By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, please, allow me to put it the way the late cerebral politician and legal luminary, Chief Bola Ige – former Governor of Oyo State in the Second Republic, former Minister for Power and Steel and later, Attorney-General and Minister Justice under President Olusegun Obasanjo – also known as the Cicero of Esa Oke, would have described it: “today may be a day of the long knives within the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC”. The problem will not be with filling the various positions which exist on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling Party, but with the way and manner in which those positions will be filled, especially those factions of the Party that will benefit and those who will not.
The position is that barring any unforetold and unforeseen earthquake of monumental proportions, which is very remote indeed, my former Governor from Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, will be crowned as the new National Chairman of APC. His coronation has become a procession and is now going to be no more than a mere formality because there is not a single challenger that can withstand the blistering and overwhelming support my dear Brother commands within the rank and file of his party, and his erstwhile challengers, the last being former Governor of Cross River State in the Third Republic, Clement Ebri, have now come to that realisation and thrown in the towel. I take this opportunity to congratulate Comrade Adams selection on his unopposed and unanimous nomination and election as the next Chairman of APC. I also congratulate all other members of the NEC who will be elected or returned unopposed into various positions in the NEC. I wish them all the very best, especially because the task before them is not an easy one. The Party has imminent elections to fight, but all is not well as there are many disgruntled elements wishing to be heard as to the direction the party should take and their concerns and protests are simply being waved aside. How the Oshiomole led NEC deals with this grave issue will be the litmus test of the new Executive and may well determine whether it will be boom or gloom and doom for the party at the next polls.
History is very strange and dramatic. Comrade Oshiomhole is set to take over from another great man from our dear beloved Edo State, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, a former Governor of the State like Comrade Adams, and a leading light in the fight for democracy in Nigeria, which led him into forced exile in England. A perfect gentleman, Chief Oyegun led the All Progressive Congress to victory in 2015 ensuring that he achieved the first of leading an opposition Party to victory in Nigeria. However, since then he has had to fight an endless war of attrition and rebellion inside his own party. His first real test came with the Party’s failure to manage election, or shall I say selection, for the leadership of the National Assembly culminating in the debacle which led to the People’s Democratic Party’s, Ike Ekweremadu, being elected as Deputy Senate President.
Oyegun’s unflinching and unyielding loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari brought him into frontal collision with those within the party who felt that he did not protect them at all against the onslaught from the Presidency. There was also a time the party was having problems with a major pillar of its success in 2015, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was supposed to be one of his solid backers in the past. Oyegun’s position at that time was considered a betrayal of Tinubu who had expected that his support and assistance to Oyegun in times gone past had not been repaid. His loyalty therefore became an albatross which he couldn’t shake off easily. Oyegun had wanted an extension of his tenure as Chairman of APC’s NEC, but he soon found that he could not count on the support of President Buhari. Try as he may to get the backing of the President on this issue he found out that he was only meeting with an immovable force, a concrete brick wall in the President. Indeed, the President was later to practically decree that the NEC should be dissolved and fresh elections conducted to fill the vacant positions. Oyegun threw his hat into the ring but soon found out that he did not have the support of the Presidency, although this remained an unspoken, but open secret. In consequence, Oyegun withdrew from the Chairmanship race and slunk into a corner to sulk and lick his real and festering open wound!
Well, having practically disposed of its Chairmanship palaver, the bickering, intrigues and betrayals all end today, as a new chapter is opened in the party. According to impeccable sources, the party wants to make a clean sweep and start today and reject any candidate suspected to be coming from the camp of perceived renegades. And if the truth be told, there are many of such rebellious elements within the ruling party. Their disaffection and the damage that could be caused if the situation is not properly managed has been much chronicled by many people, including myself, but the party seems adamant on having its way. For me, this is the crux of the matter. APC must tread softly, softly, lest it repeats the mistakes of the leadership of its immediate predecessor in government, PDP, which fought so much, on many fronts, till the centre could no longer hold and mere anarchy was loosed upon its fold. At that time, PDP was cock sure that those who wished to quit the party were free to go. My advice is that APC should not abandon its reconciliation moves no matter the magnitude of the problems and attendant confusion at the moment. The party still has in its favour, the fact that the perception of the generality of Nigerians is that notwithstanding its fumbles, wobbles and stumbles, the party is still a more trustworthy party than the PDP because of the unrivalled pillaging of the country which took place in the 16 years of PDP misrule. However, if the problems within the APC community continues unchecked it is not unlikely that people get irritated and frustrated that the party is unable to put its house in order and may start seriously considering alternatives, including the much-maligned PDP.
For this reason, the party must remember that there are general elections in less than nine months and so it has little time to restore order amongst its ranks. The party cannot afford to be complacent. Whilst there is no doubt that the party won a convincing victory in the 2015 elections, the margin of victory and the number of those who apparently exhibited voter apathy and abstained from voting at the elections should be a veritable source of concern to the party. Indeed, had PDP gotten anything close to the number of voters in the South South and South East, and to a lesser extent the South West, that voted for it in 2015, it would easily have won the Presidential elections.
A brief recap shows that in 2011, PDP and its candidate, President Jonathan, won almost 22 and a half million votes, with a considerable chunk coming from the South South and South East, whilst CPC and its candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, won just about 12 and a quarter million votes. The candidate for AC, Nuhu Ribadu, the former anti-corruption Czar won just over 2 million votes. If one adds up the progressive votes of CPC and AC, which were the votes of the opposition at the time, the total comes to about 14 and a half million votes. The total votes cast in that election was about 38 million votes and the margin of victory over the opposition was about 8 million votes. In the 2015 elections, President Buhari and the ruling APC, which was an amalgamation of CPC, AC and the new PDP as the major parties, could only manage just under 15 and a half million votes. In effect this was just one million more votes than the opposition had garnered in the 2011 elections. On the other hand, PDP could only muster just under 13 million votes. The margin of victory was only just over two and a half million votes. As can be seen, it was not therefore that the opposition gained a lot of votes as much as that PDP lost almost 10 million votes which was a clear sign of how badly it was perceived by the people who decided that they would not vote for it. Thus, the numbers must therefore add up or APC may die a premature death as the ruling party. I’m sure PDP is yet to fully recover from the cataclysmic fall it suffered in 2015. This was how it started like a joke.
I have watched in utter dismay how some party chieftains have been boasting that they will win elections no matter how many people abandon the party. It may turn out to be much more complex than they envisage. Some of those being suspected of anti-party activities include the Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, The Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Governor Waziri Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, Dr Samuel Ioraer Ortom of Benue State and several others. Of course, there has been no love lost between their different camps. It seems the main apparatchik never trusted most of those who joined APC from PDP. They’ve been treated like second class citizens. All efforts to reconcile the party have failed so far.
If the APC loses only some of the votes that this group commands it is clear that its wafer thin majority may disappear and so will its government, bad PDP or not. That is a chilling prospect for APC to consider when it decides to share the spoils of victory at its National convention today.