Once again, President Muhammadu Buhari has waded into the crisis rocking his party, the APC, insisting this time around that aggrieved members of the party can seek redress in court against the party’s earlier position. In this report, JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH examines the issues against the backdrop of whether or not the president’s latest intervention can stave off further defections from the party.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is hanging on the precipice. No thanks to the rancorous primaries held nationwide. After suffering a gale of defections in the National Assembly prior to the primaries, more members also left the party in protest soon after the controversial primary elections in some states were concluded.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who by virtue of his position as the highest political office holder in the party and the number one citizen in the country, is traditionally regarded as the leader of the party, and had on several occasions intervened to calm frayed nerves in the party.
Buhari had earlier asked aspirants who failed in their bid to secure the party’s tickets to emulate Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who lost his return ticket to a former commissioner in the state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The president, at a dinner with the aggrieved aspirants in Abuja, urged them to be patient, remain with the party and work for its success during the 2019 elections.
“I spoke with the APC party chairman almost every other day, at least for an hour during the primaries. And sometimes, we met for two and half hours on ensuring internal democracy during the primaries,” he said.
Acknowledging that in spite of all efforts to appease everyone and give them a chance at the polls, some aspirants were still not treated fairly, the president told the aggrieved party members that: “I urge you to stay faithful if your objective is to serve the country. I came back to power in this ‘agbada’ to convince Nigerians to make sacrifices that the country needs now for a better future”.
Buhari’s enjoinder to the aggrieved aspirants was instructive. Many party members were not satisfied with the way and manner the primaries were conducted nationwide. Some members alleged that imposition and brazen disregard for the rules and regulations of the party was the order of the day in the primaries.
Wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, had also lambasted the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, over what she described as controversies and irregularities that trailed the party primaries.
According to her, the party granted automatic tickets to some aspirants while denying others the opportunity to contest, even though they had coughed huge amounts of money to purchase nomination forms. In a series of tweets on her verified Twitter handle @aishabuhari, she regretted that Oshiomhole, despite coming from a Labour background that requires staying on the side of the people, presided over impunity. Mrs Buhari went on to call on Nigerians to resist it.
She tweeted: “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously, yet found their names omitted on Election Day. These forms were bought at exorbitant prices. Many others contested and yet had their results delayed, fully knowing that AUTOMATIC tickets have been given to other people.
“All Progressives Congress (APC), being a party whose cardinal principle is change and headed by a comrade/ activist whose main concern is for the common man, yet, such impunity could take place under its watch. It is important for the populace to rise against impunity and for voters to demand from aspirants to be committed to the provision of basic amenities such as: 1. Potable drinking water; 2. Basic health care (Primary Health Care centers).
“Given this development, one will not hesitate to dissociate from such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless. Let us vote wisely! LONG LIVE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!”
Also, the governors of Ogun, Ondo, Imo and Zamfara States had been vocal on their dissaffection with the primaries and Oshiomole’s leadership. There are also reports that the governors were also plotting the removal of the national chairman.
Ogun state governor, Ibikunle Amosun’s preferred governorship candidate for the APC was not recognised by the party; same goes with Imo governor, Rochas Okorocha. In Zamfara, the party is faced with the consequence of not having candidates for all elective positions in the state.
In a major pushback, there had been attacks and acerbic statements between Oshiomole and the aggrieved governors. Despite appeals by President Buhari to all parties to sheathe their swords and stop the media war, the gloves were off.
Imo State governor, Okorocha had earlier gone to court to seek affirmation of his candidate, Uche Nwosu, as the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in the state. In most of the states, it was virtually the same story as most of the aggrieved members went to court or were threatening to go to court.
Not comfortable with the plethora of court cases, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC warned that aggrieved members of the party will face disciplinary action if they refuse to withdraw the legal actions filed against the party in court. The NCW gave the warning in a statement issued by Lanre Issa-Onilu, the APC national publicity secretary.
APC noted: “The NWC has frowned at the actions of some party members who have resorted to litigation as a way of addressing their perceived grievances and disputation without exhausting the party’s dispute resolution mechanism.
“This growing trend is viewed by the party as a manifest indiscipline. The action, it should be noted, is considered as anti-party as it goes against our party’s constitution. The party intends to activate constitutional provisions to penalise such members as their action is capable of undermining the party and hurt its interest.
“We hereby strongly advise such members to withdraw all court cases, while approaching the appropriate party organs with a view to resolving any outstanding disputes. In addition to this, aggrieved members are urged to take full advantage of the reconciliation committees the party has just put in place,” Onilu further told disgruntled members of the party, adding that they should take the warning seriously, as failure to comply would be met with the stipulated disciplinary actions.
But President Buhari during the week overruled the party, stressing that if anyone is displeased with the way and manner anything had been done, and feels deprived of his/her rights, then such a person is at liberty to approach the courts for redress.
“We can’t deliberately deny people of their rights. We agreed that party primaries should be conducted either through direct, indirect or consensus methods, and if anyone feels unjustly treated in the process, such a person can go to court. The court should always be the last resort for the dissatisfied. For the party to outlaw the court process is not acceptable to me,” a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, quoted the president as saying.
President Buhari also advised members to work with the reconciliation committees empanelled for the six geo-political zones by the APC, and not a purported presidential committee on reconciliation, stressing that the party is the only body authorised to constitute such committees.
Oshiomhole had recently inaugurated a national peace and reconciliation committees for each of the six geo-political zones of the country to reconcile all aggrieved members of the party ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Oshiomhole, while inaugurating the committees in Abuja, said their members were expected to help the party’s national leadership to find an in-house solution to the acrimony that followed the party’s primary elections. He added that members of the committees were also to maintain peace and ensure internal harmony within the APC family before the elections.
He further added that the essence of the committees was to bring about lasting peace in the party ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The national chairman said that members of the committees should meet aggrieved members and leaders of the party in their zones to reconcile them. He explained that the party had to set up the committee in the six geo-political zones to fast track its reconciliation efforts.
According to him, the only integrity the PDP has is looting the national treasury, saying that the APC is today delivering on the campaign promises it made to Nigerians in 2015. He further said that the APC was today a bigger family because of its antecedence which made more Nigerians to join its fold.
He continued: “We have gone through a very crucial stage in the processes leading to the next Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and House of Assembly elections. I think, from my own records, of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, I believe we have done exceedingly well as it is impossible for the most gifted child to score 100 per cent in every subject.
“The more questions you have to answer, the more chances are that you will miss some of them. I believe that the house is bigger today than it was before, because those who have reservations have since realised that President Muhammadu Buhari means business and APC is delivering on its promises”.
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, who spoke on behalf of the committees, thanked the party leadership for the responsibility and assured that the committees would deliver on their mandate.
As the committees settle down to do their work, political observers say it remains to be seen how this latest move by the president can halt further defections from the party. Also, as political parties engage in fierce campaigns mode, it is in the best interest of the APC to reconcile aggrieved members before the general elections in less than three months from now.
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