The latest reconciliatory moves by the presidency in the crisis bedeviling the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) would have come earlier had warnings from various party chieftains been heeded to. ANDREW ESSIEN dissects this assertion as 2019 beckons.
Without any gain-saying, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) from its early stages of formation, took off on a bumpy note. This unfortunate start however, grew to an avalanche of issues that its leadership has been struggling with as it tries to confront the tasks of balancing the various interests that has arisen after it came to power. These fault lines have been widening over the period, creating a gulf among the people, party men and indeed its leadership both at the government level and at the party level. Recognising the implications of this ever widening gulfs and cracks ahead of the 2019 general elections, the presidency tasked former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to lead the consultative, reconciliatory and confidence building efforts within the party.
This latest move however, had been called for over a year ago by critical stakeholders of the party to the chagrin of many other chieftains within the party. Some of these chieftains have had to pay one form of political price or the other in the wake of sounding the alarm quite early. Chief among those who raised the alarm and even called for President Muhammdu Buhari to, as a matter of importance, intervene in the crisis plaguing the party is Comrade Timi Frank, who until recently was Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party. He is still contesting his removal in court. In fact, in an open letter dated October 2, 2016, written to the president, Frank chronicled the activities of some party officials, which he alleged had affected the unity within the party. He had alleged that the National Working Committee (NWC) as currently constituted was behind the deepening crisis in the party and taking sides with certain elements. Part of the letter read: “All my efforts to plead with the party leadership to redirect its affairs fell on deaf ears as no one took me seriously at the time.
You may recall Mr. President, that the origin of this crisis began when the issue of the National Assembly leadership arose and the decision of the party at the time against party members, especially against the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. “I foresaw the impending cracks at the time when the party leaders ignored the injustice against these two persons and I subsequently raised viable concerns which still fell on deaf ears. “Again, when I raised concerns against the manner in which Chief Odigie-Oyegun handled the conduct of the Bayelsa state governorship primary that produced the APC candidate, no one listened to me, and alas, the outcome of that election became a clear testament to my alleged fears.
“Subsequently, when my immediate boss, Alhaji Lai Mohammed became the minister of information, I was supposed to immediately fill in the gap and act in his stead as enshrined in our party constitution as the acting national publicity secretary of the party, but this was not to be as I was out rightly being persecuted for reasons unknown and perhaps for selfish interest. “I was deprived from performing my duties and my duties were assigned to themselves. It is worthy to note that today, we are witnessing the same concerns and fears being expressed by one of the founding fathers of our great party, who also doubles as a national leader agreeing with my earlier call that Chief Odigie-Oyegun should resign as the national chairman.” Unfortunately, the letter never got a response or intervention from the presidency despite being widely published by the Nigerian media.
Again, at the height of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), the Bayelsa born politician stated that the political persecution of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, will lead the party into harms way. In the letter titled “Urgent Need to End This Impunity against Saraki,” Comrade Frank called on the president to intervene in Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, stressing that the trial was occasioned his rise to become Nigeria’s number three citizen against certain interests in the party. He had said: “Mr President, it is worthy to note that Saraki in recent times has been treated as an outcast. This is very bad development which if not carefully managed will consume the All Progressives Congress and doom our democracy. What has happened unfortunately does not reflect the change we promised Nigerians. “Is Senator Saraki the only former governor in Nigeria? Are there no other former governors especially from the South West and other zones that are not just enjoying their booty but are integral part of the government? Yes, Saraki is not the anointed candidate for the Senate presidency, but his colleagues elected him. So, why don’t we allow him some peace to deliver on the promises of change?
“Mr President, the executive needs the legislature; hence, the relationship must be cordial because if this situation is not properly managed, Nigerians will be disappointed in us as a party, a development that portends unfavorable results when we go to the polls in 2019. “As far as Nigerians are concerned, it is very difficult to convince them that this orchestrated onslaught against Saraki is not a case of witch hunt. Nigerians are more politically aware now than ever.” The release signed by his Senior Special Assistant, Media and publicity, Shehu Garba states: “As part of ongoing efforts to improve cohesion within the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari has designated Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead the consultation, reconciliation and confidence building efforts.
The assignment will involve resolving disagreements among party members, party leadership and political office holders in some states of the Federation.” As it is, predictions that a major defection will hit the APC if the party’s crisis is not resolved has started manifesting. Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on Friday, November 24, 2017, dumped the ruling party for the Peoples Democratic Party. A former deputy-director of the Buhari Support Organizations( BSO), Chief Blessing Agbomhere has towed Atiku’s line and over 26,000 members and supporters of the APC in Etsako central local government area of Edo state defected to the PDP.
This past week, Honourable Jagaba Adams representing Kagarko/Kachia federal constituency in the House of Representative, left the APC and joined the PDP. The situation is the same is states like Bayelsa, Abia, Niger, Sokoto, Borno, to name but a few. The ruling party is also grappling with rumours that some of its notable chieftains are on their way out of the party. Names bandied around by political analysts include heavyweight Senators, governors and politicians of note. There is a need for the APC to immediately kick-start the healing process in the party, as any further delay will lead to an impending doom. An important factor to note however is that the appointment of Tinubu to resolve the disagreements in the party is a move that is perhaps too late as the cracks in the ruling party have reached a boiling point. Some chieftains of the party have also noted that Tinubu himself is the most aggrieved member of the APC, stressing that his appointment won’t make any difference in the party.
A chieftain of the party from the South-south region, Barrister Frank Okon in an interview with a national daily said: “How can you ask the number-one aggrieved member to lead reconciliation? The national leader is the most aggrieved person in the party today. Who will reconcile Tinubu with the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun? “Are you not aware that Tinubu himself is aggrieved? He also needs to be pacified, especially in his grievance against the president,” History may eventually come to prove Comrade Frank right for being the “lone voice in the wilderness” especially when many chieftains of the party choose to be quiet.
He and other party chieftains have been in the vanguard of speaking to power even at the expense of his own political career and party. This is why some are uncomfortable with him and have also put him on the firing zone. It is also a reminder for the APC to always hearken to the voice of tested politicians who have been on both sides of the divide and have constant interaction with members of the public. The party has a lot of work to do in healing its wounds and then warming its way back to the hearts of the teaming population that overwhelmingly gave it their mandate to make life better for them. The question on the minds of many now is that isn’t this move a bit too late, coming several months after tell-tale signs had emerged? Only time will tell.
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