APC: Too little, too late
All Eyes Still On Atiku, Tinubu
For the first time in over two years, President Muhammadu Buhari confidently presided over the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was, for them, mission in progress as the ruling party held, first the caucus and then the NEC meeting, with the leader taking his position. Could it be that Nigeria’s are set to see the political side to President Buhari, who for reasons that are beginning to emerge, shunned any parley or event that had to do with politics in the past two years? Has it anything to do with his improved health or preparations for the 2019 election? That is more like it.
But, what happened the previous week provided the veritable backcloth for a better understanding of the developing scenario. The national committee of Buhari Support Organisations (BSO) had set the right tone, when they opened a new headquarters office in the federal capital, after a courtesy visit on the President. In what appeared as a perfect acting of a well scripted play, President Buhari reportedly told the many support groups that they should prepare for further sacrifices, noting that since the work they do is for posterity, that there was no way they would lose.
It is generally held that there is no second chance to make a first impression. With barely eight calendar months left to the return of active politicking, what the APC seems to be doing, particularly in holding its NEC meeting and reaching out to its forgotten foot soldiers after thirty months, amounts to too little too late.
Flashback to the inaugural session of the National Assembly: Former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, was actually made the fall guy of the administration by the way he was traduced and reduced to an inconsequential political power monger, when he tried to set the right tone for the inauguration of the National Assembly.
Unknown to him, dual vents for the expression of presidential power had been created, ostensibly to “keep Tinubu outside the foci of power and control. As such, while he carried on as the political generalissimo of the nascent government, as earlier promised, the new strong men were busy with other designs. Not until his assurances that President Buhari would attend the meeting convened on that morning of June 9, 2015; to narrow down candidates for floor positions at the eighth National Assembly, did it dawn on Asiwaju that he was subtly being made a political laughing stock by the new sedimentary power players in the Presidency.
So, just as the inaugural sitting of the National Assembly provided President Buhari a golden opportunity to streamline the organogram of the party and the leadership, he also blew it during the appointment of cabinet ministers, when he went solo, surrogating the power to his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
Thus, by leaving out the leadership of the party in the choice of his aides, the President closed the avenue for political negotiations and insulation, thus opening up his administration to sundry complaints, some of which the leaders of BSG said they discussed with him during the courtesy visit.
Again, had the President not made the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, seem less than his office and status holds out, the altercation and public quarrel that broke out between the deputy national publicity secretary, Comrade Timi Frank, and the chairman for instance, should not have taken place.
Worse still, the national chairman was left in suspense to devise his survival strategies, not knowing actually what the leader was up to. And in the attempt to read body language of the President, things started going against the grains of the merger principle and change mantra. Challenged by the sudden image threatening developments and recriminations by party stalwarts, the national chairman became loath to summon NEC of the party.
Estrangement Of PDP
The attempts to isolate elements that crossed over from the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party to the APC, otherwise known as new PDP, was not a recent development. It predated the inauguration of President Buhari.
Shortly after it became certain that victory had been sealed by the concession call of former President Goodluck Jonathan, some leaders of the party, including Tinubu and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, wanted to sit down with the then President-elect to map out strategies and identify change makers for the incoming administration. But Buhari’s handlers preoccupied him with photo opportunities and congratulatory visits of very important personalities, as well as, foreign tours.
APC chieftains maintain that there was a written understanding signed by the parties at the Abuja lodge of former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, between the party and leaders of nPDP that defected from PDP.
Did the memorandum of understanding spell out the modalities for sharing responsibilities and expected benefits of government between the parties? Was the MoU signed without due diligence or hurried anticipation of victory? How soon will the details of the MoU become public knowledge?
In the light of renewed hostilities against the nPDP members in the ruling party as could be deduced from the remarks of Colonel Ali (retired), two years have proved so long a time for the President, as leader of the party, to redefine or smoothen out that relationship.
Having noticed the unspoken intention to use and dump them, the politically savvy nPDP members dug in effectively in the legislature, thus making it impossible for the government to function without their collaboration.
