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APC, divided house on path of raging storm

By Niyi Bello, Abuja Bureau Chief
28 October 2018   |   2:59 am
For a ruling political party desirous of seeking reelection, the All Progressives Congress (APC) does not appear to be serious about recording significant success in the 2019 general elections, an exercise that is barely four months away.

APC leader, Adams Oshiomole

• Oshiomhole In Eye Of The Whirlwind

For a ruling political party desirous of seeking reelection, the All Progressives Congress (APC) does not appear to be serious about recording significant success in the 2019 general elections, an exercise that is barely four months away.

Within the relaxed ambience of the Aso Villa seat of power where, except for occasional visits to President Muhammadu Buhari by aggrieved party chieftains who seek redress on one issue or the other, mainly about the conduct and outcome of the primary elections that produced the party’s candidates, there are yet no signs that a major election is in the offing.

Rather than increase the tempo of politicking in the corridors of power, as has been the case with previous administrations at the approach of major election periods, the APC government has been engaging in de-marketing itself by taking some politically unwise steps.

Some of these steps that have portrayed the APC as a platform that seems to anchor its 2019 hopes on other means to retain power outside public acceptability are the release of Executive Order 6 (EO6), which set the party against many powerful groups, some of whom are members of the party, the inexplicable presidential shield for Professor Usman Yusuff, the embattled boss of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the continuous insensitive appointments that many regard as evidences of nepotism against the government.

But aside APC’s indifference to public opinion, a major hurdle to its ambition of reelection is the crisis rocking the party as a result of the contentious primary elections that have shaken the party to the roots of its foundations with the greater threats of a political platform divided against itself.

Perhaps, a visit to both the Abuja national headquarters of the two leading parties, the APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will underscore the seeming unpreparedness of the ruling party to handle preparations for the coming elections with the seriousness it deserves.

While the Wadata Plaza headquarters of the PDP is bustling with activities of a party waiting in the wings to once again take possession of the country’s leadership through the ballot, the APC Secretariat has, in the last one week, been turned into a House of Commotion where series of demonstrators have been visiting for protestations.

Aggrieved members on each side of the divide have been visiting the party secretariat to air their grievances and the latest is the alleged plan by party women from Ogun State who promised to protest naked next week if the list of the candidates of the party is not changed.

From Abia to Zamfara, the party’s state offices have also been inundated by protests and many senior politicians, including Senators Shehu Sanni in Kaduna and Florence Ita-Giwa in Cross River, have found succor elsewhere in a gale of counter defections that threaten to erase whatever gains the APC might have recorded in recent times.

In the eye of the storm is the combative National Chairman of the party; Adams Oshiomhole, who claimed to be instilling discipline on members and affirming control of the leadership and in doing so, stepped on some big ‘gubernatorial’ toes whose owners are prepared to have him removed, not minding even if the roof of the divided house collapses.

Against the backdrop of allegations that the party’s tickets have been commercialized instead of being democratized, there are insinuations that Oshiomhole and members of his National Working Committee (NWC), were being bribed with millions of naira by desperate aspirants who didn’t want to go through the popularity test of primary elections.

Specifically, there were allegations that some candidates from Imo, Bauchi, Ogun, Adamawa, Niger, Delta, Taraba and Rivers States were made to part with money before their names were substituted for those who actually won the popular ballots.

In Ondo, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who with Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun and Rochas Okorocha of Imo, have become most critical of Oshiomhole on account of their inability to have their ways in the choice of candidates, accused the national chairman of soiling his hands with filthy lucre to the detriment of the party.

In a release on his behalf by Oladoyin Adebowale, one of his aides, Akeredolu said: “Those who collected varying and humongous amounts as fees from aspirants during the last grandiose charade called primaries and submitted names dictated to them by a cabal, notorious for capturing political power for unbridled pillage, should be bold to explain their real motives to the people.

“They should be honest enough to deal with the issues. Events, which took place across the country during the political charade, have exposed not only sheer incompetence on the part of the national leadership of the party, but painfully, it has revealed a shocking proclivity towards banditry and impunity.“Those who feel aggrieved reserve the right to demand that justice be done. If this includes the removal of Mr. Oshiomhole, so be it.”

