By Jide Ajani
Between the hawks and the doves
Why Buhari must pull his party from the brink or…
Options before Ashiwaju
Whereas the All Progressives Congress, APC, derisively described as Armoured Personnel Carrier when it was launched in 2013, may be about to turn the gun barrel on itself with the multi-pronged crisis that has hit the ruling party, Nigerians are still watching and waiting. Most of what is happening in the party today was predicted long ago. The reason for the possible impending implosion of the APC – except wise counsel prevails – can be located in the inexplicable, yet manifest serial folly, grounded in self-centredness, of the average Nigerian politician. From the high wire politicking that greeted the emergence of the leadership of Nigeria’s Senate and House of Representatives, to the skewed appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari, while not leaving out the visceral scheming by some mentees against their mentors, it was only a matter of when, and not if, there would be a shift in the tectonic plates that serve as the core of the APC.
The latest in this unfolding theatre of the absurd is the barefaced foolery by the leadership of the party regarding the predictable but shameful governorship primary in Ondo State. Whereas the leadership was expected to be honourable, disciplined and detached in its handling of the plethora of petitions and public angst against the exercise, what it did was to throw sand in the face of President Buhari and his avowed anti-corruption crusade. That the shambolic and fraudulent primary was endorsed by the APC represents a poignant reminder that the party’s politicians are no different from the buccaneers of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which it swept away. This report will show why the tango between APC National Leader, Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and National Chairman, John Odigie Oyegun, does not bode well for the party, Nigeria’s democracy as well as what may eventually turn out to be the greatest scam to be visited on Nigeria’s voting public, sans the men of integrity, in today’s APC.
Tinubu, Oyegun, your seats are reserved
The organisers of Muhammadu Buhari’s book launch thought they were being smart.
But they were neither smart nor wise because they underestimated the quantum of angst.
Therefore, in their estimation, they hoped, rather unintelligently, that a sitting arrangement that put Tinubu’s seat next to Oyegun’s would thaw the icy relationship between both men.
What happened, instead, was that the deep-rooted animosity was exposed for the world to witness – throughout the event, Tinubu neither shared in any banter nor as much as accorded Oyegun any recognition; this, after both men had a handshake before taking their seats.
Indeed, Tinubu, just a week earlier, had lampooned Oyegun for his handling of the appeals against the Ondo State governorship primary of the party, which has been described by many as a joke and a travesty of gargantuan proportions. Oyegun responded after some nine days, telling Tinubu that it is beneath him to pronounce his sacking as National Chairman of the party, describing Tinubu’s bribery allegation as baseless and reckless. . Worse still, APC’s change mantra, on account of the Ondo affair, was dragged in the mud, eliciting comments that suggested that the affliction of lack of internal democracy that saw to the exit of the PDP from power is already sitting pretty in APC.
So, what are the facts?
Ondo governorship primary as metaphor
APC held its Ondo State governorship primary on Saturday, September 3, 2016.
All the signs of a fool’s errand were there for all to see. But because there is always need to either “answer a fool according to his folly so that he would not think he is wise” or you do “not answer a fool according to his folly lest you be like him”, some politicians in the APC cried foul when they saw signs of a possible ‘monkey business’.
Firstly, the delegates’ list was not presented to the aspirants early enough. And when the list surfaced, almost all the aspirants, including Rotimi Akeredolu who eventually won, raised various forms of objections to the list.
The other major aspirants out of the 24 that participated were Chief Olusola Oke, Olusegun Michael Abraham, Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice, Dr. Tunji Abayomi and Senator Alasoadura Omotayo.
At the end of the exercise, Akeredolu scored 669 votes while his closest rival, Abraham, scored 635; the second runner up, Oke, scored 568.
Just hours before the election was conducted, Oke raised the alarm that the delegates’ list had been manipulated.
After the election proper, there was also the issue of indiscriminate release of delegates’ tags and manifest forms to persons who were not authorised to be in possession of same.
