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APC, A Political House Divided Against Itself

The All Progressives Congress has yet to harmonise the interests of all party stakeholders, thereby creating cracks and rancour among its members, Punch's Jesusegun Alagbe writes.

The APC alliance was principally aimed at taking on the then-ruling People’s Democratic Party at the 2015 general elections.

The new party attracted defectors such as the New PDP governors and on December 18, 2013, 37 out of the 208 PDP members in the House of Representatives also defected to the APC.

By January 29, 2014, 11 PDP senators had also announced their defection to the APC.

Among the senators who defected were
Dr. Bukola Saraki (now the Senate President), Ali Ndume, Danjuma Goje and Abdullahi Adamu.

By the time the 2015 elections were over, the APC had won the presidential seat and the majority of seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives, even though it couldn’t win a super-majority to override the ability of the new opposition party, PDP, to block legislation.

However, despite its huge success at the 2015 elections, events since then have suggested that the APC is a “house” full of cracks and divisions.

The cracks first gained notice when Saraki emerged the Senate President on June 9, 2015, against the wish of a faction of the party and that of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The President and the party caucus had reportedly wanted Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe North to be the Senate President.

But on the D-Day, while 51 APC senators were at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, waiting for a truce meeting called by the party leadership and Buhari, Saraki avoided the meeting and was unanimously voted for as the Senate President by 57 senators, who were in attendance.

Saraki’s deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu also polled 54 votes to defeat Senator Ali Ndume, the President’s and party’s preferred candidate.

Since then, even though the executive and the legislature are being run by the same party, there is an evidence that suggests friction between the two arms of government.

From the rejection of the President’s nominee (Mr. Ibrahim Magu) for appointment as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to the refusal to confirm the 27 nominees presented by Buhari for the positions of INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners, it is crystal clear that the executive and legislature have not been on the same page.

Acknowledging the lingering executive/legislature face-off, the party leadership had met with the APC Senate caucus during the week to mend fences, even as it vowed to deal with any of its members whose conduct threatens the ongoing peace initiatives.

The APC National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, via a statement said the party was “worried” by the worsening relationship between the two arms of government and that the party had embarked on a series of consultations with key actors towards resolving the lingering crisis.

He added, “The party, however, warns that it will not hesitate to take appropriate action against any member whose utterances or behaviours are capable of jeopardising the peace initiatives or further worsening the existing situation.”

Away from the executive/legislature rift, there have also been scenarios that give the impression of fissures among the National Working Committee members and some leaders of the APC.

This division was well pronounced in September 2016 when the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, called for the removal of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as the National Chairman of the party.

Tinubu had accused Odigie-Oyegun of allegedly working against the ideals of the APC in the handling of its governorship primary in Ondo State.

Tinubu had further stated that the party’s National Working Committee voted in favour of a fresh primary in Ondo State, but that Odigie-Oyegun overruled the NWC and submitted the name of Chief Rotimi Akeredolu to INEC as the party’s governorship candidate.

Then, it was learnt that some members of the NWC, especially those from the South-West — and those who felt they were being sidelined in the party under Odigie-Oyegun’s leadership — backed Tinubu.

The Deputy National Chairman (South) of the party, Mr. Segun Oni, confirmed the rift when he said, “Yes, we have issues within the party, but we are resolving them.

“You must give us some credit. We are a relatively young party with members drawn from diverse backgrounds. There are bound to be issues , but we have the internal capacity to deal with our issues and we are doing it; be patient.”

Odigie-Oyegun would later say he would not take issue with Tinubu.

Be that as it may, Tinubu’s lashing of the APC chairman then was said to have confirmed the cracks in the ruling party’s house.

Also, sometime around February 2017, some state chapters of the APC were said to be engulfed by some internal crises, leading to the suspension of some party leaders and members.

The National Working Committee of the party would later say it had set up peace and reconciliation committees to address conflicts in the affected states.

Going by all these crises, some party members have found no other person to blame than the party leadership.

While a Professor of Political Economy and Management expert, Pat Utomi, blamed the party chairman, Odigie-Oyegun, for crises at the party level, a suspended member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, lashed out at President Muhammadu Buhari for the executive/legislature rift.

In a recent interview with Punch, Utomi stated that lack of proper orientation by party members, which he attributed to the failure of the party leadership, was responsible for the several crises choking up the party.

He said, “As a strong member of the APC, I think the political process has not been effective as it should be and I have never hidden this. I have said this to the chairman of the party (Chief John Odie-Oyegun).

“Every time I see him, I ask him, ‘What’s the party doing?’ because the party should be the foundation. However, there is this tendency in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, for political parties to be just about power. Once power is grabbed, everybody abandons the party and runs into government.

“We had a number of strong people at the party secretariat, but everybody focused on the government and forgot the party and so we have a problem because of it.

“I have been raising this issue. Anytime I run into Chief Oyegun, I ask him, ‘Where is the party? Where are the policies? Where is your orientation?’ Anybody who runs into the APC must be schooled in what the party believes in so that nobody will just come and use the party as an electoral machine to get power.”

Political analysts are of the opinion that if APC will succeed in the long run, it has to start fixing the leaks in its house now.

A political scientist at the University of Lagos, Dr. Isiaka Adams, said if the crises lingered on, they would affect the socio-economic development of the country.

Seeing that both the executive and legislature — whose roles are complementary — are run by the same party members, Adams believed that any rift between the two arms might cause delay in the handling of affairs of national importance.

Even though frictions are normal in every society, he said they should not be allowed to degenerate into crises.

He also called on the party to instil discipline in its members while it galvanises the interests of all stakeholders in order to make the party work and deliver the much-needed change for the country.

He said, “The seed of discord [in the party] had been sown right from time. One would expect that the party would rally round and synchronise all the various parties’ interests.

“It’s very clear that there would be challenges in the delivery of development of the country when the executive and legislature are not in friendly terms.

“Frictions are normal, but when you have two parties of the same political party and whose roles are complementary fighting, there would not be any development.

“The different groups’ lingering crises are going to pose a serious challenge to us as a country and it’s unfortunate that the President has not been able to galvanise the interests of the various parties in order to work together smoothly.

“The party has a long way to go as it’s a new one. I believe that to expect much in terms of the development of the country as promised by the party, the party leaders should leave all selfish interests and mend fences. All the various parties should be settled. Party discipline should be instilled.”

An Abuja-based political analyst, Mrs. Funmi Olopade-Enyeowu, said the APC’s success depended on how fast it moved to synchronise every stakeholder’s interest.

She said, “All the rancour we see happening in APC is because it is a new party, but being new doesn’t mean being a novice. These are people who are core politicians already. They don’t need to be trained.

“However, since there are divergent interests, I think what the party should do is to get everyone represented at the table. If they can’t find a way to manage their interests, their house will continue to leak and it’s the Nigerian people that will suffer.”

A social commentator in Enugu, Mr. Gabriel Uche, also called on APC leaders to shelve all “hidden” interests and embark on peace-making moves in order to fix the broken fences among party members.

“It’s high time the party started working on its differences because in the end, we citizens are the ones who will suffer, not them. Anyone of them could jump the ship again to another party for their interest. Nigerians are the ones who will pay for their differences ultimately,” he said.

Thankfully, the party chairman, Odigie-Oyegun, has called on all party stakeholders to “cease fire” after a meeting the party leadership had with the APC Senate caucus during the week.

“My appeal is that as we start now the process of reconstructing relationships and consultations; there should be what I will call a ceasefire in terms of the kind of abuse that is used all round on one institution of government or the other, even principal parties of these institutions,” he said.