The adjectives used to describe the All Progressives Congress (APC) above are actually not mine. They are borrowed from governors in the APC family who used the exact same dirty sobriquets to characterise their own party.
When I read the news reports where the ruling party at the centre, APC was labelled with the negative epithets that form the title of this article, I was jarred and astounded.
That is simply because I never envisaged or anticipated that there would be a period in the annals of our beloved country that political chicanery would degenerate to the extent that the ruling party would be tarred with such a black brush by its leaders – and not the opposition party members.
That such an esteemed platform as the ruling party, APC of which the first six citizens of our great country –(President, Vice President, President of the Senate and his deputy as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the deputy) not forgetting the platform which at least 23 of the 36 governors in Nigeria belong – is being described and characterised with such expletives, is astonishing to me.
And I believe that l am not the only one nonplussed by the unsavoury development as l suspect that the same feeling of embarrassment would apply to a plethora of right-thinking men and women of goodwill in our beloved Nigeria.
Indeed, I was aghast with displeasure (I am of the conviction that perhaps you too, my dear readers would have been) when I read the following in most of the daily newspapers that one of the governors from the North-East geopolitical zone protested that “the cabal formed by our other colleagues has suffocated the life out of APC. The party has been reduced to the equivalent of a drug-dealing gang where decisions are now based on who can manipulate President (Muhammadu) Buhari better.”
Continuing, the source contended that: “Even if APC governors were constituted into a kind of electoral college to make decisions for the party, which is not the case, there is no way seven is greater than thirteen. When you have only seven governors forcing their decision on thirteen governors of equal jurisdiction then you know there is a problem.”
The obviously highly offended governor continued venting his anger by making the following explanation:
“So, what we are saying is that we are ready for them. We are not saying that Mai Mala Buni should not stop being the chairman of CECPC, but our point is that there must be due process. There is a proper way to go about it, not some character sneaking to the president to snitch in the dark of the night and then come out throwing the president’s name around”
He concluded his umbrage by issuing a threat:
“If they want us to fall out with them as fellow APC governors then we are ready. But this thing about being dictatorial must stop. It is a democracy, and the APC must run as a democracy. Or else there is no example we are showing anybody as leaders.”
The foregoing copious reproduction of traditional and online newspapers reports quoting an aggrieved governor who spoke anonymously signposts the turmoil within the ruling party, APC.
As if being choreographed, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, who is the chairman of southern governors forum, and elected on APC platform was more frontal and caustic in his outburst about the state of anomie that has engulfed the ruling party at the centre commencing soon after its re-election victory at the polls in 2019; and culminating into the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee (NWC), that was replaced with Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) since June 2020. As if the fiasco is not terrible enough, chairman Buni just got shoved aside on Sunday, March 6, 2022, and replaced with Abubakar Sani-Bello, Niger state Governor. At least that is according to some members of the party who are against the continued leadership of Buni as reported in the mass media. Until the fog is cleared, right now everything about the APC seems to be in flux.
That is simply because, nearly two years after CEPCC was established to organise a national convention for the ruling party, APC in six months, holding a convention has remained a mirage.
According to a statement credited to Akeredolu:
“We, the Governors are for the party except for the few ‘Yahoo, Yahoo’ Governors (apologies to Salihu, former DG of the Progressive Governors’ Forum) who were hand in glove with Buni to circumvent the will of the majority of our Party (APC) members.”
He then emphasised that:
“Progressive Governors in the true name, mostly all of us, are determined to see our Party through these patchy parts at all cost. None of the scanty numbers has the guts to carry out their imaginary threats as reported in sponsored stories. We dare them to leave the party.”
As a senior advocate of Nigeria and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Akeredolu’s statement is weighty.
Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, who never shies away from engaging in political cat-fights also joined in the brawl:
Said he in an interview that he granted Channels televising: “Buni is gone, the Secretary is gone. Governor Bello is in charge and he has the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari and 19 governors. Buni can only return as Governor of Yobe State but never as chairman of our party.
“President Buhari ordered his removal and this has been implemented. Governor Bello has taken over and things are moving according to plan. The party will be restored and the convention will take place as scheduled. The 19 governors and their deputies are solidly behind this move.
“Buni and his people got a court order to stop the convention but hid it.”
The ousted Mai Mala Buni’s camp, roiled by El-Rufai’s allegations against their leader, had fired their own salvo at the governor of Kaduna State.
The pro-Buni APC Integrity Group leader, Adams Abel said: “El-Rufai should be sufficiently schooled to accept that the APC is not Kaduna State that he governs by fiat.”
“APC has organs that have layers of responsibility and at no time was the power to hire and fire a caretaker chairman outsourced to El-Rufai”.
The claim that Buni failed to swear in state executives was also not valid, according to the APC Integrity Group.
