APC: Convulsing from own medicine

Tinubu (left), Osinbajo and President Buhari.

Tinubu (left), Osinbajo and President Buhari.

Conspiracy; contrivance; populist manipulation; smear campaigns; denigration and evasion. Those epithets could be identified as possible psychedelic political tablets in the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) first aid kit. It was with a combination of that therapy that the party edged out the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from its commanding heights in national politics and governance. PDP conferred those qualities on APC members at the build up to the 2015 general election. It was a continuation of the party’s invectives against the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which served as fulcrum for the merger of similar political entities into APC, when it sided with some of its rebellious members elect to elect Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, as Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011. But now, those medicines seem to be challenging the party’s health and harmony.

The latest irritation in the party began when a former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whom some party stalwarts like to style as ‘national leader’, transmitted a public commentary on the leadership capacity and style of the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

It is on record that Tinubu’s comments on the party chairman’s stand on the troubled APC Ondo governorship primaries, was not the first time he (Tinubu) had expressed reservations about the former Edo governor’s ability to preside over the affairs of the ruling party. The first time was during the first national executive committee meeting of the party in Abuja. Tinubu’s grouse with Oyegun then was the national chairman’s handling of the June 9, 2015 inaugural sitting of the National Assembly, during which Tinubu’s preferred candidates lost the leadership of the Green and Red chambers.

However, the recent altercation between the two APC leaders from Southern Nigeria has no doubt thrown up a backcloth that helps to expose the internal contradictions with the ruling party. All through the period of its conception and eventual merger, what became APC turned out as the amalgamation of political conspirators. And, as the party pursued its goal of displacing PDP from the presidency, it was blinded, so it seems, by the lure of power, rather than painstaking efforts at laying solid foundation for cohesion and coordinated mandate delivery in government.

Even while it succeeded in rallying round some erstwhile opposition political parties, which became the legacy parties to lose their individual identities and fuse into a mega party, the prime movers of APC, particularly Tinubu; knew they lacked the wherewithal to wrest power from octopus PDP.

It was based on that realisation that the promoters of the merger decided to apply the wisdom in the saying that ‘all is fair in war and love, by admitting all manner of ideologically opposed politicians into the new party and yet promise Nigerians change. Nothing exposed APC’s lack of confidence and desperation for conquest than what happened at the Kano State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja; on November 26, 2013.

It was on that date and place that APC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), with disenchanted members of PDP, known as the new PDP. While Alhaji Kawu Baraje and Sam Sam Jaja signed on behalf of PDP, Chief Bisi Akande and Dr. Ogbonnia Onu, appended their signatures on behalf of APC.

Although details of that MoU were not made public, a big poser that has remained unanswered is whether that understanding effectively made members of nPDP bonafide stakeholders of APC, or mere collaborators in the conspiracy to upstage PDP via the 2015 electoral battle? Perhaps, the conspirators, long used to the power of incumbency; did not believe that the incumbent president could be defeated and made to leave office easily. They never gave serious thoughts to what formular it would adopt to share the spoils of office. The present pangs of pain could be traced to that act of omission.

DEEPLY ingrained in Tinubu’s letter is as much a cry against injustice, as it is a protest against breach of due process. But at the build up to the first national convention of the party, the former Lagos State governor did not hide the fact that he was mobilising the whole party machinery to ensure that the presidential primary produced a predetermined outcome, by returning a preferred candidate.

It was during that convention that veritable signs became obvious, that the union, which APC simulated could not translate to unity, because members of the nPDP, despite the fact of parading very eligible and viable presidential candidates, were made to fall in line. Intriguingly, it was through the same Oyegun that Tinubu assured President Muhammadu Buhari’s supporters that the idea of consensus should be shelved, stressing that by ensuring that the whole of Southwest delegates cast their votes for Buhari, the fear of an open election was unfounded.

