By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, and Gbenga Oke
Last Friday’s intervention by the Chairman of the Rivers State chapter the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Bro. Felix Obuah, on the brewing crisis between two of the leading All Progressives Congress, APC chieftains in the state was perhaps the most astonishing commentary on the crisis unsettling the APC across the country.
Obuah’s offer to mediate in the fight for supremacy between former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe was the second time that the PDP Chairman would offer to reconcile the two men. Meanwhile, the first peace meeting he offered to host last weekend said could not hold because it clashed with the APC local government congresses that held penultimate Saturday.
“It is becoming embarrassing for the two uncompromising APC leaders to be insulting themselves both on air and in print and, by extension, the Rivers people”, Bro. Obuah said as he rescheduled the peace meeting for August 19.
Last Sunday, Governor Nyesom Wike added to the embarrassment of Abe and Amaechi when he revoked the Certificate of Occupancy of a four-star hotel where Amaechi allegedly lodges anytime he is in Port-Harcourt.
The governor’s action was triggered by the alleged commotion in the hotel penultimate Saturday when the APC conducted its local government congresses there.
Supporters of Abe had besieged the hotel following the allegation that Amaechi had hijacked the officers delegated by the APC national secretariat to conduct the party congresses to the hotel where they allegedly fixed the results of the congresses to Abe’s disadvantage.
Speaking to reporters on his observation of the congresses that Saturday, Abe said: “Well, as you can see, there has been no congress in the state. The so-called stakeholders meeting in the state on Friday ended in a fiasco. The committee from the national has not come to the party’s secretariat on Forces Avenue since morning, yet people have been here waiting for them. Nobody should stay in a hotel and use any list for Rivers people. It is clear there was no congress in the state. Whatever has been done will not stand.”
Abe’s opposition to the conduct of the congresses and the bedlam that followed as his supporters took over the premises of the hotel triggered the backlash from Wike.
In revoking the C of O of the hotel, the governor alleged that the hotel had become a notorious place for election rigging, noting that if nothing was done, such activity could provoke security crisis for the state.
The crisis between Amaechi and Abe is itself ironic. Just nine months ago, the two men were on the same side as they confronted the pair of Wike and Obuah in the National Assembly elections rerun.
Sources disclosed that the crisis between both men flowed from their different permutations on the 2019 governorship ticket of the APC.
Amaechi, according to his associates, wants party members to bury whatever political aspirations they have until 2018.
“Oga wants us to first rebuild the party especially after which we can come together to fight the PDP,” an associate of Amaechi told Sunday Vanguard.
Abe, however, believes that Amaechi’s injunctions for a delay could be a pretext to wear him out in favour of someone else within the APC.
The embarrassing fight for supremacy in the APC is not just in Rivers. All over the country, the party, which emerged from the merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Congress for Progressives Change, CPC, and factions of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, is struggling to find cohesion.
Sometimes the agitation causes collateral damage as it happened in Kaduna after the local government congresses.
In Kaduna, the festering crisis between Senator Shehu Sani and Governor Nasir El-Rufai turned bloody last Sunday with collateral damage for the media after thugs invaded the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, secretariat in the state capital and attacked APC members addressing a press conference convened to protest the alleged marginalisation of party members during the congress.
Among those attacked were Senators Sani, Senator Othman Hunkuyi and some members of the House of Representatives among others. A journalist, Mohammed Lawal, was stabbed and had blood gushing out on his face following the attack.
Noting what happened, Sani, who had been estranged with El-Rufai for more than two years, on his Facebook page, said:
“The invasion of the Kaduna NUJ secretariat by sponsored armed thugs during our press conference was an attempt to kill us in order to silence us. The attack was aided by a police DPO.”
“Mallam Lawal Mohammed, a journalist, stabbed by sponsored armed thugs who invaded the Kaduna NUJ secretariat to disrupt our press conference. In Kaduna city, at the NUJ state secretariat today, we held a PRESS conference against an attempt by the Governor of Kaduna State and his minions to hijack and destroy the party in the state.
“The Governor wanted to write names of his boys and send to Abuja as ‘delegates’ for the party’s convention. Our position is that delegates must be elected and not selected in line with the party’s guidelines for congresses. Sponsored armed thugs invaded the venue aided by a police officer; they damaged vehicles and attacked innocent persons.
