In this piece, JOHN ALECHENU takes a cursory look at the rising stakes in the opposition All Progressives Congress.
The All Progressives Congress, like Nigeria started, with a lot of promises. It so far remains the only opposition political party to have successfully emerged from a fusion of elements which had a lot of regional strength, but lacked the national spread. Its rise, pundits argue, rekindled the hope that perhaps, for once, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, will face a real test of its popularity at the polls.
However, after a near seamless transition from being independent fingers of the same hand into becoming a fist ready to punch, personal egos and the scramble for territories are threatening to destroy all the party’s founding fathers have laboured to build. Less than one year after its registration, internal strife which, if not properly managed, can bring the opposition tower down, is rearing its head.
What began as muffled complaints among dissatisfied members of the three defunct parent parties namely: the Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change, and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, is slowly becoming a festering sore which threatens the very core of APC’s existence.
Squabbles within some state chapters have led to the early exit of some of the party’s foundation members such as a former governor of Kano State Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, a former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Atahiru Bafarawa, as well as a former Lagos State Military Administrator, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (retd). Further cracks in the party’s structure appeared at the end of the recently concluded state congresses.
A recently declassified memo written to the National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, by its National Vice Chairman, South-South, Chief Tom Ikimi, underscores the dire situation the party is set to confront as its leaders meet in Abuja, today.
The memo dated May 1, 2014, which was ordinarily meant for internal consumption, surprisingly found its way into the public domain. Its contents revealed the underbelly of the trouble within. Although it was an expose of happenings within the South-South geopolitical zone, issues contained therein hold true across the country. Ikimi said in the memo, “I am compelled to express strong reservations on the present state of affairs in our party and my heart bleeds when I look back at the efforts and personal sacrifice many of us made to bring this national platform to fruition.”
True to his prediction, a few days after his memo reached its destination, a number of pioneer members in Ikimi’s home state of Edo, defected to the opposition PDP.
Leading the pack was one-time national vice-chairman South-South of the defunct ACN, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The defectors had demanded that the state congress be cancelled and a fresh one conducted.
A similar scenario is playing out in Ogun State where parallel congresses were held with a national officer and former Governor of the State, Chief Segun Osoba and incumbent Governor Ibikunle Amosun, leading factions of the party.
As at the last count, many members of the National Assembly from the state have long before now pitched their political tent with the former governor.
Preparations by Amosun’s loyalists to inaugurate an executive were put on hold after the national headquarters of the party intervened.
It was learnt that the national headquarters stepped in to safeguard the integrity of its appeal panel earlier set up to deal with complains arising from the state congress. The party is yet to receive and consider the panel’s report.
The situation in Oyo State is not any different. Leading figures of the party especially members of the defunct ACN are said to be unhappy with Governor Abiola Ajimobi. For reasons that are not yet clear, they appear bent on derailing his re-election bid.
Although the congress held in Lagos was largely hitch-free, a rumour that the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has already endorsed one of the aspirants as the governorship candidate of the party in the next elections is ruffling feathers. Tinubu has since denied the allegation.
The struggle for the control of the party structure in the states is also said to have polarised national leaders of the party with some falling back on their former party structures to gain leverage.
Keen observers of happenings within the party predict that political maneuvers ahead of the 2015 elections will definitely throw up more challenges which will test the resolve of stakeholders.
While party members in Edo State did not have the patience to exploit the party’s internal conflict resolution mechanism, their counterparts in Anambra succeeded, as a fresh congress was conducted.
From Adamawa to Akwa Ibom, Borno to Kano to Sokoto, Imo, Anambra to Bayelsa, similar tales abound as members have continued to leave the party to seek their political fortunes elsewhere.
In Adamawa State for example, a truce earlier brokered among Governor Murtala Nyako, Marwa of the defunct CPC, and Markus Gindiri, who was the 2011 governorship candidate of the ACN, has since collapsed. Although they earlier acknowledged that the governor made sacrifices to carry them along, they later recanted, alleging that the decision by the national leadership to hand the party structure over to Nyako would confine them to playing the second fiddle.
The decision of the two to return to the PDP did not come as a surprise to those conversant with the politics of the state. Some allege that the two had been hobnobbing with the ruling party at the centre long before their decision to leave the APC. The Ondo State chapter of the party also has two parallel executives.
Gubernatorial candidate of the defunct ACN in Kwara State during the 2011 elections, Dele Belgore, had hoped that the birth of the APC would provide him the needed platform to confront the Saraki dynasty.
He was, however, forced to beat a retreat when the party structure was handed over to Senator Bukola Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, soon after they led their supporters out of the PDP to join the APC.
The party also suffered a reversal of fortunes in the South-East. In Imo State where the chairman, Progressives governors’ Forum, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, holds sway, for example, notable members of the party such as a former Governor, Achike Udenwa, Senators Chris Anyanwu and Ifeanyi Ararume, have all migrated to the PDP.
The dust raised by the state congress in Akwa Ibom State is yet to settle as some party elders led by a Chief Sam Ewang are at daggers drawn with other members of the party whom they accuse of hijacking the process. Interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is, however, unfazed by some of these challenges which he said would pass. He enjoined party members to exploit the party’s internal conflict resolution mechanisms to resolve issues.
Mohammed said, “We have internal mechanisms to settle the issues from the congresses and that is why we constituted appeal committees. If anyone is still not satisfied with the outcome of the appeal committees, he or she can still take the matter to the national body but what we have is that some people are not patient enough.”
Speaking in similar vein, one-time Interim Publicity Secretary of the party in Ondo State, Rotimi Fashakin, expressed optimism that the party would surmount its present challenges.
He noted that what was required was for members of the party at all levels to make personal sacrifices for the general good of the party. According to him, the task of salvaging Nigeria was bigger than any parochial interest.
Fashakin noted that it was an incontestable fact that the APC is bigger than the three legacy parties put together. This, he explained, was largely responsible for some of the challenges being witnessed today.
He maintained that those expecting the party to fail had better have a rethink because most Nigerians were tired of the misrule which the PDP-led administration had represented since 1999.
Fashakin said, “At this point, no sacrifice is too much to make to take Nigeria out of the current mess we find ourselves. The APC represents our best chance yet.”
It is gratifying to note that all hope is not yet lost as the party still enjoys the luxury of time to resolve its challenges. Today’s national executive committee meeting provides a huge opportunity for party leaders to tell one another some home truths. Options before the party are becoming increasingly limited in the light of these developments. The party is left with two choices: It either puts its house in order or be prepared to remain just another opposition party which held so much promise but failed to deliver when it matters the most.
(Culled from PUNCH)