By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja; and Egufe Yafugborhi, Port Harcourt
This report takes a look at the difficult job given to former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to reconcile aggrieved and warring leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Derisively referred to today as ‘Afflicted Peoples Congress’ or ‘Aggrieved Peoples Congress’, Tinubu himself is perhaps the most aggrieved of all the leaders of the party. But he has a job to do and he has already started making moves.
How his efforts would achieve results that are at once meaningful and re-assuring remains to be seen in the weeks ahead.
Is Tinubu also expected to reconcile the Department of State Service, DSS, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC?
From the National Party of Nigeria NPN, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, ruling parties in Nigeria are often besotted with an avalanche of crisis, but the bottomline has always been about the spoils of war and not any altruistic battle to make Nigerians generally a better country.
After claiming power, they are often unable to manage victory or share the booty appropriately, and hence while those who are at table would maintain good table manners by being silent, silence, those who are denied entrance to the feast would shout themselves hoarse, threaten fire and brimstone, until their personal interests are well-taken care of.
If managing its struggle was easy, managing its successes since the last general elections have proven herculean. While the APC could rightly be described as ‘a congress of crisis’, many political observers have dubbed it the ‘Afflicted Peoples Congress’. or ‘Aggrieved Peoples Congress’. It is in a bid to stem this tide that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to reconcile grieving members.
Early Warning Signals
One man who had been calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and leaders of the party to take more than a passing interest in the affairs of the ruling party is Comrade Timi Frank, its ‘suspended’ Deputy National Publicity Secretary, himself an aggrieved national officer of the party.
Since 2015, Frank has been calling attention to what could best be described in the words of a cinematographer, Prof. Anthony Ufua Enahoro of the University of Jos, as ‘the fragility of stability and the inevitability of instability’.
But while some felt he was merely ‘seeking’ attention, those who understood that he was ‘calling’ attention to an imminent implosion, were, however, silent, perhaps in the erroneous belief that the ‘suspended’ deputy spokesman of the party had a personal axe to grind with Chairman John Oyegun. Frank had frankly described the party as being on the path of self-destruction.
During his visit to the national secretariat of the party on October 6, 2016, Youth and Sports Development minister, Solomon Dalung, said the President’s preoccupation with revamping the nation’s economy has made him to pay little or no attention to the party and so in terms of welfare, nothing tangible has trickled down to party members.
“I think we should try and appreciate the chemistry of what is referred to as APC today. APC started as an amalgamation of different political groups, then graduated into a mass movement and formed the government. The significance of this was that these are political systems that are an embodiment of diverse interests.
Now, the management of that interest is very critical, but the challenge the party is facing and the government, is that the government itself inherited a situation where it has more challenges of fixing the country, and so nothing or no good attention at all would have trickled down along the line in view of the economic constraints government found itself. That is enough to stir bitterness in the party and this can give birth to crisis”, he had said.
The task before Tinubu
Though Frank, like many others in the party believe that the appointment of Tinubu as ‘Presidential Crisis Mediator’ may achieve some result, the job of the former Lagos governor is however well cut out.
What is not certain is how an aggrieved-in-chief can translate to an effective trouble-shooter especially in the realm of Nigerian politics. The reason is because there is a plethora of fronts where crises sit pretty.
Buhari Versus APC
Tinubu must be bold enough to let President Buhari know that his actions and inactions may have served to fuel the crisis in the APC.
After the appointment of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, the relationship between the president and the party became very frosty, with party elements accusing the former SGF of creating bad blood between the party leadership and the presidency.
“The president was made to believe that the leadership of the party was the face of corruption, hence his seeming disinterest in the running and sponsoring of the party”, a party official had said at the time.
President Buhari’s numerous appointments left a sour taste in the mouth of the party leadership that was largely never consulted or taken into confidence before such appointments were made. The recent board appointments in which at least, eight dead people were nominated is a case in point. Chief Odigie-Oyegun had earlier this year told journalists that the party was not consulted when the final list of appointees was ratified.
“The only thing I want to add is that it is pretty obvious that the party was not involved in the final stages of the compilation of that list”, said Odigie-Oyegun at a dinner with journalists on January 6, after the embarrassment of appointing dead persons.
Speaking further, he recalled; “Yes, we sent names at the initial stage and I am talking of a period of two years ago. We demanded for every state to make 50 nominations which were sent to the committee in charge of the list for the purpose.
They completed the initial exercise that time but since then a lot has happened. People have changed parties, people have died, we have three new governors that were not there when the list was compiled.
Therefore, it was clear that there was obvious need for us to look at the final outcome of the exercise. But we were not fortunate to participate in that final stage, otherwise it is quite clear such would not have occurred. It is my sincere hope that we will be fully involved in the. review that has to now take place and any other exercise moving forward from this day”.
In his many appointments, many of those who worked for the victory of the party have reportedly been sidelined even as there are allegations by the president’s own lieutenants that 50 per cent of his appointees are members of the PDP.
Tinubu may, in fact, have to remind the President of his promise in October last year to expand the “compressed” Federal Executive Council, FEC, as well as announce a rash of other appointments to cater for the demography of supporters marginalized since 2015.