“El-Rufai claimed that Governors and President (Buhari) directed Governor Buni to swear in state excos elected months ago and that he never followed the order; that the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) asked him to brief them, but he did not.”
Going further, the APC Integrity Group, Secretary-General made the following argument against Governor El-Rufai:
“He should have explained how Buni is supposed to swear in state excos when as many as 14 state chapters were bogged down by court cases that resulted from the kind of autocratic tendencies of the PGF.”
“It also showed an absolute disregard for the other arms of government since the Kaduna State Governor was practically expecting his Yobe state counterpart to disregard extant court orders that forbade the swearing-in of some of the state excos he was referring to.”
Indeed, according to reports gleaned from the Punch newspaper, the APC has about 208 cases filed in the court of law against it.
Most of them are related to the contentious party congresses held across the country that are being largely disputed as they pitched governors against legislators who are more often than not ex-governors engaged in supremacy battles in a bid to control the party in their respective states.
Since June 2020 when Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC of the APC was dissolved, and the Mai Mala Buni Special Convention Committee was inaugurated, 23 months after, on March 8, 2022, it was claimed that Abubakar Sani-Bello mounted the leadership saddle of the ruling party at the centre, APC.
This simply means that in a period of less than three years, the leadership of APC has changed hands thrice, if the position of the anti-Buni group prevails.
But thankfully, it would appear that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has helped the APC to save itself by rejecting the purported new chairman on technical grounds. This is underscored by the fact that allowing the perfidy of appointing another chairman without due process happening within the APC fold to stand, there would be a constitutional lacuna similar to the type that was on the verge of ensuing, if President Buhari had not signed the electoral bill into an act to enable the electioneering process to commence according to INEC timetable, hence without further delay, he appended his signature on February 25, 2022.
Since over seven years ago that the APC became the ruling party at the centre after its presidential candidate, General Mohammadu Buhari defeated then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP in the 2015 general elections, the party has been unable to hold a convention to blend the interests and philosophies of the five parties that collapsed into one party to oust PDP .
Rather, it has on numerous occasions, postponed the organisation of a critical convention that should ordinarily have been held after the formation of the party 2013/14 which is pre-2015 general elections won by president Buhari.
Even after Mr President’s re-election in 2019, and stretching into three years into his second term, the ruling party has postponed holding a convention not less than two (2) times in less than two years.
Just before the February 26th last scheduled date of the convention , it was shifted to March 26th which may develop ‘K-Leg’ as we like to term things that go awry in our clime.
With the current change of leadership following Sani-Bello’s hostile takeover of affairs from Buni as the helmsman, (as widely reported in the mass media ) the party’s convention may once again be in jeopardy.
But as things look, the new acting chairman, Abubakar Sanni-Bello, who is the current Niger State Governor and deputising for Buni (or in his shadows) looks set to deliver where others before him had failed.
Otherwise, the party would be like a drifter and possibly a house of cards in the dictionary sense of the word-: a structure, situation, or institution that is insubstantial, shaky, or in constant danger of collapse.
When l started writing this article, early last week, it was titled: APC House of Commotion, and Mai Mala Buni was still holding sway as chairman. It was an apt title. Since l have lots of friends in the ruling party at the centre that would accuse me of being uncharitable, l toned down the title to what it is currently and which is simply a question to which I am seeking an answer.
In response to questions from statehouse reporters before embarking on the trip for a medical check-up in the United Kingdom, UK, president Buhari had assured Nigerians that the APC would not implode as feared in some quarters. Owing to my assessment based on environmental scanning of the local dynamics , l have been consistent in sounding the alarm about the inevitable and now imminent disastrous end of the ruling party at the centre if proper care is not taken by the leaders who need to quickly do some housekeeping to nip the persistent schisms within the party in the pod before they degenerate into catastrophic crisis as signposted by the following nine ominous signs:
(1) Inability to hold a convention in about eight years since it became the ruling party at the centre.
(2) Hordes of aggrieved participants heading to court after a calamitous congress held recently.
(3) Frequent change of national working committee, NWC.
(4) Rebellion against the presidency from National Assembly, NASS via refusal to allow Aso Rock villa have its way by not deleting clause 84 (12) in the new Electoral Act as earlier agreed.
(5) Unable to decide on the zone from which its presidential candidate would emerge.
(6) Supremacy battle bordering on internal sabotage between governors of the ruling party with 19 supporting the new CECPC chairman, Abubakar Sanni-Bello, Governor of Niger state versus 4 governors in favour of the deposed Mai Mala Buni, Governor of Yobe state as claimed by El Rufai.
(7) Uncertainty on the presumed breach of party constitution via two serving governors back-to-back acting as chairman of the party at different times and therefore making APC susceptible to litigation and the risk of rendering all actions taken by CEPCC in the past two years as illegitimate and ultra vires.
