A public affairs analyst, Mr Jide Ojo, agreed that the crisis in the APC was normal, but faulted the narrative that Oshiomhole orchestrated it.

Omoniyi Salaudeen and Onyedika Agbedo

As campaigns for the 2019 general elections officially kick off today, peace in the troubled All Progressives Congress (APC) still remains largely work in progress with the party tottering on the edge of the abyss of a total collapse.

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Like the proverbial bird that perched on the line, neither the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party nor the aggrieved supporters have known any peace since the conduct of the rancorous direct and indirect primaries of the party, which degenerated to a rift between the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Imo’s Rochas Okorocha, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State.

Things took a befuddling dimension when the DSS quizzed the embattled National Chairman and allegedly demanded his resignation based on the accusation of financial inducement leveled against him by the aggrieved candidates.

Despite the peace effort by President Muhammadu Buhari, the concerned interest groups, who were allegedly believed to have instigated the DSS intervention, Sunday Sun gathered, are still perfecting strategy to get Oshiomhole out of office before the next general elections.

This development, according to a source close to the party’s hierarchy, if not nipped in the bud could become a direct invitation to anarchy, especially coming at a time when the next general election is only some three months away.

Speaking with Sunday Sun, he likened the endless crisis to the experience of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the run up to the last general elections which led to the defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan, warning that defeat is already staring APC in the face.

Part of what led to the woeful defeat of the PDP in the 2015 general elections was the face-off between the then national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and the five dissident governors who identified themselves as nPDP who later defected to the APC. The rift was initially precipitated by the alleged poor handling of the Adamawa State crisis, which later snowballed into a prolonged running battle between the aggrieved governors who were sympathetic to Governor Murtala Nyako and Tukur-led national leadership. These were Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara and Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto. On Thursday, January 16, 2014, Tukur was compelled to tender his resignation to give way for genuine reconciliation. But then, irreversible damage had already been done to the party. And so former President Goodluck Jonathan suffered a resounding defeat in the election.

A chieftain of the APC, Senator Joseph Waku, who spoke with Sunday Sun in a telephone interview, said: “We are heading towards the experience of the PDP, blaming the crisis on the militant attitude of Oshiomhole.

“You have interviewed me severally before the crisis in APC; all I have said in those interviews is what is playing out now. I have spoken well ahead of this crisis and the danger it portends for the party. So, it is like whipping up the dead horse again. Adams Oshiomhole was brought in as an undertaker to come and bury the APC. I personally campaigned for his election as the National Chairman, but I have since discovered that Oyegun was a better manager than Oshiomhole. He brought his militant labour posture to the party. How can you have direct primary in one state and indirect primary in another state? When you decide to do a thing like that, that is the price you pay.”

Also speaking in the same vein, an aggrieved senatorial aspirant in Enugu State and Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr Osita Okechukwu, maintained that only the resignation of Oshiomhole would calm frayed nerves.

His noted: “There is a slight difference emanating from the narcissistic disposition of Oshiomhole, which may be different from that of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. One couldn’t recall where it was reported that Bamanga gave Adamawa State over 30 per cent slots of chairmen of the electoral panels. Comrade more or less simulated bazaar for kinsmen and cronies. Another difference is that the mud Oshiohmole gathered in the rancorous primaries wouldn’t splash on President Muhammadu Buhari. His vote-bank, contrary to insinuations, is still intact.”

On the insistence by some aggrieved governors and members of the party on the removal of the national chairman bearing in mind the negative impact a similar decision had on the PDP, Okechukwu maintained that it was the only sure route to genuine reconciliation.

His words: “I am one of those who called for his resignation, and there are hundreds of silent majority who are casualties of his misadventure, who quietly grumbled, but whose consolation will be his resignation. This will help in cleaning the mess. It will also help the party to embark on genuine reconciliation. “So, Oshiomhole should honourably resign immediately. Simple solution! Can you imagine a chairman who subverted the simple process of appeal? He first made sure that petitions were not acknowledged and had only one Appeal Panel headed by his kinsman, who conducted the Kebbi State primary. What duplicity? When I submitted my petition I requested acknowledgement and the clerk told me that they were told not to acknowledge the petitions. That was when one sensed danger.

“I started work in 1976 as a messenger and one of the primary lessons thought to us, was to always acknowledge letters. Comrade and his team were very economical in mangling the process, but prohibitive in the nomination fees. Only one panel conducted governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly in most states, as if we are lacking members.”

Asked how President Buhari could mitigate the crisis, Okechukwu noted that Buhari should intervene, but not interfere.

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“I am one of those who applaud President Buhari for not interfering or over indulging in critical issues like party primary; for one cannot forget the over indulgence of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. However, since the man he thought has integrity has failed in several aspects, he has to intervene and not interfere. I remember, for instance, pleading with Oshiohmole not to reverse the congress conducted in Imo State, which excised the APC’s structure from His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. He refused the advice, which was akin to returning a cup back to an unruly monkey,” Okechukwu said.

