Ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, may be systematically going the way of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, however OKECHUKWU JOMBO writes that it is a silent leadership change within the party.
What started silently is fast becoming noisy and that is the crisis rocking the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. It reared its head when members of National Working Committee, NWC, of the party staged a walk out at its meeting recently in Abuja, insisting that the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun resigns.
Chief Oyegun after that incident handed over the mantle of leadership of the party to former Ekiti State Governor and the Deputy National Chairman of the Party, Chief Segun Oni, stating that he, Oyegun was going on 10-day vacation.
The development then grounded activities at the APC National Secretariat to a halt, as all the NWC members stayed away from their offices.
This time, both National Leader of the party Bola Tinubu and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, stayed away without any reason, as the party leaders met with President Muhammadu Buhari before the weekend.
The truth is that APC had been facing a silent leadership crisis as some top members have fallen out with Odigie-Oyegun over his leadership style and have demanded his resignation.
They believe he dances to the whims and caprice of Bola Tinubu and now that Muhammadu Buhari has emerged as President that he should be changed.
It was reported that Chief Odigie-Oyegun was forced to proceed on compulsory leave to pave the way for the resolution of the feud, but was persuaded to continue by those that are loyal to Tinubu.
Even though at that time Odigie-Oyegun,, debunked the claims, stressing that he was proceeding on a 10-day leave to have some rest as demanded by his doctors after a hectic period of activities since he emerged as the APC national chairman.
The parties Deputy Publicity Secretary Timi Frank has been shouting to everyone that cares that the party is factionalised and currently in crisis.
Their collective effort massively won them the general elections, but now they are in disarray. This is the story of a ruling political party in search of peace after the elections of Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives of the 8th National Assembly respectively.
It is a baptism of fire. It is happening early. No one anticipated it. They tried to cover it but it leaked out. They also tried to manage it, but it is escalating. Now, there is palpable aggression and deep-seated animosity within. The development has divided APC leaders. In addition, the blame game continues.
This has led many to wonder if the merger that brought up the APC was not a marriage of convenience.
The cracks in the party became visible soon after the party lost the National Assembly leadership elections. Did I say the party? It is not really the party but some powerful persons in the party.
How did this happen? Soon after the party emerged victorious at the last general elections, the clamour on who become the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives began. Names started dropping and horse-trading became intense.
Hon. Yakubu Dogara, from Bauchi State, who is now the Speaker of the House of Representatives; his closest rival in the election, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, from Lagos; Hon. Mohammed Monguno, from Borno State; Abudulmuni Jubril; Pally Iraise, from Edo State and Yusuf Lasun, from Osun, were among the early seekers of the office of the House Speaker.
Similarly, at the Senate, the names of Senator Bukola Saraki, from Kwara State, who later got lucky and was voted the Senate President; George Akume, from Benue; Ahmed Lawan, from Yobe, among others, came up for the presidency of the Senate. With the various interests, the National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC met twice to streamline the interests, but the meetings were stalemated.
This led to the party’s leadership meeting at the Rivers State Governorship Lodge in Abuja, held on April 22.
Everyone that mattered in the APC, including President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, were at the meeting. There, the party subtly ceded the Senate presidency to the North Central zone and Speakership to North East. Members had no qualms with the North Central having the presidency of the Senate.
But tempers flared when South-West suddenly showed interest in the Speakership of the House after North East had been pencilled down for the office. Consequent upon the shouting match, a two-man committee was set up.
The two men were Buhari and the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun. Their mandate was to think out the best way to accommodate the interests. But there were doubts that the committee ever met to harmonise the interests.
To lend credence to this, Buhari repeatedly sounded a caution when his name was dropped that he was backing a candidate for the top National Assembly position.
He washed his hands off the allegation and later advocated free hand in the elections of the parliament leaders.
Now, when it became obvious that Akume’s candidacy would not fly for the Senate presidency in the emerging force of Saraki, a powerful man in the party opted for Lawan from the North East in a calculated attempt to dislodge Dogara who was waxing stronger from the zone.