(8) On account of the ruling by justice Ekwo of the high court in Abuja that Ebonyi state Governor, Dave Umahi, his deputy, Eric Dike, and 15 members of the house of the assembly who defected from the PDP to APC should vacate their positions because the electorate voted for the party and not the individual, Cross Rivers and Zamfara states governors who similarly defected to APC are running hitter titter around the courts hoping that the same calamity would not befall them.
(9) The snare of about 208 court cases instituted against the party by its own members, particularly the one stopping the proposed convention date is yet to be discharged and therefore an existential booby trap.
Fellow Nigerians, you would agree with me that any political party that is fraught with the underlined litany or legion of deformities is certainly in jeopardy.
So, whatever the parameter that is applied in assessing the crisis riddled APC, the bottom line would be that the ruling party at the centre is a Special Purpose Vehicle, SPV, and a contraption of sorts that was leveraged to achieve the objective of booting out ex-president Goodluck Jonathan from Aso Rock villa and replacing him with Mohammadu Buhari in 2015 as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Without exception, all SPVs expire.
And as President Buhari’s term expires on May 29, 2023, willy nilly, the SPV that ushered him into the presidency will be expiring pari-passu.
And I would dare to add that if the current commotion continues in the ruling party as it enters the electioneering year, the general election in 2023 is for the main opposition party PDP, to lose.
Owing to the internal combustion consuming the APC, I suspect that Oshiomhole, the deposed Chairman of the ruling party at the centre, would be laughing in derision at the sordid turn of events in the party which he led to victory in 2019 and which shoved him out thereafter.
It would appear that having exhausted external battles with opposing political parties, particularly the PDP that it had been blaming for all the calamities that have befallen our beloved country, during which the APC has poached at least three governors from the PDP and a legion of opposition parties legislators under Buni’s leadership,it is now turned the barrels of its guns against itself, hence the raging battle within the party that suggests that there would be a conflagration of immense proportions sooner than later.
While I would like to take to heart President Buhari’s parting words to Aso Rock villa correspondents while departing for his medical check-up in the United Kingdom, UK that the APC would not implode as is being speculated, all pieces of evidence are against such optimism.
Hence on Saturday, March 12, obviously angry and disappointed president Buhari changed from his earlier optimistic prognosis of the state of inviolability or invincibility of the ruling party to a posture of recognizing the anarchy threatening to engulf the party, which he had earlier discountenanced. Aware of the looming dangers threatening the continued existence of the party if certain precautions were not taken, President Buhari, in a statement released by his media aide, Garba Shehu, read a riot act to the leaders of the APC that are causing the rift within the party.
Part of it bears repeating:
“This is a party that has been in existence barely for eight years, becoming the dominant party because it has thrown open its doors to defectors from other parties, big and small.”
Mr President further argued that:
“This alone, addition to the fact we didn’t start on the note of arrogance of power, nor see government as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement, to be held at all costs, but a vehicle to bring development to all without discrimination-political, ethnic or regional to our dear country made this success possible”.
He pointed out that:
“When precisely the party’s convention is held and who is the party’s chairman is hardly a matter for the average voter: vastly more important is who convention delegates will elect as the party’s flag bearer in the coming weeks to take forward the party’s platform to the people in the general election in February next year.
He therefore noted that:
“It is therefore important for the media to put such matters into perspective. No one is debating policy differences here.”
President Buhari is absolutely correct about the fact that barely a year to the general election, nothing is being said about the policies and programs of those angling to take over from him. This applies particularly to how to save our beloved country from the clutches of the nefarious ambassadors that have made our country a killing field — Boko Haram, ISWAP, bandits disguising as violent herdsmen on one hand — and on the other hand, the doldrums that the economy is currently trapped and which has seen the Naira exchange rate inching towards the N600 to $1 mark and diesel price skyrocketing to about N1000 per litre (black market rate) amid a scarcity of petrol or Premium Motor Oil, PMS that has been wracking the polity in the past couple of weeks.
Remarkably, whereas it took the PDP sixteen years to implode , it has taken the ruling APC only eight years to reach a breaking point.
In my recent comments about the state of the nation politically in the past one month, l have been advising President Buhari to beware of the curved balls that fellow party members may throw at him as he enters his lame-duck period which is the weakest point of a political leader’s time in office as he/she becomes very vulnerable.
Just as the moment of interchange between night and day period is dangerous spiritually, it is equally so politically and at a time when a leader must yield power. That is basically because in the metaphysical realms before the clock strikes 12 o’clock and the night is transformed into the early morning, all sorts of complex and dangerous activities take place. That event is mirrored in the world of politics hence the current hurly-burly or hullabaloos in APC.
