By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Coming from a man like Chief Tom Ikimi, one of the country’s most enduring political figures, the memo to the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC Chief Bisi Akande was indeed unnerving.
The memo dated May 1, 2014 was a narrative of the increasing confusion in the opposition political party across the country with the assertion that the party is losing members in strong numbers across the country.
“I am compelled to express strong reservations on the present state of affairs in our Party and my heart bleeds when I look back at the efforts and personal sacrifice many of us made to bring this national platform to fruition,” Ikimi wrote.
Pioneer state chairman
Just few days after the memo was sent out, the base of the party in Ikimi’s home, Edo State was shaken following the defection of the erstwhile national vice-chairman (South-South) of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his followers from the APC.
Ize-Iyamu left the party alongside strong followers including the pioneer state chairman of the ACN in Edo State, Prince Tony Prince Tony Omoaghe, the pioneer deputy chairman of the party in the state, Alhaji Usman Shagadi among many other prominent leaders of the party including some who left their positions in government.
Of the serving members of the House of Representatives from Edo State, only Abubakar Momoh representing Etsako Federal Constituency, incidentally, Governor Adam’s Oshiomhole’s constituency has left the party. The shaking in Edo State is only reflective of the nationwide pangs that are shaking the newly formed party to its roots.
In Adamawa, Sokoto, Kano, Borno, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Bayelsa and across the country party elders are leaving in droves putting to question the capacity of the party to trouble the ruling PDP.
Just as in Edo State where Pastor Ize-Iyamu is at the centre of the crisis, across the border in Delta State, another man of God, Prophet Jones Erue is also in the centre of controversy over the conduct of the recent party congresses.
Erue was supposedly thrown up as the state chairman of the party in a congress that many members of the defunct ACN are alleging was widely mired in controversy.
The cracks: Leaders of the defunct ACN in the state most of whom are inclined to the leadership of Senator Francis Okpozo allege that Erue was foisted on the party by Otega Emerhor, a wealthy businessman known to have a governorship aspirant on the platform of the new party.
Many party elders are, however, worried that Erue was supported in the congresses by elements known to have worked for a former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori whose loyalists it is alleged, may be working to either gain control of the APC or weaken the party to allow the PDP sail through.
“The kind of money that reportedly changed hands during the congresses is not the kind of money that a businessman like Otega would throw into politics and that is why we suspect that his people have a connection with Ibori and his boys,” a party elder told Vanguard.
Party elders are also peeved that Otega once he came into the APC threw up a parallel structure that almost always worked in parallel with the mainstream structure of the party led by Senator Okpozo.
As at press time the results of the state congress in Delta State was yet to be ratified by the national secretariat.
The same hiatus is also in Ogun State where parallel congresses were conducted by forces respectively led by the national leader of the party, Aremo Segun Osoba and Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
Amosun is accused by many partisans of crossing the bounds of governance to take control of the party structure in the state.
Amosun vs Osoba
The crisis in the state was remarkably long predicted. Amosun came into the defunct ACN from the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP but when he entered in late 2010, he was peeved that many of his loyalists who had emerged as candidates for the 2011 election on the platform of the ANPP were not given ACN tickets.
Ahead of the 2015 round of elections, the governor and many of the National Assembly members were engaged in a cat and mouse game over control of the party. Many National Assembly members almost all of whom are loyal to Osoba were peeved that the governor sponsored rival congresses which they alleged were aimed at stopping them from winning re-election tickets for 2015.
A plan by the governor to inaugurate his own faction of the executive was stopped few days ago after the national headquarters intervened to stop him. Just as in Ogun, in Oyo State, party elders who Governor Abiola Ajimobi met in the defunct ACN are also peeved by the body movements of the governor. Many of them have already drawn the battle line with the governor who they assert they would stop from gaining re-election.
Guber interest: While there are no issues concerning the congresses in Lagos State, the alleged endorsement of one of the governorship aspirants by the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is, however, creating anxiety among party faithful, especially among those who have had interests in the governorship.
In many other states, the crises, however, preceded the congresses. In Adamawa, Kano and Sokoto States, the crises were triggered after the defection of former PDP governors into the APC.
Successor in office
In Kano, Ibrahim Shekarau left after Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso entered the party. In Sokoto, the immediate former governor of the state, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa also exited the party after his nemesis and successor in office entered the party and was given the party structure.
In Adamawa, despite earlier assertions that they would abide together, Brig. Buba Marwa who came from the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and Markus Gindiri who was the 2011 flag bearer of the ACN left the APC after the party structure was handed over to their common foe, Admiral Murtala Nyako.
Despite earlier assertions by Nyako and the two men that they would cohabit for the good of the party, that pledge did not take long to unfold as Marwa and Gindiri accused Nyako of importing those characters that caused the crisis in the PDP into the APC. Remarkably, both men have returned to the PDP. However, their exit has not given Nyako the complete liberty as he is also engulfed in a silent war with loyalists of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who have accused Nyako of sidelining them in the recent congresses.
Kwara State: In Kwara State, Dele Belgore, the 2011 gubernatorial candidate of the ACN also defected to the PDP after the entry of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and the Bukola Saraki machine into the APC. What many had believed to be a fratricidal war in Kwara State between the interim national publicity secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Saraki crowd has been largely avoided mainly on account of what observers point to the maturity of the two leaders.
In Imo State, what is left of the party is just the carcass of the former legacy parties. Once Governor Rochas Okorocha stepped into the party, all the notable leaders in the party commenced an exit walk.
Senator Chris Anyanwu, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, former Governor Achike Udenwa and even some appointees of Okorocha such as the former Attorney General, Chief Soronnadi Njoku.
One exception where the entry of a governor has not caused a serious crisis is Rivers State where the entry of Governor Rotimi Amaechi has not so much provoked the kind of crisis as seen in several other states where the former PDP governors moved into the APC.
Stakeholders allege that the crisis is partly caused by the national secretariat which it alleged did not prepare for the congresses well.
“What we found was that those sent to conduct the congresses had logistic challenges and so you found some party members mostly those from the PDP willing to meet those challenges and hence the problems that we are now having,” a party official said.
However, party spokesman Mohammed rebuffed the agitations as he insisted that the party has internal mechanism for settling its disputes.
“We have a mechanism to settle the issues from the congresses and that is why the appeals committee was constituted and that is not even the end of the matter. If anyone is not satisfied with the outcome of the appeals committee, he or she can still take the matter to the national body but what we have is that some people are not patient enough and are making their appeals on the pages of newspapers,” he said.