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APC congresses: Separating owners from joiners

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John Odigie-Oyegun

It could be rightly said that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has begun what could be described as the real journey to political party-hood. From its quick make amalgamation of erstwhile miniature opposition parties; APC grabbed political power at the centre only to be overwhelmed by the challenges of managing its surprise electoral victory and incomplete metamorphosis.

Going by the nature of politics that defined its being and governance trajectory, it gradually became obvious that, but for the fact of defeating the incumbent Presidency of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party would have crumbled completely.

But, enabled by an aloof Presidency and divided majority in the National Assembly, APC struggled to patch up its platform, even as the fault lines refused to be concealed. The party leadership haemorrhaged with cluelessness as it tried to orchaestrate what it felt should be the party’s ideology and philosophy of function.

It did not take long before finger pointing followed. Each of the legacy parties, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), tried to maintain its original circle of influence.

As the clannish cleavages continued, some notable leaders of the legacy parties began a subtle campaign against the former members of nPDP that joined the party and bolstered its electoral chances in the 2015 election. The party’s failed attempt to babysit and spoon-feed the National Assembly by appointing the leaders and floor functionaries encouraged the estrangement of the nPDP defectors.

Hiding behind the masterful political strategy adopted by Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki to emerge as the President of the 8th Senate and a PDP Senator, Ike Ekweremadu, as Deputy, APC continued to sulk, while its unpreparedness for the mandate gradually became public knowledge.

Burdened By Deepening Suspicion
Within the APC that became Nigeria’s ruling party, its woes were compounded by the deepening suspicion among the members of the National Working Committee (NWC).

The party found itself at crossroads in Kogi State when its flag bearer for the November 21, 2015 governorship election, Prince Abubakar Audu, died midway to the declaration of the final results. Confounded by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC’s) declaration of the poll inconclusive and search for who to inherit Audu’s votes, APC failed the first test of leadership: moral courage.

Some commentators hold the belief that the soul of APC departed in Kogi when it disinherited a running mate votes jointly earned at a poll in which his principal died. The mischievous displacement of James Abiodun Faleke from the governorship ticket was later explained by the popular sentiment that it was done to contain the territorial political expansionism of Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu, who was believed to be Faleke’s godfather.

No matter what informed the ruling party’s decision in Kogi, the creeping division occasioned by deepening suspicion as to who wants to be where in 2019 became its albatross. Close watchers of APC believe that the leadership friction and fissure between the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and former Lagos governor, Tinubu, developed from the Kogi governorship paralysis.

The fight for survival exacerbated the incipient lack of amity and cohesion clogging the party. While the national chairman veered towards the Presidency for political oxygen, Tinubu, the leader of the Southwest caucus went on low-level political ‘exile’ shunning the party’s programmes.

Noticing the chairman’s coyness and leaning towards the Presidency, elements of the CPC congregation began a consolidation meeting in preparation for the impending collapse of the party. To make matters worse, the President whom the various factions looked up to adopted aloof posture, before health challenge supervened.

Leading In Denial
For a greater part of its tenure, the ruling party excelled in buck-passing while glossing over its internal contradictions. The shortcomings of the party became obvious when it could not hold its midterm convention as stipulated in its constitution.

Furthermore, the inability of the party to empanel its Board of Trustees or experiment with the idea of the Council of Elders it designed out of fear of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar becoming the BoT chairman undermined peace and progress of the party.

That APC seemed to be afraid of its shadows came to light when it could not allow its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Timi Frank, to step in the gap created by the appointment of Lai Mohammed into the federal cabinet or fill other vacancies occasioned by similar appointments into other non party offices.

Harassed by the rebound of the former ruling party, PDP, APC embarked on some motions without movement by summoning a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting. The NEC kept being postponed until the object of their dread, Atiku, removed to PDP.

Unexpectedly, the NEC meeting, when it held, ended in a comedy of errors when it voted for an unconstitutional tenure elongation for the party leadership from NWC, through the zonal and state executives to the wards.

It took the belated intervention of President Buhari for the party to toe the path of due process and constitutionality, by consenting to an electoral convention. It is same process that would culminate in the (guided, not democratic) elective convention that took off yesterday.

Sieving The Pretenders
To a large extent, what took off yesterday simulates a grindstone and a blender. At the end of the process, from which delegates would emerge, it would be easy to see those who could lay legitimate claim to the ownership of APC and those carrying on as mere pretenders.

All eyes would be on the ministers and other appointees of President Buhari, as well as, some big fishes that ran from PDP belatedly to APC for cover. Those who fail to win their wards could be seen as passengers, while those who dictate the tune would emerge as the investors.

But, it would be seen by the way the APC congresses end how far the party is walking its talk of change, which is fast become an obsolete cliché. Should the rule of law operate or the voices of the people predominate, then it could be said that the real APC is about to happen.

In Lagos, Ekiti, Kogi, Bauchi, Kaduna and Katsina, Buhari’s ministers would be on trial. In Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia States, the outcome of the congresses would show what manner of leaders APC could boast of based on the endorsements they are able to garner.

While Senator Jim Nwobodo and former President of Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani slug it out in Enugu South, former governor Sullivan Chime and his lieutenants would be contending with the President’s men like Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and Osita Okechukwu in Enugu West.

Ebonyi promises a remarkable outing as forces loyal to Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and former governor Martin Elechi would be squaring it out with the faction loyal to the 2015 governorship candidate of the party, Senator Julius Ali Ucha.

What becomes of APC and what the ruling party would become is about to unfold and that would determine the health of the platform to battle the 2019 poll.


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