Unfolding political circumstances in APC continue to underscore the point that a policy of exclusion was being pursued against members of the nPDP until the NASS debacle proved too hot for the legacy leaders to handle. To some extent the ongoing examination of content in the party leadership could reveal whether the presidential primary followed the path of transparency or tele-guided imposition.

But what appeared as the greatest sign of injustice and insincerity was the cavalier manner in which party leaders in some states were directed to hand over the party structures to nPDP governors. Sources disclosed that it was partly based on that show of desperation that the then governors of Niger and Jigawa States, Muazu Babangida Aliu and Sule Lamido declined from defecting to the new party.

Also, at the time the new party wanted to elect its first substantive national chairman, the contending forces were Tom Ikimi, Timi Sylva and Oyegun. Party stalwarts experimented with the idea of handing over the party leadership to Sylva, so as to take the impending electoral battle to then President Goodluck Jonathan’s backyard. But somehow, recognizing that the former Bayelsa governor was weaned and nurtured politically under the PDP, some party chieftain, including Tinubu, started looking in the direction of Oyegun, despite the popular belief that Ikimi appeared to possess stronger political backbone and clout.

Employing the powerful social instruments of popular manipulation and denigration, those who wanted to impose Oyegun touted his moral stamina, level-headedness and progressive steadfastness. And although GMB, who held the promise of the godfathers as the anointed presidential choice, agitated by his experience in the hands of Oyegun as his cohort in the other legacy party, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), raised a feeble finger against the choice of Oyegun.

Having noticed the schemes to “impose Oyegun” and enraged by what he called the duplicity of some champions of democracy and change, Ikimi shunned the convention. Sylva was later to announce his withdrawal from the race, thus paving the way for the eventual emergence of Oyegun as unchallenged candidate.

Also, at the convention, and perhaps, with hindsight of how Tinubu promoted the emergence of Iyorcha Ayu as Senate President to pave the way for the eventual emergence of late M. K. O Abiola as presidential candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), fourth republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, announced the withdrawal of Alhaji Kashim Imam from the contest for the position of National Secretary. That was how Alhaji Mai Mala Bunu became secretary.

Unchanged Changers
IN his letter calling for the resignation of his former protégé from office as national chairman, Tinubu underscored his frustration with those who parade moral burdens and evade responsibility and pander to personal whims. He stated: “Truth has finally come to light. There exists a regressive element in the party that cares nothing for the progressive ideas upon which this party was founded. They joined the APC because it was the best ride available at the time. Now they want to guide the party into the ditch.”

What the national leader seemed to be saying is that at the formation of the APC, the promoters expected that by mere joining the party, members would be cleansed of past political afflictions and shortcomings. He blamed his frustration on some members who he accused of not only doing “little to build the party, but now will do much to wreck it,” stressing that “they abuse the trust given them as if they are the owners of that trust and not its mere custodians.”

Was Tinubu killing two birds with one stone by some of the assertions he made in his so strong a letter? Could it be that while he repudiated the party’s stance on the Ondo primary election, the former Lagos governor was directing his rebukes at APC leaders, particularly President Buhari and the national chairman?
But, perhaps, remembering his investments on Oyegun’s chairmanship, including the moral cost of denying Bisi Akande ascension to that position in the dummy that he would be made chairman of Board of Trustees; and the financial support to the national chairman to “clean yourself up and start looking like a national chairman,” Tinubu declared: “Such a man is Oyegun and those who conspired with him to sabotage justice and democracy in Ondo. Our party was to stand for change. Oyegun and his fellows seem to be on a different wavelength. They are the cohort of Unchange.

“The APC wants to guide Nigeria into a better tomorrow. Oyegun and the cohort of unchange want to pull Nigeria back into the past, where rigging and vote stealing were the old and new testaments of politics.”

Although the APC national chairman has said that he would not go into a verbal warfare with Jagaban, it is evident that the original design for the party’s organization and management of its government went awry immediately it secured political power at the centre.

