President Muhammadu Buhari raised the red flag recently, when he said that unless leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) close their ranks and work collectively, ahead of the 2023 general elections, the party might lose to the opposition in the coming general elections.
The president, who spoke recently – during his provocative interview aired by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), was apparently worried about the several crises currently tearing the party apart. Records at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, indicates that out of the 36 states, including Abuja, the APC is embroiled in serious crisis in 28 states. And all efforts by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-interim leadership to fix the problems have not yielded the desired result.
However, insiders said that the different entrenched political interests within the party, ahead of the 2023 general election – over who gets the party’s presidential flag, is hugely responsible for the different crises.
‘’The current crisis within our party is expected, especially as we approach the 2023 general election. There are several aspirants eyeing the presidency; they are scheming to undo one another. And that is also responsible for the hot contest for the national chairman of our party’,” one of the aspirants for the APC National Chairman told THISDAY.
Adams Oshiomhole-led national executive committee of the party was forced out in 2021 amidst interminable squabbles, and an interim committee was subsequently put in place to midwife new leadership within six months. But close to two years after, the committee has not been able to achieve the task. Some party’s stakeholders who spoke with THISDAY said that the struggle for the soul of the party by different interests within the party, may be responsible for the refusal/failure by the Mai Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) to call for the national convention. Expectedly, this, has increased the agitation within the party – with some aggrieved interest groups accusing the CECPC of hidden agenda.
To be sure, one of the aggrieved groups within the APC of late called for the immediate resignation of the Buni-led CECPC. Justifying its action, the spokesperson for the group, Ayo Oyalowo, at a press conference in Abuja claimed the group’s demand was based on the insight that the caretaker committee had failed woefully to manage the affairs of the party, accusing the interim leadership of creating more problems for the party than it was meant to resolve.
“The Caretaker Committee has conducted what is arguably the worst ward, local government and state congresses since the formation of the party in 2013. These congresses, rather than putting the party on strong footings have created further divisions and disenchantment among its members,” the group noted.
While some leaders of the party, who want to see the quick exist of Buni-led EXCO want the national convention of the party conducted latest February, other entrenched interests have also asked for an indefinite postponement of the convention until the time for the presidential primaries – later this year.
The crisis-ridden APC is an amalgamation of dissimilar political parties, which include ACN, CPC, ANPP, APGA and N-PDP. And ahead of the 2023 general elections/contest for the national offices of the party, they have relapsed to their initial identities.
For instance, there is a strong argument within the CPC bloc members that one of their own be allowed to be the next national chairman of the APC. Already, former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Tanko Al-Makura and Saliu Mustapha from Kwara State are representing the CPC in the race. Political monitors – who have consistently argued that the struggle for the ruling party’s presidential ticket may also define who gets what at the national convention, may be right after all, because the crisis enveloping the ruling party is getting messier day-after-day.
In the past few weeks, all efforts by the party’s stakeholders, especially the APC Governors’ Forum to fix a date for a meeting to resolve the teething problems militating against the planned national convention, have been unsuccessful. And President Muhammadu Buhari, who many look up to – to intervene is either helpless or adopting his usual slow-thinking-attitude in the affairs of the party.
Indeed, THISDAY checks reveal that the much awaited national convention of the APC, which is tentatively slated for February, may not take place after all – as the party insisted that its priority for now is to address the fallout of the last year conducted congresses and litigations against the party.
Lately, there’s been talk the date for the convention will be announced tomorrow. All fingers are crossed as stakeholders await what may happen tomorrow.
Although the leadership of the party noted that while it was not true that the national convention of the party had been postponed, its immediate task was to address a series of contestations within the ruling party. The National Secretary of APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Sen. John Akpanudoedehe, disclosed this in a statement issued during the week.
Central to the crisis, is the Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu factor. Right or wrong, some of the supporters of the acclaimed National Leader of the APC believe that the foot-dragging by Buni-led interim leadership of the party and other interest groups over the convention, is designed to clip Tinubu’s political wings – ahead of the 2023 presidential election. The former governor of Lagos State recently informed the President about his desire to success him in 2023.
APC National Chairman’s Sword fighters
As the nation enters the election-year and enthusiastically waiting for President Buhari’s successor, tension is expectedly, mounting within the APC, over who will emerge the party’s next national chairman. Former governors, senators and other party members – some of them claiming to be very close to the President, are among those jostling for the plum position of the APC.
As at the last count, there were over 13 of the aspirants for the top position; and they have started serious conversations on how to accomplish their individual dreams. Different stakeholders and interest groups are already feeling the impact of the discourse – as the aspirants move across the country mobilising for support. There are indications that as the entrenched groups step up their political games of uncertainty, plotting and horse trading, the planned national convention – in the estimation of some insiders, promises to be the most burnable since the party was formed in 2013.
