By Jide Ajani
This is the story of how the All Progressives Congress, APC, shot itself in the foot. Whereas some individuals, very familiar with anointing individuals to fill positions irrespective of the sensibilities and sensitivities are involved, the national stage, which has its own fervor, appears confounding. As the party – or a section of it – continues to attempt to impose its will on others, it is becoming clearer that President Muhammadu Buhari has successfully innoculated himself from the shenanigans going on in the APC in the name of party supremacy. This report will show that only a few individuals, intent on imposing their will, are responsible for the generation of heat in the polity.
BETWEEN A GUBER CANDIDATE AND NATIONAL LEADER
Pin-drop silence! That was it. The encounter between one of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from Lagos, and a gubernatorial candidate of the party, who had served as minister during Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure, ended abruptly. The leader had attempted to cause the realignment of interests and expectations. Having clinched the party’s ticket in this very strong North-West state, which used to serve as capital of old Northern Region, the former minister was told to ensure that the first runner up to him should be awarded a senatorial seat as compensation.
The former minister would have none of that. His explanation was that some individuals were already far afield in the campaigns for the Senate and candidates had even emerged for the three senatorial zones of the state and, therefore, substituting another candidate with the loser in another different contest would go against the grain of natural justice, adding that such a voyage in autocracy comes with the consequence of disrupting the activities of the party.
To that explanation, the APC stalwart charged, invoking his status as a big man in the party that must be respected.
The former minister, known for his principled firmness, charged back: “Please, this is not your state in the South West where you people fix things. What do you know about the politics of our state that it would now be within your remit to determine who goes for what? Please stop it!”
End of discussion.
PARTY LEADERS, WHAT DO YOU WANT?
The crisis in the National Assembly is nothing but the internal battle for the control of the party which produced majority of members. After performing beyond its wildest imagination in the last general elections by winning the Presidency and taking control of the National Assembly, APC is just experiencing the reality of the wise saying that when hunters go on a joint expedition, the rigours of the hunting exercise cannot be as tedious as that of sharing their spoils.
Information available to Sunday Vanguard suggests that, early last year, when the APC was going for its national convention in Abuja to elect national officers, there was an informal attempt by its leaders to share different offices or, at least, ask the major protagonists what position each of them was interested in.
While it was obvious that the then General Muhammadu Buhari was interested in the Presidency, others like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Musa Kwakwanso and Chief Rochas Okorocha also indicated interest in the nation’s number one position.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the respected leader of the party, who many were expecting to take the Senate Presidency, said he and the South West wanted the Vice Presidency.
Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki was asked whether he was still interested in the Presidency as he contested for the same position in 2011. He declined and stated clearly that he wanted to return to the Senate and that he was interested in the Senate Presidency. All that was last year!
VOICE OF JACOB, HAND OF ESAU
Pulling the strings from outside, the permutations, which went awry and which may tear down APC, are symptomatic of an individual directing the affairs of a political party.
Today, Buhari is President. Tinubu, after failing to get the Vice Presidency for himself because of the Muslim/Muslim issue, has given the position to his loyalist, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
In fact, it would be recalled that but for the enfant terrible, Femi Fani-Kayode, who raised the alarm about the dangers of having a Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket, the APC may have blinded itself to the sensibilities of people of other faiths.
Indeed, even after the alarm had been raised, Buhari, being the straight-faced person that he is, said in an interview with The Cable, an online medium, that left to him, he did not see any thing too bad in a Muslim/Muslim ticket. It had to take the rambunctious Obasanjo to warn the APC of making such a grievous mistake. That was how that thought perished.
Meanwhile, it was Tinubu who influenced the emergence of John Oyegun as APC Chairman. Now, after the election, a wing of the APC, ostensibly headed by Tinubu, went to town with the story that Saraki is too independent-minded and cannot be controlled. Buhari was also informed of this.
They argued further that the former Kwara State governor is ambitious and already interested in the 2019 presidential race and, therefore, should not be trusted with the power of the Senate Presidency.
The new plot is hinged on the fact that after controlling the party and the Presidency, the next plan is to move into the legislature and fill its leadership with acolytes. That was why Senator George Akume was first introduced as the APC candidate for Senate Presidency because it had earlier been agreed that the position will be zoned to the North Central geo-political zone.
When the Akume candidacy fell flat on its face, a new case was made for the position to be zoned to the North East.
