By Ehichioya Ezomon
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has literally become a “Fuji house of commotion” where nothing seems to work in the quest to hold a national convention, to elect new party leaders.
A plethora of lawsuits at different jurisdictions across the country didn’t work to prompt the dissolution of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and pave way for conduct of the convention.
It’s also a no-show for the series of protests at state chapters, and national headquarters of the APC in Abuja, and a routine bashing by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for failure to convoke a rancour-free convention, as the PDP did in late 2021.
Similarly failing to move the APC leaders was the November 2021 urging by the President Muhammadu Buhari-headed National Executive Committee (NEC) to hold the convention in February.
Apparently unhappy with the power-mongers’ efforts to frustrate reconciling the divide in the party, for a smooth convention, Buhari issued a scary prediction of APC’s defeat by the PDP in 2023.
On resolving the issues in the APC for an orderly national convention, President Buhari, in an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) aired on January 6, said: “We have a time frame. We have to work because the four-year cycle (for a general election) is constitutional. It cannot be interfered with by anybody. So, if the party (APC) couldn’t agree, then the opposition (PDP) can take over” in 2023.
To drive home his point, Buhari recalled that failure of the PDP to put its house in order, and take serious the threats of the opposition APC to take over power, caused the party the 2015 elections.
“What did the PDP do? the president asked rhetorically. “They said the opposition could not come together, but when ANPP, CPC, APGA (and ACN) came together (as APC), before PDP realized it, they were off; they are still off; they can see it.”
Though Buhari’s literal apocalypse for APC returned the controverting leaders from dreamland, several meetings in Abuja couldn’t yield an outcome to satisfy APC’s members’ agitation.
Clever politicians that they are, the chieftains partially heeded Buhari’s admonition, by insisting first on resolving the party crisis that would inevitably push the convention beyond February.
But then came a blistering rebuke by the controversial Director-General of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh Lukman, which he followed up with a resignation from his post.
In a statement in Abuja on January 13, Dr Lukeman said further postponement of the convention would mean the CECPC’s “new objective is probably to take APC to its political grave,” faulting APC leaders’ craving to settle the internal crisis before the convention.
Lukman declared: “Unless the CECPC has given itself the new responsibility of being the political and electoral undertaker of the APC, it must stop promoting some subversive campaigns suggesting that it is undertaking ‘the immediate task of addressing contestations within the party… ahead of the National Convention.’
“The more the party continues to allow the leadership of the CECPC to continue to hold everyone captive and refuse to commence the process of organising the February APC National Convention, the more party leaders would have supported the CECPC in weakening the electoral prospect of the APC.
“Largely on account of delaying the implementation of decision to organise the February APC National Convention, there is hardly any internal party preparation for the 2023 electoral contest beyond individual leaders declaring their personal aspirations for offices.”
Lukman warned against allowing aspirants to define the 2023 project, rather than the achievements of the party, and the Buhari government, and thus strengthening the “false opposition narrative about the failure of APC and President Buhari.
“If APC wants to unassailably win the 2023 elections, it must take all the necessary steps to correct this false narrative,” he said.
“This can only start happening if everyone rises to the challenge of ensuring that the CECPC faithfully implement the decision to organize the APC National Convention in February 2022. A major indicator for this would also include a review of the APC manifesto at the convention,” he added.
As Lukman’s dissection riled the APC leadership, the governors backing the CECPC decided it’s time to give him the boot. And aware of the governors’ plot, the PGF director-general resigned.
Yet, his message wasn’t lost on the governors, who hurried to President Buhari, and came out to declare that the February 2022 national convention was sacrosanct.
Even at that, the governors, who are the happening guys in the system, played Jackie and Hyde over when in February the convention would hold, pushing the announcement to the very CECPC that’s the object of protestations in the party.
Kebbi State governor and chairman of the PGF, Abubakar Bagudu, told reporters in Abuja that the forum’s decision was unanimous, and united behind the president and the caretaker committee.
His words: “We discussed our upcoming convention, which you may recall, I had cause to address the press after we visited President Buhari in November 2021, where the president and the party agreed that the convention would take place in February 2022.
“We took inputs about the reviews and we noted all the misrepresentations in the press that we seek to correct: that the PGF is one united body, as you can see evidently from the attendance (at the meeting).
“We are one group of stakeholders in the party, and our party respects institutions. The appropriate organ of the party that will announce a date for the national convention is the CECPC.”
And finally on January 18, Governor Buni announced that the APC national convention would hold in two days, on February 2
6 and 27, ending speculations about a further shift in the concave to elect new officers to run the affairs of the party till 2026.
The problems in Nigeria’s polity are fueled by the wiggle room given to governors to control the structures in the state chapters of the political parties, particularly in the APC and PDP.
For instance, in the APC (as it’s in the PDP), the governors can perform electoral magic, such as the outcomes of the congresses and/or primaries in the 2019 and 2023 election cycles, respectively, triggering recrimination in the party, and threatening not only APC’s chances to retain power in 2023, but also its existence.
Were the governors circumspect in using their positions to deal with real or perceived opponents in the APC, they wouldn’t have the kind of issues they feverishly want to settle before the February make-or-mar national convention.
The governors, and other APC chieftains may want to take Buhari’s advice that he’s not a kingmaker, and that there’s no shortcut to elective positions but through the party’s grassroots, whose voices must be heard from the unit up to the national stage.
Citing himself as one “who worked hard” to become president after four consecutive elections in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, the president, in the NTA interview, charged that “anyone that wants to become the next president should also work for it.”
Buhari said: “My position is simple. I think I succeeded in trying to get my position understood in the sense that we start from bottom upwards; from polling units to wards, to local governments, to states and then to Abuja.
“So, in all constituencies, they will know their positions, coming up. Therefore, when they come to Abuja (for the national convention), they are likely to work together. There is no kingmaker from Abuja; no constituency is being dictated to. All constituencies are supposed to produce their leadership in our party.
“We want to make sure that our party members understand that they are respected. It (choosing party officials) is from polling unit, to ward to local government, to state and to Abuja. So, those who want to be elected at any level, let them work for it. Nobody is going to appoint anybody.”
Heeding this counsel will ensure a smooth national convention, acceptable primaries, and survival of the APC beyond Buhari’s tenure in office. Time is over for gambling with the party’s future!
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.