By OBINNA EZUGWU
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole did apparently, make a kill with the recently concluded primary elections of the ruling party. Nomination and expression of interest forms were sold at exorbitant prices – ranging from N45million for presidency to N850,000 for state House of Assembly – and many party faithful were encouraged to buy with the promise that everyone would be given equal opportunity.
But Oshiomhole may have had other ideas. In nearly all the states of the federation, allegations of manipulation and imposition of candidates are rife. Bitterness is simmering within the ranks of the ruling party. And agitations against the chairman could represent a significant threat to the ruling party’s chances in elections in 2019, even as he is now under significant pressure from governors and other party chieftains to step aside.
The party’s governors were said to have met with President Muhammadu Buhari last week to register their grievances against the party chairman, at the end of which they insisted he should step down. The former labour leader who was once celebrated for standing for the Nigerian worker has, apparently shed his activist skin and adorned himself in the garment of personal enrichment as soon as he joined politics.
In Edo where he was governor for eight years, his most outstanding legacy remains a palatial home he built for himself in his home town. And second in that order is perhaps, the pile up of debts he left for the successor, Godwin Obaseki.
It is for his financial dealings as Edo governor that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Justice Anwuli Chikere, Tuesday ordered that court processes be served on him and for the EFCC to proceed with investigations. Justice Chikere gave the order while ruling on the exparte application brought before the court by Bishop Osadolor Ochei.
But one thing the former governor has carried with him since his days as a labour unionist is his garrulity. Since becoming APC chairman he has, in many people’s reckoning, practically destroyed the APC with his mouth. Under his watch, many of the party’s big wigs left for the opposition parties. And for each person that left, Oshiomhole had very unkind words. They were insignificant.
But it’s his handling of the APC primaries that has upset many of the party’s stakeholders, including governors who are now mounting pressure for him to resign. Indeed, some, like Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun are now threatening to dump the party for Accord Party.
There is hardly any state where the APC primary was not marred by controversy. In Bauchi, the exercise was said to have been characterised by brazen manipulation and imposition of candidates. Aggrieved aspirants in the state had alleged that there was no election held in most areas where APC declared results, while violence was also recorded in most parts, among others electoral illegalities.
The neighbouring Adamawa did not fare much better. Many of those who bought the party forms were said to have been disqualified from participating in the primaries, including, interestingly, the brother of Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, Halilu Ahmed, who was screened out the state’s governorship primary.
It was, perhaps, part of what triggered Mrs. Buhari’s outburst on Twitter few days ago. She accused the party, and its’ chairman Oshiomhole of perpetuating impunity and asked Nigerians to vote wisely.
“It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on Election Day, these forms were bought at exorbitant prices,” she wrote via her Twitter handle, @aishambuhari.
“All Progressives Congress being a party whose cardinal principle is change and headed by a comrade/activist whose main concern is for the common man, yet, such impunity could take place under his watch. Given this development one will not hesitate to DISSOCIATE from such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless.
“It is important for the populace to rise against impunity and for voters to demand from aspirants to be committed to the provision of basic amenities. It is important for the populace to rise against impunity and for voters to demand from aspirants to be committed to the provision of basic amenities such as: 1. Potable drinking water 2. Basic health care (Primary Health Care centers). Let us vote wisely!”
In Jigawa, former IGP, Barr. Suleiman Abba was screened out of the party’s Jigawa South senatorial race. Like many others, he too alluded to the hand of Oshiomhole.
On Monday last week, he led his supporters to the APC national secretariat in Abuja where he spoke to the media and stated his case and ultimately bursting into a prayer session, asking God not to allow the party’s leader to use demon style to destroy it.
“You are all aware that a list was released where I was duly cleared and another list was released delisting my name. This is not time for too much talk; this is time for prayers and I want you to join me in this prayer.
“The prayer is this: ‘Almighty God, any person copying you and your power should not be in the headquarters of this APC. Almighty God, if there is already one you know what to do so that you don’t allow him (to) continue copying you. Almighty God, any person claiming to be an officer of the APC, if he will not work with the vision and mission of the APC, Almighty God, don’t allow him to use the demon style of destroying the APC.”
But the states where the crisis is already boiling over are Ogun, Rivers, Imo, Zamfara and Borno. In Ogun governor Ibikunle Amosun who was denied the opportunity to choose his favoured governorship candidate, Hon. Kunle Akinlade is threatening to defect to Accord Party.
Amosun who is at loggerheads with Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Oshiomhole both of whom he is holding responsible for the emergence of Dapo Abiodun as governorship candidate had hoped to use his affinity with the president to get his way.
Osinbajo was said to have backed Abiodun instead of the governor’s choice candidate, Hon. Akinlade whom he had backed in an attempt to cede power to the Osun West. And Oshiomhole had ensured the former’s emergence as candidate. But it was also because he had more support than Amosun and his candidate. Indeed, the governor is said to have been at loggerheads with several political stakeholders in the state, with even his Egba constituency turning their backs on him.