He, however, expressed optimism that the crisis would not affect the chances of President Buhari in the presidential election.

Also reacting, Senator Ayo Arise said that the time was inauspicious for the removal of Oshiomhole as national chairman, maintaining that the party would surmount its current challenges before the coming election.

He said: “I believe everything will be resolved before the coming elections. Crisis of this nature after primaries is not strange. I don’t think it will last till election period. You cannot satisfy everybody. There will always be some aggrieved individuals. At the appropriate time, everybody will sit down in the interest of the party to resolve the matter. I don’t think removing the chairman of the party at this time is a favourable solution. I am not a member of the NWC, but I believe there will be amicable settlement of the crisis without necessarily compromising the core value of the party.”

On the chances of the party winning the coming elections, he said: “APC will still win because all the indices are there. All the challenges we have in the country today are problems that have been there over the years. And since the people have decided to change those who had been in the saddle for 16 years, they cannot expect all the wrongs to be corrected in three or four years. To do that is to expect miracle. I believe an average person on the street will be patient enough to reap the benefits of the change they voted for.”

The Lagos State Publicity Secretary of APC, Chief Joe Igbokwe, also expressing the same view maintained that APC would still win the 2019 polls, adding that the post-primary crisis rocking the party was not unusual.

He said: “PDP is not APC. Besides, post-primary crisis was not what removed PDP from power; what removed PDP from power was corruption. It had nothing to do with the primaries, so it was their 16 years of corruption that kicked them out of power. Making comparison between PDP and APC is just like apple and orange comparison.

“Secondly, the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, aptly said that going into a football match is not the same thing as watching comedy. When you watch a comedy, you will come out happy, but it is not the same thing as playing a football game. At the end of a football match, a team would have lost and they will not be happy. Some people were benched before the game and they will not be happy; some people even had broken legs, they won’t be happy.

“Our party is a very big party. So, don’t expect that you will not see something like this. It’s a struggle for power and the struggle for power is not a tea party. Nobody wants to be pushed aside. So, it must be like that, but how you manage it thereafter is what makes you what you are as a political party. You don’t go into such a contest without winners and losers. Some people must win; some people must lose. Those who won will be happy while those who lost will not be happy. But we must manage to find a middle ground. APC is a party guided by laws. I know so many people are not happy, but we have to move on.”

He disclosed that the party has been working to appease aggrieved members and approach the 2019 elections as a common front.

“The leadership is working, but if you are outside you won’t know what is happening. But there are those who lost that feel that they must win; there is nothing you can do about it, but to persuade them. There are two sides now, but both sides are APC. And there must be a winner and a loser. So, if you take what belongs to the winner and give it to the loser, how do you think the winner will react? This is a country where somebody will lose an election and will be claiming that he won. In fact, somebody who came last will tell you that he won the election, that he was cheated. That is our culture. People don’t accept defeat easily in this country.

“So, don’t look at what is happening as crisis. It won’t lead to anything. APC will win the 2019 elections; there is no doubt about that. We will not trust the keys of our national treasury into the hands of the PDP again; we will not. I know what I’m telling you. The contest is between Atiku Abubakar and Buhari and we cannot trust Atiku with the keys of our national treasury. If you read Obasanjo’s book, ‘My Watch’, you will see why,” he said.

A public affairs analyst, Mr Jide Ojo, agreed that the crisis in the APC was normal, but faulted the narrative that Oshiomhole orchestrated it.

He stressed that the ability of the party to manage the crisis would determine whether it would retain power in 2019 or not.

“It is not unusual that after every primaries of a major political party, there will be conflicts, crisis and even implosion. It is all part of political intrigues because when you have the nomination of a big party where once you get the ticket you are almost 50 per cent sure of your victory at the general election, it is bound to be very contentious. PDP passed through that road during party primaries from 1999 to 2015. So, it’s all part of the game. But it is the ability to manage the crisis well that makes a party to survive.

“Right now, APC is having its own fair share of post primaries crisis. Unfortunately, people have approximated the crisis in the party to be Oshiomhole’s making. But I am of the opinion that a tree does not make a forest. Oshiomhole could not have acted as the sole administrator in that issue. The National Working Committee (NWC) is made up of about 20 members. So, are you saying that Oshiomhole rides roughshod over and above every person and dictates who should get the party’s ticket and who should not? I don’t think that is a fair narrative.

“Having said that, the APC needs to reactivate its internal mechanism for resolving conflicts. We were told that the party set up the Oserheimen Osunbor committee to look into the petitions arising over the primaries. Later, we read about the president himself setting up another five-man committee to look into the crisis, which also has submitted its report. Now, that is the first line of seeking redress. If anyone is still dissatisfied with whatever has been resolved at those levels, he/she will approach the courts. But the ability to manage this conflict will determine whether APC will retain its victory magic in 2019 or not,” Ojo explained.

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