From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Before the beginning of the 2017, Nigerians at home and in Diaspora were full of expectations and optimism that the All Progressives Congress (APC) would fulfill many of the 2015 campaign promises it made to Nigerians after one and half year of excuses.
They had hoped in anticipation that the APC government would settle down fully to the task of providing leadership and giving the people the much needed democracy dividends which they earnestly desired.
Among the expectations of many Nigerians and political watchers were for the APC, as part of providing leadership, to organise its national convention in line with the stipulations of the party’s constitution.
Among the prospects were that the governing party would overcome the discomforting blame-game syndrome and give to Nigerians the much awaited benefits in its manifesto.
For the APC therefore, the 2017 political ended a mishmash of pain, sorrow and joy. President Muhammadu Buhari’s health challenge and his miraculous recovery, the unending crises across the party structures both at state and national levels, high profile defection involving party chieftain, Atiku Abubakar, loss of Anambra State governorship election and the Osun West senatorial district among others defined APC’s activities in the year under review.
Buhari’s health and NEC meeting
One issue that perhaps slowed the plans and programmes of the APC in 2017 was President Buhari’s challenging health crisis. His absence for months on end really crippled the activities of the party.
From the party’s failure to organise the stipulated mid-term non-elective convention to its inability to take decisions on very important issues made the ruling party really rudderless in Buhari’s absence.
Confirming the delay in organising the congresses, the Caucus and NEC meetings, the national leadership of the party admitted facing difficult situation prosecuting its programmes in President’s absence, perhaps for fear of implosion.
While acknowledging that Buhari’s illness was largely responsible for the party’s inability to hold its constitutionally mandated mid-term convention, the APC leadership, at a time, took the decision to meet with then acting president, Prof.Yemi Osinbajo, to fix possible date for the convention.
Although the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum and Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari promised at the end of the fifth regular joint APC NWC/APC Governors’ meeting, to meet Osinbajo for the convention, the party never did until October when it managed to hold Caucus and NEC meetings following Buhari’s return after recovering fully.
Even when the NEC meeting finally held, with the President, his deputy, National Assembly leadership, 20 governors, Ministers, Special Advisers and other stakeholders in attendance, the ruling party could not still organise the mid-term convention in 2017 as promised.
Escalation of crises at national and state levels
What the ruling party lacked in other areas, it abundantly harvested in the area of crisis. The crippling crisis affected the activities of the party in 2017. From Bayelsa to Kano, Gombe, Kaduna, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Yobe, Lagos, Ondo and others, the APC chapters in all these states were engulfed in one crisis or the other. And in spite of the intervention from the national leadership in all these troubled spots, it produced little or no result as most of the still embroiled in crisis till date.
In Kaduna, Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani are locked in battle, in Bauchi, Governor Mohammed Abubakar and Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, did not see eye-to-eye, until December when the latter attended the governor’s 50th birthday party.
The scenario is the same in Kano; Governor Abdullahi Ganduje declared a total war against his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso. In Kogi, Governor Yahaya Bello and his estranged political soul mate, Senator Dino Melaye are still in bitter political battle.
The internal wrangling in Rivers between the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe, for the control of the party structure in the state, is still on.
At the national level, the failure to hold statutory meetings, inaugurate party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) more than two years after the party came to power appears to show clearly that the party is yet to find its bearing.
Despite the efforts of the party leadership inaugurating and dispatching committees to the troubled spots, it failed to restore lasting peace as the crisis did not only threatened the delicate peace path in place at every level but also escalated and assumed disturbing dimension.
Although Buhari’s recovery restored peace of the graveyard within the party, there are still noticeable skirmishes among ranks and files of the party leaderships in many states chapters of the party.
Oshiomhole angling to unseat Oyegun
In addition to the already beleaguered party, there are speculations that former Edo governor; Adams Oshiomhole plans to unseat the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The ‘Oyegun-must-go’ campaign, which started after the Ondo State governorship election got to its peak after reports emerged alleging that Oshiomhole had allegedly connived with 19 APC governors to remove Oyegun.
Although Oshiomhole shot down the rumours of his alleged plan to unseat Oyegun , the anti-Oyegun protests at the party headquarters was a pointer to the fact that the plot was real.
A statement issued by his media aide, Victor Oshioke, read: “It is true that many observers and party faithful have voiced their preference for Oshiomhole to lead the APC, but that does not mean that they are sponsored by him or got his approval.
“The APC as a party has established rules of seeking a leadership position, and Oshiomhole being a law abiding, loyal member of the party, will employ appropriate channels of engagement if he is interested in any position.”
Atiku Abubakar dumps APC
Perhaps, the defection of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from APC back to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was one incident that took the APC by surprise. After several months of speculation, he finally bid goodbye to APC in November, accusing it of “cluelessness and highhandedness” among other things.
In his resignation letter, Atiku said: “While other parties have purged themselves of the arbitrariness and unconstitutionality that led to fractionalisation, the APC has adopted those same practices and even gone beyond them to institute a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced.”
Reacting, the APC leadership claimed that though it was surprised at the resignation, Atiku was at liberty to go to anywhere where his political interest is better served.
National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi had noted that: “Politics is about interest, we can say all together is surprising. If the former Vice President feels that his interest is better served elsewhere, we can always wish him good luck.”
Similarly, the governors of Kaduna and Kano insisted that Atiku would not pose any threat to President Buhari if he decides to re-contest in 2019.
According to El-Rufai, “It was good that Atiku left the APC early. If given the ticket of the PDP, Atiku is not a threat to President Buhari in the 2019 presidential election. Atiku is a serial defector.”
For Ganduje, he said Atiku has “his own freedom to choose whichever political party he wants to belong. He defected to the PDP. He was in the PDP before and another party too. So, it is not surprising if he decides to go to another party.”
Politics of automatic ticket for Buhari’s second term
Since President Buhari recovered from his sickness, many of his supporters have been rationalising the fact that he deserves an automatic ticket. Oyegun had set the ball rolling when he announced that the party will not only stand with Buhari but also give him offer of first refusal if he makes up his mind to re-contest.
“I said I will beg him to re-contest because the main gift President Buhari is giving to this country is what he represents and that is his absolute integrity. What Nigerians should aspire to be, the kind of country that we want Nigeria to be, a country where a man’s yes is his yes.”
Although dissenting voices had come from chieftains of the party like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, however, like Oyegun, most state governors had equally backed an automatic ticket for Buhari, agreeing that only the president has all it takes to take the country to the Promised Land.
The political setbacks
One of the greatest setbacks for the ruling party in 2017 was the shocking loss of the senatorial seat in Osun State to the PDP and its failure to unseat the incumbent governor of Anambra State.
In both instances, political watchers believed strongly that the controversial circumstances surrounding the emergence of the party’s candidate largely contributed in the loss. Even though the ruling party had put behind it the Anambra governorship loss, it is yet to overcome its defeat in Osun, a state with an APC sitting governor.