Things became so bad that even in the midst of the holier than thou disposition of the executive, the annual estimates could not sail through the National Assembly without incidents that left bad patches of stain on the collective image of the party.
Screening of cabinet nominees by the lawmakers happened in batches, even when it took the President of Senate, Saraki, to wait way into the night to ensure that the President beat the deadline of September 2015 he set for himself to name the would be ministers, after a prolonged wait by Nigerians.
Saraki’s Smile, Atiku’s Ambition
Attempts to use Improvised Explosive Court cases to remove Senator Bukola Saraki from office, as President of Senate did not prove easy or successful. But, it rubbed off negatively on both the party and the ability of the new government to deliver the goods.
When therefore those who embarked on the Saraki must go venture saw the futility of waging war on two fronts -against Tinubu and nPDP-they soft-pedaled and settled for politics of accommodation, so as not to endanger the smooth flow of governance.
But if the détente with Saraki was necessitated by the crucial office he occupies, it was not so for other nPDP stalwarts, particularly, the former Vice President, Atiku. While the attack on nPDP seemed to be propelled by envy that the members are enjoying the better of two worlds after leaving the defeated PDP, the grouse against Atiku was his insistence on contesting the Presidency in 2019.
But what happened two days after the celebration of the first anniversary of APC administration provided the needed opportunity to isolate Atiku.
Speaking as chairman on the occasion of a public launch of a book with the crazy titled of We Are All Biafrans, the former Vice President called for greater autonomy of the states and declared that the country was not working.
As if he anticipated the negative feedback that would come from APC, Atiku blamed Nigeria’s poorly designed structure and urged all those assuming that calls for restructuring tantamount to call for the break up of the country to rethink their notion.
Expectedly the national chairman of the party came out in swift denunciation of the former Vice President’s position, saying that restructuring was not the priority of the government. By standing up against Atiku, Oyegun was seen by Presidency as a committed ally.
A similar development happened two months ago, when the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, told a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interviewer that if in 2019 Buhari seeks a second term, she would choose to support Atiku, whom she described as her political godfather.
Whether it was her declaration of support for Atiku, who had by then become a marked man, or emphasis that Buhari did not say he was going to contest in 2019, Mama Taraba’s outburst let off massive bile among Buharists in the party.
Political jobbers and sycophants found their voices and saw that as opportunity to be more GMB than PMB. Many even recommended her sack from the federal cabinet, describing honest answers to a reporter’s question as disloyalty and impudence.
What could be described as the final election for departure came few days after Aisha’s declaration when Atiku disclosed that he was sidelined in APC, as his input was not sought in decisions concerning the running of the party.
Words started making the rounds later that the former Vice President was engaged in back channel discussion with leaders of the PDP, over the possibility of his return to the party he left in anger in 2014. Atiku’s visit to former President Jonathan convinced the Presidency that the Waziri Adamawa, the assumed big threat in APC, has chosen a new path.
Dread Of Possible Atiku-Tinubu Alliance
Having heaved a sigh of relief that Atiku was out of the picture for a possible challenge for the APC ticket, President Buhari seemed to see reason in returning to the old and original path of the merger that produced APC. The President set up a meeting with the former Lagos governor, ostensibly to mend fences and ensure that Jagaban did not sustain his alleged interest in the Presidency in 2019.
Although the meeting with Tinubu prior to the caucus meeting was to ensure that he was on the same page with the wily Southwest politician before the main meeting, the unspoken intent of the private meeting two years after, was also to severe any possibility of Tinubu aligning with Atiku.
The President is said to be working on the plan that with Tinubu and Saraki on his side, whatever challenge Atiku may unleash could not be potent enough to deny him Southwest support.
But those close to the two leaders said nothing was cast in stone in the brief meeting, adding that even though Saraki’s ally and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yussuf Lasun, seem to have been endorsed by the President for the Osun State governorship, “it is too early in the day to talk about what would happen in APC.”
Discreet searches also reveal that the President’s belated rapprochement may not do much to douse the level of disenchantment by party faithful over the neglect and denial of full participation in the government.
Sources from the north central said Tinubu must have chosen to play along with the President by giving the public impression that things are still the way they were before May 29, 2015.