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APC: 2019, President’s men and their plan B

By Leo Sobechi
27 November 2016   |   4:15 am
The thinking among the President’s apparatchik was that with Jonathan out of the way, the Southeast would embrace the new administration in their political culture of compromise.
President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

The odds seem to be stacking against President Muhammadu Buhari each passing day. To some extent, the president had succeeded in aggregating the political prowess of the Southwest to snatch the historical come back to the highest political position in Nigeria. Within that scope, Buhari should be a fulfilled man. But is he?

There are a lot of problems surrounding the president, particularly within his kitchen cabinet and the All Progressives Congress (APC). It took a recent press interview published in a national newspaper by one of the President’s trusted allies, Alhaji Buba Galadima, to underscore the disarray in Buhari’s former circle.

Then, in its attempt to clear the cobwebs in Galadima’s pronouncements, the Presidency fouled the political atmosphere further, by claiming that Buhari’s support base remains intact. But, that the issue of Mr. President’s second term ambition should occupy the thoughts and engage the attention of people close to him shows how badly things are around the president.

Even at that, those who are in the know hold the view that the President’s inner circle of friends had been pre-occupied from day one, with strategies for his second term, devoid of the encumbrances of godfather or godfathers who made 2015 a reality.

What Becomes Of APC
The incongruities in its formation, caused by fanatical obsession to dethrone the incumbent President in 2015 election, no doubt, beclouded the sense of critical judgment of the propellers of APC.

At the foundation of merger of the three main political parties-Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)-it was learnt that at a point Buhari preferred the alliance with ACN, precluding other tendencies.

A minister very conversant with the merger details confided in The Guardian that the president still begrudged his exit from the ANPP and, as such, did not want to align his political future with that platform. That apart, of the three parties, only the CPC had a management committee, instead of a national working committee as the other two.

But inclined to a successful merger, and above all to avert the failure of a similar move in 2011, the architects of the merger decided to set up a management team comprising the leaders of the main legacy platforms. It should be understood that all through the merging processes, the management team served much like a Board of Trustees, as the conscience of the merger arrangement.

On the management committee were, Chief Bisi Akande, Boss Mustapha and Senator Shuaibu Lawal from the ACN, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Dr. Yusufu Musa and Hon. Lawan Shettima Ali, who was later replaced with Alhaji Tijjani Musa Tumsah, from the ANPP. From CPC were Prince Tony Momoh, Alhaji Salie Mustapha and Engineer Buba Galadima.

In his account of the founding of the APC, the former ANPP national chairman and now minister of Science and Technology, Onu, disclosed that of the three leaders of the management committee, he was the only one that came as both national chairman and leader of a legacy party.

From that account, it could be seen that while Buhari as the leader of CPC, later became the presidential candidate of the new party and Onu became a minister, only Chief Ahmed Bola Tinubu appears to be missing out in the scheme of things on the basis of lack of official pedestal. Could it be, then, that this obvious lack of official space for political expression by Tinubu is at the root of the debilitating mishmash in APC?

#IStandWithTinubu Versus #IStandAlone
THERE is ample reason to believe that the Lagos State model of political power cohabitation with administrative power must have inspired Tinubu to work earnestly for the success of the Buhari presidential aspiration.

Upon his exit from office as Lagos State governor, Tinubu had successfully returned his preferred candidate, Babatunde Raji Fashola as his successor, as well as, shared the political space with the governor. The template operated in this wise: Tinubu enjoyed visibility and relevance as political leader of the state, while Fashola governed the state. When a pesky friction arose, both men fell back on the wisdom and authority of the Oba of Lagos to settle their differences.

Perhaps, inspired by the success story, which that cohabitation achieved, Tinubu must have relished the anticipated replication of the model at the federal level. Energized by such a fanciful possibility, the former Lagos governor mobilised a greater percentage of the Southwest to pulverize the power of incumbency and build momentum around Buhari, who had been a serial presidential flop.

Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai

Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai

Events in APC, starting from the party’s first national convention that produced Buhari as flag bearer for the 2015 presidential election, up to the eventual poll victory, presented the picture of an ACN and CPC collaboration, even despite the entrance of the breakaway Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP).

So, while Tinubu, as a grassroots mobiliser, continued to draw people around him and into the APC, Buhari waited patiently with the quiet confidence that he was set to become the president, knowing, as a military officer that with power, all things are possible.

Immediately incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat, a thoroughly surprised Buhari was said to have drafted a quick shortlist of helping hands, including his nephew Mamman Daura, to drive the incoming presidency. With the help of Daura, other trusted allies were brought in and the journey started.

Sources in Kaduna disclosed that the time allotted to receiving well wishers on congratulatory visits was ostensibly to screen out any serious sessions with Tinubu, who they said, wanted to “underpin” critical issues concerning how the administration would kick-off.

“Unknown to many people in APC, especially those from the Southwest, the decision to keep President Buhari out of reach even after the inauguration, was to make sure that he pursues the agenda set by our people,” the sources disclosed.