It is over the outcome that he had joined other aggrieved governors who are now insisting that the party chairman should resign.
Further down South, Rivers have presented intense battle flash point. The APC is witnessing crisis of immense proportions. As was the case in Delta State, the state held parallel primaries with the Rotimi Amaechi group, the recognised faction, producing, predictably, billionaire business man, Tonye Cole. But Senator Magnus Abe emerged with a candidate of his own faction.
But it was the Amaechi group that held the highest stakes and rifts have continued even within the ranks. Indeed, before the primaries, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the APC in the state, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs accused Amaechi of trying to impose his preferred aspirant, Tonye Cole, on the party.
But Abe has so far proven his mettle. Last week, a Federal High Court in the state, presided over by Justice Chiwendu Nworgu nullified Cole’s election and indeed, the entire APC primary in the state, a decision that has effectively boxed Amaechi into a corner.
And Abe has assured that the crisis won’t end soon because of what he called the continued reign of impunity and disregard for dissenting views by some leaders of the party in the state.
“The crisis in Rivers APC began long before Sen. Abe’s thanksgiving to which Gov. Wike along with other governors, senators and ministers attended. The foundation of the crisis in the party is intolerance of dissenting views, impunity, high-handedness and lack of respect for others. Disregard for all rules and laws including the constitution of the party and even orders of courts of competent jurisdiction.
“Until this is addressed the crisis will continue and singing Wike as a song will not change anything”, the senator said in a statement on Friday.
Cole, coming from Kalabari, is an answer to the yearnings of the riverine communities who make up about 30 percent of the population, to produce governor. But his biggest threat, as it is turning out, is not just the ever formidable Governor Nyesom Wike who is seeking reelection under the PDP, but Abe who has refused to give in.
In the South East, Imo presents the most interesting scenario for the APC. While the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha had succeeded in installing his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as candidate, he is facing formidable opposition from the likes of the Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere, another in-law in Chucks Ololo, Senator Hope Uzodinma, Sir Jude Ejiogu and a host of others.
The Ahmed Gulak APC NWC that organised the governorship primary last week, declared Uzodinma winner. But the decision was reversed by Oshiomhole upon the allegation by Okorocha that the result was fake and that Gulak had, upon conniving with Uzodinma to organise fake primary, disappeared.
Oshiomhole subsequently disbanded the Gulak committee and set up another committee which organised a second primary which the other group boycotted. But things are fast getting to a head. The opposition against Okorocha and Nwosu has closed ranks and united behind Uzodinma.
And only last week, a Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice O.A Musa nullified Nwosu’s election and affirmed Uzodinma as the party’s governorship candidate. The court subsequently summoned the party and INEC to appear before it.
But as an alternative, the Uzodinma group are already holding consultations with the PDP candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, with a view to backing him should Okorocha succeed in stopping the senator from running on the APC platform.
In Borno, the State governor, Kashim Shettima is being accused of manipulating the entire primary process to ensure the emergence of his candidate, Prof Babagana Zulum as the party’s governorship flag bearer. While other aspirants have accepted the emergence of the candidate, the minister of state for power, works and housing, Mustapha Baba-Shehuri and Kashim Imam have continued to insist on cancellation of the election.
Last week, Mr. Imam released a statement saying said the cancellation became imperative because of irregularities that were allegedly perpetrated by the state government and party officials.
“The primaries were hijacked by the state governor who did not only endorse but anointed his candidate ahead of the election,” he said. Already our protest has been communicated via a letter to the National Working Committee of the APC to that effect.”
In the North, Zamfara State is probably the most crisis ridden as far as APC primary is concerned. The state’s primary, predictably, turned into a war, prompting its cancellation. The state governor, Abdulaziz Yari is facing stiff opposition in his attempt to impose his favoured governorship candidate, Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris.
He had noted before the primaries, that it was going to be “no nonsense” and “fire for fire”. It turned out to be so.
The other candidates who had united against the governor, including the Deputy Governor, Ibrahim Wakala; Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa; former governor, Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi; Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali; Dauda Lawal; Rep Aminu Jaji; Abubakar Magaji and Sagir Hamidu, mounted stiff challenge, which not only ensured that the governor’s candidate lost out, but that the governor himself risked losing out in his senate bid.
The ensuing crisis prompted its cancellation and the party chairman, Oshiomhole promising to constitute new NWC to organise the primary at a new date. But it was a proposition the governor staunchly opposed, threatening war should anyone come to the state.
In the end, Zamfara was not able to produce candidates before the INEC date elapsed. But Oshiomhole who could do all things with his mouth has promised to use his “powers” as APC chairman to supply INEC with list of aspirants.
Yari is one of the governors who have continued to meet with President Buhari to press for Oshiomhole’s ouster.