According to one of the petitioners, 157 names were injected into the list in a manner that was shrouded in secrecy.
The committee set up to hear the appeals from aggrieved aspirants sat for five days from September 6.
Apart from Abraham, Boroffice and Oke, three other aspirants petitioned the committee. According to the committee’s report, “for the sake of equity and fairness, the panel deemed it pertinent to invite the declared winner of the primary, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu”. He was accompanied by Abayomi and Alasoadura.
Now, the committee found that the common thread in all the petitions was the doctored delegates’ list in terms of its content and late release to aspirants.
The committee also found that whereas the accreditation was flawed in process and procedure (hastily done accreditation and use of ‘unstamped tags’), the voting proper was hitch-free.
However, again, whereas 2,754 delegates were accredited to vote, with seven voided votes, “total votes cast ended up being 2774.
The committee then went on: “The above revelation is, to say the least, quite embarrassing and totally unacceptable. Apart from stigmatising the primary, it has also put a dent on the party’s credibility. A party founded on a platform of due process and, which prides itself with zero tolerance for corruption and fraud, cannot be seen to condone illegality.”
The panel, which had Mrs Helen Bendega as Chairman, Alhaji Musa Umar as secretary and Ms Nikky Ejezie, then recommended: “Thus, in consideration of the above observed irregularities, and for the sake of equity and fair play, THE ELECTION SHOULD BE CANCELLED; a re-run election should be ordered immediately to beat INEC’s deadline” of submission of the name of the party’s flag bearer.
For avoidance of doubt and emphasis, it then added that “in making the recommendations, one is not unmindful of the fact that there may have been substantial compliance in the conduct of the exercise. However, that consideration may not be sufficient reason to ignore such serious and weighty identified irregularities”.
But a certain Muiz Banire, described as APC’s National Legal Officer, came up with a strange position in the face of the glaring irregularities as pointed out by the appeals committee. He pleaded substantial compliance and, therefore, urged the APC to endorse the debauchery.
In his reaction to the recommendation of the appeal’s committee and the consequential counsel by Banire, Abraham took the legal officer to the cleaners, describing his purported legal counsel to the party’s leadership as nothing more than an “armchair adjudication and recreational commentary on the work carried out by the constitutional arm of the party that sat, examined the petitions and witnesses and came to a reasoned conclusion”, adding that the only semblance to legal argument in the National Legal Officer’s submission is the appeal to be nebulous and, in this case, mischievously-applied doctrine of substantial compliance. The NWC meeting of September 19 and 20 only served to further muddy the waters as the meeting was deadlocked on both days.
National Vice Chairman, Pius Akinyelure, had said the NWC did not vote to throw out the report of the appeal committee.
But in a swift reaction, as if to further buttress the point that there is fire on the party’s plateau, Hillard Eta, his South South counterpart, pooh-poohed the claim, insisting that the NWC voted to throw out the report. In fact, Eta explained that the rounds of consultations carried out with a view to having a political solution to the impasse did not yield any result and, therefore, left the NWC with no option than to look at the report of the governorship primary election committee which had announced Akeredolu as winner of the contest.
All the devils are here
ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE is the title of a New York Times bestseller, written by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, which gave “a hidden history of the financial crisis” of 2008. In its prologue, the book details how one John Breit, one of the most powerful risk managers and assessors on Wall Street who works for Merrill Lynch, was systematically sidelined and shoved down the abyss of irrelevance for years. The book further reveals that after Breit was banished from the trading floor, Merrill Lynch kept adding to its exposure in the subprime sphere such that by the time it dawned on Stan O’Neil, the CEO, the firm was to lose some $6billion which was a loss on a small portion of Merrill’s exposure. It was the same Breit who discovered the potential loss. This, among others, were responsible for the global economic meltdown of 2008.
Now, neither President Buhari nor Ashiwaju Tinubu can be likened to a Wall Street guru.