Enter Senator Ahmed Lawan as the ‘perfect candidate’ for the position. Unfortunately, Lawan is seen by some as lacking support among his colleagues and has no personal charisma or network to aid the schemes by his sponsor.
Saraki, David Mark, Ali Ndume, Danjuma Goje, Joshua Dariye, like most senators and representatives, had argued that the National Assembly members should be allowed to elect their leaders. Saraki made it clear to the entire world that, as a democrat, he will put himself forward for election as President of the Eight Senate and he will respect the decision of his colleagues on the floor of the Senate.
Historically, leaders of the National Assembly chosen for the members have never lasted. The cesspit of fallen leaders has Evan Enwerem, Imam Salisu Buari, Adolphus Wabara, Patricia Etteh. Only leaders chosen by members or senators have tended to do well and last long, except Chuba Okadigbo, who himself played a major part in his impeachment as Senate President in 2001.
The rest is history.
WHO ARE THE LEADERS OF APC?
Sunday Vanguard learnt that some leaders of the party are already kicking and raising fresh alarm. The likes of Atiku, Sani Yerima, Kabiru Gaya, Audu Ogbeh and some others are already questioning the appellation ‘PARTY SUPREMACY’.
One of these leaders asked and demanded an answer to this question: “Who and what constitute party leadership? Is the party leadership just Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Mala Bunu? This section of APC leadership has blackmailed the only voice of moderation in the APC headquarters, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, by accusing him of collecting bribe”.
This allegation appears very wild because the quality of Oyegun that made him the preferable choice over Tom Ikimi was his integrity. Therefore, when did that key quality of his persona denitrify?
Another question: What manner of APC leadership exists without the inclusion of President Muhammadu Buhari? This selective and exclusive leadership without these eminent party leaders appears to be the one insisting that after losing the battle to impose the National Assembly officials, the entire legislature should be crumbled.
ONCE UPON AN AD, AC AND ACN!
This same tactic was employed over a decade ago to destroy the leadership of their previous parties – AD, AC and ACN – in order to take control.
At several instances and interview sessions, Chiefs Ayo Adebanjo, Olaniwun Ajayi, and others have told and retold the story of the history of ‘respect for party leadership’ as it relates to those who are now championing the concept.
APC’s SELF-INFLICTED DAMAGE
What appeared to have happened on the Senate inauguration day was that Saraki teamed up with the PDP senators and about eight from the APC to get the position at a time that about 51 other members of the APC were at the International Conference Centre, Abuja to attend a meeting with Buhari.
“As part of the trade-off by Senator Saraki, Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP was elected Deputy Senate President. Not a few wondered how a man could have stabbed his own party in the back the way Senator Saraki did, just to realize his ambition”. This is the claim.
However, upon closer scrutiny, the APC may have just been lucky not to have conceded a bigger blunder.
The 49 PDP senators in the chambers could also have nominated David Mark. With their numerical superiority, Mark would have won before the other APC senators stormed the chambers.
Also ignored is the fact that Lawan, the candidate of the section of the party leadership which claimed that it is representing the APC, enjoyed the support of only 27 senators out of the available 108.
Thus, the so-called meeting purportedly convened by the President at the ICC, but which the Presidency has denied, was planned by the same section of the party leadership which now flagrantly used the name of ‘the party’ to legitimize its scheme.
The plan was to use the gathering, with the presence of Buhari, to railroad and coerce the senators and Representatives to go and rubber stamp its decisions.
That Buhari was not in the full know of what was going to happen at that meeting, sources in the presidency told Sunday Vanguard, “was itself an act of treachery and insult on the person of Mr. President; but providence and the mature disposition of the President on the matter, coupled with what appears to be the will of God at the moment, led to what happened.”
To buttress his point that Buhari was kept in the dark, the source pointed out: If it is true that President Buhari conveyned the meeting at ICC by 9a.m., how come that by 10. 05 a.m. when the Senate began sitting on the strength of the proclamation issued by the same President stating that the inauguration should be done by 10a.m. same day, Buhari had not arrived the venue of the meeting at ICC which they claimed he convened? Or why did he not send another letter contrary to the first letter he sent the previous weekend?”
It is worthy of note that APC members present in the Senate chamber on the inaugural day fielded Senator Ali Ndume for the position of Deputy Senate President and voted for him but were defeated by the 49 PDP senators who were all present as against the 25 APC senators present. Those who kept APC senators from the chamber and did not realise that they ought to change the time on the presidential proclamation sent to the Clerk, made Ekweremadu the Deputy Senate President by default.
