By Eric Elezuo and Bamidele Salako
Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) has been teetering on a trampoline of collapse for a while now. When the party was formed shortly before the 2015 general elections, many christened the conglomeration of politicians from different political parties a marriage of strange bedfellows. Politicians are generally fabled as being capable only of sustaining interests but not friendships. Political watchers prophesied that it would not be long before the cracks would begin to appear and that the big egos and big personalities in the APC would only be able to unite for power, and that once power was acquired, ego clashes would become inevitable as differing interests would begin to set the different actors in the party on a collision course. Well, with 2019 fast approaching, those political pundits have been proven true. Cracks have appeared. Egos have clashed. The “union” is under threat and the head of the union, President Muhammadu Buhari, obviously concerned over what the situation could spell for him come 2019 has turned to none other than the master political strategist, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to salvage the situation. President Buhari has appointed Tinubu who incidentally was the mastermind behind the coalition, to rescue the party from its drowning situation by reconciling aggrieved members and party leaders. The question on everyone’s lips is – can Tinubu successfully prosecute what, for all intents and purposes, seems an impossible mission? Only time will tell. Here, The Boss outlines some of the key conflicts that are threatening to tear through the very fabric of the party and the uphill task that lies ahead of the Tinubu-led Reconciliation Committee in their quest to restore peace and unity to what could well be a sinking ship.
Aregbesola/Esuleke vs Lasun/Diekola
Two top political figures in Osun State – Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yusuf Lasun and the Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola have been engaged in a battle for supremacy. Their unending battle has seen each politician’s supporting camp pitched against the other including, notably, APC chieftain in the state, Alhaji Fatai Diekola who is in a protracted standoff with Chief Kayode Idowu Esuleke. Aspersions have flown back and forth between and among this foursome in a curious disregard for the fact that they all belong to the same party – the All Progressives Congress (APC). Diekola had, at an empowerment programme organized by Hon. Lasun in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, described Aregbesola as an imperialist, who has brought nothing but hardship to party members.
He was quoted to have berated the governor of the state for singlehandedly ruling the affairs of the state and the party without recourse to party members. He went ahead to claim that it was he who brought Aregbesola to power from Lagos and will send him back.
Chief Kayode Idowu Esuleke, among others, quickly sprang to Aregbesola’s defense, labelling Dieokola a liar and deceiver that must not be given any credence. The foursome and their followers have continued to maintain a cat and mouse relationship.
Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi
The no love lost relationship between these two former helmsmen of Ekiti State dates back to 2010 when a court action initiated by Fayemi of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) sacked Oni from office after three years. The only communication both ever had in the three years that followed were just court summons after which the Supreme Court pronounced Fayemi victor. Fayemi’s judicial victory intensified the enmity between the duo. Fayemi is reported to hold the belief that his defeat to current governor, Ayodele Fayose at the 2014 polls succeeded in part because Segun Oni worked against him. Now, both stalwarts have found themselves in the same party and are eyeing the governorship seat again, and it seems none is willing to make way for the other.
Adebayo Shittu Vs Abiola Ajimobi
The desire of Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, to replace the incumbent Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi come 2019 has pitched both men against each other.
While Ajimobi is busy preparing an anointed replacement who definitely isn’t Shittu, the Minister has been parading himself as the chosen one, drawing the ire of the governor. Consequently, Shittu petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over what he described as the “unbecoming behaviour” of Abiola Ajimobi. Copying APC Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, and national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, Shittu accused the governor of nepotism, arrogance, creating division within the party in Oyo and disenfranchising members. Shittu also alleged that the governor ordered the demolition of his computer based test centre which was still under construction.
The governor’s grouse, according to Shittu is his acceptance of a chieftaincy title from the Olubadan of Ibadan land and his 2019 governorship ambition. The petition read in part: “I am constrained to bring to your notice the unsavoury development in our great party in Oyo State and the unbecoming behaviour of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who is expected to provide sound moral and exemplary leadership to the citizens of our dear state.
