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APC: Priming for stormy convention

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Rochas Okorocha

• Compromise Candidacy Dilutes Oshiomhole’s Joy
Without doubts, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will hold its second elective national convention in great trepidation due to the divisive congresses and a myriad of unsettled issues, including zoning of certain national offices. President Muhammadu Buhari and former Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, are just about the few playmakers in the ruling party that would be attending the convention with a semblance of peace of mind.

To some extent, President Buhari would have things easy for two main reasons. In the first breath the President would be attending the party function without reservations or inhibitions because the object of his dread, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is no longer in the party. Secondly, the President’s anointed national chairmanship hopeful, Oshiomhole, is one the President could feel sufficiently confident to work for his electoral victory without fear that he might cringe at the sight of naira or convertible currencies.

On his part, Oshiomhole, having been out of action for sometime, had looked forward to occupying the prime position in the party ever since he ended his eight year tenure as governor of Edo State.

Seven state governors, including Atiku Bagudu, Ibikunle Amosun, Rotimi Akeredolu, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Tanko Al-Makura, Simon Lalong and Yahaya Bello, have expressed tacit support for Oshiomhole’s aspiration.

Although the Kebbi State governor told journalists shortly after visiting Oshiomhole’s campaign headquarters that all the state governors on APC were delighted with their former Edo counterpart’s ambition to lead the party, there are those who rue the attempt to railroad the former labour leader to the chairmanship.

Sources close to some of the governors said they were not too confident that Oshiomhole would mean well for their political future, particularly control of their state structure. A source said one of the governors from the northern states actually recalled how the former Edo State ran roughshod over other members of the electoral committee for Bayelsa governorship primary.

He added that the governors from the north are aware that Oshiomhole’s candidacy was the product of Tinubu’s grand lobby, pointing out that President Buhari does not seem to understand the schemes behind the resolve to make Oshiomhole succeed Chief Oyegun.

It could be on account of this apprehension that some of these governors propped up former Governor Osarheimen Osunbor into the race. One of the reasons adduced by the northern governors championing Osunbor’s is the fact that as a lawyer, he would infuse decency into the running of the party, as opposed to Oshiomhole’s mercurial tactics.

They further argued that unlike Oshiomhole, Osunbor does not belong to either faction in the party, stressing that Osunbor is about the best person to heal the rift within the party and ensure a united front for the 2019 election.

Corroborating the plot to introduce a compromise candidate in the chairmanship race, another source from north, a former governor, said it was better to have a national chairman that would not face the challenge of serving two masters, instead of strategizing about the progress of the party.

He said: “As politicians we know where Oshiomhole is coming from; if he becomes chairman those of us that supported Oyegun would feel that he was coming to do Tinubu’s bidding. Even though he may not be answerable to Tinubu, but the impression would be that Tinubu used him to push Oyegun away. We don’t want another round of mistrust, we are tired of infighting.”

The former governor said having a gentleman like Osunbor would help to give the members of the nPDP a sense of belonging, as well as, unite the party for a common purpose.

It is not known how far the protagonists in the ongoing intrigues within APC are involving President Buhari, but a source in the outgoing national working committee told The Guardian that since the President’s interest is protected, what is playing out is how to ensure that other interests are not jeopardized after the national convention.

That thinking might have informed President Buhari’s recent charge on his supporters to close ranks and ensure that there is no chance occurrence during the elective convention.

Whether the groups succeed in adopting a so-called unity list or not, there are still a lot of other contentious issues that could trigger confrontations. As at the time of filing this report, the three chairmanship aspirants were still reaching out and trying to firm up their support bases.

It is not possible to ascertain the direction former Cross River State governor, Clement Ebri is coming from, but sources said he was introduced into the race following the attempt by the Tinubu group to anoint a national secretary from Bornu State, as opposed to Yobe, where the incumbent, Mai Mala Bunu hails from.

Firestorm From Northeast, Southeast
Unknown to many, the surprise onslaught against the lone star APC governor from Southeast, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, seems to have the imprint of the Presidency.

The ruling party’s strategy of making serious inroad to the Southeast with the Imo State governor as arrowhead started developing hiccups shortly after the National Executive Committee meeting of APC, when the idea of tenure elongation for the Oyegun-led NWC was mooted.