The party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena also accused Oshiomhole of high handedness in the management of the party affairs, alleging that most decisions were taken unilaterally by the chairman without consultations with the 21-member NWC.

The situation got so bad that some critical stakeholders were said to have commenced the process of collating signatures to either force Oshiomhole to resign or invoke the necessary party procedure to have him removed and in one instance even President Buhari, who has been inundated with complaints from various quarters had to tell the national chairman “to clear the mess” created by the primary elections.

In truth, the nationwide conduct of the party’s primary elections has so far been shrouded in a myriad of mystery buoyed by different approaches at state levels and the final lists, in most cases, defied all logic as nobody can explain how the names were collated, fuelling rumour that there may actually have been some underhand dealings.

A source within the party was quoted to have said: “If the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) can go and check the bank accounts of the APC Electoral Committee members, they are more likely to see huge lodgments of cash within the last three weeks.”

Supporters of the national chairman however described opponents of the process as “bad losers” referring specifically to the trio of Yari, Amosun and Okorocha, whose preferred candidates, in the case of Imo governor, Uche Nwosu, his son-in-law, they said the governors wanted to impose on the party.

But Oshiomhole is adamant, saying that there is no going back on the list even in the face of alleged threats from the aggrieved governors to defect to other political platforms, the decision of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to stop the party from fielding candidates in Zamfara and the uncertainty hovering over the fate of the party in Rivers, where the Judiciary has nullified the process that led to the primary election in the state.

With the elections gradually creeping in, a lot of party members are wondering if the APC made the right choice in changing the erstwhile leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun who took over from the pioneer interim chairmanship of Chief Bisi Akande in the formative years of the party.

But the Odigie-Oyegun tenure was also not the best for the party as it witnessed public condemnation by national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, via an open letter where he described Oyegu as the worst thing to happen to the APC.Those who were against the change of the Odigie-Oyegun leadership, mainly governors and senior party members who were on the other side of the divide with the party’s national leader, Tinubu, had argued that although its tenure had lapsed, it should be extended to avoid the bickering that may follow internal leadership change when a major election is at hand.

Sources however said President Buhari, who initially supported the Odigie-Oyegun tenure elongation bid, caved in when he considered the fact that Tinubu, who made his victory possible in 2015 with the support of the Southwest and who had been shut out by internal political machinations, should be appeased if the victory run must extend beyond 2019.

The former chairman, who incidentally was preferred over Chief Tom Ikimi with the active support of Tinubu, parted ways with the Lagos strongman soon after the formation of the Buhari government.The emergence of Oshiomhole, perceived by many as the resurgence of Tinubu in the politics of the APC, is therefore seen as a continuation of the bitter rivalry that characterized the early days of the party, which resulted in the long-drawn executive/legislative feud that has hampered governance and is now threatening the party’s ambition to retain power.

For the anti-Tinubu forces in the Southwest, it is time for them to pick the short end of the stick, with Akeredolu, who had moved against the reelection of Senator Ajayi Boroffice, a Tinubu ally in Ondo North District and Amosun who also had to contend with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in Ogun, being the most affected.

It is therefore not surprising when Amosun last week accused former Ogun governor, Chief Segun Osoba and Tinubu of foisting their choice of Dapo Abiodun as the governorship candidate on the party saying: “The president already knows there was no election in Ogun State. He knows that they just went to Lagos and wrote all results. And what they did is fraud.”

But with Amosun insisting even as of last Wednesday in Abeokuta that the next budget of the state would be presented by his choice candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, the statement from Okorocha that nobody can win Imo without his support and the insistence from Oshiomhole that the lid has been closed on the process of primaries, the gladiators seem poised for a final showdown that could cost APC victory in 2019.

There could however be a thawing of the ice of hostilities if reason prevails on both sides and a middle course charted that could take care of the interests of all the parties. As things stand, this could only be facilitated by the high office of the President, but with Buhari’s seeming indifference to the crises, preferring to only direct an adamant Oshiomhole “to clear the mess,” the already divided house of APC may be on the verge of collapse.