In Dogara’s stead, Gbajabimila was prepared for the House speakership. Contenders tried to woo lawmakers from the APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. On June 9, day of the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly, APC, having tried unsuccessfully to stop the participation of Saraki and Dogara in the contest after producing Lawan and Gbajabiamila as their consensus candidates in a straw poll on June 6 in Abuja, scheduled a meeting with all their National Assembly members-elect.
However, that was their greatest undoing. While the party leaders and other incoming lawmakers were at the International Conference Centre, ICC, venue of the meeting, the Senate conducted its election and voted Saraki as president. That was not all. The red chamber went ahead and elected opposition senator PDP Ike Ekwerenmadu as the Deputy Senate President.
Also, at the House, with the participation of APC’s favorite candidates, Dogara was voted as the Speaker. Then the party began to boil. First, it declared the outcome of the elections unacceptable and disowned Saraki and Dogara as Senator and House Speaker. Second, it threatened to impose sanctions on them.
Then, Saraki and Dogara had already acquired new designation, apparently irreversible now. The duos elections later dovetailed into controversy. Of course, the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who largely supported Lawan and Gbajabimila, became sad, extremely sad. His sadness was further fuelled by Saraki’s visit to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, another chieftain of the party, immediately after his election.
Those in Tinubu’s camp felt that there was a “coup” against their principal’s interest in the APC. To make matters worse, Buhari and Atiku issued separate statements congratulating the new National Assembly leaders and pledged their readiness to work with them. Tinubu’s anger continued to grow.
Obviously, the crisis has sprawled to offices of the APC National Chairman, Oyegun, and the Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Now, both men are battling to save their jobs. Why? The bottled anger of many APC national leaders had exploded against them. To many of the leaders, the mock election, which cost the party the Deputy Senate President, is chiefly Oyegun’s sin.
He was also accused of not being man enough to resist overtures by powerful forces to conduct the mock election against the wish of the majority. Mohammed is also not left out of the bashing. He is accused of belittling Buhari and his office by saying that the President is not the leader of the party.
To everyone’s surprise, this claim emanated from no other person than Mohammad’s deputy, Comrade Timi Frank, who also called for Oyegun’s resignation. Frank’s words, “If my party could not keep to the promise of change, then we must correct them to keep to that. I have no fear or favour than to say that the current leadership of the party has practically failed.
“With this incident alone, the Chairman should resign from his position after taking a position against the people and the people’s position has finally come to stay. In the Western world, by today, the party’s National Chairman would have resigned honourably. “Not just the National Chairman but also the entire leadership that took this decision of conducting mock election against the outcry of the larger members of the party.
“Against the bigger picture of Nigerians, a handful of the party leadership came to take a decision, and, by today, the people have shown that the voice of the people is the voice of God.
“You could see the way the party, including the National Chairman, was speaking before the NASS leadership elections. It showed clearly that the Chairman had totally taken sides, which was not meant to be. I understand, he took some of those decisions based on pressure.
In this century, APC, as a party, does not need a Chairman that will be under pressure. “And the party’s National Chairman caused it because times without number, some of leaders told him to come up with a zoning formula from the beginning. He was as ked to take a decision and let people follow, but he didn’t do that.”
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary went on, “They were playing hide and seek with the issue until the last minute when they saw the danger, and they wanted to play hanky-panky, which led us to lose one position at the Senate.
“Let’s go back and ask Lai Mohammed who the leader of the party is if he does not recognise the President as the leader. In my own view, If Lai Mohammed that is my direct boss could come up to tell Nigerians that the President is only a product of the party and not the national leader of the party, then he should have been able to tell us who the leader of the party is.
“We have seen that even in, the then PDP. Former President Goodluck Jonathan was the leader of the party. If in our own case the President cannot be the leader of the party, he should tell us who the leader is then.
“Those that are calling for the Deputy Senate President to resign are anti-people, and I will campaign against it. I will continue to support Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu and every progressive Nigerian should support this mission as it will take Nigeria to the next phase because failure to do this will disrupt democracy.”
From the above scenario, one can see that the party’s problems are not different from PDPs and if they are not careful, these problems might scuttle their ambitions as a party just like PDP.