The uproar arising from recent the Ward and Local Government Congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may be indicative of the intense battle for the soul of the party, ANDREW ESSIEN writes

It began as if the All Progressives Congress (APC) was not interested in adhering to its own constitution as it avoided any route that would lead to an elective convention. Indeed, after many false starts in its efforts to hold a midterm non-elective convention last year, the party this year began moves to hold its convention, which for all intents and purposes is expected to coincide with the terminal date of the current National Working Committee (NWC).

The present NWC led by the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was elected into office on June 14, 2014 and is expected to complete a four-year tenure in June this year.

The APC convocated a consultative meeting which was initiated in April 2017 by the party’s national chairman to ensure monthly meeting of governors elected on the party’s platform and members of its NWC.

Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, had hitherto told journalists then that the consultative meeting would be holding monthly until the 2019 general elections.

But key to the delay in dates for the congresses which would kick start the road towards the convention proper was that some of the state governors were not comfortable with the continued stay in office of some of the members of the NWC from their states and had wanted to use the opportunity to weed them out in the convention and the best way to begin the process was the congresses.

The governors, it was learnt, were suspicious of the NWC members who they felt might not be representing their interests well enough and might even be working with rival interests to undermine them and their ambitions ahead of the general elections especially those who wanted a second term in office and others who were interested in seeing their cronies succeed them after their tenure.

With the governors now included in the convention planning as well as former governors who are now senators, the move is meant to assuage them that their interests will not be jeopardised. But with allegations that some governors are not willing to hold any congress as they are trying to give automatic waivers and endorsements to present leaders presents another level of challenge.

The names of key political figures on the list, is an assurance that they will still be given not only the party leadership in their states but also the opportunity to control party structures and produce delegates that would attend the congresses and the national convention.

After several back-channel negotiations, the party’s national leadership released guidelines for the Wards’, Local Government Areas’ and State’s Congresses.

In the guidelines released by the APC National Organising Secretary, Sen. Osita Izunaso, the Ward Chairmanship aspirants were expected to pay N10,000 each to obtain nomination form, while other officers were to pay N2,000.

Local government chairmanship shall buy nomination form for N25,000, while other offices will be purchased for N10,000. The aspirants vying for the position of state chairman shall pay N100,000 to pick the forms, while other offices go for N30,000 each.

According to the guidelines, all female and the physically challenged aspirants shall pay 50 percent of the prescribed fees.

With this, the battle line was drawn and the resultant effects are still being experienced within the party and the polity as a whole, a development that has threatened to open the lid on the pent-up anger and internal struggle in the state chapters of the party nationwide.

A couple of months ago, all efforts were geared towards preserving the status quo in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Before now, any move that was put in motion to see fresh hands brought in to the party that had seen several crisis since it won power at the centre and indeed, in several states met a brick wall.

The tenacity of purpose by the antagonists of tenure extension for the party’s leadership as currently constituted at all levels culminated in congresses across the country.

Though the congresses are purely an APC affair, they have, however, taken a semblance of a make-or-mar contest among the power blocs at different layers within the leadership hierarchy, and the import of the congress and attendant intrigues are not eluding the party faithful, especially in the state chapters of the party, where different forces seem poised for a battle to the finish.

In Kano for example, the fight is between the Gandujiyya and Kwankwasiyya factions, as the two groups attempted to do the same thing during the last local government election held in the state on the February 10. This fierce contest will last even up to the convention when it will be clear who has the upper hand.

It would be recalled that during the last local government election, both the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission (KANSIEC) and Kwankwasiyya sold forms to some party members interested in contesting for chairmanship and councillorship positions.

Despite the intervention of the national headquarters of the party, which led to the appointment of Yahaya Karaye, an engineer, as chairman of the party in the state, the Gandujiyya and Kwankwasiyya syndrome is still playing a significant role in the politics of Kano.

In Oyo State, all is no longer at ease as the party is fragmented into three camps. At one level, there is a camp loyal to Governor Abiola Ajimobi, known as SENACO, while another group is loyal to the former governor of the state, Alhaji Lam Adesina, known as Lamist group and the third group is loyal to the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu.

The recent disagreement was the development ahead of the May 12 local government election in the state. Many members of the leadership of the party had condemned the imposition of candidates across the 33 local government areas of the state and with this, various forms of verbal bombs had been criss-crossing the political firmament in the state.

The case in Imo presents an interesting scenario. Stakeholders and key players in the state chapter of the party had since been gearing up for a show down in party’s congresses and national convention. What is, however, tickling the minds of political analysts is the subterranean plan by Governor Rochas Okorocha to impose his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor and the vow by some stakeholders to stop him.

The congresses are to determine which of the contending forces has the upper hand in the fierce scramble for the soul of the party ahead of the governorship primary and what has been witnessed after this first round, leaves little to be imagined as the state congresses begin.

The aggrieved party members, also stormed the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja to argue that no congress was held in Imo state, urging the Oyegun-led NWC to quickly take a drastic step in arresting the situation rocking the party in Imo state.

In Lagos, a high-wired politics is taking centre stage at the state chapter of the party as alignment and re-alignment of forces are currently on among party stalwarts, members and political caucuses.

Even though it is an open secret that former Lagos State governor and national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, still holds the aces as per the party’s machinery, there are moves, especially, among those who are considered as “Abuja-based” and those of the legacy parties to strike deals capable of giving them some political mileage as things gradually unfold.

In Adamawa State, it is the battle for the control of the party machinery between Governor Muhammadu Jibrila Bindow and a group led by former Governor Murtala Nyako. They are both battling to outdo each other.

In Plateau State, the battle for the soul of the party is a straightforward fight between Governor Simon Lalong and the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung. The duo has been trading words over who controls the party in the state. How this will affect the state congress will be seen in the coming days.

As the intrigues continue to unfold, political observers will continue to follow the trend in the crucial weeks and months ahead.

In Bauchi, the party is still struggling with internal crisis that is threatening the unity among its members. The feud between Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar and the state party leadership on one hand and federal lawmakers and other aggrieved members of the party on the other, has aggravated the situation ahead of the congresses.

Before the ward and local government congresses, Abubakar held series of meetings with party delegates from all the 20 local government areas in the state, a move that many stakeholders see as positioning himself to have a firm grip over the outcome far and above the “Abuja politicians”.

The state congresses will be the final litmus test as the party moves to the all important convention ahead of the 2019 general elections. The state congresses present a chance to make amends.