However, the politics of the ruling APC, with its attendant swirling lava of treachery, malignant diabolism and the simmering peregrinating schisms, coupled with the inexplicable aloofness of President Buhari, may lead to an implosion that would be worse for the party than the fate which befell the now shambolic and disparate PDP. It is unfathomable how the APC leaders hope to reap something profitable, beneficial and uplifting in the seeming decimation of the stature of Tinubu. It is equally disturbing that a man who provided a veritable platform – which had always been missing and which was why Buhari never emerged winner in three consecutive presidential contests – would be made to experience what he is going through today.
Not that Tinubu himself does not sometimes display a knack for an expansionist disposition. But that selfsame expansionism led to the creation of the Tinubu platform which eventually did for Buhari, just once, what the latter could not do for himself three times of asking. So, what is the problem?
What is responsible for the unfolding ugly drama in the APC? Why would a political party, which came with so much promise, gradually slide from its Olympian heights of discipline and integrity down the valley of disputation and acrimony within just 17 months of coming to power? What roles are being played by leaders of the party such that today’s APC typifies nothing more than the egregious contraption that once passed for the ruling PDP? What role is President Buhari playing or not playing in the midst of this malady? Why is APC losing traction with members of the Nigerian public who voted overwhelmingly for it last year – just last year? What options are being explored by the hawks in the party to further alienate the critical South-West leg of the APC?
How, for instance, would the leaders of the APC explain the manifest attempted decimation of Tinubu after his role in enthroning the APC Federal Government? Who are those who have President Buhari’s ears and why are they leaving him to the political elements in a polity of clashing socio-political, economic and religious interests? What options are open to Tinubu himself in the face of this unceasing onslaught against what he represents within the APC fold? Who are those holding the levers of power beyond the number one citizen, Buhari?
These are questions begging for answers, the response of which may determine the fate of APC.
Already, there are talks of a possible balkanisation of the party into three spheres.
There is a surfeit of instances that suggest that all is not well in the party.
During a dinner for senators, Senate President Bukola Saraki had introduced Tinubu as “our National Leader”. Whether it was on a lighter note or just as a passing comment, President Buhari said APC has many national leaders and Tinubu is one of them. Such a statement from the President, Commander-in-Chief and head of a ruling party, has import.
In Kogi State, INEC’s less than sincere approach to the election and its outcome, disguised as a faithful obedience to the spirit and letters of the Constitution, especially the unfortunate death of Audu Abubakar, was interpreted by some political watchers as a direct attack on the position of Tinubu since James Faleke, the expected beneficiary, was seen as a Tinubu acolyte. In fact, that was the first time that Oyegun would be used to ‘deal’ with Tinubu. He did.
Interestingly, Tinubu, more than anybody else, played a major role in ensuring that Oyegun became National Chairman of the APC.
Part of the reasons why PDP failed – and woefully so – was the embarrassing malleability of its Chairmen. In fact, the best Chairman the PDP could have had, but which it did not have, was the late Chief Sunday Mobolorunduro Awoniyi. This same emerging scenario in APC today ensured that the PDP’s soul and spirit went to the dogs, commencing with the way former President Olusegun Obasanjo sought to manipulate the activities of the office of the party Chairman.
Whereas there is no concrete evidence or proof that Oyegun is doing the direct bidding of President Buhari, the aloofness of Aso Rock, regarding the robbery that passed for Ondo governorship primary, in the face of all evidences, and which was endorsed by Oyegun, would create doubts in the minds of many, about the impartiality of the Villa in this matter. But that was exactly how Obasanjo played the PDP Chairmen. Unfortunately for the APC, most of the devils who played prominent roles in the disaster that PDP became have now taken good positions in the present administration, from the North-West, to the South-West and to the South-South.
Options before Buhari and Tinubu
It is generally believed that the Office of the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria is one of the most powerful offices in the world. Therefore, President Buhari has all it takes to pull his party from the brink. Not just about happenings around Tinubu alone, but also in respect of the general perception that is being created – and which is gaining fervency – that the party is being taken over by some hawks (read northern hegemonists). Worse still, the type of appointments that have been made – and which Buhari has powers to make – sent the wrong signal. Buhari can make it up. Even the ministerial appointments, no nominee of Tinubu received Buhari’s blessing. That speaks volumes, rightly or wrongly, about Buhari’s estimation of and appreciation of Tinubu’s contributions to his emergence.
