COVER STORY : The APC many face-off

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-Dapo Adeniji

In 2015 the biggest challenge faced by Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, was unseating the Peoples Democratic Party. Today, fractured, the APC is her own obstacle, with indications suggesting that the party would implode ahead of 2019. Unlike normal splits in parties where there are usually two factions fighting for supremacy, in the APC there are more.

At the center, and some APC-controlled states, key members of the party are feuding. In Kano, the cold war between the incumbent governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, can be summed up as having roots in Governor Ganduje’s refusal to uphold the unwritten agreement to retain some of Kwankwaso’s loyalists in his administration. It appears this former “loyal” deputy, tired of trailing behind the shadow of a bigger-than-life Kwankwaso, now wants to assert his authority as governor.

In the early hours of Ganduje’s administration, it seemed there was no rift between him and Kwankwaso. On one occasion Ganduje admitted to have “begged” Kwankwaso to retain two appointees made by the former governor, namely, Dr. Rabiu Bichi and Alhaji Baba Dantiye, who until their sack and redeployment were the Secretary to the State Government and Director Media and Communication to Governor Ganduje respectively.

Though it was reported that both men had met with a reconciliation committee set up by the APC national leadership and “agreed” to a truce, events that has followed this purported truce meeting suggest otherwise. Kwankwaso and Ganduje remain locked in battle over who controls Kano.

In Kaduna state, both the governor, Nasir el-Rufai and the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Mr. Shehu Sani, makes no pretense about their quarrel. Since the inception of the administration of el-Rufai, Mr. Sani who also belongs to the same party as the governor has been a strong critic of el-Rufai, an action which has earned him two suspensions from the state chapter of the APC.

In an interview over a year ago, Mr. Sani was quoted as saying that his feud with el-Rufai stems from political differences. “We have ideological differences. He is from the political right and I am from the political left. He is a core conservative capitalist, who believes in capitalism and I believe in the progressive, welfarist, leftist and idealistic system. So, that is where we differ.”

In the same interview he suggested that there was more to their rift than simple political ideology. Apparently Governor el-Rufai never supported Mr. Sani to become Senator, and is alleged to have ever since been supporting and “arming” politically the man that Mr. Sani defeated. This Mr. Sani finds to be an attack; one which he believes would be foolhardy to “wait for the first shot”.

Now when you move up to the federal level, at the House of Representatives, we have Abdulmumin Jibrin and Yakubu Dogara, both members of the APC at loggerheads. A member of the House which Dogara presides over as Speaker, Jibrin is accusing Speaker Dogara of corruption and has petitioned Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate Dogara. He has also made spirited efforts to report the Speaker to President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC leadership.

Although all his efforts have come to naught, and his accusations earned him a suspension from the House, the feud still lingers. Even in suspension, Jibrin has not backed down from his criticism of Dogara. He has taken to granting interviews and commenting on his social media pages to keep up. Also he once instituted a court case on the matter but later withdrew same.

Also at the national level, and surprising too, is the rift between the APC national chairman, Chief John Oyegun and a self-acclaimed national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu. Although there had been rumours that Mr. Tinubu wanted a change in the party’s chairmanship, the feud between him and Oyegun was blown open following the conduct of the APC Ondo governorship primary to pick the party’s candidate for the recently held state governorship election.

Following the controversial primary, in a scathing statement released by Mr. Tinubu’s media office titled “Oyegun’s Ondo fraud: the violation of democracy in the APC”, the APC national leader called for Oyegun’s sack. Accused of “political treachery and malfeasance of the basest order”, and abandoning the principles of “democratic fairness and justice” that should guide the APC’s internal politics, Tinubu said, “To rescue the party, Oyegun must go.”

In his response, Oyegun described the allegation by Tinubu as “reckless and baseless” and “an insult to my person and my hard-earned reputation which I have strongly maintained.” According to him, “Nobody has the kind of money that can buy my conscience or make me do injury to an innocent man. In all the primaries conducted under my watch as National Chairman, I have strived to ensure a free, fair, transparent and credible process. The 2016 Ondo State APC Governorship Primary Election was not an exception.”

It appears APC is on free fall, with no one in control or with the influence to call these feuding parties to order. Even President Buhari whom as the authentic national leader of the party should do so, has his hands soiled in the fight. Nearly two years into the saddle as a first-time ruling party and key members are already angling to replace him in the next election year in 2019.

Former vice-president and serial presidential contestant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has subtly been making his aspiration known. Aside the wife of President Buhari, Mr. Abubakar is the only senior member of the ruling party that has publicly criticized Mr. Buhari’s handling of the country’s affair.

For instance, the Nigerian government position on the fate of the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, is that they have been weakened, near defeat and do not occupy any part of Nigeria, but for Mr. Abubakar, Boko Haram remains strong, and “Still occupy a specific geographical space.”

Interestingly, it is not Mr. Abubakar that worries President Buhari or threatens his reelection should he choose to vie for a second term in 2019. The man who poses a threat is Mr. Tinubu. A former governor of Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos State, sources say that Tinubu and the president are not in good terms and there are efforts to diminish Mr. Tinubu’s influence in the party.

The relationship between the president and Tinubu took a wrong turn in 2015 when ministers were appointed. Two known former political associates of Mr. Tinubu, Messer Babatunde Fashola and Kayode Fayemi, who were former governors of Lagos and Ekiti states respectively, were appointed ministers by President Buhari without recognition to Tinubu’s input.

In the case of Mr. Fashola, following the rumour at the time that he was going to be appointed, the Lagos State Government, under the incumbent administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, a loyal protégé of Mr. Tinubu, embarked on a media campaign to discredit the past administration of Mr. Fashola, who was accused of misappropriation of public funds. Many watchers of the event saw this campaign against Fashola as the brainchild of Mr. Tinubu.

The idea was to take advantage of President Buhari’s anti-corruption posturing to discredit Fashola. But, not only was he appointed, Fashola was made to head three key ministries (Works, Power, Housing) merged into one. Also, President Buhari on several occasion has defended some of his ministers over allegations of corruption; a move that shows his reluctance in removing them.

There are rumours that Tinubu along with Abubakar are planning on floating a new party. This line of action may have been consistent with Abubakar in the past, but not Tinubu. Known as a fighter, Tinubu would stay and fight rather than abandon a party he helped nurture into a ruling party.

True to type, Tinubu has said that he had no plans of leaving the APC. In his rebuke to Oyegun, while suggesting that “there exists a regressive element” in the APC, Mr. Tinubu said he was not on the verge of submitting to them. “While the forces resistant to change and reform are strong, Tinubu dare not submit to them. Tinubu encourages all party members not to submit to them.”

Tinubu and Abubakar may not leave the APC for certain but something remains indisputable: there’s realignment within the party ahead of the next election year in 2019. There also appears to be a drawn out war that would have a devastating effect on the party. Although the national leadership of the APC has dismissed this many face-off amongst its members as “normal occurrences”, the APC by itself remains an abnormal party comprised of strange bedfellows with no guiding ideology other than the flipping change concept. MA