In this report CHIBUZO UKAIBE and GABRIEL EMAMEH, dissect the raging power play within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)
Events of the past week have been instructive, in a lot of ways, for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). From the much-foretold emergency of a splinter group, reminiscent of the nPDP in 2013, to the victory of the Senate President, Sen Bukola Saraki, at the Supreme Court over charges of false asset declaration, the political fabric of the governing party was stretched beyond it’s bound somewhat, analysts opine.
The emergence of a splint group in the APC had been on the cards. Pundits had anticipated this development, especially after the recent national convention of the party. This was despite the frantic effort by its new leadership, under the former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, to arrest the drift.
The nPDP, led by former PDP national acting chairman, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, had before the national convention threatened to pull out of the party if their grievances were not addressed, even though they promised to remain available for talks with the emergency of the new leadership of the party. This group is mainly backed by members of the National Assembly elected under the platform of the APC and other aggrieved members of the party.
But a splinter nPDP group, led by Sen Abdullahi Adamu had countered the claims made their estranged political allies with whom they, in 2013, pulled out of the former ruling party, PDP.
The Adamu group called the bluff of the Baraje group, noting that whether or not they left, the APC will retain the presidential seat after the election in 2019. The Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, had also stated, in May, that the defection of the nPDP members would affect the party.
However, the faction of aggrieved members of the nPDP bloc, led by Buba Galadima declared the activation of a parallel national structure in the party, revealing that the structures of the new faction would be announced in states and local government chapters across the country subsequently. Galadima, a hitherto staunch supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari, over the past decade, emerged the national chairman of the rAPC.
Members of the splinter group had in the build up to the national convention, alleged marginalisation and persecution of their members by this administration. Thus, Galadima said the members were compelled to leave because the APC had lost focus. The factional chairman confirmed that the nPDP teamed up with other forces to form rAPC.
Interestingly, the group unveiled itself while Oshiomhole, was still making consultations with critical stakeholders and aggrieved members of the party on how to resolve the looming implosion staring the party in the face.
The APC national chairman had hardly finished the meeting which held on Wednesday with the Senate APC Caucus alongside members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), in Senate Committtee Room 301, when the news of the splinter group came up.
The former labour leader at the meeting had identified the crisis associated with the recent conduct of party primaries at ward, local government and state levels and promised that the party leadership would do its possible best to resolve them.
Nonetheless, he was miffed by the action of the Buba Galadima-led faction, declaring that he cannot lose sleep over their action.
Addressing journalists at the National Assembly after a lengthy meeting with the APC caucus in the House of Representatives, he described the members of the new faction as hired mercenaries. Oshiomhole said he was currently engaging “real stakeholders” of the party as part of measures to resolve the crisis in APC.
“There is no breakup in our party, if one Galadima is not happy, that is fine. He has a right not to be happy,” he said.
“If he chooses to call himself whatever he wants to call himself, that is not the issue. I will not lose my sleep over that. We know those who are in the system. Those who are seeking breakup that is their problem. We are engaging real stakeholders. I mean between the executive and the two arms of the National Assembly.
“We have very important influential leaders we are engaging. If people are being sponsored by those who thought our convention will be a failure, those who were expecting implosion, so be it.
“If you reviewed the headlines before the convention, there were stories like people are going to walk out of the convention; people will boycott the convention.”
The APC national chairman further ruled out the fear that the splinter group would affect the chances of the party in the 2019 elections.
In the same vein, the APC national publicity secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, who also reacted to the activation of rAPC, described the group as rebels, adding that the party has no faction. He said the party would continue to open more grounds for talk with aggrieved members of the party.
In a statement released on Thursday, the APC spokesman said the ruling party had affirmed ‘‘that there is no faction in our Party and declares the action by these individuals as mischievous and ill-advised. Having failed to scuttle the National Convention as was their original plan, they now resort to this subterfuge as a way of achieving the pre-determined end of causing confusion.
“As a matter of fact, we doubt that these individuals parading as leaders of the so called faction are actual members of our Party. We are currently investigating their true membership status within the Party.
The statement added “While we shall continue to monitor developments in this respect; we will not hesitate to take lawful actions to defend the unity of our Party and protect the sanctity of its identity. We are currently reviewing the action of this so-called faction in order to determine if any aspect of the Party’s constitution has been breached with the connivance of any of our members.
“For those members who have genuine grievances, we want to assure them of the commitment of the new leadership of the party to address those grievances as quickly as possible in a manner that ensures that justice is done to all”.
Although some analysts anticipated increased agitations in light of the congresses that trailed convention, many party faithfuls had hoped that the move to breakaway from the party would not happen so soon against the backdrop that Oshiomhole’s coming would mark a new beginning for the party. This was hinged on the argument that the APC would be able to manage what the former ruling PDP could not do before its 2014 national convention.
However, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered from a former national chairmanship aspirant of the PDP, who doesn’t want his name in print, that the ongoing drama in the governing party was the outcome of long orchestrated plan primed for activation after the convention.
He said those who formed the parallel structure wouldn’t have left without a strong voice backing them within the APC.
“The truth is that they have been able to identify the fact that they were aggrieved in the first place”, the source said, adding “there was crisis and the party was not willing to resolve and it has become clear to them that they were no longer wanted, which of course would have been the only permissible excuse they can give for moving out’’.
