APC’s post-convention dashboard: Pitfalls new NWC must avoid
The political engineering that produced Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) for the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) did not follow a specific design. It was a product of emergency: A manmade accident, following the enforced collapse of the previous structure.
On June 25, 2020, when the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC was sacked by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, the action was not only unforeseen but some stakeholders also deemed it novel.
Oshiomhole was all over the place as if he was a sole administrator. He was making pronouncements that should ordinarily be the outcome of NWC or NEC meetings. One of the not-so salutary decisions taken by the former national chairman was on the issue of enforcement of party supremacy. That approach came to the limelight during the build-up to the Osun State governorship poll, when the then chairman shunned protestations from well-meaning stakeholders, like the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yussuf Lasun, to railroad the party through a direct governorship primary election.
Lasun and others had picked holes in the direct methodology arguing that the absence of an authentic and credible membership register made the approach very dubious as it would, apart from disenfranchising members, provide avenues for fraud.
The shortcomings and insincerity of Oshiomhole’s direct primary option were later to become very noticeable when the then chairman favoured some state governors in his good books with the indirect method only to insist on the direct primary for those he did not quite approve.
In Zamfara State, Oshiomhole went into a shouting bout with the then governor, Abdullaziz Yari over the adoption of double standards as the 2019 general election drew nearer. The story was the same in Bauchi State, while they attempt to implement the same in Kaduna State ran into a cul-de-sac when Governor Nasir El-Rufai threatened to demolish the national chairman’s building in the state capital.
With that, it became obvious that the national chairman was appropriating the powers of the NWC to serve his own designs. As such, feeling that Oshiomhole would use his high handed scheme to botch his second term ambition, Governor Godwin Obaseki moved the then Edo State structure of APC against Oshiomhole.
In the supremacy battle that ensued between the Home team and Abuja group led by Oshiomhole, the ward executives of Etsako ward 2 suspended the national chairman, thereby laying a strong foundation for his eventual removal through the courts and subsequent sacking of his loyal NWC on June 25, 2020.
CONTRARY to the expectations of the NEC, which dissolved the Oshiomhole-led NWC, the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), which is founded, could not provide ready answers to the multifarious challenges confronting the governing party.
Instead of serving as crisis managers, CECPC under Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State ended up throwing up new challenges. Three months after it was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, the Buni-led CECPC sought an extension of time, citing the need to successfully prosecute the Edo and Ondo States’ governorship polls.
One year after, the CECPC still sought further time to round off the membership revalidation and registration exercise it began, stressing that it was a necessary crucial step towards returning the party to the members through direct primaries.
APC stalwarts that recognised the complaints from Lasun and other antagonists to the direct primary joined in siding with the CECPC, since according to them the membership revalidation would not only provide credible data but also help the party for proper planning and allocation of resources and rewards.
However, nearly two years after the CECPC supplanted the Oshiomhole-led NWC, the committee was accused of creating more problems than it came to solve, even as some former NWC members claimed that the interim body was created just to weed out loyalists of a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
In an attempt to save face, the CECPC’s plan to organise the national convention ran into bottlenecks following arguments about where the chairmanship position could be zoned. It was also observed that since the four years allotted the chairmanship, which was zoned to the South/South was cut short, South/South should be allowed to complete its term.
In a letter to APC leaders shortly before the November 16, 2020 governorship poll in Edo State, Tinubu had alluded to the fact that although dissolved by NEC, nothing precludes former members of the NWC from participating in the election of new NWC.
The suggestion in some quarters that Tinubu’s public statement aided the intermittent extension of the CECPC’s tenure could not hold water, because the ward, local and state congresses organised by the Buni committee threw up a deluge of protests and parallel structures.
In an earlier public statement at the height of the APC crisis, titled, ‘Becoming the party we were intended to be,’ the national leader noted that some leaders of the party, especially state governors, were causing a distraction to President Buhari on account of their calculations for 2023.
“We must acknowledge that something important has gone off track. For some months, we have experienced growing disagreement within the leadership of the party. This unfortunate competition had grown so intense as to impair the performance of the NWC, thus undermining the internal cohesion and discipline vital to success,” Tinubu had stated.
Yet, under the CECPC, the infighting continued, with the governors assuming total control and thereby creating a reputational crisis for the interim body, which was seen as doing the bidding of the governors to project one of them as President.
The new twist to the ideology of insincerity that became the lot of CECPC was the attempt to cling onto power as well as a hidden plot to merge the national convention with the APC Presidential primary.
When that ploy was not winning enough converts, the Buni-led interim body flew the kite of holding the zonal convention separate from the national convention.
Irked by the seeming duplicity and vacillation to organise the national convention, the Director-General of Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF), Dr. Saliu Lukman, expressed misgivings in a “letter to APC leaders.”
Lukman recalled that towards the end of the year 2021, the CECPC met, precisely on December 20, 2021, and confirmed through Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, that planning for the national convention has commenced.
