APC is fighting for the soul of its unity; the unity and cohesion that saw it to victory in the last election. The struggle for the soon-to-be vacant positions in the NASS is becoming unusually intense and threatening to tear off the party, with the party reaching stalemate at every attempt to find an amicable solution. Members are threatening that the Tambuwal ‘scenario’ of 2011 will repeat itself if the party tries to meddle in the election of NASS leaders and if this ‘Tambuwal ‘scenario’ is allowed to happen, analysts foresee ruined unity in the party writes EMMA ALOZIE
Soon after the All Progressives Congress, APC emerged victorious in the last general elections; a political commentator remarked that the party would soon face the problems of a ruling party. And that is exactly what the party is facing now trying to allocate positions to first geopolitical zones and then individuals.
Every APC chieftain would readily admit that the greatest headache the party is going through now is how to zone or at best allocate the booty of victory without leaving any section mortally dissatisfied.
The prime positions up for grabs include that of the senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives, but how to arrive at an amicable consensus has been a huge knot difficult to crack. While the North East are clamouring for the senate presidency, the North Central are also not letting go, laying claims to the same position.
On the other hand, the South West, that have already produced the vice president are clamouring for the post of the speaker, while the North East are also having their eyes fixed on that number four seat. Owing to the confusion that has trailed the zoning of the NASS plum jobs and the inability of the APC to successfully intervene in the matter, many members have advised the party to hands off the matter.
In fact, it has become an all comer’s affairs, with the gate thrown wide open. Even an attempt made by leaders of the party to harmonise the position of the South West and the North West, that would have seen Femi Gbajabiamila emerge as a consensus candidate of the two zones collapsed with the camp of Jibrin Abdulmumin, a front runner from Kano insisting that the least it could concede was the position of deputy speaker.
As at the last count, Femi Gbajabiamila from South West, ostensibly backed by Tinubu, Jibrin Abdulmumin from North West, allegedly backed by Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and Yakubu Dogara, form North East backed by his PDP sympathizers have all indicated interest to slug it out on election day.
All the camps seem to be at daggers drawn and no one is bulging or conceding any ground. The sing song everywhere is the threat that the Tambuwal scenario of 2011 will repeat itself when the ruling PDP zoned the slot to the South West but the members revolted against that position and elected Tambuwal instead.
So far, there have been gales of endorsements for the top contenders. According to Hon. Samson Okwu representing Oju/Obi Federal Constituency of Benue State under the Peoples Democratic Party, APC should simply jettison zoning because according to him, it has never worked in the House of Reps even since 1999. To him, the PDP members-elect in the House have decided to vote massively for Dogara.
“The same scenario or even more worse than the previous ones happened in 2011 when PDP tried to impose Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande and we didn’t want her. So we brought Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as our Speaker. If the party in power is thinking that things have changed, they will surely be proved wrong. It is not about the party, it is the attitude of the House of Representatives to always go its own way in choosing its leadership.
“If APC is thinking that members will abide by its zoning arrangement, the same scenario will play because we are all the same members and nothing has changed. It is not about party but about people. All along it is the House that has been playing progressive roles that Nigerians are happy with. We are going to do same thing, we will bring a Speaker that we want. We are not undermining any party but House of Representatives members will do what they want. Nobody should be deceived that the 2011 scenario won’t play itself again, it is a lie. Those who want to go and play cheaply to the public will say so but I am telling you today that members of the 8th Assembly will choose the Speaker of their choice irrespective of the zoning.
“We are solidly behind Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Speaker. And we are determined to deliver him come June. We want somebody who will rally all members behind him, Dogara is that person who will protect the interest of members and all Nigerians. He does not answer to any godfather. He doesn’t take weekly briefings from a godfather who lives hundreds of kilometers from Abuja like a puppet. Dogara look at the 359 constituencies as his own constituency. Invariably we are transferring the demands of our constituents to him and we know he is capable of shouldering the responsibilities of the office of the Speaker,” he said.
Another group known as Arewa Youth and Women Collation for Good Governance recently called for the support of Dogara arguing that electing Dogara as speaker would give sense of belonging to a sizeable population of Christians in the North East so as to consolidate the unity and peaceful coexistence the APC victory brought to the region.
The leader of the group, Ambassador Aminu Sidi pointed out that electing Hon Dogara will help cement the relationship between Northern Christians and Muslims as well as to further unite the people of the country and to give a sense of belonging and representation in the leadership of the country.
On the other hand, in a letter Abdulmumin Jibrin wrote to the new members-elect, he promised not to neglect that. He promised to make them heads of 75% of the committees in the House. “You will recall that I have earlier written you to intimate you of my intention to contest the position of Speaker of the 8th Assembly.
“The focus of this letter is to give some details of the special attention I intend to give to you, first term members. I have carefully observed that all other aspirants have shown little attention to this new group of dynamic incoming members.
“To this end, if you elect me Speaker, I pledge to hand over 75% of the total positions (Committee Chairs and Deputies) in the House to first term members.
“It means 75% of the positions allocated to each state will go to first term members. To do this, I will have to step on toes. But if this will usher in the change and fresh ideas we crave for our dear country, so be it,” the letter read in part.
This shows how serious the threat of Tambuwal syndrome is and the fact that the president-elect and the de facto leader of the party, General Muhammadu Buhari has vowed never to interfere in the leadership tussle is not helping the party.
Head or tail and from the look of things, the cohesion in the party leading to the election would be the first victim in the power grab struggle characterizing the emergence of the NASS principal officers. If for instance, the North East or North West succeeds in taking the speaker and the North Central takes the senate president, analysts argue that it will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the South West that spearheaded the emergence of APC in the first place.
If on the other hand, the South West takes the speaker and the North Central takes the senate president, the North East would view it as deliberate alienation by the party hierarchy despite giving the party the second highest number of votes.
If on the other hand, the North East takes the senate president as is popularly speculated and the South West takes the speaker, the northern minorities found in the North Central who for the first time since 1999 voted massively for the APC would grumble arguing that the core north only uses them when they need them and abandons them.
Already there have been some arguments by those supporting Senator Akume for the senate president. A group that calls itself North-Central Leaders Delegation led by Alhaji Mohammad Ari Gwaska has argued that because the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, is from the North-West, while the Chief Justice of the Federation is from North-East, the remaining arm of government which is led by the Senate President should be headed by someone of ethnic minority group from the North-Central.
There is also the factor of the PDP defectors into the APC. This bloc identifies itself as the new PDP comprising the aggrieved G5 governors who defected to the APC and worked assiduously for the success of the party in the last election. This group is seriously pushing for the senate president and its candidate is understood to be Senator Bukola Saraki. The argument of this bloc is that it is the only wing of the APC that has yet to benefit from any position so far.
All the other legacy parties that merged to become APC have individually benefitted and the argument of this PDP wing is that equity dictates that senate president be conceded to them. There are strong feelers that should the office of the senate president elude this group, the only option left for its members may be to retrace their steps to the PDP to rebuild it ahead of 2019.
This group no doubt harbours the greatest ambition, which was the factor that pushed them out of PDP in the first place. They are young and rearing to go. It is being speculated that any dissatisfaction on account of sharing the booties of victory may compel this Kwankwaso led group back to their original place of habitation-the PDP.
This simply typifies the dilemma of the APC. The party is literally standing between a rock and a hard place, whichever way it falls; it is going to have bruises. However, it is now left for the party, its leadership and handlers to cautiously choose where it wants to fall with less disastrous effect.