“They injured a journalist leaving him in the pool of his blood. Present in the press conference was Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, members of House of Reps, Hon Sani Suleiman, Hon Isa Ashiru, Hon Haruna Saeed and other politicians from all the three zones.Our position is unambiguous; we will not tolerate sadism or fascism in our party. Those afraid of elections deserve no place in a democracy. The struggle is our familiar terrain.”
The state chapter, however, dismissed Sani’s claim’s. The state publicity secretary of the APC, Alhaji Salisu Tanko Wusono, said the delegate election was attended by all the party officials from ward to the state level. Wusono remarked that five officials from the national secretariat of the party came to supervise the state congress election, saying,”We acted within the party’s guidelines as no party member(s) was sidelined.
The situation is precarious for the APC in Kogi. The state executive of the party has for most of this year operated on ‘exile’ from Abuja on account of what some members claim as the hostility of the APC-led state government!
The state exco, in cahoots with majority of the National Assembly members from Kogi, has waged a trenchant battle with Governor Yahaya Bello who they accuse of non-performance and anti-party activities. The APC stakeholders allege that the governor has filled his cabinet with PDP members and marginalised members of his own party.
The crisis in the state is better imagined with the direct call for the resignation of the governor by the state exco and members of the National Assembly. In response, associates and aides of the governor initiated the move to recall the leading light of the opposition to the governor within the APC, Senator Dino Melaye, from the Senate. That move is ongoing.
The crisis in the Ondo State chapter of the party has led to the suspension of the Chairman of the state executive, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke. Kekemeke and members of the state exco were known to have been divided over the choice of the party’s candidate in the governorship election which took place last year.
Kekemeke did not hide his preference for Olusegun Abraham, an associate of the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who was considered an outsider in the contest, however, beat the odds and emerged the candidate of the party.
As he settled down in office after his inauguration, last February, Kekemeke was increasingly shoved aside on party issues, and it got to a head when the party executive met without him and suspended him from office.
The Chairman has blamed the governor for his misfortune.
A meeting of stakeholders, including Asiwaju Tinubu, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and other party leaders, fixed for last Friday to heal the wounds in the party failed to hold. The wounds were made visible by the divisions that shadowed last month’s local government elections which saw party candidates emerge outside democratic procedures. Party leaders and beneficiaries of what was termed imposition, however, saw nothing wrong with the exercise which they interpreted as indirect primaries which was allowed by their constitution.
However, the rift in the party has seen leading lights in the party contend with the state’s most visible representative in the national leadership, Mr. Muiz Banire, who was suspended by the Mushin chapter of the party. Banire was suspended for marshalling opposition to what he said was the violation of the party’s procedures for internal democracy in the selection of party candidates for the local government elections.
Watchers also noted the face-off between Ambode and his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who was conspicuously missing during the programmes that marked the state’s 50th anniversary earlier in the year.
In Kano, the face-off between the incumbent and immediate past APC governors of the state appears vicious with both men loathing each other and their supporters engaged in wars of acrimony. The party is understandably split down the line between supporters of both men.
These days it is not difficult for one to hear supporters of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje throw words that Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso has abandoned his Senate mandate to pursue a presidential ambition, ostensibly to put the former governor in the bad reckoning of President Mohammadu Buhari.
On account of the differences, Kwankwanso has mostly stayed away from the state even if he continues to monitor activities at close quarters through proxies.
In several other state chapters of the party, the problem has been over alleged marginalisation of party members from the legacy parties by new entrants. This problem is particularly noted by party leaders in South-South states like Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River among others. Older members of the party claim that after having campaigned for change, they have been shut out with members who came into the party after the elections getting all the good things.
The crisis in the APC is compounded by the failure of the national leadership to take charge. The party leadership has sometimes turned away from the allegedly manipulation of its constitution as it allegedly happened in Delta and Osun States, leading to disgraceful electoral outings.
Despite allegations by some party executives that the Warri State Constituency primary was tainted, the party allegedly caved in to pressure from a very senior party official partly leading to the swamping defeat of the party in the election earlier this year. The same scenario again occurred in the Osun West Senate bye election leading to the defeat of the party in a safe seat won by the party in the last two years.
The crisis in the party is further illustrated by the failure to hold statutory meetings. The party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, is yet to be inaugurated more than two years after the party came to power and four years after it was founded.