The recent ultimatum given to the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) may have opened a new vista to the crisis within the governing party. ANDREW ESSIEN writes.
Many had thought that after their separation from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and eventual merger to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), their issues had finally settled and the nPDP as they were known, will be dead and buried. In the light of the recent happenings, this trend of thought has been vacated.
In what analysts say is a fight for the soul of the APC, the nPDP which is one of the power blocs that fused into the APC before the 2015 general elections wrote President Muhammadu Buhari through the party expressing their dissatisfaction with the present status quo.
The letter came just days after the party conducted Ward and Local Government congresses across the country which left many party stalwarts disenchanted with the process.
Giving the APC leadership a seven-day ultimatum to convene an emergency meeting to address their grievances, the nPDP also accused the presidency and the party of maltreating their members.
Speaking with journalists at a press conference after a closed door meeting with the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, where a four-page letter dated April 27, 2018, titled “Request for redressing of grievances of the former new PDP block within the All Progressives Congress” was submitted, the group’s leader, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, declared that without votes contributed by the members of his group, the present government would not have been elected into power.
The letter signed by Alhaji Abubakar Kanu Baraje and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola on behalf of the group was addressed to the National Chairman of the party, saying despite their contribution to the success of the APC, their members had been relegated to the background in the scheme of things in the party and in the government.
The letter which was also copied to President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated that the only seat that went to members of the nPDP in the Federal Executive Council was given to a member whose state contributed virtually no vote to the APC in the 2015 presidential election.
The letter reads: “We, the members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who moved over from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to form the APC before the 2015 general elections in Nigeria are desirous of strengthening our party especially now that new party Congresses have commenced, and the convention and another round of general electrons are imminent. Obviously, this cannot be achieved without addressing fundamental issues which we wish to raise in the letter.
“We therefore wish, with due respect, to re-state our expectation then and now that the APC we all laboured to build would be one united, inclusive, cohesive and progressive party devoid of divisions, factions, cleavages and tendencies.
“We envisioned a political party promoting equal rights for all Nigerians and ensuring rapid and even development across the country. Of course, there is no gainsaying the fact that the lofty ideals enumerated above cannot be attained without ensuring justice for party faithful and citizens.
“Kindly indulge us to offer a brief reminder of the history of events that led to the victory of the APC in the 2015 general elections, and the presidential election in particular. It is an undeniable historical fact that the movement of the former new PDP block to form the APC contributed immensely to the victory of the APC in the election.
“The former new PDP included five sitting governors of Sokoto, Kano, Kwara, Adamawa and Rivers State, and former governors of Kebbi, Gombe, Osun and former vice president of Nigeria, former acting National Chairman of PDP, sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives, many serving members of the National Assembly and many politicians and PDP elders. It was a watershed moment in Nigeria’s political history.
“Most of these leaders not only delivered their states to the APC at the election, some of the governors were also assigned specific responsibilities to ensure that other states were also delivered to the APC in the 2015 election. The then governor of Sokoto took charge of Kebbi and the then governor of Kano State took responsibility for Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa states just to mention a few examples. There were also unprecedented efforts by many stakeholders such as Senator Bukola Saraki in concert with others, to deliver the entire North Central to the APC.
“These efforts, contributions and sacrifice were made in spite of the fact that the presidential ticket was taken by the erstwhile Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN) block of the party.
“It is a matter for grave concern that His Excellency Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has never publicly acknowledged our efforts in the face of clear evidence that the total number of votes scored by the APC in states where leaders and members of the then newPDP block held sway made the difference.
The group also alleged that in the constitution the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the New PDP block was sidelined as virtually no positron was conceded to it. It stated that “The only member of FEC that belonged to former New PDP block came from a state that contributed virtually no vote to the APC in the 2015 presidential election”.
“There has been no significant patronage and appointments to executive positions in various government agencies such as Chief Executive and Executive Directors of government agencies and parastatals as members of our block of the party continue to helplessly watch as these positions are shared by the erstwhile CPC, ACN, ANPP and even APGA blocks of the party and those who have no party at all.
It further alleged that in appointments into boards of various government agencies, very few former New PDP members were patronised. But it stated however that these are not commensurate with group’s contributions to the growth and victory of the party.
Furthermore, it stressed that when members of the block showed interest in running for the offices of President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, they were subjected to a vicious and relentless political opposition as if they were not legitimate members of the APC family.
In the same vein, it stated that during the party primaries preparatory to the 2015 general elections, most of the promises made to sitting members of the National Assembly who belonged to the former new PDP in terms of a level playing field were reneged upon or observed more in breach.
