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Convention friction counters APC progress

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It was unthinkable. Despite every effort made by leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to deliver a seamless transition through its second elective national convention, the fisticuffs that characterised the exercise showed that the centre refused to hold for the ruling party. It was as if everything was made to fall out of place.

Beginning of trouble
There was nothing reflective of the much-vaunted change, the party sold to Nigerians in 2015. It all started with the single handed imposition of the immediate past Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole by President Muhammadu Buhari, which was clearly against the designs of most state governors of APC.If the President were a born-again democrat, as he claimed or on the same page with the governors the issue of the botched tenure elongation would not have arisen. The overall impression created by the tenure elongation confusion showed that not many of the party chieftain approved of the President’s second term ambition.

But, as the convention drew closer it became more apparent that APC did not do its homework well to craft a truly political platform in which its constitution was the supreme authority. It is obvious that the thrashing of APC Constitution started with the President, who left nobody in doubt that it was Oshiomhole or nobody.The chairman of APC Governors’ Forum and Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, followed suit by toying with the idea of emasculating the party structure in his state. As it turned out, Okorocha attempted to impose his son in-law on Imo people as his successor and the bubble burst.

Imo State dominated media mention by the tough resistance the APC stakeholders waged against Okorocha, which was later to engulf the entire Southeast geopolitical zone. Like Imo, Delta State went bunkers in a supremacy battle between Olorogun O’tega Emerhor and Chief Great Ogboru.Lone APC Senator from Southeast, Chief Ben Uwajumogu, told The Guardian on the eve of the convention that the stakeholders decided to move against Governor Okorocha to ensure that he did not turn the party into his personal estate.

The failure of the stakeholders and Okorocha to reach consensus on the three positions allotted to the zone brought the matter to a disturbing national attention. The APC leadership had retained the zoning of the positions of National Organizing Secretary, National Auditor and Deputy National Vice Chairman, to the Southeast, which prompted the caucus leaders to endorse the incumbents, namely Senator Osita Izunaso, Chief George Muoghalu and Emmanuel Eneukwu, for another term.

However, Okorocha, who is also the governor of Imo State from where Izunaso hails, rejected Izunaso’s come back bid, faulting the Sheraton Hotel Abuja meeting by the Southeast stakeholders that endorsed the three officers.Efforts by the national leaders of the party, including the forum of governors to resolve the logjam failed culminating in a meeting at Nelson Mandela home of the former Zamfara State governor, Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima, who is the chairman of the convention screening committee.

The decision of Yerima to undertake screening of delegates at the Imo State governor’s lodge, did not go down well with the Southeast leaders, who remained adamant in their rejection to sit at any other meeting with Okorocha, insisting that since consensus had failed what should follow was election according to the dictates of democracy.Senator Uwajumogu disclosed that the zonal leaders rejected Okorocha’s leadership and invested same on the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, adding that the entire APC members in the zone support the retention of the three national officers.

Uwajumogu, who was the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, said the main reasons Okorocha was rejected include his dictatorial tendencies, which came to a head at this attempt to single handedly impose all officials of the party from the zone, as well as, raising a list of candidates for the next election in Imo State from the House of Assembly to the National Assembly and the governorship.

“The move against Okorocha is not only an attempt to reject a godfather, as you said, but united opposition to a monster that has been warring against the progress of APC in our state and zone. It is on record that virtually all those who worked for the success of APC in 2015 have been isolated by the outgoing governor of Imo State,” Uwajumogu said.He said the implications of imposing Okorocha’s nominees on the party is that APC would lose the 2019 election in Southeast, stressing that the move against Okorocha has increased public goodwill in the zone, even as he rejected insinuations that sidelining the Imo State governor could do electoral damage to the party in the zone.

He said: “Governor Okorocha has done enough damage to the party in the state and Southeast, so it is better to remove the cancerous tumour before it mutates. There is nothing like power incumbency with Okorocha, because all the people are with us and democracy is a question of number.”Without doubt, the much orchestrated elective convention further exposed the extent of misunderstanding and bickering within the party, which was made worse by the controversial ward, local government and state congresses held in May. Unfortunately, the Saturday convention exacerbated the infighting and lack of cohesion in the leadership of the ruling party, a situation that may likely destabilise the party beyond control soon.

As a matter of fact, The Guardian learnt from sources that the ruling party may likely not go into the 2019 general elections as strong, united and coordinated as it was three years ago, when it defeated the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Possible consequences of failed controversial ‘Unity List’
Apart from the fact that the party was unable to address the numerous crises that bedeviled the congresses across the country in May, the introduction of controversial ‘Unity List’ outlining names of would-be officers and their expected positions that came into circulation before the convention was regarded as the most undemocratic practice, as well as, the desperation of some leaders of the party to truncate the nation’s democracy.It was gathered that majority of delegates that voted during the convention were allegedly not only induced with money, but also intimidated by governors or godfathers from their various states to do their bidding.

For instance, some of the names on the purported ‘Unity List’ eventually tallied with the outcome of the elections, which some observers said was devoid of internal democracy, which the party claims to stand for.It would be recalled there was confusion even before the convention took off as three different “Unity List” emerged preparatory to the commencement of voting for positions with more than one contestant and affirmation of those without opponents.

This led to the announcement of Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman and 19 others as confirmed elected members of the National Executive Committee of the party and the leaving in abeyance of the other positions, about 40 of them.President Muhammadu Buhari, allegedly presented different lists to members through his aides, Governors elected on the platform of the party, and the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu but the only meeting point was the position of National Chairman.

