By Rotimi Fasan
TO say that the All Progressives Congress, APC, is a party currently in turmoil is stating the point mildly. The APC is reeling in trouble, stumbling from one crisis to another even as the country inches ever closer to the 2019 election. The just concluded party primaries through which the various political parties produced candidates to stand for elective offices from February 2019 have left in their wake armies of discontented stalwarts across the different parties.
But it would appear that the APC have been most affected by internal wrangling. Having tried in vain to hold down the troubles within its household, the APC finally set its eyes on the biggest prize, hoping it would benefit from the outburst many thought would follow the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential primaries.
The PDP had fielded many heavyweights, where each saw himself as a potential winner and was not ready to step down for the other. But things turned out much better in the PDP as losers in the primaries have so far rallied round Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President, who won the keenly contested presidential primaries.
But it was the APC that seemed to have had everything about its primaries sorted that has thus far failed to make any meaningful political mileage from it. Yet, it had a far leaner political field to plough. Having managed to stem the recent tide of defections from its fold and emerged from the tussle at the National Assembly in relatively good shape, the APC resolved to reward members who stood by it during its crisis period with ‘return tickets’ to stand for election without opposition.
They called such favoured stalwarts consensus candidates, presenting a unified face to the world. Even after demonstrating a complete lack of interest in any potential challenger to President Buhari, the APC still went ahead to organise a charade of a presidential primary in which tens of millions of votes were returned for the sole candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari honestly could not have hoped for higher figures in a nationwide election. But his minders would appear to be wetting the ground for serious electoral assault hence the huge figures from an internal party election.
While appearing hunky-dory from the outside, the APC was bursting at the seams internally and things were boiling over in the states where governors hoping to impose their preferred stooges as party candidates for election were being stymied and were locking horns with party faithful. It was in this situation that different primaries were organised with rival aspirants claiming figures for themselves that are now subject of acrimony and litigation.
From Ogun to Imo, Ondo State to Rivers State it is confusion all over. The situation now is that the Shehu Sani a critical but supportive ally of the Buhari administration has resigned from the APC following a prolonged no-love-lost relationship with the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el Rufai. This in a sense led to his loss of his party ticket to return to the Senate.
As if all of this was not enough, the party would in the course of its internal wrangling get into trouble with the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that has refused to clear its candidate for election in Zamfara state. Reason? The party failed to meet the deadline for the conduct of primaries and emergence of party candidates.
Both the APC and INEC are still spitting fire and thumping their chest at each other. Where and how this would end is a matter both contenders can’t get a consensus on. Disagreement in the APC has been compounded by the hitch-free presidential primaries of the PDP and the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as its candidate. The support for Atiku appears to be accelerating to the degree the APC and the government of President Buhari churned out corruption allegations against him. As polarising as the Atiku candidacy has become, many Nigerians, it would seem, have fallen under his spell and would prefer him to the self-described corruption-fighting Buhari administration.
Increasingly, the Buhari government looks very weak and vulnerable. It is having a hard time convincing Nigerians it is the best option for them next February. Unlike in 2015 when it had Nigerians eating from its palm, the Buhari administration is struggling hard to stay on course long before the next election and it looks like it may need some extra-legal muscle to help it win the next election. Which may explain the distraction it sought to create with the travel ban it levied on so-called prominent Nigerians through its executive order. It is a measure of how far the Buhari government has lost face with Nigerians that the apparent shortcomings of Atiku Abubakar, serious as they are, are not enough to make Buhari’s return course to Aso Rock an open sesame. Even the usually voluble APC chair, Adams Oshiomole, has toned down his usually combative rhetoric and is getting a little sober amid struggle for his political survival.
The emergence of Atiku appears rather strangely to have unsettled the APC. There are more than enough questions that a performing government could raise to undermine an Atiku candidacy without resorting to the panicky steps they are presently adopting. APC would need to re-strategise if it hopes to put up a credible showing in the February election. It appears to have hinged too much on fishing in the troubled waters of the PDP primaries.
The APC expected confusion in the PDP in the wake of its primaries. It does not look like a party with a clear strategy or programme of its own to sell to Nigerians, one convinced its candidate’s performance record could speak for itself. It is turning out, however, that the APC has nothing but tantrums to throw at their political opponent. This is presently not working. Many Nigerians are deaf to their corruption-allegation laced rhetoric against Atiku. And the reason for this would be difficult to none but one blind to the failures of the Buhari administration- its accommodation of nepotism and corruption.
That a key ally of President Buhari like the governor of Kano, Abdullahi Ganduje, a man who promised to deliver millions of votes for the president, could be caught on camera, in living colours, scrambling to stuff hard cash of bribe running into million of dollars into his babanriga is like throwing fecal waste on Buhari’s anti-corruption pretensions. It reflects the hollowness of the anti-corruption fight, making nonsense of the president’s claims to integrity when those close to him are frequently caught in corruption but end up with presidential handshakes and photo-ops. How is Buhari’s cleaning the stain from Prof. Yusuf, his National Health Insurance Scheme man? Muhammadu Buhari sure has a lot to answer for.