While some governors were toying with the idea of retaining Oyegun so as to pave way for the effortless emergence of President Buhari as the flag bearer, as well as, easy access for first time governors, it was discovered that Okorocha was busy playing Tinubu’s card.

Although Okorocha was said to be aware of the hide and seek game being played by some powerful elements in the Presidency and Tinubu, his decision to move a motion against tenure elongation without the buy-in of other governors did not go down well with them.

Incensed by the budding closeness between Okorocha and the former Lagos governor, the Presidency tacticians began to weave a new narrative, recalling how the Imo State governor decided against the zoning principle to contest against Buhari for the APC presidential ticket in 2014.

The first sign of the plot to sidetrack the lone governor emerged when some leaders of the Southeast caucus visited President Buhari at the villa alongside the former President of Senate, Dr. Ken Nnamani. Sensing the mischief, Okorocha decided to surrender the leadership of the party in the zone to Senator Nnamani.

Even at that, the allegation that the infighting among troika of Okorocha, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Senator Chris Ngige, was adversely affecting the growth of APC in southeast continued. Okorocha’s decision to announce his preference for his son in law to succeed him provided the rallying point for the Presidency insiders, working in cahoots with Senators Ifeanyi Ararume and Hope Uzodimma, to strike and requite the governor for his perceived antics against Buhari in 2014.

As it turned out, the ward and state congresses of the party helped to widened the gulf in the party, and accentuate the perception that while few party faithful were interested in the progress and electoral success of APC, others were out just to feather their ego and economic interest.

The 2011 governorship candidate of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and old Buhari follower, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, lamented that Okorcha became an emperor after winning a second term. On how ego and selfish interest fuels the mistrust in the zone, Okechukwu said: “Ego and interest are fundamental in every human endeavour, partisan politics cannot be an exception. The core objective of any politician is to access power. However, the only difference in the Southeast is that our hitherto leader, Okorocha, personalized power, played God, alienated party members and even cronies, except his blood relations. What do you expect, but people abandoned him.”

Okechukwu said it was public knowledge that Okorocha never backed Buhari for the Presidency, remarking that what was going for the President this time around is his Roads, Rails, Agriculture and Power (RRAP) programme that favours the zone.

But despite the onslaught against Okorocha, the fact that the party witnessed parallel congresses in Abia, Ebonyi, Imo and Enugu goes to show how explosive the convention could turn out.

Which of the factions would present delegates to the convention is the issue. And talking about harmonisation, the case of Ebonyi would be a hard nut to crack given that the Minister of Science and Technology, Onu, and the 2015 governorship candidate of the party, Senator Julius Ucha, who is seen as the face of opposition in the state, are locked in irreconcilable feud.

Like Okorocha, the Ucha group allege that Onu did not work for the poll success of Buhari, stressing that he is hiding behind the defectors from Labour Party to draw attention and relevance to himself.

It therefore remains a subject of conjecture, which of the two camps would form part of the nearly 7, 000 delegates at the elective convention. Secretary of the convention, Senator Ndoma Egba, had disclosed that about 6, 800 delegates are expected to participate in the June 23 convention.

He stated that efforts were on to resolve contentious issues in some of the states, adding: “We are hoping to resolve those issues before the convention, especially in states where we have court processes. We are working to resolve them one way, or another. This is politics and at the end of the day, you must leave a window open for harmonisation and reconciliation.”

In the northeast, the bone of contention revolves around the rezoning of the position of national secretary.

Although sources hinted at the governorship ambition of the incumbent national secretary, Bunu; the Yobe Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, insists that since NEC resolved that the zoning format be retained, taking the position away from the state would breach the gentleman agreement with the governors.

Moreover, former Lagos State is alleged to be behind the move to get next national secretary from Borno State. But Presidency power brokers do want a situation where the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) bloc in the party produces the national chairman and secretary.

That argument informed President Buhari’s recent declaration that the incumbent, Mai Malla Bunu, should be supported to retain his seat as national secretary. Bunu belongs to the powerful Senator Buka Abba political family in Yobe State that has been in the vanguard of Buhari support for long.

Now, where does all these calculations leave the members of nPDP? The answer is in the state of unease surrounding the buildup to the second national convention of the ruling party. Will APC go the same way, as did the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2013? Answer to that poser will come soon.


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