There are veritable indicators that Tinubu believed that his creative political thinking would make him the political head of APC, while his men, Oyegun and Buhari, carry out the administrative details regarding party managment and governance at the national level. It is this lack of a nominative political leader that is at the root of the internal haemorrhage in APC.

With his vacuous interest in the party and scant political ideas, President Buhari has not been forthcoming at critical moments when his intervention is badly needed. Merely confessing to being a converted democrat has not conferred on the President the skill to navigate the party out of trying situations. His colleagues, Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo, for good or bad; could not let such vacuum impact on their administration. As national chairman, Oyegun has been left to interpret or second-guess the president’s body language on political issues, including the Kogi and Ondo governorship selection processes. That could explain why Asiwaju believes that “they want the people to think that there is no alternative to their reactionary system of skewed politics and imperious government.”

Even the embattled APC deputy national publicity secretary, Timi Frank, noted the disconnect in the party’s politics, fueled by the aloofness of the President. While recognizing that every member of the APC is loyal to the President, Frank said that as the leader of the party, “it has got to a situation where he can no longer be silent on the party’s internal issues.”

But what Frank and others like him don’t seem to understand is that making the President the leader of the party was an anomalous creation of Obasanjo and PDP. Apart from that, having been enamoured of regimented style of command and obey, Buhari does not find the rigours of extended conversations, negotiations and intrigues that characterise party politics interesting.

Yet, while Oyegun wants to maintain the level headedness and team play that made the godfathers to enthrone him as national chairman, his often vacillation in taking stringent decisions opens him up to ridicule and denigration.

As could be noticed, the gap between the lip and life of the national chairman has left APC gasping for breath. At his acceptance speech after election as chairman Oyegun had stated: “Come 2015 we will provide Nigerians with a visionary, dedicated and people-oriented leadership that will liberate the nation from PDP’s rule of poverty and oppression.” So far, it is open to conjecture whether APC under Oyegun has communicated the vision and dedicated leadership to Nigerians. The perceived failings of the party in the management of its internal politics could be having a deleterious effect on the government, as Tinubu observed: “If the party could not justly govern itself, it would find it difficult to establish and maintain just government throughout the nation.”

Issues In Ondo Primary
TO show that APC is being harassed by the old nature of some of its promoters before they got ‘born again’, it is necessary to take a look at the issues in the Ondo governorship primary of the party.

Prior to the primary election, two prominent members of the party, Dr. Tunji Abayomi and Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, accused Tinubu of engaging in some undemocratic machinations towards the selection of APC governorship flag bearer in the state. While Akeredolu took to the radio to announce his reservations about the former Lagos State governor’s brand of politics, Abayomi condensed his views in a letter titled, “The Tonic of Democracy Is the Right of the People to Choose Their Leaders.” In the letter, Abayomi condemned Tinubu’s “disdain for popular will,” saying that that has become recurrent in his politics.

But in his letter to Oyegun, Tinubu explained that APC was “the embodiment of a democratic promise made between its members as well as a democratic vow made to the public.” But he pointed out that, “evidently, some errant members believe promises and vows are mere words to be easily spoken and more easily broken,” stressing that “it is an awful parent who suffocates his own child for the sake of a few naira.”

The APC national leader also disclosed that after the Ondo State governorship primary was held and a “purported winner was named,” he publicly accepted what he “assumed to be a verdict honestly derived.” He added that though the Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, chaired the primary convention with decorum and impartiality, “he was unaware that a tampered list was been slipped into the process.”

However, those who have very intimate knowledge of Tinubu’s style of politics conclude that either that he was being misguided by political mischief makers to challenge the Ondo governorship or was being set up by those who want to mess up his political profile.

Sources within the APC disclosed that the first step in the conduct of party primaries is the publication of delegates’ list, explaining that even candidates are often eager to sight the list so as to either reach out to the delegates in cash or campaign messages. Consequently, they wonder how the names of as much as 150 impostors could be smuggled into the delegates’ list undetected by the party stalwarts.