“The major gap, however, is that no date or details of committees, their membership and terms of reference, were given. Largely because of the gap, the public speculation is strong that the convention may not hold in February.
“It is quite worrisome that speculations about the convention are allowed to create strong doubts as to when the convention will hold…Speculation about the convention not holding in February began, when a letter written by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu to the APC CECPC chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, dated December 13, 2021, calling for the postponement of the convention, was widely reported in the media.
“Kalu was said to have suggested that instead of February, ‘a simultaneous event’, combining ‘presidential primary and election of National Working Committee members’ hold ‘on the same day and venue to avoid rancour and litigations.’ This suggestion basically means a possible extension of the tenure of the CECPC by another six months,” the former PGF DG stated.
Lukman urged APC leaders to wake up to the responsibility of providing the needed political leadership to the country, stressing: “We must remind APC leaders that the process of setting the right agenda to drive governance in the country post-2023 must begin with strong internal debates within the party.
“No one should imagine that agendas set in 2014 or 2019 are sufficient to respond to contemporary challenges, which post-2023 governance will be expected to respond to.
“By way of an appeal to APC leaders, as much as the question of who emerges as the candidate of the party is very important, it is not only who emerges as a candidate of the party that can win the election. But how united are party leaders behind the candidate will be a more determining factor.”
Also, in an interview with The Guardian, chairman of the APC National Reconciliation Committee, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, noted that part of the challenges of managing the governing party was that “individuals have their purposes for joining the party.”
Adamu, who was later supported as the consensus candidate for the position of national chairman, declared: “People have got different backgrounds and so most of what we see and hear helps you to appreciate the backgrounds of these individuals in the conflicts. I am not being specific. I am just throwing the net.
“Anybody who has no room in his heart or mind to see it the other way, what do you do with him? So our hope as we go along is to see to what extent we can persuade people to see the other way. Every coin has two sides. If you insist on seeing only one side of the coin, you are not helping yourself nor the party.”
Although total reconciliation might not have been achieved before APC held its national convention, it was obvious that the causes of friction and misunderstanding were no longer strange to the party leadership.
Towards A Better Future
HAVING therefore come through the twists and turns of managing a governing party, the challenge before the new set of NWC members is to chart a new path for the APC. There are many pitfalls the new helmsmen should avoid in order not to repeat the mistakes of Oshiomhole-NWC and Buni’s CECPC.
As was observed by the former DG of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Dr. Lukman, a political party begins to court trouble when its various functionaries and caucuses fail to meet and carry out their responsibilities.
The chairman should not see himself as a sole administrator or try to steer the party’s structure towards narrow interests or individual goals. The fact that the new NWC is coming at the threshold of a major national election demands that unity and cohesion of the members should be paramount.
A member of the APC merger committee, Mr. Osita Okechukwu said uniting the party remains the acid test for the NWC, stressing, “I think the best agenda for the NWC is to unite and reposition our great party. For the sage says that united we stand and divided we fall.
“With a united party, the second assignment is transparent primaries, particularly for state Assemblies, House of Representatives, Senate, Governorship and Presidential tickets.”
Okechukwu argued that “transparent primaries will cement the fabric and strengthen the APC as a great progressive party,” noting that the principles of integrity and patriotism that President Buhari enunciates must not be found wanting.
But, the strongest terms of reference for the new NWC came from former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in his charge to the party last week that “APC must be fair in its dealings.”
In line with democratic ethos, Tinubu argued that although party members are free to pursue their political goals, “they must always keep the greater collective purpose in mind,” even as he noted that APC would be able to make more impact on the country if its internal processes are democratic.
It is also a minus that after nine years of its existence, APC is yet to have a functional Board of Trustees or Elders Council, which gave rise to the sole administration demeanour of Comrade Oshiomhole.
Borrowing from Lukman’s admonition, all component organs of the party must be allowed to function according to the constitutional stipulations. As was seen recently, disregard to the APC constitution nearly marred the party’s preparation for its national convention, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rejected the palace coup that sought to replace the CECPC Chairman and Secretary.
With a BOT or Elders Council in place, such national embarrassment could have been avoided. Tinubu also alluded to that in his statement when he stated: “Many progressive leaders invested time, energy, ideas and resources in forming the APC with a view to providing a better Nigeria.
“The President is a founder of this party. I too have lent my humble bit. As founding fathers of this party, we must continue to guard its purpose. Let not the APC descend into the ways and rank of the other parties. Instead, may we strive to be an exemplar for a caring and democratic society.”
“Our party came into being to answer the call of reform so that progressive governance for the good of all Nigerians could be established in the land. President Buhari won the 2015 election and was re-elected. But, the essential task of fundamental reform and improvement of society has not been completed.
“We still have vital work to do. But the work can only be done by a party which is democratic and fair in governing itself as well as in governing the nation.”
Perhaps the President’s dinner with the founding fathers of the party two days ago signals a new way of doing things, which the NWC should sustain. The men and women in the third APC NWC should avoid every temptation of exclusivity in party management.