The governing All Progressives Congress (APC), heads to its national convention billed for June 23 as a highly polarised entity after the conclusion of its congresses to elect new leaders at the wards, local government areas and states.
The party held its state congress in several states last Saturday.
There were parallel congresses in many of Nigeria’s 36 State and FCT which showed that the party as being unable to resolve its differences.
The parallel congresses occurred both in states governed by the APC and those governed by opposition parties.
The split in many states, also shows the rift among top leaders of the party including those holding top elective and appointive positions in the federal government.
In most states governed by the APC, the feud is between serving governors, who are considered leaders of the party in their states, and other prominent leaders such as former governors, senators, House of Representatives’ members and those holding federal appointments like ministers.
What is playing out is perhaps the reason why some top leaders of the APC had convinced President Muhammadu Buhari to initially support the idea of tenure extension for the party’s executive across board.
The NEC of APC on February 28 initially agreed to extend the tenure of the executives. Some of those who supported the decision said they were doing so in order to avoid facing a divisive convention similar to that held by the opposition PDP in 2013.
The PDP did not survive the crisis that engulfed the party following its 2013 convention in which seven governors and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar walked out.
Mr Abubakar and five of the governors as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and other former governors including current Senate President, Bukola Saraki eventually teamed up with the APC as a “ New PDP” (nPDP) bloc.
Current congresses in APC held at a time the nPDP had written to the national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, lamenting their frustrations over being neglected.
They gave Mr Oyegun seven days to arrange a meeting with Mr Buhari.
Soon reports indicated that the nPDP were on their way out of the APC. However, the group eventually met with the leadership of APC and leader of the group, Abubakar Baraje, told reporters that they were satisfied with the outcome of the meeting.
Despite this assurances, PREMIUM TIMES’ findings in some of the states suggest that it will be difficult for some members of the nPDP and other aggrieved influential members to remain in APC.
Top on the list is former Kano governor, and current Senator representing Kano Central, Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Mr Kwankwaso had been in a bitter political battle with his successor and former ally, Abdulllahi Ganduje.
Like in many states, Mr Kwankwaso’s loyalists also held their own parallel congresses in Kano State.
However, the APC through its spokesperson, Bolaji Abdullahi, issued a statement saying that he received media requests on the issue of “so-called parallel congresses” in a some states.
Mr Abdullahi said the position of APC was that there was no such thing as parallel congress.
“The only congress recognised by the Party is that conducted in accordance with the Party constitution, which was organised by the congress committee charged by the Party to organise such congress.
“We therefore regard any so-called parallel congresses as exercise in futility and attempt to cause confusion in the Party,” he said.
“We know that neither the team sent by APC National Headquarters nor officials from Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had attended the congress organised by the “Kwankwassiya group” and in the light of the position taken by the party, those elected at the congress will not be given due recognition.”
In the light of that, it is safe to assume that the former APC Presidential aspirant is on his way out of the party.
On where he is heading to, Daily Trust reported on November 29 last year that there was mounting pressure from some PDP bigwigs on Mr Kwankwaso to dump the APC and re-join them.
The chairman of PDP board of Trustees Walid Jibrin had on January 10 urged not only Mr Kwankwaso but all those who left the party in anger to return.
Indeed in a poll conducted by PREMIUM TIMES on December 17 last year, most readers indicated that Mr Kwankwaso, and Senate President Bukola Saraki are “most likely to return to PDP”.
It is therefore, safe to say that for the former Kano Governor, it is a matter of “when and not if” he will leave the APC before next year’s elections.
The former Adamawa state governor also belongs to the nPDP bloc in the APC.
He has been having a running battle with the current governor, Mohammed Jibrilla for the control of the party in the state.
Mr Nyako on March 18 criticised the decision of the APC to extend the tenure of its executive committees at the national and other levels as potentially suicidal.
Although, that decision has since been rescinded by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party and congresses have held, the feud between Nyako’s group and that of Governor Bindow is palpable.
The APC faction loyal to Mr. Nyako conducted their own parallel congresses in Adamawa State.
However, with the decision of the NWC to recognise only congresses conducted by officials appointed by it, the outcome of Nyako faction’s congresses may not get the required official recognition.