The danger in this view, if allowed to continue to germinate, is that the overwhelming goodwill, which ushered this administration in last year, would continue to suffer discounts – the goodwill is already running for cover.
Add to that, the latest needless controversy over how Vice President Yemi Osinbajo emerged. John Paden’s biography of Buhari, where he made some contestable assertions, represents yet another possible validation of the suggestion that Tinubu’s deserved continued presence in APC is creating heat for some party leaders. Running against the grain of truth that is established, and which has basis in living witnesses, Paden’s attempt to rewrite history is, at best a poor gambit and at worst a betrayal of the political machinations of some APC leaders, to continue along this part of diminishing Tinubu, using falsehood as a directive principle. Now, for Buhari, if he were to rise above the pettiness of Paden’s misplaced assertion, as well as demonstrate statesmanship and an unalloyed spirit of reciprocity to Tinubu’s effort in being very instrumental in the former’s emergence as President, he needs to step out and lay to rest the controversy about the emergence of Osinbajo. Incontrovertible evidence points to the fact that whereas Buhari requested from Tinubu three names from among which a running mate would be picked, Tinubu simply sent a single name – Osinbajo. The point that was meant to be made by those who informed Paden, that Tinubu was dropped for Osinbajo, couldn’t have served any other purpose than one of mischief. Yes, Tinubu may have nursed the ambition of becoming Vice President but that was early in the days of the coalition that became the APC. Once he read the public mood about the forlornness of a Muslim/Muslim ticket, he perished the thought.
That is not all. As the numero uno of the APC, Buhari needs to deploy the same zeal with which he is fighting corruption, to ensure that his party rises above the type of pettiness, shambolic disposition, crass opportunism and short-sightedness that led to the implosion of the PDP.
For Tinubu, what are his options? They appear limited. Will he stay put in the party and allow himself to be fully decimated and rendered irrelevant in the scheme of things or will he fight back? Will he continue to work with his northern allies in the APC who appear to be intent on paying his good back with evil or build new alliances? Is Tinubu moving to build new alliances across the landscape? Was that why he had a brief meeting with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar during the investiture of a new President of Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers in Lagos last week? Both of them greeted and had a tete, a – tete outside the Civic Centre, VI, Lagos, venue of the investiture. Did they discuss working together – political that is? Or did their discussion just centre on catching up on old gists?
In his book, YOU CAN NEGOTIATE ANYTHING, Herb Cohen explains that negotiations are better instituted before things get too irreversible. Between Buhari and Tinubu, they need to re-assess the basis of their collaboration.
Even prominent Yoruba leaders and figures like Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Dr. Femi Aribisala, on the one hand, and, lately, Femi Fani-Kayode, who initially disagreed with Tinubu on working with Buhari are already voicing their displeasure at what is happening to the Ashiwaju today. Even the serially rambunctyious Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, has risen in staunch defence of Tinubu, describing the onslaught on him as an onslaught against the Yoruba race. This gesture signposts the Yoruba value of pitching tent with goodness, irrespective of politics.
For now, Tinubu, who some would say, is out in the cold, may be bidding his time; while it appears President Buhari is underestimating the capacity for mischief which those who surround him possess.
In the second part of this expose, we bring you the power calculus within the APC – who is where, how and why?
The major actors are President Buhari; Bola Tinubu; Odigie-Oyegun, Senate President Bukola Saraki;p Speaker Yakubu Dogara; Governors Aminu Tambuwal, Nasir el-Rufai, Adams Oshiomhole, Akunwunmi Ambode, Ibikunle Amosun; former governors Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi et al.
Also, the talk of political re-allignment leading to the formation of new political parties would be explored.