It also stated that there has been general lack of consultation, non recognition and even persecution of former New PDP members and leaders by the party and government. It stated that “For example, some of our leaders are denied the security cover necessary to visit their constituencies even though they are elected representatives of the people in a government they sacrificed so much for. They also alleged harassment, intimidation and persecution of former New PDP leaders by the government, adding that “There is inadequate reflection of programme and policy contributions of members at the former New PDP block in the running of the government”, among others.
But this latest squabble for the soul of the party did not just start with the nPDP as many current and former party leaders have at various times, sang different songs of one form of disenchantment or the other even as the political war brews ahead of 2019.
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar had, recently, in Abuja, lamented the absolute lack of internal democracy in the political parties in the country, linking them to some of the challenges the nation’s democracy has faced in the last 17 years.
Speaking recently as chairman at an interactive session organised by the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria, at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, the former vice-president submitted that lack of internal democracy has been the major challenge of political parties in Nigeria since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999.
Apparently reacting to the failure of the APC NWC to call meetings of statutory organs of the party, the former vice-president expressed concern that stakeholders in the ruling party were in the dark about development in their party.
“Democracy is not just an idea; it is a cultural practice. For a number of years now we have had political parties, even governing ones, which hardly hold meetings of their important organs, including those meant for the democratic selection of their leadership, or even constitute institutions prescribed in their constitution. In the absence of those meetings and elections, their existing leadership, often under the direction of the Executive at the state or federal level, fill the void. That’s not party building but party bullying. And it’s certainly not a way to democratise parties and aggregate their members’ opinions, interests and aspirations,” Atiku had said.
Analysts posit that while Atiku is not the first to point out the malaise in the political parties, with several political and academic juggernauts having, in the last few years, decried the untoward developments in party politics, the seemingly intractable crisis and the silent battles in APC have, again, brought to the fore the need to address the issue of internal democracy.
Ironically, the crises thrown up by the conduct of the congresses have become a reflection of the struggle for the control of the party at all levels, a struggle said to be more fierce at the national level, with the current NWC of the party alleged to have lost the wherewithal to embark on trouble shooting initiatives.
Party sources aver that the power struggle and subsequent protests from some of those who appeared to have been schemed out by their state governors may lead to more dire consequences, even as the party’s leadership, which is expected to drive the process that will ensure justice and cohesion, seems to have lost the confidence of strategic stakeholders in the party.
Even within the nPDP, there are noticeable cracks with the emergence of another faction which came to counter what the Baraje-led group had put forward, underscoring the dicey nature of the issues under view.
In a dramatic turn of events, leading another delegation to the party’s national secretariat, Senator Abdullahi Adamu led other eminent members of another faction of the group even as they distanced themselves from the position of the Baraje-led nPDP.
Adamu, while addressing journalists at the national secretariat said the nPDP had not met since 2014 and as such the Baraje-led group couldn’t have been speaking for the nPDP as a whole since they did not consult with anyone.
In a letter signed by the group’s Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Secretary, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Chief Theodore Geogewill and Abdulmumin Jibrin respectively and copied to Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the group punctured all the points raised by the Baraje-bloc.
On the issue of marginalisation as claimed by the Baraje-led bloc, the letter said “The APC has been very gracious to us but we must not overstretch our luck. We have concentrated on pointing accusing fingers at the president and party and generally others while we failed to look inward and address the greed, selfishness, witch hunt, injustice and high handedness exhibited by some leaders of the defunct nPDP in privileged positions today against our fellow members.
They however advised “the party and Mr President that in an event that it decides to grant audience to the group lead by Kawu Baraje, we the Buhari supporters who are now in the majority in the defunct nPDP should be invited to the meeting as well. For it seems the petitioners no longer stand for the ideals of the defunct nPDP nor represent our collective interest and position.”
However, disclosing that his group would meet with the party leadership, Baraje told journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital last weekend that the nPDP is made up of men and women who cannot be pushed aside even as he lamented the high rate of internal conflicts within the ruling APC, culminating in parallel state congresses in about 21 states, adding that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, the nPDP’s recent letter to the leadership of the APC was to forestall such occurrences.
The meetings indeed held and the leadership of the party appeared to have soft-pedalled even as it declared that all the grievances expressed by the leader of the defunct New People Democratic Party (nPDP) were genuine.
The party also revealed that a meeting between the party and the presidency which is geared towards addressing the myriad of issues raised by the faction is underway.
On his part, leader of the group, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, denied insinuation that they were planning to ditch the APC for opposition party, a move that saw them fusing with the party before the 2015 general elections.
How the negotiations will pan out in the next couple of days will be indicative of the preparedness or otherwise of the party to tackle, head on, the issues that will arise even at the much talked about national convention as the party and indeed the country head towards the 2019 elections.
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