Several senators and members of the House of Representatives finally made good their threat, defecting from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). ANDREW ESSIEN takes a look at the import of this and the task before the Adams Oshiomhole-led leadership of the APC.

Indeed, these are not the best of times for the new leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as it has had to deal with humongous issues literally from the day it came into office. Even before settling down to get a grip on the party’s machinery, complaints from various quarters flooded the party arising from the recent ward, local and state congresses.

As if that was not enough, the first “baptism of fire” for the National Working Committee (NWC) came after months of speculations, apprehension and threats by some aggrieved members of the party, particularly, members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), finally pulling out of the APC to form a splinter group called the Reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC).

The faction, which claimed to be the “authentic” faction of the party, had said members of the nPDP, the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which had originally merged to form the APC in 2014, are members of its new bloc.

Also, the rAPC declared as null and void the recently concluded elective national congress, which produced the new NWC, led by former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole, stating that the processes from ward, local and states congresses to the national were breached and emergence of the new leadership was equally compromised.

The Oshiomhole-led APC now had a real test to its authority and thus, negotiations and meetings began on how to checkmate the threat that may arise should the rAPC continue in its quest to further deepen the crisis ahead of 2019.
Before that dust could settle, another political tsunami came thundering on the party again. This time, 37 members of the House of Representatives and 14 senators in one fell swoop, dumped the party citing irreconcilable differences even after several meetings were reportedly held to placate them and forestall last Tuesday’s episode.
Immediately after his swearing in, Oshiomhole had set out on a reconciliatory meetings with both arms of the National Assembly ostensibly to forestall any crack within its ranks in the parliament. He had pleaded with Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and other aggrieved members to have a rethink and rather forge a united front as APC members, assuring them that his team would work for a united party with committed and loyal members.

He had told the leadership of the parliament that “the idea of wanting to be seen as the biggest party in Nigeria and Africa without required functionality as a united group with clear direction of destination is not our focus, but a party populated by members who are committed and loyal to its desires of taking Nigeria to greater heights .Yes, it is good to be big or large in size as a party but becoming too big and become dysfunctional is not good for us.”
He had distanced the party’s national executive from utterances made by some party chieftains that any aggrieved party man could go to anywhere, explaining to the APC senators that the purpose of the NWC’s visit to them was for a heart-to-heart conversation towards finding solutions to whatever problems they had with the party at whatever levels.

“We do not subscribe to the position of people within the party saying anybody can go anywhere”, he said.
According to him, regardless of the magnitude of crises that may be afflicting the party at whatever level, the three ingredients of commitment to justice , fairness and courage to stand by the truth, the new leadership is operating with, the party will come out stronger from such crises.

Apparently, this fell on deaf ears as the cracks were just too difficult to repair. In deed, on the eve of the defection, President Muhammadu Buhari had met with some senators led by Rabiu Kwankwaso in a apparent bid to convince them to remain in the party.

News had been rife that Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, representing Kano state was on the verge of leaving the APC having fallen out with his state governor and former deputy, Dr. Umar Ganduje.

As if this was not enough, the first governor from the party to be lost to the opposition PDP, Dr. Samuel Ortom of Benue State, left its rank to rejoin his former party with 14 of the 23 council chairmen in the state and the majority of the councillors in the 276 wards.

It was gathered that the Benue situation would likely be replicated in Imo State, where the Deputy Governor, Mr. Eze Madumere, and some other key members, including Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, a former National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, and Senator Ben Uwajumogu, are said to be under pressure to jump ship.
The implementation of these defections on the overall fighting power for the party cannot be over emphasized in the light of the approaching 2019 general elections.

Analysts are of the opinion that the party must continue to mediate and interface with aggrieved members of the party and shift grounds where necessary in order to sail through at the end of the day, after all it is a game of numbers and one defector can change the political equation.

It is instructive to recall that the new national chairman, on his first full day in office, was greeted with one of the issues he and this team would have to deal with for a while. To celebrate his victory at the convention, he received two factions of the party from Taraba state, who came on a solidarity visit. Each group as vivacious as the other.
The factions, one led by the Minister for Women Affairs, Haj. Amina Alhassan and another by Sen. Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, came minutes apart and pledged support for the new leadership even as they tasked the new chairman to resolve contending issues within the party.

Contending as they come, Oshiomhole having spent only about 72 hours in office, toed the best path in charging both parties to walk the path of peace, a process he assured he was committed to.
Addressing them at separate instances at the national secretariat in Abuja, the new chair stressed that the only way the party could defeat the PDP government in the state was for the factions to set aside differences for the betterment of the party.

Oshiomhole said: “We must work for the party and the unity of the country. The unity of the party must flow from the unity from the ward, state and National levels. With unity, we can build bridges across all the divides and with that, we can have one virile, progressive party that is not only capable of winning election, but using the instrument of government to deliver on the manifesto of the party.

“I listened to you referring to two parallel congresses at various levels in Taraba state and that is rather unfortunate. We must do everything possible to ensure that we maintain the unity of the party in every state including Taraba state. I am happy by the comment made by one of you that you are all committed to ensuring that the tenure of the current governor will be brought to a close on the 29th of May next year by ensuring that we vote him out in February. I am committed to that project. I believe that we won the election in Taraba the last time, but lost on technical ground and some other issues that were beyond our control.

“I know that the National secretariat, the NWC and the entire party are committed to ensuring that during the coming elections, Taraba will join the states that are governed by progressive governors. However, that is easy to say, but is also easy to do. But the precondition for achieving it is that we must have unity because you are not going to field two governorship candidates or two candidates from each of the constituencies. You must do everything possible in the interest of the party first.”

A party leader from one of the troubled states who did not want his name in print said “ the party leadership must move quickly to assuage aggrieved persons with the party.

“The ones that have even defected have even done the party a lot of good because they are known at least. What of the people who are aggrieved and are still within the party structure and will cause damages from within. That is the real threat.

“It is not about talking tough, it is about reaching out and trying to placate them as much as possible. Senators and representatives have gone, a governor and his local government chairmen have followed suit. Who knows what will happen in the coming days?”

This blanket of defection is sure to alter political calculations ahead of 2019 but the days, weeks and months will be the defining moment for the Oshiomhole-led APC to be able to get members of the party to close ranks, set aside personal and political differences in its bid to retain power in next year’s general elections.

The message of peace must be vigorously pursued, compromises made and genuine grievances addressed in the hopes of reinvigorating a party with strong fighting force. To underestimate the opposition parties and their capabilities will be an error.