Could it be that those who were privy to the composition of the delegates list used for December 10, 2014 presidential primary wanted to use the suggestion to programme Tinubu, knowing that having seen the effectiveness, the national leader would fall for the decoy? Or could it be that Olusola Oke, who horned great political skills in Anambra governorship primaries wanted to smear APC with the rigging allegation? If so, then the question is, why did he wait till after the election was won and lost before calling for infringement?

But Tinubu sounded confident when he stated: “This was not a clerical error; the alteration was willfully executed that the primary would be directed toward a chosen end that bore nothing in common with the will of most state party members. A cunning few had tried to deceive the many into believing they were outnumbered. A conspiracy to steal Ondo governorship primary had been uncovered.”

Yet, those close to Oyegun were said to have advised him against falling for the antics of the foot soldiers of the former Lagos State governor in their bid to ensure that they plant a governor in Ondo State. “Why did the other delegates or governorship aspirants not protest or boycott the primary if the list was tampered?” they were said to have told Oyegun.

Did the party provide a level playing ground for all the governorship aspirants in Ondo? If it did, why did it set up an investigation committee, in a vain show of internal democracy? It is in the setting up of investigation panel that the national leadership of the party showed lack of full control of the levers of the party.

“Appeal panels are usually set up to receive petitions against the outcome of a primary election, but to go the extra mile to set up an investigative panel rubbishes the whole set up, because the mere setting up of the investigation committee serves as automatic indictment of the various structures engaged in the primary, including the electoral and appeal committee,” observers noted.

But after setting up the committee the decision of the national chairman to override the decision cast him in bad light. That may be why Atiku urged Oyegun to reexamine his style and try to regain confidence of members.

Oyegun’s dilemma could have been made worse by the fact of what long-term effect the cancelation of the Ondo governorship primary could have on the image of the party. If the fraud was investigated and found to be true, would it not amount to advertising that infamy by conducting another primary?

What if a powerful political figure had reached out to members of the investigation panel to deliver an intended verdict?
However, the APC tried to manage its wrong footing in Ondo would have ended in a wrong approach. Conversely, what if some political jobbers in the APC were actually working for Governor Olusegun Mimiko surreptitiously, as obtained during Peter Obi’s exit in Anambra in 2013? By now APC must have seen the truth in the saying that when a man attempts to bury himself, his hand would show above the tomb to draw attention to his trick.

It could be on that score that Prof. Itsey Sagay called for restraint in the handling of the Ondo debacle, so as not to jeopardise the long-term interest of APC. And echoing PDP, Sagay said the top hierarchy of the party should handle the matter internally like a family affair.

Unfinished Matters
SOME of the challenges plaguing APC as a political amalgam include its incomplete metamorphosis and carryover of animosities. For instance, in Lagos State and Southwest, the national leader of the party has attracted much envy and animosity to himself based on his domineering attitude.

One of the salient features that recommended the political collaboration between the ACN and other fringe political parties was the success story of Lagos State. While he held sway as governor, Tinubu was able to progressively increase the state’s internally generated revenue from N600m monthly to N6.9b at the point of his eight year in office.

From that ingenious fiscal feat, Asiwaju was also able to carry out a seamless succession plan that enabled continuity, as well as, innovate what was perceived on the surface as a political collaboration between godfather and godson. Tinubu continue to tower after leaving office as he shared the administration of the ACN and the state government with his successor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN). While Fashola saw to issues of good governance of the state, Tinubu presided over the politics of who gets what and goes where in the party.

But the little irritation that brought friction between godfather and godson was that which concerns funding. As a reputable accountant, Tinubu was able to devise an ingenious method through which revenue was collected for the state government using tax administrators.

Meanwhile, one of the favoured administrators, Alpha Beta, in which the godfather was alleged to have substantial interest, was taking as much 12 percent from amounts generated for the state government. As such as the IGR of Lagos State continued to swell, Alpha Beta was increasing in wealth and stature.

