Unless it does something drastic, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Nigeria’s main opposition party, may implode before the 2015 general elections, which are only six months away, PREMIUM TIMES’ extensive analysis of the situation within the party has shown.
The party, which is barely one year old, has found it extremely difficult to halt the exit of key members in rapid succession to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and also to resolve internal disputes within its state chapters, which have festered for months.
PREMIUM TIMES checks showed that in the last eight months, no fewer than seven key members of the Joint Inter-Merger Committee, JIMC, the central body that supervised the fusion of some hitherto opposition parties, have left the party, either due to irreconcilable differences with fellow leaders or to pursue other political ambitions.
The APC was formed last year following the successful merger talks between the Action Congress of Nigeria [ACN], Congress for Progressives Change [CPC], All Nigeria Peoples Party [ANPP], and a section of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, registered the party on July 1, 2013.
In the run-up to its formation, the party had described itself as “Noah’s Ark which Nigerians who are tired of the endless drift of Nigeria must enter,” in reference to the biblical vessel God directed Noah to build to save himself, family and all the world’s animals from flood.
Shortly after the birth of the party, five governors and some prominent members of the PDP joined the fold. Also, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 11 senators, 37 members of the House of Representatives and members of some State Houses of Assembly and leaders of local government councils also crossed to the party from the PDP.
However, the party soon descended into crisis across the country leading to the departure of some of its influential leaders. Those who have left so far are former Governors Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Ali Modu Sheriff (Borno), and Achike Udenwa (Imo).
Others are a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC], Nuhu Ribadu, a former Foreign Affairs Minister, Tom Ikimi, a former senator, Annie Okonkwo and a prominent political leader in Edo State, Osagie Ise-Iyamu.
A former governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba is believed to be so deeply aggrieved that he might quit the APC as the party’s leadership appeared unable to resolve the rift between him and Governor Ibikunle Amosun over the battle for the soul of the party in Ogun state.
Similarly, a National Secretary aspirant at the party’s last convention, Kashim Imam, who played a key role in convincing the five former PDP governors last October to join the APC, is also believed to be considering quitting the party.
The development, analysts say, does not only seem to have belittled the entry of a former Vice President Atiku, the governors and other former top members of the PDP into the APC, but also raises concern about the ability of the leadership of the opposition party to resolve disputes.
Mr. Shekarau, a two-time governor of Kano State, who led the ANPP to the merger talks and participated actively in all the meetings, was the first to quit the APC last January. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Shekarau, the presidential candidate of the ANPP in the 2011 presidential election, took up appointment with the PDP-led federal administration as Minister of Education.
Mr. Shekarau’s major grouse was the alleged shoddy process that led to the admission of his successor, Governor Kwankwaso to the APC last year. He felt deeply disrespected that an APC delegation, consisting top leaders of the fold, visited the Government House, Kano, to woo the governor into the party without consulting him or at least give him a heads up.
On his part, former Governor Bafarawa, who was a member of the Constitution sub-committee of the JIMC, allegedly felt uncomfortable with the admission of his political rival, Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State to the APC. He defected to the PDP in January. He also complained that he was left out of the arrangements that culminated in the admission of Mr. Wamakko to the party.
Mr. Sheriff also left the party last month for the PDP. Although he was not a member of any of the sub-committees of JIMC, the former senator featured in virtually all the meetings of the leaders of the ANPP where negotiations were made.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Mr. Sheriff was disturbed by the manner he was perceived by some of the APC leaders who had suspicious of his closeness to the PDP as well as his alleged role in the birth of the Boko Haram sect when he was governor.
It was also learnt that the former governor was also concerned that the leaders took sides with Governor Kashim Shettima in the face-off between him and the governor.
A few months ago, Mr. Sheriff almost came to blows with a leader of the party and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu.
Mr. Udenwa, who is also a former Minister of Commerce, served in the Manifesto Committee (which also considered the APC Motto, Slogan and Message) of the JIMC. But he suddenly dumped the party earlier in the year although he gave no reason for his exit. He has since returned to the PDP on whose platform he was governor between 1999 and 2003.
Mr. Okonkwo left the party following his inability to secure the governorship ticket of the party in Anambra State for the November 2013 election and his subsequent disagreement with Chris Ngige, who picked the ticket.
Mr. Ize-Iyamu, who functioned as the ACN Chairman in Edo State was a member of INEC-Legal and Constitution Compliance Committee during the merger. He however fell out with Governor Adams Oshiomhole who he accused of exhibiting “anti-democratic posture.”
On his part, Mr. Ribadu, whose exit from the APC on August 16 appeared the most shocking of all. After he joined the PDP, he obtained the PDP nomination form to contest the vacant seat of the governor of Adamawa State. He has since withdrawn from the race.