It is trite restating the fact that Mr. President is currently effectively in his home stretch and at a critical period that he must maintain and sustain his control of the ruling party and the country as it is now barely one year to the termination of his reign. If he loses grip, his word may not be law anymore; and if he fails to bark and bite with the limited political strength that he can muster, he might literally exit Aso Rock Villa with his tails between his legs.
That is why l counselled that Mr. President should beware of the proverbial Ides of March (in Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” a warning given to Caesar about March 15, the day on which he was assassinated)
To be clear, in this stance in Nigeria and in president Buhari’s case, I am talking figuratively and it means assassination politically as opposed to physical or taking of life.
Already, President Buhari was surprised when a seemingly harmless nationwide exercise of registration of APC party members that was supposed to be a good thing became the first curved ball thrown at him as it was going to result in his losing control of the party following the introduction of direct primary as the sole process of producing candidates to political parties for general elections as captured in the electoral act reform bill packaged the National Assembly, NASS which he vetoed in the nick of time.
The rejected bill at Mr. President’s behest had subsequently been reworked by NASS, and the three processes -direct, indirect, and consensus options were retained in the new bill. But this time, it came with a caveat which is a new element introduced via clause 84(12) which ties the hands of the members of the executive arm of government behind their back as their appointees-ministers, Commissioners, Advisers, etc are barred from voting or being voted for and must resign 180 days before an election. The proviso controverts the 30 days provision for public servants interested in contesting for public office to resign from their jobs as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended.
Therein lies the dilemma which the electoral law in president Buhari’s eyes suffers as it is undemocratic simply because it disenfranchises political appointees from exercising their civic rights. The legislators who authored it feel otherwise and civil society advocates are hands in gloves with them. And they have the concurrence of the interpretative community which is the courts, hence justice Inyang Ekwo of Abuja High court, granted the application by the main opposition party, PDP that the newly minted electoral act 2022 can not be altered as requested by president Buhari without due process.
Apparently, the courts are also now exhaling and exercising some independence.
Just as President Buhari was trying to absorb the blow, there was a manifestation of the type of schism that was about to tear the party apart through sabotage by some aggrieved stakeholders who had reportedly gone to the extreme extent of procuring a court judgement that would stop the convention from holding as planned on the 26th of this month, if it remains not vacated, because it would cause another postponement of the convention.And that would imperil the party and possibly the whole election process if and when the convention is held in contravention of INEC election rule of 21 days notice before a convention is held and also being duly informed about a change of guard in the leadership of a party. All of the above criteria have to be complied with. But if Sani-Bello were to assume leadership of APC after INEC’s election timetable had started running from February this year, compliance with INEC rules as encapsulated in the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, would be impossible before March 26.
Would Zamfara State experience whereby the ruling APC’s votes were voided for technical reasons and the PDP took over the political leadership of the state from governor to legislators, manifest on a national scale in 2023 against the ruling party if it fails to put its house in order as cautioned by President Buhari in the riot act that he read out to his fellow party leaders last Sunday?
As a crisis manager, I have been drawing attention to the entity formation processes that a group must pass through as espoused by psychologist Bruce Tuckman.
These are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Stabilising. There is also the Mourning stage, assuming the initial four stages do not happen smoothly. That is what is staring the APC in the face right now.
In my assessment, after Forming the APC in 2013/14, it was afraid to confront its demons, so it kept postponing the Storming stage which is only just happening right now. Put succinctly, the current storm in the ruling party should have happened long ago as opposed to taking place in the 11th hour or injury time as football lovers like to term last-minute actions in the field of play. Were that to be the case, there could have been enough time for the Stabilising process to kick in. And this would have been the healing period for the wounds that might have been inflicted during the Storming stage as reflected by the APC leaders using expletives on themselves and engaging in vile name-calling which is the underlying reason for the title of this article and a damning situation addressed by president Buhari in his riot act.
Right now, the APC may be going into a war (2023 elections) with fresh wounds owing to a rebellion within the ranks of its members, which is a recipe for a disastrous outcome.
These are not cold calculations and they are not made with a view to hurting the APC or promoting any party, nor are they meant to stir up the society in any negative way as those who are averse to the truth may want to present it to authorities with the sinister motive of getting security agencies to start running ‘Kiti-Kata’ chasing shadows and unseen enemies.
Rather, it is a patriotic effort to call attention to the odds stacked up against the APC which is the ruling party at the centre and by implication whose imperilment may torpedo the entire political process and system for the 2023 general elections in Nigeria. That is in case the leaders of APC that president Buhari recently chided and berated are too blinded by their naked ambitions to the extent that they are not thinking of the sustenance of our fledgling democracy that we all fought hard to attain and which they are jeopardising by their crass actions.
-Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos.