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After postponements and uncertainties all in the midst of confusion, controversies and in-fighting, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appears set for its convention on Saturday, 26 March, 2022. As close-by as the date is, many are still asking whether the convention will hold! This is Nigeria! From experience, dying minute postponements are possible. Middle-of-the-night court rulings can stop the convention. All manner of spanners can still be thrown in the works, especially if the powers-that-be perceive that they or the tendencies they represent may lose at the convention. And should the APC manage to hold this convention, what will be its outcome? Will it be peaceful and will it be successful? Will the party come out of it in one piece or will it splinter? Many are predicting that the party will implode and that, in the end, it will be to your tents, O Israel! Cynics and skeptics may be proved wrong! Miracles still do happen!
APC is a conglomeration of political parties that have failed to mesh many years down the line. The leaders still basically retain their legacy party identities of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), New-PDP and the rump APGA represented by ex-Gov. Rochas Okorocha. While the president, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, is the face of CPC and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is that of the ACN, many leaders of the New-PDP, like ex-Kwara State governor and ex-Senate President Bukola Saraki, who pulled the rug from under the feet of the PDP government of President Goodluck Jonathan, have since recanted, abandoned the APC and returned to the PDP. Like PDP, APC remains a mere platform on which elections are contested by politicians jostling for relevance and who are quick to jump ship once their interests are not served.
The ward and state congresses of the APC were riddled with controversies. In many of the states, the governors who controlled the party structures leveraged on their influence and power of incumbency to short-change the Abuja politicians, the ex-this and ex-that in a way that majority of the delegates that will gather at the Eagle Square venue of the APC convention on Saturday are in the kitty of state Governors. Take, for instance, in Ogun, ex-Governor and Senator Ibikunle Amosun lost the battle of the delegates and control of the State party structure to the incumbent, Gov. Dapo Abiodun. This was despite Amosun’s famed cosy rapport with Buhari and the seat of power, Aso Villa. In Osun state, the Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola’s camp lost scandalously to the incumbent, Gov. Gboyega Oyetola. In Kwara state, Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed, lost the state party structure to Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. In Delta, Kano and many other states, APC leaders have been at one another’s throat and the party leadership was not able to do justice to the cries of oppression and marginalization by those holding the short end of the stick.
As would be expected, court cases proliferated while party leaders stabbed one another on the back over who leads the caretaker committee and what kind of leadership to offer: Is it selfish, self-centred leadership working towards a pre-determined end? Many APC leaders thus began the plot to remove the caretaker committee chair, Yobe state Governor Mai Mala Buni. Buni actually got removed but in hours thereafter waltzed his way back into office. It was hare-brained, like the NFF did, to remove the coach a few weeks to an important assignment like the African Cup of Nations. Returning Buni to his office appears a wise decision in the circumstance but only after the harm had been done. In the midst of the melee, Buhari as president and leader of the party approbate and reprobate at the same time. He it was who gave the order for removal; he also it was who gave the counter-order for reinstatement. Was it absent-mindedness or was the president more concerned about his own health, seeing that, in the midst of the fire threatening to consume his own house, he went on another medical tourism trip to the UK?
There are two critical party positions up for grabs at the APC convention on Saturday– the party chairman and secretary. While the former is zoned to the North, the latter is zoned to the South-West. The assumption with the zoning of the APC chairmanship position to the North is that the party’s presidential candidacy comes to the South. Seven APC big wigs are jostling for the chairmanship position; leading the pack is Senator Abdullahi Adamu, ex-Gov. of Nasarawa state, said to be the favourite of Buhari but opposed by those who think a former PDP man should not lead the APC. But what difference does it really make: PDP or APC: Two fingers of the same leprous hand! Other contenders are another ex-Nasarawa governor, Tanko Al-Makura (he took over from Adamu); Mallam Saliu Mustapha; Senator Sani Musa; George Akume, ex-Gov of Benue state; Mohammed Etsu and Abdullaziz Yari, ex-Gov. of Zamfara state. All but one of the contenders are from the North-central, to which the APC chairmanship is believed to have been zoned but Yari, from the North-West, disagrees with micro-zoning of the post to the North-central instead of the North in general and is, therefore, contesting. Will Yari drop out at the screening stage, scheduled to hold yesterday (Tuesday) or will he scale the hurdle?
Perhaps as a reflection of the depreciation in the value of the Naira since 2015 when the APC torpedoed the PDP, the cost of its flagship presidential nomination form has nearly doubled from N27.5m in 2015, N45m in 2019 to N50m in 2022 under the nose of a president who, in 2015, had complained that N27.5m was on the high side! The PDP presidential nomination form has been slightly lower at N22m in 2015; N12m in 2019 and N40m this year 2022. Both parties expect to have their presidential primaries in May and this is one of the reasons why who wins at the APC convention and who, therefore, controls the party is very essential. Whichever tendency that wins at the convention and controls the party will largely decide who wins the presidential ticket of the party. At the moment, not less than eight aspirants have indicated their interest to contest the 2023 presidential election on the ticket of the APC. We shall soon return to that!
Apart from the chairmanship, the position of National Secretary zoned to the South-west is also deemed very important. The four front-runners are listed as Ife Oyedele (from Okitipupa, Ondo State); Bayo Shittu (Oyo, Oke-Ogun area); Prof. Abideen Olaitan Olaiya (Oyo); Senator and former deputy governor Iyiola Omisore (Ife, Osun) and Kekemeke Isaac (Okitipupa, Ondo state). The problem for some of the politicians in the South-west zone is that the first three contenders are said to belong to Buhari’s CPC tendency. So, if any one of them lands the National Secretary post and Buhari/CPC also succeeds in producing the chairmanship of the party, then, the presidential flag of the party is as good as being in their kitty! So the task before the South-west APC leaders becomes that of ensuring Buhari/CPC does not produce the National Secretary. Will they succeed or will they fail? Saturday will tell!
The reason why the APC convention is do-or-die is the implications it has on the presidential primaries coming up later in the year. At the moment, the following APC leaders are said to be interested in the duel: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, ex-Gov. of Lagos state; Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo (will he claim Lagos or will he claim Ogun?); Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi state; Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi; former Gov. Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia); former Rivers State governor and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); and the CBN Gov. Godwin Emefiele (Delta or will he claim Lagos, the state of his birth?). While some of these aspirants are mere also-ran only interested in boosting their CV or hoping to be called in for negotiations, the serious – and desperate – ones among them are the real problem. If they fail to achieve their objective under the APC, will they stay as is expected of good party members or will they go in search of the presidential flag elsewhere? Many think they will defect, especially if they reckon they have been given a raw deal by the party. Will such falling apart happen at the convention or immediately after it? How serious will it be and what will be its impact on the party and the political system as a whole? The answer, as they say, blows in the wind! One thing is sure, however, the rumblings within the APC are not likely to abate after its convention on Saturday; for the handwriting on the wall would have become clearer to everyone when winners and losers emerge. It is then that the silent and underneath realignment of political forces, which many would swear has already been moving stealthily underground, will push more forcefully onto the surface.
Calling Ekima Oginni
She attended Girls’ School, Osogbo. Our paths crossed in 1977/78. Where are you?
Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers and Chairman of its Editorial Board, BOLAWOLE writes the TREASURES column in the New Telegraph newspaper and the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.