Although, the ACN presidential candidate in 2011 did not serve in any of the merger subcommittees, he attended some of the meetings of the leaders and also accompanied them to woo prominent politicians into the APC.
Mr. Ikimi, who dumped the APC late August, did not only lead the ACN to the merger talks, he hosted the meetings of the merger committee in his Abuja home.
His main grouse for leaving the party was because he was blocked by some leaders of the party, notably Mr. Tinubu and the governors from contesting the position of the national chairman during the June convention of the party.
He had issued a statement shortly after the convention accusing the governors of the party and Mr. Tinubu of manipulating the process to pick Mr. Oyegun as national chairman.
In an advertorial on Tuesday, the former minister, who was the founding national chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC, again blamed the defections of some chieftains of the party on Mr. Tinubu.
“It is not a coincidence to me that the prominent members of APC targeted by Bola Tinubu such as Alhaji Bafarawa, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff and myself are former NRC members or those perceived as Conservatives,” Mr. Ikimi alleged. Mr. Ikimi is already on his way to his former party, the PDP.
Mr. Osoba, a two-time governor of Ogun State who served in the Constitution sub-committee of the JIMC. The former Ogun governor, those close to him say, has commenced discussions with his loyalists on the possibility of floating another party or joining an existing one.
Internal Wrangling in States
Many state chapters of the APC are also bedevilled by internal wrangling, which pundits believe might lead to implosion in the party if not carefully handled.
We present a snapshot of the crises in some of the states below.
Katsina: In this northwestern state from where a leader of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, hails from, the opposition party is swimming in trouble waters. The main characters in the leadership crisis are a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari; a former Senate Chief Whip, Kanti Bello; Abu Ibrahim, also a former senator; Abdullahi Aminchi; a former member of the House of Representatives, Usman Bugaje; Abdulazeez Yar’ Adua, a retired colonel and younger brother of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua; Ismaila Isa and Sada Ilu. All the combatants are nursing governorship ambition. The source of the crisis was the outcome of the membership registration and ward congresses organized by the party, which produced Mustapha Inuwa, a crony of Mr. Masari as state chairman.
Adamawa: The impeachment of former Governor Murtala Nyako may have reduced the power tussle in the APC. Mr. Nyako was among the five PDP governors that defected to the APC last October. His entry generated heat as the original members of the party, including Buba Marwa and Marcus Ginduri, both CPC and ACN governorship candidates in the 2001 election, kicked against it. Their main grouse was that the APC structure was handed over to the former governor who was believed to have come alone into the party from the PDP.
Kwara: It was the first state that showed signs of crisis when the five PDP governors, including Abdulfatah Ahmed left PDP for APC. The ACN governorship candidate in the 2011 election, Dele Belgore faulted the national leadership for accepting to admit the governor and the handing over of the party structure to the PDP. The coming of Bukola Saraki, seen as the godfather of Kwara politics, worsened the situation. Before long, Mr. Belgore dumped the party for the PDP.
Plateau: In Plateau, the APC crisis has been enmeshed in crisis over the outcome of its state congress, especially the chairmanship position, won by Latep Dabang, a former aide to former Governor, Joshua Dariye. It was however aggravated by the procedure adopted for picking members of the Board of Trustees, BoT. The crisis generated to some aggrieved members of the opposition party locking out some of their leaders during a meeting. A former senator, John Shagaya and Amos Gombi, contested for the position.
Abia: The crisis is also traceable to the congress. A faction of the APC in the state, which styled itself ‘Integrity Group’ warned after a meeting in Aba that the party would be doomed in the state if the party did not keep its promise to its members in the state.
Bayelsa: In Bayelsa, the APC chairman, Tiwei Orunimighe, was at the receiving end when aggrieved members under the aegis of Third Force descended on him, accusing him of high-handedness, and disrespectful cum autocratic conducts. They also accused the chairman of squandering N7.2 million given for the inauguration of State Executive Council (SEC) without the approval of the executive committee members. The group also lampooned a leader of the APC and former governor of the state, Timipre Sylva of leading the party from leading it from outside the state using his cronies. The matter has not been resolved.
Ekiti: The party was thrown into crisis when the leader of its caucus in the House of Representatives, Opeyemi Bamidele declared his interest in the June governorship election in the state. However, the governor, Kayode Fayemi saw the move as being one against his plan to return for a second term in office. Mr. Bamidele was believed to have shown interest in the governorship seat based on a purported agreement that the governor would spend one term in office. The crisis snowballed into a situation where the lawmaker was booted out as caucus leader. While the crisis raged, the party held all-inclusive meeting in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. In attendance were the then interim National Chairman, Bisi Akande, Ekiti APC Chairman, Olajide Awe, former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, APC South West zonal Chairman, Niyi Adebayo, Tony Adeniyi, Dele Alake, Senators Femi Ojudu and Olu Adetunmbi.
