Under two years of its formation, the All Progressives Congress, APC made the historic translation from opposition party to the ruling party in Nigeria.
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Registered in 2013, the APC was a merger of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, All Nigerians Peoples Party, ANPP, Congress for Progressives Change, CPC and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and elements of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP.
It had at the twilight of 2014, through a ballot process, chosen the former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential candidate. Buhari in turn picked former Attorney-General of Lagos State, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as his running mate for the 2015 election.
To all Nigerians, February 14 and 28 were the dates for the presidential/National Assembly and Governorship/State assembly polls respectively. It was as such not surprising that most of the political parties paid little attention to the Yuletide break that gave yield to 2015.
The tension gripping the nation, however, lessened a little about two weeks to the election when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, announced the postponement of the election for six weeks upon security considerations among others. The presidential election was thus shifted to March 28.
For APC, “change” was the message. And it permeated. Also, for the PDP, the message of continuity and transformation agenda sank deeper. But both were to be tested at the April polls.
Gains of the party
The party’s presidential candidate, Buhari, upon the postponement in mid February travelled to the United Kingdom where he delivered a lecture at the Chatham House. it was the APC’s introduction to the international community and an opportunity for the party to show its readiness to engage the world.
At the polls, apart from the presidential, the APC also benefited in the National Assembly elections as many of the party’s candidates who contested the elections swam to victory on the coattails of the APC’s popular presidential candidate, Buhari.
It was double victory for the opposition party which meant that for the first time the ruling PDP was being removed from its place of dominance in the executive and legislative branches of government.
The gains of the party were consolidated in the governorship and state legislative elections that followed on April 11 as the party took command of PDP’s fortresses in Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, Kaduna among others.
The challenge of power: Getting power was one thing for the APC, but managing power became another thing. The inauguration of President Buhari on May 29 seemed to change things for many people in the party. A number of party operatives who were in the forefront of the campaign for change were a little embarrassed as those who took the levers of government seemed not to pay attention to them.
Fundamental to the development was the appointment, in late August, of a former banker, Abba Kyari as chief of staff to the president. Kyari was not part of the inner APC circle that had flowed with the general since his years in the political wilderness. Many of them rather knew Buhari’s long serving chief of staff, Col. Ahmed Ali (retd.) who was to the dismay of many sent to head the Customs.
Even more disturbing for the party was the matter of determining the new leadership of the National Assembly as the party was almost divided at the centre.
The scheme by some in the party’s leadership to impose some favourites as presiding officers of the National Assembly exposed the underbelly of the party as the PDP moved in to foist its choice of lawmakers as presiding officers of the National Assembly.
On the fateful day of the inauguration of the National Assembly, majority of the senators-elect and members-elect were waiting for a meeting with the president that never held in the International Conference Centre when PDP senators-elect moved in with renegade members of the APC to elect Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP was elected as Deputy Senate President on the fateful day. In the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara was elected as Speaker while Yusuf Lasun was elected as his deputy.
At the end of the election it was evident that all but Lasun, the deputy speaker had in the recent past been members of the PDP.
The development was a hard swallow for the APC as many party puritans sought to reverse the development. But try as they did, it only worsened the unity of the party and on June 25, 2015 party members brought infamy to their party when they openly fought in the chamber of the House of Representatives.
As some House members shouted Dogara! Dogara! and his antagonists shouted Party Supremacy, the PDP members in the House rubbed in by chorusing APC! Shame! APC! Shame.
It was an embarrassment that shook the foundations of the party. The situation was compounded by the decision of the authorities to charge the president of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki with the offence of false declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Inevitably, the issues concerning the election of principal officers caused a division in the party leading to the party’s deputy spokesman, Mr. Timi Frank calling for the resignation of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as national chairman and Alhaji Lai Mohammmed as party spokesman.
A bid to rally the party together with the holding of the first major National Executive Committee, NEC meeting on July 3 did not help matters. It only offered the first formal meeting between the president and Saraki in a party function.
Meanwhile, the party was also troubled in its selection of candidates for the Kogi and Bayelsa 2015 governorship elections. Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State who conducted the first primaries in Bayelsa had a face off with the leading candidate, Timipire Sylva, a former governor of the state upon allegations by the latter that the Edo State governor was being influenced against him. A second primary led to the emergence of Sylva.
In Kogi State, a similar primary also ended in much discord as two time former governor of the state Prince Abubakar Audu was alleged to have manipulated the process to favour him. Though many of the aspirants like the youthful Alhaji Yahaya Bello refused to decamp, they were, however, indifferent towards him. That was until Audu died a day after the election that he was on the way to winning.
Bello who was second in the primaries has now been asked by the party to replace Audu, a decision that has already fractured the party as Audu’s running mate, James Faleke has taken the party to court.
President Buhari’s stance on the issues especially concerning the candidates in the elections has been the subject of much speculation. The president did not attend the campaigns in Kogi and Bayelsa to support the APC candidates.
APC and challenge of fulfilling its promises
Riding to power on the hysteria of change, APC promised to tackle basically corruption, insecurity and unemployment.
The party is faced with the serious problem of delivering on its many promises in the face of falling revenue and increasing discord within the party leadership.