One of the negative impacts of the allegedly controversial ‘Unity List’ may likely have on the party’s image in future is its capability to involve in wider electoral manipulation and the desperation to outwit strong opposition if it condescended so low to manipulate its convention in a flagrant disrespect to internal democracy.

Possibility of aggrieved parties resolving to legal redress
Expectedly, some of the aggrieved members of the party that lost out during the convention are said to be gearing up to seek legal redress to challenge the outcome and process of the exercise particularly the legality of some of the delegates that were allowed to participate in the voting.According to an inside source, in states where there are parallel state congresses, the factions that were not allowed to participate in the convention are already spoiling to go to court to challenge the convention.

For instance, in Oyo State, where the incumbent Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu held a parallel state congress with the one supervised by Governor Abiola Ajimobi, there is a strong indication that the minster’s faction may head to court to challenge the legality of the Oyo delegates that were allowed to participate in the convention.In a remark by Shittu while the convention was ongoing, the aggrieved minister vowed that other loyalist members of the party from Oyo State would not relent until justice prevailed.

From the onset, the likes of Shittu, who were obviously aggrieved but unlike others vowed not to defect from the party. He is only insisting there must be fair play and justice, which the convention does not seem to represent. Shittu, who never pretends over his ambition to contest for the governorship seat in the Oyo on the APC platform come 2019, has been having a running battle with Ajimobi over who controls the party’s structure. The governor also has not hidden his negative disposition towards Shittu’s gubernatorial ambition and the best way for them is to control of the party’s structure. But with what happened on Saturday, the governor seems to have secured the control of the party’s structure leaving the minister and his supporters in the cold.

The minister, who said his camp was already in court to seek a redress regarding the state congress election, said he was sure that justice would be done.He said: “We are already in court. So to that extent, we will have to await the final outcome. There has been disagreement as to the congresses, which we held.“’You remember there were parallel congresses, because those who never bought forms for ward congress eventually are the ones who have been sworn in as the state’s executives of the party.“Obviously that is injustice by the party. So we, loyal members, who have made effort to build this party, we have taken this disagreement to court and we believe that justice will be done at the end of the day.”He, however, assured that despite the development in the state, his loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC was still 100 per cent.

Even in Lagos State, there is the possibility that the Fouad Oki faction that staged a parallel state congress might resort to legal redress following the party’s decision to allow the 260 delegates from Lagos to vote without necessarily resolving the crisis in the state.Oki had insisted that the delegates that state chairman Tunde Balogun-led to the convention were illegal and not elected in accordance to the constitution based on 20 local government and 245 wards.But despite the seeming crisis, a lawmaker representing Lagos East, Mr. Gbenga Ashafa said all is well with the party and it would definitely move ahead to claim victory in the next general election.

Insisting that whatever might have happened in expected in a large house like the APC, Ashafa congratulated President Buhari and the newly elected NWC members, Tinubu and other leaders for a successful convention, saying, “I want to congratulate President Buhari, the new NWC members and all for a successful National Convention. I am quite impressed with the massive turn out of support from all geo-political zones of the country and the unity displayed during the exercise. This is a clear message to all that APC remains a very formidable force and our unity is not in question”

While he commended the national leader for the role he has played in the reconciliatory task, the lawmaker also congratulated the incoming National Chairman, Oshiomole wishing him successful tenure as he urged the new executive to further promote the party and ensure that its manifesto is strictly adhered towards the benefit of Nigerians.He also expressed gratitude to the NWC members led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun for a job well done in the past four years.Similar scenario is also playing out in Rivers State where there was an existing contradictory court orders barring and debarring delegates from the state from participating in the exercise because of the crisis in the party.

As an insider disclosed yesterday, the case of Rivers State is enough to upturn the outcome of the convention if the aggrieved party from Rivers State pursued there case to a logical conclusion in the court.Although, The Guardian learn there was an attempt by the leadership of the party to stop delegates from states where there were parallel congresses from voting but the Tinubu faction, who was affected allegedly opposed the decision and insisted that delegates from Lagos must participate in the exercise.

Meanwhile, a top member of the party confirmed the ‘Unity List’ that were circulating the convention ground on Saturday but couldn’t say whether the content of the list was followed by the delegates during voting.He however confirmed that the governors and some president’s men and core loyalists were moving round the pavilion of each state to fraternize with the delegates.The source however said that though there was no walkout at the convention as was witnessed during the 2014 PDP National Convention in Abuja when the nPDP walked and went to call a press conference that led to the beginning of PDP split, he however said some topnotch of the APC were obviously absent during the exercise on Saturday, which was an indication of the real crisis ahead.

Anti-party plots beckons
The last is yet to be heard of the crises rocking APC, especially following the clash by delegates from Imo and Delta states at the Eagles Square venue of the convention. Coming barely less than 12 hours after President Buhari admonished party faithful on the need to bury the hatchet and work towards victory of the party in the forthcoming 2019 general election. Although the clash first started among delegates from Imo as a group loyal to Governor Okorocha arrived at the stand reserved for Imo delegates and ordered others loyal to his deputy, Eze Madumere, to vacate the seats. In the ensuing melee, which lasted for about 30 minutes, Okorocha’s supporters put up stiff resistance leading to exchange of blows until the private security believed to belong to Okorocha waded in to restore order.

The clash among the Delta delegates was allegedly between supporters of O’Tega Emerhor and Chief Great Ogboru, who was former governorship candidate of the defunct Labour Party in the state. What the crises and attendant clashes presage is that in the days ahead, anti-party plots would begin to unfold. The APC might have tried to cement the party as the platform for the three legacy parties, namely, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), it would see in the build up to the 2019 poll that it cannot eat its cake and have it. The hunt for moles might ultimately pull the party apart.


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