From all indications, the most central issue refining the conversation hangs on which zone should produce the next national chairman and the Presidential candidate of the party, ahead of the 2023 election. There are promoters of rotational arrangement between the north and the south, who want zoning to be honoured, but those opposed to it want the contest to be thrown open to all – irrespective of region of origin. And the regional demography of the national chairman hopefuls is pointing to the zoning impact: The people positioning for the position are mainly from the north. Below are some of the sword fighters:
Senator Tanko Al-Makura
Popularly referred to as the ‘’first political son’’ of President Buhari, he was the first elected political office holder under the political platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – floated by the president, as governor of Nasarawa State.
Seen by his followers as a levelled-headed politician and wealthy, successful businessman, former governor Al-Makura is said to be enjoying the full support of Buhari and his successor, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.
Although campaigning forcefully to get the job, the former two-term Governor of Zamfara State, appears to be having serious challenges in pushing his ambition. Apart from the fact that he has lost the APC political structures in the state to his successor, those pushing for zoning do not favour the North-west zone in their current political conversations. But as a ‘’good Muslim’,” Yari is still hopeful.
“If God decides that it should be, it is going to be. People can manouvre and do all sorts of calculations, but they will not prevail. All I know is that I can lead this party and they know what I can do’’, the former governor was quoted as saying recently.
Senator George Akume
He served twice governor of Benue State and former Minority Leader in the Senate, Akume is the current Minister of Special Duties/Inter Governmental Affairs. Seen as a team player, many of his supporters believed he has what it takes to nurture unity and peace in the crisis-ridden ruling party.
Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff
A former Senator and two-term Governor of Borno State, Modu-Sheriff is essentially labelled as a controversial political figure. He was member of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, one of the political groups that formed APC. Those who know him very well said that he had never hidden his fixation for the party’s national chairmanship office. Although not enjoying the support of his state governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, some political monitors said that he might be capitalising on his relationship with Buhari – as in-law, to push his case.
Senator Danjuma Goje
The serving third term Senator was Gombe State Governor for eight years. His supporters believe he has a unique ability to bring people together. He was in contention for the Senate Presidency until he deferred to Senator Ahmed Lawan, the current Senate President. But, it is obvious that Goje’s supremacy battle with the present Governor of his state – over control of the party structure, may affect his chances.
The Kwara State-born politician is one of the formidable aspirants eyeing the national chairman of the party. Although he has never served as governor or in the National Assembly, the young, energetic businessman turned politician is of the old CPC block. He is a founding member of the APC. Mustapha has held many party positions in the past, including the Deputy National Chairman of CPC. He is said that he will be a bridge builder between the old and the young, if given the chance to serve.
Senator Sani Musa
The Senator representing Niger East in the National Assembly is staking his campaign for the APC National Chairmanship on the freshness of his ideas and the his strong believe that stakeholders in the party want a leader who is untainted with scandals and one can command the respect of everyone.
The Entrenched Interests Fuelling APC’s Crisis
The presidential-lifelong-ambition of Tinubu, is identified by many insiders as aiding the interminable crisis enveloping the APC. The former governor of Lagos State lately informed Buhari of his interest to contest the number one political office in the country. Not many of his followers within the party doubt that the intrigues being created by some political forces within the party – to delay the national convention, are targeted at him.
Tinubu, who marked his 69th birthday in March last year, commands an arguably large following of political loyalists within and outside the party. Many of his supporters have consistently boasted that just like Buhari, who raked 12 million votes from the North before the 2015 elections, Tinubu also has at least 12 million votes from the South-west. He is also said to enjoy the support of an expansive spectrum of traditional rulers across the country, some of whom have conferred him with honorary chieftaincy titles in appreciation for his good gestures.
With formidable political structures across the country, those close to him claimed that there are over 120 support groups, especially on social media platforms, promoting the presidential ambition of Tinubu. Some of them include: Southwest Agenda 2023 group; Tinubu Support Group; Disciples of Jagaban; Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu – B.A.T National Forum; Tinubu for President 2023; Tinubu 2023 Support Group; Tinubu Solidarity Group; Northern Alliance for Tinubu 2023; Bola Ahmed Tinubu Group – USA; Tinubu Transformation Agenda 2023; I Love Tinubu; Tinubu Mandate Group; Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu Northerners; Tinubu Peoples Network; Vote Tinubu 2023 and Tinubu Grassroots Movement, among several others.
Until recently, Vice-President Osinbajo was seen as a member of Tinubu’s political family. He had served as Commissioner of Justice/Attorney-General of Lagos State – under Tinubu-led government. However, some strong political forces across the country – who believe is the ‘’most qualified person to take over from his boss’’, are said to have drafted him into the presidential race. Expectedly, insiders say that the interest of the Vice-President, which is at variance with others within the party, is said to be fuelling the crisis in APC.
True, while his former political godfather, Tinubu, has openly declared his presidential ambition, several groups have emerged across the country – pushing Osinbajo’s case. One of the groups, the National Coalition Group (NCG) recently stormed Owerri, the Imo State capital to drum support for him. The group that assembled in Owerri during his working visit to Imo State, called on Osinbajo, to contest for the presidency.
Speaking to journalists, the National Secretary of NCG, Dr. Eli Eberechukwu Dibịa, said they were in Owerri to show solidarity and support to Osinbajo, with greatest assurance that the lgbos are supporting him unequivocally for president.
A coalition of Northern youths has also launched a campaign in Kano State to galvanise support for the Vice President – ahead of the 2023 presidential election. Under the platform of Osinbajo Awareness Campaign (OAC), the group recently unveiled its plans to mobilise ‘’20 million youths across the 19 Northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)’’ – in solidarity with him as the ‘’only trusted candidate’’ to continue with Buhari’s policies.
Speaking at the launch of its Kano secretariat and campaign vehicles, the National Coordinator of OAC, Mubarak Haruna, declared that Nigeria needed the standard of ‘’highly patriotic and genuinely detribalised leaders’’, who could drive the country to greater heights.
He explained that while other pro-Osinbajo platforms, including The Progressive Project (TPP) and Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG) focus on the general population, OAC would mobilise 20 million youth across various political backgrounds in the 19 Northern states.
Born into the family of Adeyemi Osinbajo on March 8, 1957, Osinbajo is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Professor of Law and until his inauguration as Vice President, a Senior Partner with SimmonsCooper Partners, a commercial law firm and a leading global legal practice and business solutions provider.
The incumbent Minister of Transportation is surely a formidable force within the APC. He is one of the few pillars holding the party, having played a key role in the formation of the party, ahead of the 2015 general election. Quietly but forcefully, he is said to be erecting political structures across the nation – in pursing of his presidential election. An insider in APC claimed that he was the one whom President Buhari referred to – when he said he will not mention his favourite candidate for the 2023 presidential election to avoid being ‘’eliminated’’ before the presidential election
Born on May 27, 1965, Ameachi – who controls huge influence within the APC, has also indicated interest in the presidency, though not publicly. He previously served in oil-rich Rivers State as Governor – from 2007 to 2015, and Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007.
Records show that during the transition to the Third Republic, Amaechi was Secretary of the National Republican Convention in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State. Between 1992 and 1994, he was Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili – his boss believed in Amaechi as a young man with potential in politics, and brought him under his wing. In 1996, he was the Rivers State’s Secretary of the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) caretaker committee during the transition programme of General Sani Abacha.
In 1999, he contested and won a seat to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly to represent his constituency. He was subsequently elected as the Speaker of the House of Assembly. Amaechi was elected the Chairman of Nigeria’s Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies. In May 2003, he was re-elected as the Speaker.
Governor Kayode Fayemi
Although he has not publicly declared his interest in the 2023 presidential election, those close to him say that his body language indicates that he is willing to throw his hat into the race. The influence of the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum within the APC is not in doubt. He appears to have the listening-ears of President Buhari, with regular consultation with the President on matters of national importance. Members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, late last year, endorsed his 2023 presidential ambition, despite the fact that he has not openly declared his intention for the plum seat. The lawmakers pledged their full support to work with well-meaning Nigerians and groups for the realisation of having the Ekiti son as the president.
Speaker of the House, Mr. Funminiyi Afuye, who spoke on behalf of the 26-member Assembly, gave the endorsement verdict at the Assembly Complex while receiving a group under the auspices ‘Our Belief Project’. The driver of the group, Chief Adewunmi Abejide, said they came to get the state assembly’s nod to pressurise Fayemi to contest the 2023 presidential election
Afuye said that the lawmakers were witnesses to the excellent qualities and competence of Fayemi in terms of delivery of democracy dividends, which he said, led to the radical transformation of the state.
But Dr. Fayemi, said that only God knew what his political future holds in the 2023 general elections.
“I have a job to do; I want to finish well as governor of Ekiti State, I want to do more to put Ekiti on the pedestal of growth and development in the period that is left for me in office. What the future holds, God knows, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. For now, my primary responsibility is Ekiti State,” Dr. Fayemi had stated.
Other conflicting interests that are said to be fuelling the APC crisis, include that of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State – who is also nursing presidential ambition; Governor Buni of Yobe State and that of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami – both said to be positioning themselves as running –mates to Southern presidential candidates.
But How Long Will The Crisis Continue?
While political monitors are wondering how long the crisis will fester, insiders within the ruling party predict that the crisis will get messier and more chaotic in the days ahead, because of the 2023 presidential ambitions of different political blocks within the party, unless Presidential Buhari musters the political will to intervene. Even at that, some people believe that the Tinubu-led forces are ready for a fight, fearing that no matter what they do to assure Buhari of Tinubu’s good intention, he will never support their interest.