Prevailing political circumstances in the party and the APC government point to the possibility that that evasive manouvres adopted by or enforced on the President must have denied him the quality input that could have come from an inclusive strategy session with critical stakeholders of the novel platform, APC.

That may also have given vent to the otherwise unilateral appointments embarked upon by the President that massed oranges and apples as one. But, there is the other side to the development, which pertains to the President’s perceived desire to extract his pound of flesh from all those that made his previous presidential quests very agonizing, such that he shed tears in 2011.

It could as well be that the decision to pursue that “corrective vengeance” with single-minded determination may have propelled the president to shake-off the noise and nuisance of politicians who he continues to disdain and distrust. The former military head of state must have had the last laugh on the ‘corrupt’ Nigeria political elite. The sting on judges may also be part of the secret manifesto.

CPC As Possible Fall Back
Perphaps following from the secretive agenda of the President’s handlers, the interest to revive CPC, the political platform Buhari’s political acolytes hastily assembled for him to contest the 2011 presidential election, was rekindled shortly after his inauguration.

DG of DSS, Lawal Musa Daura

DG of DSS, Lawal Musa Daura

The thinking among the President’s apparatchik was that with Jonathan out of the way, the Southeast would embrace the new administration in their political culture of compromise. Consequently, the men reasoned that it would be politically expedient and strategically wise to seek the renewal of CPC to avoid the sophisticated politics of the Southwest. Apprehensive of the Southwest’s enormous capacity to prosecute fierce contest for political power, the president’s thinkers believed that with Southeast support it can call the bluff of the Southwest (read Tinubu) in the 2019 election.

Part of the bargain is to apply the coercive power of incumbency to the fullest and snatch presidential victory through thick and thin, “after all, Obasanjo did it and heaven did not fall.” It is such thinking that informed Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu’s rejoinder to Galadima’s position that Buhari may run alone in 2019, saying the President’s support base remains intact.

But what Shehu seem not to factor into his retort that the talakwa base has since depreciated on account of the perception among the northern masses that Mai Gaskiya (truthful one) may have become Mai Dampara (crafty one). The sweeping hunger and privation, as well as, the President’s rebuff to make his asset declaration public have combined to raise a cloud of suspicion around the President’s perceived indigence.

And as some old Buhari die-hards in CPC began to hold clandestine meetings, the intelligence was picked up by the Tinubu camp in APC. The Southwest unification project began. Alarmed by the consequences of a sudden breakaway by the Southwest from the administration, the President during one of his short visits to London achieved a rapprochement with Tinubu, evidence of which was the celebrated appointment of Tinubu’s men into agencies of government.

However, indications that attempts to exhume CPC as a political platform may not be easy undertaking emerged recently, when in the course of his interview with a national newspaper, Galadima queried: “Can there be CPC without Buba Galadima, Sule Hamma and AVM Mukhtar Mohammed?” That suggests that CPC as contingency may be dead on arrival.

John Odigie-Oyegun

John Odigie-Oyegun

Also, if that is a pointer to the fact that Buhari’s original political allies have deserted him, the question is whether his present crop of political consultants, who are insisting on having him go for a second term could pull the project through.

Possible Return To Second Republic Model
The ongoing realignments of political forces in the polity are indicative of a possible return to the Second republic political model, when five major political parties contested the general election.

It has been an open secret that actors in APC are engaged in political talks with one group or another. When the chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum, Governor Rochas Okorocha emerged from a meeting with the President and told journalists that the APC was taking responsibility for the socio-economic situation of the country, many a Nigerian wondered at the rethink from the buck passing that had become a constant refrain from the present administration.

However, when the same Okorocha came out from a meeting with APC caucus in the House of Representatives and stated that the party did not handle its electoral victory very well, it became obvious that a mass defection from the platform was looming.

In the Southeast where the Imo governor took some of his supporters from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to the APC merger, more than 85 percent of what remained in the party recently moved over to the United Progressives Party (UPP). Intriguingly, the UPP has the founder of APGA as its founder, leader and national chairman in the person of Chief Chekwas Okorie.

Eminent Igbo politicians have been holding consultative meetings with Okorie, thus giving the impression that UPP may be on the way to becoming the rallying political platform for Southeast. In the Southwest, the ugly political circumstance in APC gave vent to a possible resurgence of Alliance for Democracy (AD), which metamorphosed serially to Action Congress (AC), ACN and APC.

So, going by the continued efforts at refloating PDP and depending on what becomes of APC, Nigerians may likely have APC, AD, CPC, PDP and UPP as possible frontline political platforms. And should the five political platforms float separate presidential candidates, it would surely diffuse the power of incumbency. The rehash of history may also necessitate a political accord as none of the party may produce an outright winner of the presidential election or enjoy absolute majority in the federal legislature to form a government.

The overall picture may be that should Buhari decide to re-contest, he may find himself in a similar situation as Jonathan, because most of his acolytes would put the facts beyond him, thus leaving him to grapple with second guesses. When that happens, how he would respond to the unfolding reality is open to conjecture. But there is the possibility that talks of restructuring the polity may gather intensity.