It should be noted that if the Clerk of the National Assembly had conducted the elections of the leadership of the House of Representatives before that of the Senate, the House of Representatives would have ended up with a PDP Deputy Speaker as it happened in the Senate. The two hours the Clerk spent conducting the election in the Senate before he started that of the House of Representatives saved the day in the House as it allowed APC members to return from the aborted meeting to the House chamber. Otherwise, the PDP would have been in the majority on the floor in of the House in the absence of the APC members.
Some leaders of the APC feel comfortable using the name of the President to pursue a personal agenda. They appear to be ready to sacrifice the stability of the Eight Senate for their narrow interest of enthroning stooges as leaders against the wishes of the senators and members of the House.
After losing in the contest for the Senate Presidency and that of his deputy, the battle shifted to the selection of other principal officers – Majority Leader, Chief Whip and their deputies.
Sunday Vanguard is aware that the convention since 1999 is for the senators from the various zones to elect the occupants of the office allocated to their zones. Both Section 60 of the Constitution and the Senate Rule speak about the occupants of the positions coming from the party with the majority not that they should be selected by the party. This time around, the same group of leaders chose to twist the Senate Rule and Convention to smuggle in their choices into the leadership of the Senate.
For example, they deprived the South-South of their due slot and then gave the North Central more than its fair share by adding the Deputy Majority Leader to the Senate Presidency it already has.
HOW NORTH-EAST SENATORS REJECTED LAWAN
In the interest of peace and reconciliation, some senators actually worked and begged for the emergence of Lawan as Majority Leader.
Both at the APC caucus meeting last Wednesday and the various meetings of the North-East caucus, some senators, including Saraki, lobbied for Lawan to be accepted as the Majority Leader. Sunday Vanguard gathered that Lawan was roundly rejected by 10 out of the 12 senators from the zone. Surprisingly, his sponsors refused to intervene and compel other senators from the North East to accept him.
Information available suggests that the Senate President had delayed the announcement of the new Senate principal officers to leave room for the North East caucus to shift ground and accept Lawan. Yet, the senator who wanted to lead the entire Senate could not convince Lawan’s colleagues from his zone to accept him.
Saraki clearly read out letters from the zonal caucuses nominating the senators for various positions. The letters were supported by list of senators who signed to support the content. It was obvious that the parliamentary procedure did not support the Senate president reading a letter from the party chairman on a matter concerning only a caucus of the Senate. The appropriate procedure is for the party Chairman to write the leader of his party’s caucus. The caucus can then adopt the contents of the letter and write the Senate President on the issue. At that point, the Senate President will have no option than to make the announcement of the contents of the letter open to senators.
However, the APC knew majority of its caucus members were opposed to the contents of its letter.
The only equivalent of that action would have been APC writing Buhari, listing the names of all ministers as chosen by the party and insisting that the President should adopt it. Likewise, the APC leadership may want to direct its state chairmen to submit the list of all commissioners to its Governors, with a directive that the Governors must adopt the list without question.
Eventually, the list of principal officers released showed that the two Senate groups, Unity Forum and Like Minds, shared the positions equally. Both Sola Adeyeye, the Chief Whip, and Ibn Na Allah are members of the Unity Forum supporting Lawan while Ali Ndume, the Majority Leader, and Frank Alimikhena are members of the Like Minds.
It is heartwarming that even the so-called leadership of the party conceded that Saraki enjoys support across party lines because majority of the senators believe in his capacity and capability to protect the independence of the legislature and nurture the principle of separation of powers which undergirds the presidential system. The option left to both sides is to reconcile and work together.
None definitely has the figure to remove the other. The Senate President, however, is expected to constitute committees and the Senate will move on to serious issues.
JOHN STUART MILL ON AMBITION AND POWER
In John Stuart Mill’s PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, we are made to understand that human improvement has no tendency to correct the intensely selfish feelings engendered by power.
In Mill’s estimation, which is the warped and bleached version of the modus operandi of the Wantoks of Papua New Guinea – the Wantoksare the ‘big men’ who accumulate state resources any which way and then redistribute via patronizing schemes that keep their people in perpetual servitude – a paradigm that appears to be creeping into the politics of a wing of the APC, politicians will need to learn the lesson that the welfare of a nation must rest on the justice and judicious self-determination of its citizens – and, by extension, party members.