Buhari moves to mitigate deepening cracks in APC
- Makes overtures to Tinubu
- As Atiku prepares for showdown in 2019
By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, began an interventionist process to douse tension in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to forestall deeper cracks in the party in the build up to 2019.
Accordingly, the President made overtures to APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to seek cooperation in restoring harmony of interests in the ruling party. This culminated into an impromptu meeting with Tinubu on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting with Tinubu held after the President had earlier met with the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Right Honourable Yakubu Dogara.
There are indications that the President’s meeting with Tinubu which herald the APC National Caucus meeting, became imperative amidst reports of plots to remove the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
There were reports that about 17 APC Governor have aligned to move for the removal of Oyegun as the party’s national chairman for various reasons.
The president’s intervention was timely to prevent chaos at the APC national caucus meeting, even at the national convention, under consideration by the party leadership.
At the President’s earlier meeting were the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari, Governor of Zamfara State, and APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun.
After the closed-door meeting which held at abbot 3:28 p.m with the President, Tinubu, in a media interaction monitored from Lagos, reaffirmed existence of good relationship with the president, thus, repudiating innuendoes of differences between him and President Buhari.
Tinubu acknowledged that “unpredictable circumstances in the party gave room to insinuations and rumours of rift between him and the president.” He remarked that having worked to bring the APC government to power, he is committed to ensure the success of the party government, saying that the party government is on course ‘in fulfilling electoral promises or providing good governance’.
Tinubu, however, declined comment on the second term project of President Buhari. “Don’t discuss that one with me,” he had said.
Meanwhile, APC is expected to convene its non-elective national convention in November.
The emergent cabal
The APC has in the past two years been a theatre of cold war and subtle discontent. Several party leaders who feel otherwise in the running of the party or perceive to the sidelined by the party-government, at different times, expressed disquiets over the party leadership and those in government.
In the surface, there appears to the cohesion in the APC but behind the scene, there are symptoms that the ruling party is bleeding profusely and plagued by internal discord.
The power configuration since 2015 degenerated into emergent “in” and “out” groups within the APC which also permeated the party-government. Apparently, while the party leadership appears to have been comatose and relatively dormant, the APC-Government has shown indices of a disorganized government where appointees of President
Muhammadu Buhari are opposed to some of the President’s decisions.
The emergent IN and OUT groups within the APC further culminated into outcry by prominent party stakeholders, including the President’s wife, of CABAL hijacking the Buhari administration.
At the time the APC-Government was putting the institutions of administration together in offering appointments to party loyalists, several persons turned their nominations by President Buhari for appointments into some federal institutions, giving different reasons.
Some of those who turned down Buhari’s appointments, were later found to have taken instructions from their political principals to begin subtle dissociation from the party government.
Subsequently, several party leaders were no longer within the range of the power circle to provide support for the President in the governance of the country. Unfortunately, the party government suffered unprecedented set back when the economy was plunged into recession.
The APC leadership structure has also been weaken by the latent cold war between party leaders. Those perceived to have been sidelined by the party government of the APC leaders show to be stronger or more powerful than those in the party leadership or holding political appointments. The seeming out groups control grassroots support bases in their political clime from where those in both party leadership and government emerge.
Thus, while those in government and party leadership, who now constitute the IN group, deploy the powers of the state to sustain their power, the OUT groups are reinforced by their army of grassroots loyalists to sustain their power or the godfather instinct.
Accordingly, the APC has been struggling to stabilize its structures and enforce party discipline.
Road to 2019
The unresolved disharmony of interests in the APC has created heavier burden for the party in the build up to 2019 general elections.
Party activities have shown that APC may be mobilized behind tow principal actors – either President Buhari or former Vice President Atiku Abubakar – or an alternative candidate for the 2019 presidential race if Buhari declines to contest for a second tenure.
While no aspirant has officially declared for the presidential race in the APC, ad hoc campaign activities have commenced in earnest for both principal party leaders, which further sparked new controversies in the party.
No automatic ticket
Chief Bisi Akande, APC interim National Chairman, had at a meeting of tAPC leaders in the South West at the Executive Chamber of Oyo State Governor’s Office. Ibadan, penultimate week, had declared that there is no automatic ticket for the president, though acknowledging that no interest has been declared yet. Akande had said: “He has not told us. Anybody in our party is free to become the president of Nigeria. As soon as they indicate interests, we will set a process through which a candidate will be selected. If he (Buhari) is lucky to have the ticket, then, we will have no other thing to do than to present him as our candidate.”
One term president
More so, the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, also revealed that Buhari had before the 2015 elections, told the APC leadership that he was only going to contest for a single term to clean up the mess of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).
Alhassan cited to have said, “In 2014/2015, he said he was going to run for only one time to clean up the mess that the (previous) PDP government did in Nigeria. And I took him for his word that he is not contesting in 2019.”
Oyegun on Buhari’s second term
APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, argued that the decision whether to seek a second term in office or not is for President Buhari to make; saying that the President will make his intention known at the appropriate time.
According to Oyegun, “The decision, whether our President will run for a second term, is a decision only President Buhari can make, and he will make it at the proper time. At the proper time, he will decide, and at the proper time, the APC will decide and the public will know.”
Bisi Akande’s aversion to automatic ticket for Buhari had rattled Oyegun who in May 2017 was gathered to have declared that APC would give Buhari right of first refusal for the party’s 2019 presidential ticket, an indication that there is no vacancy.
When Akande declared in Ibadan that the presidential ticket of the party was open to all members, Oyegun was of the view that Akande only gave his personal position. According to Oyegun, “That’s his personal view. He said what he felt…”
Buhari, Atiku on 2019
While President Buhari is yet to make official declaration for re-election in 2019, several state and political actors have been working assiduously, preparing grounds for the president’s re-election.
Some APC Governors, who identified themselves as the Buharists, have been building campaign structures and mobilizing support for the president’s second term electioneering campaign.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Colonel Hameed Alli, (rtd) Comptroller-General of customs, etc, are leading the Buharists mobilizing for the president’s second term.
Former Vice President Atiku has demonstrated sufficient body language to show that he is not given up on the 2019 presidential race despite the incumbency powers of Buhari. He is building up strongly to contests the presidential ticket of the APC with Buhari.
There are innuendos that if the APC leadership is not open to democratic processes in giving the party ticket, Atiku may consider any other party platform for the 2019 presidential race.