Tinubu versus Odigie-Oyegun
There is no love-lost between these two. The frosty relationship between Tinubu and Chief Odigie-Oyegun became officially public in September 2016 when Tinubu’s Media Office issued a statement denouncing the role of the national chairman in the conduct of the party’s governorship primaries in Ondo State.
“The party was supposed to buttress APC members elected to government at all levels. Because of Oyegun’s conduct of our affairs, the party is rapidly becoming an albatross to those it was meant to help.”
“On the chopping block, lies the future of the political party in which the majority of voters had placed their confidence. To rescue the party, Oyegun must go. He has shown that he and democratic, fair play cannot exist in the same party at the same time. If Tinubu is to choose between John Oyegun and progress toward a better Nigeria, the choice has already been made,” the statement concluded.
Odigie-Oyegun swiftly responded two weeks later when he debunked the insinuations by Tinubu that his actions in the Ondo State primary were influenced by money as he affirmed that nobody has the kind of money to buy his conscience.
“This reckless and baseless corruption allegation levelled against me is unfortunate and an insult to my person and my hard-earned reputation which I have strongly maintained. Nobody has the kind of money that can buy my conscience or make me do injury to an innocent man. In all the primaries conducted under my watch as National Chairman, I have strived to ensure a free, fair, transparent and credible process,” Odigie-Oyegun deposed.
Tinubu/Buhari versus NASS
The emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker, respectively, as against the duo of Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, Tinubu’s candidates, has been a major cause of disagreement in the APC.
The president’s aloofness in the circumstance led to some form of bad-blood between some elements in the presidency and some in Tinubu’s camp. But that was not all.
For, on the other hand, there has been a fractious relationship between the federal legislators and the executive. From the issue of the suspension of constituency allowance, non-implementation of parliamentary resolutions, the wanton disregard for parliament by some executive appointees, to the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and at the Federal High Court for alleged forgery of Senate Rules, the executive-legislature relationship has been like that of a cat and mouse.
Rivers of crisis
One of the flash-points the reconciliation committee must deal with is the Rivers’ crisis between Transport Minister and Rivers APC leader, Rotimi Amaechi, and Sen. Magnus Abe, over who flies the party flag for the next governorship is stretching divisions in the party and threatening its chances. A clan of the pro-Abe supporters, tagged Rivers East APC Stakeholders, from Ameachi’s Ikwerre enclave, on February 6, 2018, in Port Harcourt, proclaimed Abe as the “overwhelming choice” as governorship candidate for 2019.
Present on the occasion were Rep Member representing Ikwerre Emuohua Federal Constituency, Chidi Wihioka, Allwell Onyesoh, Adokiye Oruwan, Tony Okocaha, Amaechi’s former Chief of Staff, Golden Chioma, former lawmaker, Chibuiko Akarolo, former Mayor of Port Harcourt City among others.
But last weekend, Amaechi ended the mind game of silence, stoking the conflict apparently having had it with the speculations. “No fight in the APC. I am not in any way stopping Abe from running for the governorship, but what I know is that I will not support him. Abe is daring me, an Ikwerre son. He is abusing me every day. I will ensure I use Ikwerre vote on him”, he exploded at a meeting in Port Harcourt with Ikwerre APC Chiefs and Elders’ Forum, IACEF.
State of the States
Virtually all the state chapters of the APC are embroiled in one form of crisis or the other, but while some may be described as ‘low-level’ conflicts and so would not be mentioned here, there are those that should not just be glossed over by Asiwaju Tinubu.
- Ondo State: Borrofice Versus Akeredolu.
- Kogi State:
- Faleke Versus Yahaya Bello;
- Dino Melaye/APC Exco Vs Yahaya Bello
- Bauchi State: Speaker Dogara Versus Gov. Mohammed Abubakar
- Kaduna State: Sen. Shehu Sani versus Gov. El-Rufai
- Oyo State: Adebayo Shittu versus Gov. Ajimobi
- Ogun State: Sen. Adeola-Yayi versus Gov. Amosun
- Kano State: Sen. Kwankwaso versus Gov. Ganduje
- Zamfara State: Sen. Marafa versus Gov. Yari
- Rivers State: Amaechi versus Sen. Magnus Abe
- Imo State: Gov. Okorocha versus Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume
- Edo State: Oyegun versus Oshiomhole
- Bayelsa: Timipre Sylva versus APC State Exco
- Abia: APC elders versus Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelama.
- Gombe: Sen. Danjuma Goje vs. (disbanded) State APC Eco
- Ekiti: Segun Oni versus Fayemi
- Osun: Aregbesola versus Lasun
- Lagos: Ambode vs. APC National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire.
- Delta: Erue Jones-led Exco versus some party bigwigs.
- Adamawa: Gov. Jubrilla Bindow versus ex-Gov. Nyako, Sen. Nyako and Mr Nuhu Ribadu.
- Cross River: State Exco versus Niger Delta Affairs minister, Pastor Usani Nguru.
Tinubu may also want to wade into the rivalry between the DSS and EFCC as well as the reported animosity between the NSA and COS, Abba Kyari. Who knows? The solution could pretty lie in his bosom. In any case, the lesson for the president is that people like Timi Frank may not just be alarmists but could prove useful as crisis-indicators, going forward.