Last week, like a bolt out of the blues, the Presidency, through Seniior Special Assitant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, announced the appointment of National leader of the All progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as head of a reconciliatory committee to bring back cohesion to the ruling party. OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU examines the hurdles on the path of reconciling aggrieved party members across the country
Like a bolt out of the blues, the news filtered in that the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban of Borgu, has been assigned the onerous responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved APC members across the country to the party. For almost two years, Tinubu was left in the cold as far as APC activities and the running of the government he helped put in place were concerned. The climax of rendering him irrelevant in the scheme of things started with the appointment of ministers from the South West without his input and in what many of his followers have come to regard as an affront, his successor and the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, respectively, were appointed ministers to spite the Jagaban, with whom they had fallen out.
As if that was not enough, his preferred candidate for the deputy governorship of Kogi State, Hon James Faleke, who was running mate to the late Abubakar Audu was abandoned and sidelined, following the death of Audu before the conclusion of the Kogi State governorship election in 2015. And to cap what many opinion and public analysts described as the emaciation of the Lagos strongman, he was checkmated by the so-called Abuja Boys in the party in the run up to the Ondo State gubernatorial election in 2016. Recall that he was also roundly beaten in the race for the leadership of the National Assembly in 2015, when his preferred candidates for both the Presidency of the Senate and the Speakership of the House of Representatives were roundly defeated.
The Jagaban quietly retreated to his Bourdillion, Ikoyi, enclave and became a pariah of sort in the seat of power, and until recently, when he accompanied President Buhari to an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit late last year, he was nowhere near the seat of power. Thus, it is right to say that Tinubu himself needs to be reconciled with the President as well as the party, before he could make any effort at reconciling aggrieved party members across the states. Announcing Tinubu’s appointment as head of a reconciliatory committee, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said, “As part of ongoing efforts to improve cohesion within the All Progressives Congress, 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.”
Many political analysts viewed this development as an attempt to put the APC in a pole position ahead of the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states later in the year as well as the 2019 general elections. Meanwhile, analysts have faulted the announcement by Shehu, saying that there should be a difference between the Presidency and the party. A political analyst, Gbenga Adedayo, said that the announcement should have been made by the party, “since it is the party and its members that are to be reconciled. “Afterall, President Buhari has all along pretended that what happens to the party is none of his business and he has allowed the party to drift aimlessly, despite being the leader of the party. Everybody just behaves the way thye like.”
They argued that the announcement ought to have been made by the party and not the Presidency. But given that Tinubu has been saddled with the responsibility of bringing cohesion back to a party on the brink of explosion, it is surely a task that would test the resilience and political sagacity and acumen of the APC National Leader, especially against the backdrop that APC members and leaders are at one another’s throats in virtually all the states of the federation. Perhaps, the first major hurddle Tinubu has to cross is reconciling the Senate President Bukola Saraki, with whom he had had clashes of interest in the past over who presides over each of the chambers of the National Assembly.
Recall that Tinubu had preferred Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila to head the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively, before he was beaten hands down by the duo of Saraki and Yakubu Dogara.
Another factor that makes Tinubu’s reconciliation voyage in the APC daunting is the fact that the party is in crisis in almost all the states of the federation. In Kano State, the feud between the Kwankwasiyya and Gandujiyya factions of the party is already taking its toil on party cohesion.
Immediate past governor of the state, Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso, despite being out of office seems not ready to release his hold on the state’s jugular, with his Kwankwasiyya movement giving the incumbent governor, Umar Ganduje, a run for his money. Not to be outdone, Ganduje also has his own political movement to further entrench himself in power, the Gandujiyya and in the past two and a half years, it has been supremacy battle between the former governor and his former deputy.
The story is not different in Rivers State, where the former governor and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi is at loggerhead with Senator Magnus Abe, over who flies the party’s gubernatorial banner in the 2019 elections. It got to a head few days ago, when Amaechi openly declared that although Senator Abe has the right to contest for the governorship of the state, he would not support his aspiration. This was after Abe had revealed that Amaechi was in his house in Abuja and in the presence of his wife asked him not to contest the Rivers State governorship. It is a no love lost ding dong affair between the outgoing governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, and the bone of contention is the governorship of the state, which Lasun is aspiring to, after the expiration of Aregbesola’s tenure later this year.
In Zamfara State, the story is not different as a titanic battle is brewing between the state governor, Abdulazeez Yari and Senator Kabir Mafara.
It is no love lost relationship between the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani, who has continued to bash his state governor at every given opportunity. The cat and dog relationship between the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, and the senator representing Kogi West in the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly, Senator Dino Melaye, is another knotty issue that will test Tinubu’s reconciliatory prowess. This is just as Melaye also needs to be reconciled with the Presidency, which he has continually bashed at every opportunity that presents itself.
The rift between Governor Bello and Melaye got to a head when the people of Kogi West initiated Melaye’s recall from the National Assembly last year, an action Melaye blamed the state governor for. The governorship ticket is the bone of contention in Oyo State, between the governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and the incumbent Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu. Their relationship had irrevocably broken down to the extent that Shittu had to petition the APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun and Tinubu, over what he termed the governor’s “unbecoming conduct.” Shittu had in his petition accused the governor of alleged high handedness; this is just as there is seeming anger among the rank and file of party membership in the Pacesetter State over what members described as imposition of candidates by the governor in the forthcoming May 12 local government election in the state.
The Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, has also been having running battle with the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalong, who is not only said to be of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), but also from the same senatorial district with Lalong. Although the rift between Lalong and Dalong has not been taken to the public domain, it is very pronounced among their supporters, especially as Lalong has been on the vanguard of calling for the removal of the minister, on the claims that his appointment negates the principle of federal character in political office sharing. Another knotty nut for Tinubu to crack is the disillusionment in Benue, where the people have become victims of rampaging Fulani herdsmen and as such are disenchanted with the ruling party. Only recently, the governor, Ortom, was quoted to have said that he would leave the APC if his people ask him to. The massacre in Benue has put the APC at a disadvantaged position in Benue people’s mind and Tinubu would have to put on his best to reverse that mindset.
In Katsina State, the battle is between the establishment, personified by the state governor, Aminu Masari and renegades in the party who have called themselves APC-Akida, which comprises of respected party leaders, including Dr. Usman Bugaje. What made the Katsina situation more difficult is the fact that APC-Akida has put up parallel party structures in the state and brokering a truce here would require tact.
What would make the assignment more difficult is the mindset of some of the strange bedfellows in the APC alliance, especially those of the defunct CPC stock, who see themselves as Buhari’s men, since they have come a long way from the defunct All Nigeria peoples party, ANPP, to the CPC. Prominent among these are Shittu, Dalong, and Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun.
Even among the party’s national executive members, there have been crisis, and the former governor of Lagos State would have to reach deep down to his repertoire of wisdom and tact to bring back cohesion to an alliance of strange bedfellows.
However, as daunting as the task is, it is not impossible, provided aggrieved party members are ready to be reconciled, especially against the backdrops of threats from some prominent members to defect to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
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