BY JOHN BULUS
FOR members of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in Gombe State, a lot of fence-mending and tolerance would be needed for the party to record appreciable performance in the coming April elections.
Investigations by Vanguard revealed that bickering of a gargantuan degree and bad blood has engulfed the party which before now, was the leading opposition to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state. The escalating problem cost the ACN the opportunities to field senatorial candidates for Gombe South, North and Central zones.
Further investigations also revealed that the emergence of its governorship candidate in the person of Second Republic Minister of Mines and Power, Alhaji Mohmmed Ibrahim Hassan, was considered, perhaps, an after-thought as well as a strategy to boost the morale of its candidates for the various seats in the State House of Assembly being the only cadre of election outside the gubernatorial which the party is massive contesting for.
Trouble started during the December ward congresses held in the state. Contrary to expectations that the party would hold a comprehensive, one straight election, it split itself into two factions and conducted parallel congresses. Interestingly, the two factions while claiming legitimacy and authenticity produced different officers who were to man the affairs of the party in the state.
The faction loyal to Ibrahim Hassan held its congress at the party’s secretariat located along Bui road in Gombe metropolis while the faction loyal to former leader of Alliance for Democracy (AD), Magaji Kwaranga, before the AC, DPP and AD merger, and Barrister Abdul Ghanyu Bello conducted theirs at the popular Miyetti Cinema also situated in the state capital.
With a large turnout of party loyalists, the Magaji Kwaranga faction had observers from the Abuja National office of ACN, INEC and security men from the Nigerian Police while Ibrahim Hassan faction lacked such apparatus. Sources from the faction said that both INEC and the Abuja office of ACN were duly informed but declined to send representatives to them.
However, the Ibrahim Hassan’s faction, at the moment seems to have curried both recognition and favor from the party’s secretariat as the former Minister emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the party.
This did not go without some dissension among the members of both factions, such that the party, at least, at the state level is precariously drifting from the collective support of supposedly every ACN member in the state. This is further justified by the fact that the party is yet to kick-off its governorship campaign in the state, at least at the time of filing this report.
Already, most of the front line members who actively participated in the congress especially in the other faction have ditched the party for others. One of them is the factional leader, Barrister Ganiyu Bello, who has since pitched tent with the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. In the same vein, it was gathered that most contestants for the House of Assembly seats are working now in tandem with Hassan to ensure their victory at the polls.
Accusing fingers are being pointed at a national organising secretary of the party for the crisis. The Protem Secretary of the Party in Gombe, Mallam Talle Umar told Vanguard in an interview that Kari and his foot soldiers were responsible for the damage done to the state branch of the ACN especially when it was unable to sale the forms for senatorial contests. But Alhajii Kari wouldn’t admit that, even as he disagrees that the parallel congresses prompted a dissension among members.
Kari: “I will disagree with you when you say most members. A substantial number of our members took part in the congress. Just a few who felt the process was not going to favour them stayed away. But all those that witnessed the congress that was conducted in Miyetti Cinema, supervised by INEC, the Police and SSS will clearly testify that, that congress was done according to the guidelines of the party. The other group is a group of people that felt the process was not going to favour them because they had already shared positions and the guidelines of the party for the conduct of Congresses were clear and it had to be transparently done and the team that came to supervise it insisted on following the guidelines and they decided to hold what they called a parallel congress.”
On why the party does not have a single candidate for the Senate contests, the Protem Secretary, Mallam Talle Umar said: “You are all aware that we have some kind of membranous divide in the ACN in Gombe State that some people who are political hawkers, political mercenaries among us and unfortunately, have somebody in the National Headquarters who is also a political mercenary. Unfortunately for us in Gombe State, he is representing not our interest in Gombe State at the national headquarters, he is only representing his selfish interest. So when the forms for the Governorship, Senatorial and House of Representatives came, he was not with us. He spearheaded that membranous divide. So the Forms were addressed to the Admin. Secretary, Gombe State Branch, but they were hijacked. We have our candidates on ground. We, the genuine ACN members; they refused to bring the Forms to us here”.
Reacting, Alhjai Kari who is also an indigene of the state said: “Actually, we sent a team to conduct the nomination process. We normally have a team of five for each state. Normally, the Chairman and two other members come from outside the state while two are local people to assist them. The team of five was in Gombe during the date we slated for the conduct of the exercise and they conducted the nomination process for the National Assembly, State Assembly and Governorship, and submitted a report and incidentally, we advertised for sale of Forms and no single individual brought nominations Forms for the position of Senate in Gombe State.
That is the unfortunate situation. As a party member, you go to the Party Secretariat. Where you are denied Forms, you should come to the National Office and pick your Forms after paying the prescribed fees. I don’t see how any individual can stop any individual from picking up their forms. That’s very untrue. I never hoarded any forms”.
Despite the challenges, the party might be facing, Alhaji Kari is however very optimistic that it would put up a good fight in the elections.
He said he believed in the candidature of Ahaji Ibrahim Hassan as their governorship candidate in Gombe State, stressing that he did not have any personnel issues with any member even as he said that a lot of damage control had been done and concerted efforts made to harmonize the drifting factions.
“Yes, he (Hassan) is the governorship candidate of the party in Gombe State. There is no doubt about that. One thing is that we are not ready to negotiate ACN. We will never, no matter what differences we have with anybody. As long as he is the candidate of the party, we are going to support him. We are not going to abandon our party (in Gombe State).
That I guarantee you. We are committed party people. Whatever differences we have; they are internal family affairs and I think we will treat them as a family. We will sit down, look at the issues, and tell ourselves some home truth. But the truth of the matter is we are not going to abandon our candidates.”
Alhaji Kari who said that the divisions had since been harmonized by the national stakeholders also said that it was time to wrestle power from the ruling PDP in his native Gombe State.
“Gombe is a very peculiar state. Those of us from and know the politics of Gombe, know what we are talking about. In 2003, we were part of the process that brought in the present government. We know what we did and it is possible we could still do it because PDP is a disaster, not only in Gombe but all over the federation and there is a lot of disenchantment. It is just for us the opposition to come together, mend fences, strategise and we are in the process of doing that.”
With the elections less than one month, it is left to be seen whether the opposition in Gombe State will give the ruling PDP a befitting run or otherwise.