“It is an open secret that the fortune of the APC has nose-dived in the state due to Governor Ajimobi’s undue arrogance, grandstanding, nepotism, caustic and unguarded utterances and creating unnecessary divisions among party leaders and members, thereby balkanising the party along group lines.
The two warhorses don’t see eye to eye.
Kwankwaso vs Ganduje
The fracas between the immediate past governor of Kano State and senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, and his successor, Alhaji Ganduje, is perhaps the most notable standoff that Tinubu will have to grapple with as both men are openly expressing their bitterness with each other. A few days ago, Governor Ganduje hinted that he has parted ways with Kwankwaso, stating that any chance of a reconciliation between both of them is practically nonexistent.
Narrating the genesis of their fight, Ganduje revealed that Kwankwaso insulted him and his parents because the former governor felt the current administration has not matched his expectations. According to him, Kwankwaso used unsavory words against his (Ganduje’s) parents because he claimed Ganduje did not continue his legacies of free education, foreign trips and others.
Another angle to the row between the incumbent governor and his former boss is that their disagreement started when former commissioners under the administration of Kwankwaso went against Ganduje over his refusal to reappoint some of them, and also for not paying their severance allowance after serving the immediate past administration. The cold war between commissioners who served under Kwankwaso and Ganduje has been lingering for some time now and has resulted to a protracted war of words over local radio stations, purportedly sponsored by the commissioners.
A clash of the two gladiators was recently averted after the men chose same day, same location and same time for a political rally but Kwankwaso withdrew and declined attending at the last minute. Their once cordial relationship has deteriorated so badly that Kwankwaso has not been to the state for close to three years since he left for Abuja to take up his senatorial job.
Shehu Sani vs El-Rufai
The fight between the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and Senator Shehu Sani has remained more of ideological, and as the leader of the party in the state, El-Rufai had made suspending Sani from the party a routine
“Since we came to office on May 29, 2015, el-Rufai’s Kaduna APC held about eight press conferences and all the eight press conferences were about ‘suspending Shehu Sani’ or ‘confirming the suspension of Shehu Sani’ or “ratifying the suspension of Shehu Sani” or ‘affirming the suspension of Shehu Sani,’ Sani said.
The two gladiators have disagreed over almost everything including Rufai’s removal of beggars from the streets of Kaduna, the sacking of ‘incompetent’ teachers, the governor’s financial settlement of herdsmen to refrain from attacking people in Southern Kaduna and el-Rufai’s alleged payment of ‘Excos’ of Kaduna APC to suspend Shehu.
He accused El-Rufai of seeking and getting his political advice from an ‘adviser who has never won an election; a serial lickspittle, a duffer, a clownish buffoon. A man so chronically despised and dismissed by even the cabinet members of his government and the party members in the state.’
Sani traced their unfriendly attitude towards each other to the election where he defeated el-Rufai’s favourite candidate. He said that after the election, he was sidelined in position sharing. Sani accused El-Rufai of taking what he called ‘wrong steps’ and vowed not to support him in carrying them through because of his love for the downtrodden.
Isaac Adewole vs Usman Yusuf
The clash of these two titans within the health sector unearthed some putrid cans of worms that called the integrity of all parties involved into question. Professor Usman Yusuf is a kinsman of President Buhari from Katsina State. He had been invited by the president from the United States where he was a Professor of Paediatrics at St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to head the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as Executive Secretary with an executive mandate to transform the fortunes of the flailing government agency and to weed out corruption.
The honeymoon period was soon over and roses quickly turned to thorns as Yusuf was himself soon mired in allegations of “monumental fraud, gross abuse of office and nepotism.”
Late June this year, Yusuf appeared before an Hon. Chike Okafor-led House of Representatives Committee on Health Services for a public hearing to look into the activities of Health Management Organisations (HMOs) in the country. At the hearing, he gave earthshattering revelations of how even though the HMOs had been paid N351 billion since inception in 2005 and had also been paid administrative fees to the tune of N60 billion, only 450, 000 Nigerians in a country with an estimated population of 180million people had received health insurance coverage. Meanwhile, he also disclosed that the HMOs were owing debts to the tune of N2.276 billion to hospitals across the country. The revelations were damning.
