By Adebayo Obajemu
The All Progressives Congress, the ruling party, may have inadvertently driven itself into a wedge latched on to a throne of bayonet on account of its internal contradiction, conflicting interests and geopolitical concerns. Last week’s decision by the Supreme Court voiding the position Caretaker chairman, Governor Mala Buni of Yobe state in the Ondo state governorship election that almost toppled Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in four to three split decision, has further thrown spanner in the works of the party.
Right before their the party faces a repeat of the Zamfara and Rivers’ states outcomes in the 2019 polls which saw the party lose the states to internal crisis. Governor Buni was installed by the Presidency, fronting for the northern faction, after ousting Adams Oshiomhole, perceived as loyal to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, from office. By the decision, the Supreme Court has thrown the party into disarray and back to square one.
For a party that came to power in 2015 by popular acclaim, the road to 2023 may well be a bumpy one as nearly all state branches are torn apart by ambitions, internal wrangling and inabilities to manage internal crises, and more poignantly the politics of 2023 presidential race.
Only last week, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, had sounded an alarm when he warned that unless something urgent was done to remove Buni-led caretaker committee, the All Progressives Congress would be heading for a heady crisis, citing the close -shave judgment of the Supreme Court in the case between Governor Akeredolu and Eyitayo Jegede of the People’s Democratic party.
“Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution which states that a sitting Governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever is clear. In other words, had Buni been joined in the suit, the story may have been different today as we would have lost Ondo State to the PDP,” Mr. Keyamo said.
According to him, had Jegede joined Buni in the suit, Akeredolu would have lost the case. The vote of no confidence on Buni-led caretaker was again reinforced by two presidential aides: Babafemi Ojudu and Ita Enang. The duo have joined Keyamo to demand the removal of Yobe State Governor, Mala Buni, as interim chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Babafemi Ojudu, the special adviser to the president on political matters and Ita Enang, the senior special assistant to the president on Niger Delta affairs, in a joint statement last Thursday, questioned the legality of Mr. Buni’s leadership. Messrs Ojudu and Enang are former senators and members of the ruling APC.
The duo, in a statement shared on Mr. Ojudu’s Facebook wall, said the Supreme Court judgment in favour of the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, is a narrow victory for the party that had again brought to the fore subdued concerns and agitations of many members of the party.
“It has long been in contention whether unelected officers of a political party can exercise the powers of party vested in the Chairman and officers of the Party who ought, by Party’s Constitution to be elected at duly convened convention of the Party at the National level and congresses at State and other levels.
“A cursory reading of the Minority judgment, we submit, appears to have swept the carpet of legality off the CECPC rendering it illegal, null, void and of no legal capacity to undertake any action on behalf and in the name of the Party.
“It has also brought to question the legality of ALL the actions taken by him since inception,” the duo said. It appears the party is bent on self immolation even before 2023.
Pointers to this are legion, but the most recent is the fact that despite warnings from Keyamo, duo of Ojudu and Ennang and other aggrieved members, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said its July 31 ward congresses nationwide will hold as planned.
The party at a press briefing held in Abuja told its members to ignore statements from some of the party leaders calling for the removal of the Gov. Mala Buni-led caretaker committee.
The presidential aides warned that if the caretaker committee organised the congresses, it could lead to legal tussles and ultimately affect the party’s outing in 2023.
However, the APC at its emergency press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, told members to disregard the trio as their ‘personal opinions” had little effect on the legitimacy. Competent sources told Business Hallmark that the Buni affair is hydra-headed, citing his rift with the Senate president.
Credible sources said the desire of both men to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 was responsible for the strained relationship between the two gladiators who are both from Yobe State.
Recall that Ahmed Lawan, who represents Yobe North Senatorial District in the Senate, nominated Buni, a former National Secretary of APC, for the position of Caretaker Chairman af¬ter the dissolution of the Adams Os¬hiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) by the National Executive Commit-tee (NEC) of the party.
It was gathered then that Lawan, by virtue of his po¬sition as the president of the 9th Senate, is interested in succeeding President Buhari in 2023 if the APC decides to zone the ticket to the North as being canvassed in some quarters.
Sources also said that Buni’s nomination as the caretaker committee chair¬man has put Lawan in a strong position as one of the major contenders for the presidential ticket of the APC. Lawan, however, denied that he was interested in the presidency but focused on his role as Nigeria’s number three citizen.
A competent source told this medium that both men are not on speaking terms owing to Buni’s interest in the presidential race. According to him, Lawan is peeved that Buni is using his position as the APC Caretaker Chairman to garner support for himself ahead of the presidential primary of the party.
The greatest challenge facing the party is at the state level. From Akwa Ibom to Kwara, from Kaduna to Ekiti, in virtually all the states, the party is in crisis.
On its own, the internal crisis rocking the Akwa Ibom State chapter has deepened as the party faithful allegedly loyal to Senator John Akpanuudoedehe tackled Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio over the leadership ahead of 2023.
The party at a meeting at the recently dismissed the leadership status accorded Akpabio during one of the stakeholders meeting held last month in the state, convened by a chieftain, Sam Ewang , a former military administrator.
Key officials of the party, including Senator Akpabio, Obong Nsima Ekere, Sam Ewang, among others reportedly shunned the weekend parley where the leadership status was squashed. Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, in a swift response, however stated that he has no plan to foist a gubernatorial candidate on the party as being insinuated in the political circle in the state.
It was observed that many factional members loyal to Senator Akpanudoedehe stayed away from the recent launch of Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum (ADF), a political pressure group floated by Akpabio.
In Kwara, the recent decision by some top shots of the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress to form a “Third Force” has worsened the protracted leadership crisis in the party.