A political analyst, Benedict Obiefuna, opined that the splinter group had already perfected their plot and made up their minds a long time ago. “The composition of the rAPC members shows that these are people who have been waiting and bidding their time to get their pound of flesh for various reasons. While some feel they hate being persecuted, rightly or wrongly, others believe they are not being given their due having laboured for the party. So I doubt there was pretty much the new leadership would have done to appease them at that point.”
But, what does this portend for the ruling party, at a critical time when other political parties have their tools ready to harvest from the crisis in the APC?
Expectedly, PDP said its door is open to welcome aggrieved members of the APC just as the ruling party did to its former member when they collapsed into it at the build-up of 2015.
The PDP spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, who said the news of the emergence of rAPC was expected and offered support for the faction, added “every Nigerian, every political party or group that is interested in ousting the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration are welcomed on board the PDP.
“We have rebranded and we have brought a new narrative that Nigerians will be happy about”, said Ologbondiyan.
So far, the Kaduna State chapter of the splinter group of the party is believed to have inaugurated its state and local government exco. Galadima, the factional national chairman, said “there are countless cases in courts all over the country challenging the legality of congresses and even the national convention itself. It is very likely that the judicial decisions on these cases will result in massive chaos, confusion and uncertainties.
“The fate of a party in this state with a few months to the elections is best left to the imagination. But it is not a fate we believe our millions of members should be abandoned to. There were parallel congresses in 24 states namely: Abia, Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Niger, Ondo, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto and Zamfara.
In Imo State for instance, a Federal High Court sitting in Owerri had on Thursday nullified wards, Local Government and state congresses of the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
It is not clear yet what would be the next line of action for those whom the court’s ruling went against. It is not also clear what would become of the several pending litigations emanating from the outcome of some of these congresses in other state chapters. Can Oshiomhole make the difference?
The Saraki Verdict
With the political space still unsettled over the emergence of rAPC, the victory of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the Supreme Court gave a fresh dimension to the intrigues within the APC. The apex court, on Friday, cleared Saraki of charges of false declaration of asset which had emerged shortly after he, against the wishes of some interests in the party, became the Senate President. He had further spited those opposed to his senate presidency by insisting on his alignment with PDP lawmakers in the Senate, which had saw Senator Ike Ekweremadu, become his deputy.
From then on, pundits believe that the grounds for Saraki’s possible alliance or return to the PDP in 2019 was established. Saraki remained a key member of the nPDP, which he helped form in 2013. The leader of the group, Kawu Baraje, is his major political.
However, the declaration by Saraki, after the Supreme Court ruling was quite intriguing in light of the raging upheavals in the APC.
“As I said in my first appearance at the CCT, this is a politically motivated case. The case was trumped up in the first instance because of my emergence as the President of the Senate against the wishes of certain forces. Ordinarily, I doubt anyone would be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over 15 years ago.
“What we have seen is the opposite. Instead of working together in the interest of the nation and to seek to do better for our people, we are fighting one another and using legal instruments to mount baseless accusations against one another,” he said.
With the case over and his public perception index looking up, it is not clear if Saraki would lead other aggrieved APC lawmakers to join the rAPC as been speculated in some quarters, even though he is yet to disassociate himself from the group.
But, if recent events by some APC lawmakers in his camp are anything to go by, it is likely that a move away from the party is in the offing. Two staunch allies of Saraki, Senators Shehu Sani and Dino Melaye have in their recent social media posts, indicated a move away from the APC. While Sani has been poetic in his messaging, Melaye, in a video, characteristically danced to his acapella composition of a song in which he declared “PDP, my home”.
Although it is believed that critical stakeholders of the party are listening to the new national chairman of the party, particularly the party caucus in the National Assembly, if negotiations fail to work out, the APC might find itself in the position the PDP was in 2013-2014 with the same group described as rebels by the former ruling PDP turning out to be a major obstacle for them in 2019.
The nPDP group, which appears to be more domiciled in the legislature, as at last Thursday still clamoured for justice at their meeting with Oshiomhole.
“In every family, whether it is a nuclear, extended or an organisation, there is bound to be a problem and that is because we humans that are running those institutions are not perfect ourselves. So, we don’t expect perfection from any quarters.
“Our only expectation is the issue of justice and justice is indivisible. What is justice to the executive should be justice to the legislature and it should be justice to the judiciary.
“What is justice to the President and the Vice-President should be justice to the governor and it has to be justice for the members of the National Assembly, because you can’t divide justice. Once you begin to divide justice you don’t have justice’’, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had told Oshiomhole and other members of the National Working Committee of the party during a meeting with the party’s caucus at the House.
As it stands, the Abdullahi-led faction of nPDP, is yet to comment on the issue as attempts to reach them for comments failed. But indications from their camp shows that they have braced, in conjunction with the new APC leadership, to make up for any impact the possible movement of the Baraje-led nPDP will have on the party.
So far, there are claims that some members of the former nPDP in the National Assembly may not allign with, Saraki and Dogara if they eventually decide to leave the party.
An APC lawmaker confided in LEADERSHIP Sunday that while many of nPDP members are barking and shouting now, not all of them will eventually move with the leadership of the group.
“This is politics and negotiations are still on. In fact, negotiations are far from over. So, by the time certain individual interests are met, don’t be surprised to see a massive change in the narrative that you are hearing now. Don’t forget every politics is local,” he said.
Still, many analysts ponder what price the APC is ready to pay to keep it’s ranks intact. On the other hand what fate awaits the would-be defectors? Will they collapse again into the PDP as they did in the APC in 2014 even as there is no guarantee for automatic ticket for them in their prospective destinations?
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