Sources from the Nyako group also informed PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Nyako’s son, Abdulaziz Nyako, who represents Adamawa Central in the Senate, declined his appointment to serve as a member of the APC Local Government Congresses Appeal Committee.
Mr Nyako’s staying power in Adamawa state had been his control of the APC structures across the state.
Now that he appears to have lost it to the incumbent governor, the choice before the retired Naval chief is to either stay or leave. Sources say the group is already looking at several options.
A Yola based politician told PREMIUM TIMES the Nyako group is currently ‘fragmented’.
“They were all united by their love for President Buhari, that is why you see core Buhari loyalist like Babachir is with them.
“However, the president has thrown his weight behind the Governor’s faction through the SGF, Boss Mustapha and so we understand they are planning to pitch their tent with the new party being promoted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo,” the source said.
He however, said what is stalling the move by the group is that some of the prominent members are afraid of leaving the APC.
“They feel that belonging to the APC is a kind of immunity against arrest and prosecution. Many are also loyalists of Bola Tinubu and as long as he remains in the APC, they will also remain,” the source said.
The Senate President’s battle with the leadership of his party since he assumed office is widely known.
However, while Mr Saraki has total control of APC structure in Kwara state, the same cannot be said at the national level.
As it is, most APC faithful in Abuja have doubts over his loyalty to the party.
The Senate president alongside Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, are consistently being associated with the opposition PDP.
Indeed, the duo, alongside Mr Kwankwaso, are often mentioned as front-line candidates for selection by the PDP to run for president in 2019.
That is perhaps the reason why there was a parallel congress in Kwara State last week.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), while the faction loyal to Mr Saraki held its congress at the Banquet Hall opposite the government house, another congress by a faction loyal to minister of information, Lai Mohammed, took place at Arca Santa Event Hall, also in Ilorin.
Those familiar with goings on in the APC in Kwara told PREMIUM TIMES that the real battle for the soul of the party in the state is that between supporters of President Buhari, led by the Information Minister and those of the Senate President.
Boss newspaper, published by a veteran journalist and one time presidential aspirant, Dele Momodu, two months ago published an exclusive report in which it said Mr Saraki will definitely run for president in 2019.
The Senate President however, described the report as false.
Many say the cry by nPDP recently was instigated by Mr Saraki to create room for him and his supporters to leave the APC.
A source who claims to know how Mr Saraki operates said the Senate President “will only leave the APC if he is sure its the right move”.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara is also one of the “losers” in the recently held congress in his native Bauchi state.
The Speaker and almost all other members of the National Assembly from the state had been engaged in a long battle with Governor Mohammed Abubakar.
Mr Dogara and other aggrieved members of the party boycotted last week’s state congress after they claimed the previous ones for wards and local governments were mishandled.
The Speaker has teamed up with other aggrieved members to institute a suit against Mr Odigie-Oyegun, before a Federal High Court in Abuja over the conduct of the congresses.
They said the congresses were conducted in breach of the constitution of APC as well as the congress guidelines.
They said the results of the ward and local government congresses in the state were “cooked up”.
Like the Senate President, Mr Dogara also became Speaker against the wish of the leadership of the APC.
It was therefore, expected that the party’s top hierarchy will side with the governor in his battle with the Speaker.
It is safe to say that Mr Dogara has no loyalists in the recently elected executive officials.
For him, picking the party’s ticket to return to the House or seek any other position in 2019 is therefore difficult.
To this end, it appears that the options available to the Speaker is to either to seek peace with his governor or change parties and seek to renew his mandate elsewhere.
The Speaker is very popular not only in his constituency but the state as a whole.
Another set of lawmakers who will have to quickly pitch their tents elsewhere if they intend to seek reelection are the two Senators from Kaduna State who belong to the APC.
Although there was no parallel APC congress in Kaduna State, Senators, Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi were conspicuously absent at the congresses held to elect a new set of leaders for the party.
They stayed away because of the lingering feud between them and Governor Nasir El-Rufai who has now consolidated his control of the APC structure in Kaduna State.
Their attempt to factionalise the party in the state was thwarted after the office they opened was demolished by the state government.