For the state chapter of the party, it is crisis everywhere. It has been a herculean task since the party took over the baton of leadership as there have been dissenting voices among the forces that converged in 2019 to sack the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the leadership of former Senate President Bukola Saraki.
There has been war of supremacy between the governor and some other major stakeholders across the three senatorial districts that hitherto worked for his election, including those holding strategic positions in government at the centre, such as Information and culture minister, Lai Mohammed, over his style of leadership.
Such opposing gladiators include the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, former chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Professor Shuaib Oba and former chairman of the PDP, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, among others.
According to insiders, the war now threatening to tear the party apart started shortly after the governor emerged as its gubernatorial candidate. After the governor’s swearing in and sensing opposition to his politics, Abdulrazaq moved to consolidate hold on power and build clout to muzzle internal opposition to his position within the party. Politicians said to be loyal to him formed a group called AA Forum, with “overriding powers.”
There has been clamour for power shift to the Southern part of the country when the eight years tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner elected on the platform of APC expired in 2023.
However, APC governors, who are major power brokers, said the party belongs to all Nigerians and everyone from every part of the country is free to aspire for any position in the party in line with provisions of the party’s constitution and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
However, not too long ago, the Southern Governors Forum canvassed for rotational presidency, adding that it is the turn of the South to produce president come 2023.
Sources close to Also Rock told Business Hallmark that Buhari and his core circles are in a dilemma over how to handle the Tinubu affair, in respect of the latter’s presidential ambition. The source further hinted that the presidency is shopping for the younger, popular candidate who will be acceptable to Nigerians.
To this end, there are alleged underground manouevres by some forces within the ruling to prevail on the National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to cede his yet to be declared presidential ambition and step down for a younger candidate come 2023.
Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, said that the party would have to “navigate the Tinubu bend tactically due to the role the former governor of Lagos State played in the merger of APC and election of President Buhari in 2015 and 2019 respectively.”
It was also learnt that President Buhari was being very careful not to take any action that would ruffle Tinubu’s feathers, though, there is a strong indication that the Presidency has set up a team of credible Nigerians to shop for an acceptable successor of Buhari on the platform of the ruling party.
This, it was gathered was to ensure cohesion within the party having come to an understanding of the likely problems the issue of who succeeds the incumbent might create for the country, if not appropriately addressed.
The Presidency,it was learnt is bothered by the Lagos declaration by the Southern Governors’ Forum (SGF) that the Presidency must come to the South in 2023 just as it is also ruminating over the possible consequences of demand by some in North-Central and North-East.
The source hinted that the Presidency had enlisted fact-finding groups to carry out background checks on gladiators ahead of the next general election. Aware of the divisive nature of his presidency and the need not to allow the country to break, it was learnt that Buhari was determined to ensure that his successor is capable of ensuring the unity and security of Nigeria.
Another source, which is privy to one of the teams, disclosed that many interest groups had been visited to sample their opinions on the qualities the next president should possess. The presidential team, it was gathered had started meeting religious, traditional, and political leaders across the country, saying their findings will “guide President Buhari and the party in making good decisions ahead of 2023.
How this will pan out is anyone’s guess considering the serious crises the party is facing in at least four states controlled by it despite the recent report of clean bill of health submitted by the party’s Caretaker /Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC).
The states are Kwara, Ogun, Rivers and Imo.
The party leadership is said to be watching events in Kano, and Zamfara State where Governor Bello Matawalle defected from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC. The crises in some states may have been partly responsible for the postponement of the congresses of the party which were originally scheduled to commence on July 24.
Sources said the National Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Governor Mai Mala Buni, and his team is considering far-reaching reconciliation in the some key states.
The Caretaker Committee has already invited one of the key actors in Kwara State, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who is the Minister of Information, for a reconciliation/fact-finding meeting on July 13.
Buni met separately on July 14 in Abuja with the party’s three senators from Kwara State on the crisis.
According to investigation, the party leadership is worried that the crises in Kwara, Ogun, Rivers and Imo states may affect its fortunes in the 2023 general election if they are not resolved now. Sources attributed the crises to the struggle for the control the party structure in the states ahead of the primaries for the 2023 polls.
Sources say the main problem in Kwara, Ogun and Imo is that the governors want to be in charge of the party structure to seal their second term mandate but other APC leaders are opposed to it.
In Ogun, sources hinted that Amosun wanted to regain the party structure he lost in 2019 to produce a governor who will be loyal to him. But with the huge war-chest at his disposal and the power of incumbency, the governor may be difficult to defeat in free and fair congresses and primaries.
The only window left for Amosun is to wield federal might (The Cabal influence) to seize or win the party structure.
In the case of Imo State, the crisis in the state has emanated from a straight forward battle between Governor Hope Uzodinma and Senator Rochas Okorocha. The recent clampdown on Okorocha’s assets has compounded the strain in the relationship between Okorocha and Uzodinma.
In Rivers State, the crisis there is still between the Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe. It is believed that the problem with APC in Rivers is being fuelled by external forces since Amaechi regained the party’s structure after a prolonged court battle.
But with alleged backing of some external forces, Senator Magnus Abe is still a threat to any meaningful reconciliation in the APC in Rivers State. Abe, who is said to be not on the list of registered APC members in the state, may resort to court action which can derail the party again in 2023.
It is most likely that the strategy of some of the external forces is to destabilise the base of Amaechi ahead of the 2023 presidential race. Being a staunch ally of Buhari, they do not want to give Amaechi any breathing space. Stalwarts of PDP in Rivers State have been mentioned as the sponsors of the crisis rocking APC in the state.”
As for Zamafara State, Governor Matawalle has to contend with ex-Governor Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa who have not accepted the governor as the leader of APC in the state.