The meeting could not however resolve the crisis, but instead endorsed Mr. Fayemi for a second term. The decision infuriated Mr. Bamidele who angrily defected to the Labour Party, where he was handed over the party’s ticket. Both Messrs. Fayemi and Bamidele lost the election to the PDP candidate, Ayo Fayose.
Oyo: The crisis in the Oyo State chapter of the party reached its apogee when the senator representing the Central Senatorial District, Ayo Adeseun about a month ago dumped the party for the PDP and declared his intention to take Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s job come 2015. The senator, who was originally a member of the PDP, said he left because there is more internal democracy in the PDP than the APC. Only on Tuesday, the second APC senator, Olufemi Lanlehi dumped the party for the Accord Party, a development that could jeopardise the chances of Mr. Ajimobi in next year’s election.
Edo: Sometime in April, long before John Oyegun, a former governor of Edo State became the APC national chairman, some of the party leaders in the state allegedly held a secret meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan and the Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih in Abuja.
They afterwards gave the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole a seven-day ultimatum to cancel what they referred to as “fraudulent membership” registration exercise and ward and local government congress, or face the consequence. When the governor did not yield to the pressure, the aggrieved members made good their threat by defecting to the PDP.
Predictions of implosion
Before and after its registration, some politicians had predicted that the APC would collapse because it was the coming together of strange bedfellows.
The Presidency, which spoke through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, had said the APC was destined to implode.
He said, “The APC boat is destined for the Red Sea and in fact, I remember that when we went to Israel, we prayed to God to remove all the people troubling Nigeria. So, by what is happening now, I believe that God is working quietly to gather these people. By the time Jonathan defeats those giants, God will take all the glory and people will know that the APC is heading for failure.”
The chairman of the PDP, Lagos State, Tunji Shelle said, “From what I can see in the merger and registration of APC, all of them are strange bedfellows. They will start fighting one another over positions, opportunities and party structures. At the end of the day, sharing of offices will polarize them and ideological differences will divide them. And if the centre cannot hold, everybody will go back to his own tent. That is what I see happening to APC between now and 2014, not even 2015.”
The immediate past National Chairman of the PDP, Bamanga Tukur, had dismissed the APC as an unserious party. “There is a desperate political coalition in the country now known as the APC; whose stock in trade is insults, attacks and lack of decorum because the party and her members have nothing to offer the people of Nigeria except only a desperate plan to take over power at all costs.”
Hope in the horizon
Mr. Oyegun assured the party would resolve all the misunderstandings and crises currently bedevilling the party, especially those that arose from the conduct of the congresses.
“A committee is working on that,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview.
A member of the defunct merger committee, Osita Okechukwu said the APC was highly concerned about the defections and the crisis.
He, however, said the consolation was that those who defected did not leave with their supporters.
“Between the PDP and APC, their memberships do not make up to 10 per cent of the Nigerian electorate. We are concerned more about the electorate,” Mr. Okechukwu told PREMIUM TIMES.
“Is the Nigerian electorate aware that APC is a change agent? It is not about those who defected or who did not defect. These are ingredients of any election in liberal democracy. PDP had boasted that they are master poachers and so what we pray for is that INEC remains transparent.”
The APC chieftain dismissed allegations made against Mr. Tinubu by Mr. Ikimi.
According to him, two days before the JIMC concluded its meeting, a former governor of Zamfara State, Sani Yarima moved a motion that Messrs. Ikimi and Shekarau be adopted as interim national chairman and national secretary of the APC, respectively.
Mr. Yarima, he said, also said a former deputy governor of Bauchi State be made the deputy national chairman.
Mr. Okechukwu said it was he (Okechukwu) who moved a counter motion saying there was no such provision in the merger documents that says its committee members be nominated into those positions.
On the crisis in the states, he said they were not unexpected because three or four groups were coming together and so there would be agitations.
The Chairman, Partnership for Electoral Reforms, Ezenwa Nwagwu, said he was not surprised by the defection of politicians from APC.
“The movements have been meteoric. But If you proceed from the assumption that there is a difference between the PDP and APC, then you will be surprise at the what they are doing,” he said.
Mr. Nwagwu, a member of the just-concluded National Conference said the nation’s political institutions would not develop if the parties are simply vote-catching machines.
He expressed concern that Nigerian voters are more concerned with individuals than parties.