In a sudden turn of events however, several petitions, reports and allegations of corruption and abuse of office against Yusuf soon landed on the table of the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, who wasted no time in sending Yusuf on a three month suspension while directing an investigative panel of inquiry to look into the matter – reportedly at the instance of Vice President (then Acting President) Yemi Osinbajo. Adewole also ordered the embattled NHIS boss to hand over to the most senior executive at the agency with immediate effect. Yusuf however rebuffed the suspension order with a letter to his boss, the Minister, citing sections of the NHIS Act which he claimed stipulates that he could only receive marching orders from the President and not from the Minister whom he said was overreaching by suspending him. The House of Representatives also sprung to Yusuf’s defence alleging that the suspended NHIS boss was been witch-hunted for his revelations of corruption within the health sector the previous month while demanding that he be reinstated to his position by the Minister.
Yusuf’s suspension stood however and by September, the investigative panel indicted him of N919 million fraud in a report it submitted to the Presidency. The panel, in the report said that Yusuf “portrayed a holier-than-thou attitude but in the background, milked the agency dry” by conniving with others to defraud the agency of the sum of N919 million as dubious payments to consultants for staff training and for staff allowances. Consequently, the health minister extended Yusuf’s suspension indefinitely pending President Buhari’s decision on the matter.
Kemi Adeosun vs Hameed Ali
For well over a year, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Ibrahim Hameed Ali have been at daggers drawn. The Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) puts the customs parastatal under the Ministry of Finance and makes its board subject to the general control of the Minister of Finance thus making Ali answerable to Adeosun. However, in an apparent disregard for statutory requirements, the customs boss has insisted on several occasions and through different actions that he is answerable only to the president. A number of such defiant actions included the retirement of several senior officers of the NCS, the sack of several others and the promotion of 1, 561 junior officers without the approval of Adeosun – his supervising minister.
The duo’s frosty relationship became all the more conspicuous when they appeared before Senator John Owan Enoh-led Senate Committee on Finance to defend their 2016 budgets in February, 2016. The tussling duo presented conflicting figures and took opposing positions on items in the customs budget reportedly leading to an exchange of words in which Ali reiterated to the minister that he reports only to the president.
Earlier this year, Ali was invited by the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise to explain his actions but he maintained at the Senate that the powers he had been exercising in the NCS without recourse to Adeosun were derived from the appointment letter given to him personally by President Buhari.
Rotimi Amaechi vs Hadi Sirika
When in 2015, President Buhari decided to subsume the aviation ministry under the ministry of transport in fulfilment of his campaign promise to reduce the humongous cost of governance in Nigeria and aid administrative efficiency, what he certainly did not foresee were the supremacy battles that such a move would elicit. Those who know the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, say that he is a hard-hitting, tough-as-nails administrator who shoots from the hip without a thought for whose ox gets gored in the process of achieving his objectives and delivering on the expectations of whatever political or elective office he holds. This hard-line approach, reportedly, did not sit well with the Minister of State for Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika, who allegedly perceived his boss’s firm and obdurate disposition as overbearing and encroaching. A reported battle for supremacy ensued between the two Buhari associates: one – a staunch financial backer during the 2015 presidential campaign and the other – the president’s kinsman who had served as a senator of the Katsina North Senatorial District under the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the 7th National Assembly.
Earlier in the year, reports of a near-public fistfight surfaced in the media which allegedly resulted in the removal of Sirika’s portrait on walls at the airport and buildings of agencies under the aviation sector. Sirika however denied the allegations of a rift saying that the absence of his pictures at airports, offices and agencies was based on his personal choice. “Having pictures everywhere as far as I am concerned is very trivial, unnecessary and it is not my style. My pictures should be put on walls when I have worked. Having my pictures on walls is not the major reason why I was appointed to serve. My dream is to change the industry for better and when that is done, then my pictures can be put everywhere,” Sirika said. The rowing colleagues were however eventually able to circumspectly call a truce before their differences degenerated into a full blown crisis situation especially as calls became rife for Amaechi’s dismissal as transport minister.