment towards the consolidation of democracy, politics of purpose and citizens centred development in Nigeria, Atiku expressed confidence that it would bring an end to the “negative change brought by Buhari and his group in the country.”

However, in the face of what is seemingly an insurmountable obstacle facing a president whose goodwill has vastly eroded on account of poor leadership, help might come handy for him from the most unlikely source, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), a party formed by Chief Chekwas Okorie with the aim of advancing the political interests of the East.

APGA was conspicuously missing when the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and 34 other political parties signed the landmark Memorandum of Understanding that gave birth to CUPP on Monday.

Although formed by Chief Okorie, APGA is a party more easily associated with former Biafra leader, the Late Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. It is common, till this day, to see the bold face of Ojukwu, easily the most revered leader of the Igbo drawn conspicuously on every APGA logo, with the inscription, “Nkea bu nkeanyi” (this is our own).

Cashing in on Ojukwu’s wide acceptance among the Igbo had been the party’s most effective winning strategy, a strategy that had seen it retain Anambra State since 2006, win in Imo in 2011, and was only beaten in Abia by what many believe to be the “rigging machinery” of the PDP in 2015.

The decision of the party to stay away from the CUPP merger can easily be understood in the context of preserving this identity, but more than that, BusinessHallmark has learnt it is planning an alliance with the APC going into 2019, a scenario that could come as a shock to many in its traditional support base.

But it has always been in the making. In Anambra, the only state the party controls presently and which serves as its de facto headquarters, the governor, Chief Willie Obiano has had a relatively long standing affinity with President Buhari, an affinity that started soon after Buhari was declared winner of the presidential election in 2015.

Obiano had led a large delegation of state officials to congratulate him and promise to work with him. This affinity was further strengthened in November last year after the governorship election that saw the governor win a second term by landslide.

Obiano, and indeed his party, sources said, concluded that the level playing field the president provided during the 2017 governorship election warranted reciprocation. From time, a political alliance of sorts had developed between the governor and the Dr. Chris Ngige, Buhari’s Minister of Labour and Productivity, an alliance that is more or less a marriage of convenience to spite ex-governor Peter Obi.

Obi, it was who brought to an end Ngige’s chequered reign as governor between 2003 and 2006 when he reclaimed his mandate through the court. And the former governor, who moved from APGA to PDP soon after handing over to Obiano, has been at loggerheads with the governor. He had vowed to do all within his powers to ensure that Obiano did not return elected in the November polls, and had deployed his political arsenal to back then PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze.

In a sense therefore, Obiano’s leaning towards Buhari has a lot to do with issues of local politics and in part because APGA doesn’t have enough national reach to challenge, effectively, for power at the centre.

Since the formation of APGA in 2003, the only time it fielded a presidential candidate was that same year when Ojukwu ran on its platform. Since then, the party had always gone into an alliance with the party at the centre, having backed the PDP in subsequent elections in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Ahead of 2019, party sources say, it may not be any different.

“As you know, APGA does not have the national reach to prosecute presidential election successfully,” a source said. “And yes, we are happy with the way Buhari handled Anambra election. So, endorsing him would not be a bad idea.”

The Abia State chairman of the party, Reverend Austin Ehiemere fell short of confirming the proposed alliance to BusinessHallmark, insisting that he had not been permitted to speak on the issue, but had unkind words for the PDP-led alliance and only praises for President Buhari.

Ehiemere insisted that the CUPP is a merger formed out of greed and that Buhari should be left to continue governing the country.

“It is done out of greed, selfishness and desperation for power,” Ehiemere said. “PDP has been in power for many years, but no impact. In Abia State, it is a regrettable experience. If you come to Abia, you have pity on the people. No salary, no pensions.

“They should allow Buhari who has fought corruption headlong. Is there any president that has fought corruption headlong as Buhari has done? Corruption is one of the major problems that we have; it is also corruption that has made many youths to be used by politicians and left to become militants in the end, that’s why you have militancy and Boko Haram. It started from the PDP government.”

However, not many chieftains of the party have bought into idea of supporting Buhari. One time governorship aspirant in Lagos State and a chieftain of the party, Barr Okey Okoroji insisted the party will not go into an alliance with Buhari whom he accused of being a dictator driven by nepotism. According to him, APGA will present its own presidential candidate because “APC is becoming steadily unpopular and PDP is hemorrhaging.”

Indeed, given the president’s lack of popularity in the South East, the conclusion by many is that an alliance with Buhari may only serve to ruin APGA’s reputation.

“I don’t think APGA would do such a thing as supporting an evil government,” said social media commentator, Henry Odenigbo. “However, if it is true, that will be their Waterloo.”

Another Facebook user, Patrick Nwafor noted: “Their demise, a political party is close-by.”

And for Chidi Onyemaizu, the party “will die and never resurrect” if it backs the president.

Indeed, there is a groundswell of resentment towards the president in the South East as many blame him for failing to tackle killings across the country and failing to grow the economy. Obiano and the APGA leadership would have a hard job sailing the president to the South East electorate, and as many have pointed out, they could risk the popularity of the party by so doing.

 

 

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