But when Fashola noted with disapproval the gargantuan take home of Alpha Beta, Asiwaju reportedly frowned. In the midst of that ugly eruption, Fashola’s second term was threatened. It was at that point that the Oba of Lagos, Alhaji Rilwan Lukman, was invited to mediate. Truce was called and instead of Fashola’s proposal for a cut of Alpha Beta’s commission to two percent, the parties agreed to five percent.

And just as when an incidence of madness is cured, the incessant bouts of indecipherable murmurs refused every prescription. Fashola got his second term, but not anymore a secured place in Tinubu’s heart.

Shortly after APC won the 2015 presidential election, the issue of nomination of cabinet members came up. As one of the pillars of the success story of the merger and electoral victory, Tinubu as the leader of the Southwest caucus, had his list.

But President Buhari, who had become different from the presidential aspirant Asiwaju had always known, was no longer interested in accommodating the godfather status of the former Lagos Sate governor. So, instead of humouring Tinubu with the opportunity to claim the credit for his decision to bring Fashola, Kayode Fayemi and Lai Mohammed, into the federal cabinet, Buhari not only disagreed with Tinubu’s suggestions, but above all, had told the persons that despite opposition to their appointment, he was determined that they should help him run the government.

Added to the fact of the perception among the upcoming politicians in the zone that Tinubu wants to be the only cock crowing, the eagle politicians decided on a path of carving their political identities. Ever since, things have not been the same in Southwest, which ordinarily expected to be at the driving wheel of the new government.

Then up north, Tinubu was seen as engaging in unbridled political territorial expansion and intruding in the politics of who gets what in the north. The likes of Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasiru El Rufai, have never hidden their distaste for Tinubu’s politics.

It was this shadow chasing that played out in the Ondo governorship primary. Some of the emergent political actors from Southwest who felt a sense of release from Tinubu’s political umbilical cord acted in concert with some tendencies in the North to ensure that his will was no longer imposed on states in the Southwest.

Moreover, despite his contributions to making return to the region, Tinubu is being viewed in the North as a political investor. Most politicians from the North recall how “Tinubu used the 2007 and 2011 presidential elections to trade on our intelligence.”

Many party stalwarts believe that the incomplete metamorphosis of APC, seen in the absence of a board of trustees is traceable to Tinubu’s desire to be instrumental to the emergence of who occupies that position.

Asiwaju: The Art Of Jagangry
DURING the sallah celebration, Tinubu regaled visitors to his famed Bourdillon residence in gaily dance steps. Unlike before, Fashola and other former allies that shot into political limelight through the man’s electoral artistry did not make it to the house. Fashola met with Asiwaju at the praying ground and no more.

When at the heat of the 2015 electioneering former President Goodluck Jonathan noted that the Southwest was too strategic to be left in the hands of rascals, Tinubu came up with a repartee that the presidency of Nigeria was too crucial to be left in the hands of a drunken sailor.

The former Lagos State governor is not new to political fights. He is a jolly good fellow, who knows how to enjoy the good life. When he is happy, he makes joy go round, like he did recently when he displayed measured dancing steps. But when he is angry, he does not pretend about it.

Now Jagaban is not angry, but it seems he is set to fight like a wounded lion. He would dance a new kind of dance for APC in the days, weeks and months to come. Depending on how APC handles the godfather in the ensuing political battle, Tinubu may take up his thinking cap to break the chains that weld the party together.

Within the short period APC occupied national politics, Tinubu has been able to show what could obtain when he is angry. In the National Assembly and the issue of composition of APC BoT, Asiwaju has raised jagabangry to an art. It is a pattern that emerged when he fought alongside the PRIMROSE group against Alhaji Lateef Jakande and the Ase group.

Could it be that the future or destiny of APC is tied to Tinubu’s interest? Only time could tell.

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