THE All Progressives Congress (APC) is gradually developing cracks within its structures, perhaps, towards consolidation of the party in the new challenge of governance at the federal level. The covert cold war which has pervaded the party since the electioneering campaign for the 2015 General Elections got to the climax last week during the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly. The various factions in the emerging mass political party from the conglomerate caucus political parties that metamorphosed into the APC at the time of merger tested the potency of their respective power blocs in the power competition for the election of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The APC comprises of the legacy political parties which comprise of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the APGA and thereafter, a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP). Whereas the CPC came into the merger with the high name recognition score of Muhammadu Buhari without properly established structure but had legion grassroots supporters, the ACN joined the merger with established political structures. The nPDP also joined the merger with both army of supporters and strong political structures, all of which consolidated the APC platform.
In the power equation of the party, the ACN provided the National Chairman, National Publicity Secretary and National Legal Adviser of the party. Going into governance, the CPC has the President, Buhari from the North West, while ACN has the Vice President from the South West. The battle for the Senate President and the House Speaker in the federal legislature was keen to balance the powers of the party between the various power blocs or polar axes as well as accommodate all competing interests in the party.
APC leaders seemingly created a political scenario for intense power competition when the party’s structure was lubricated to covertly support the candidacy of Ahmed Lawan of ANPP extraction from the North East for the Senate President as well as Femi Gbajabiamila of the ACN faction from the South West for the House Speaker. This was vehemently challenged by the nPDP which was gathered to have relative support from a faction of the CPC in support of Senator Bukola Abubakar Saraki from the North Central and Honourable Yakubu Dogara from the North East.
The mock election conducted by the APC leaders to elect consensus candidates for the Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker was perceived to be the handiwork of the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is being suspected of eating deep into the party’s leadership to entrench his hegemony and political influence over other party leaders.
Invariably, some of the party leaders in other factions mobilized to support Saraki and Dogara, deepened horse trading in the National Assembly to the PDP, which ultimately resulted in the victory of Saraki and Dogara as Senate President and Speaker, respectively. That set the stage for the main power tussle in the APC in what many stakeholders in the country construe as build up to 2019 Presidential Election.
Invariably, the current imbroglio in the APC consequent upon the emergence of candidates other than the party’s official ones is a sort of preparation for the 2019 polls. The power tussle was gathered to have been initiated to reform the APC and make less of a Yoruba party as many northern elders were said to perceive it.
It was gathered that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is leading some former and incumbent governors in the north who include former Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto State, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, former Governor of Kano State, former Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, to wage the new battle in the party. They were said to have resolved to declare total war against Tinubu in order to secure the party for both President Buhari and other party leaders.
A source revealed to National Daily that these APC leaders were consulted by northern leaders who complained that they cannot trust Tinubu with control of the party leadership and the National Assembly. They recalled the experience when opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly were directed to lock down the Federal Government controlled by the PDP in the Goodluck Jonathan administration by the party leadership, an idea they said, emanated from Tinubu. Northern leaders were said to be perturbed that such person cannot be trusted at the height of power competition in the country and has to be tamed.
Informed sources told National Daily that the northern leaders in the party are actually working on a theory that President Buhari may not contest in the 2019 presidential election as he has purportedly signed an agreement with the party to have just one shot at the presidency.
The feeling among the northern politicians is that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu strategically placed his crony, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to take over from Buhari in 2019. Osinbajo, it will be recalled, was the Justice Commissioner when Tinubu was Governor of Lagos State.
National Daily gathered on authority that the northerners had not really forgiven former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the entire south for imposing ailing late President Umaru Yar’Adua on the then ruling party, the PDP. The eventual death of Yar’Adua, according to them, prevented the north from spending eight years at the helm of affairs just as Obasanjo did to fulfill the slot of the south-west.
The northern leaders who said they were caught unawares in 2007 insisted that they would not wait till the last minute before they start claiming what they called the northern slot which must last eight full years.
Former Vice President Atiku is one of the leading politicians from the northern bloc whom National Daily learnt is interested in the 2019 presidential race and he plans to do so officially on the platform of the APC, but indirectly the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), the political structure he inherited from the late General Shehu Yar’Adua. The votes Obasanjo was said to have garnered from the north were attributed to the influence of the Turakin Adamawa who turned the machinery of the PDM to the former President when he was selected as the running mate. Most of the northern governors and National Assembly members of the PDP stock under the presidency of Obasanjo were said to belong to the PDM, hence, their loyalty was to the former Vice President.
In fact, we learnt Atiku’s ambition for 2019 was responsible for his hob knobbing with former President Goodluck Jonathan on the premise that if he won the last March 28 presidential election, he could have cross carpeted back to the PDP from the APC. This school of thought explains Atiku’s conspicuous absence from the venues of Buhari’s electioneering campaign.
Early in the life of the APC governance, there had been speculations that the Vice President is being sidelined in certain functions, the most recent being the two meetings President Buhari held with security chiefs. Though explanations have been given for the action but National Daily gathered that it was deliberate as it was a way to sideline Tinubu’s men in the administration as the race to the 2019 presidential race has actually begun and it is meant to be a purely northern affair all the way.
“We are not going to leave anything to chances this time around,” a source close to the Atiku group was quoted to have said.
The group believed that Tinubu tactically played out Atiku from the presidential race and decided to go for Buhari believed to be old and who was alleged to have signed an agreement with Tinubu that he would only serve a single term. We reliably gathered that this move prompted Tinubu to shop for a younger Osinbajo, who we gathered, will be groomed to take over from Buhari in 2019.
The emergence of the duo of Bukola Saraki and Dogara, both northern leaders, at the head of the National Assembly was a clear demonstration of the resolve of Atiku to prevent the north from being shortchanged this time around from ruling for eight years.
The bitter pill which the APC finds difficult to swallow is the emergence of a hybrid National Assembly whereby the PDP, a minority party has succeeded in clinching the prominent position of Deputy Senate President. In fact, we gathered that the position of Dogara’s deputy almost went to a member from the south-south but for last minute lobby that it should go to the south-west geopolitical zone which lost the speakership.
With the emergence of Atiku’s men as President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, he will have the jugular of the APC. This is because going by the party’s constitutions both men will belong to the National Working Committee (NWC), the Board of Trustees (BOT) and the National Executive Council (NEC), bodies believed to be populated by Tinubu’s men hence his firm grip on the party.
Apart from Atiku, the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, is another northern politician said to be jostling for the presidency in 2019 hence his resolve to ensure his close associate, Yakubu Dogara, emerged Speaker of the House of Representatives. While he held sway in the Green Chamber of the National Assembly, Dogara was the Chairman, House Services Committee, the most influential in the House.
“Tambuwal is also nursing a presidential ambition and needs to retain control over the House. He will not be able to retain such influence if Gbajabiamila is the Speaker,” a source had told National Daily.
Meanwhile, it was reported that Tinubu has allegedly accused Buhari of betraying the APC in the National Assembly leadership election.
Tinubu, through the Nation Newspaper, in an article titled “The untold story of PDP’s coup behind Saraki’s Senate Presidency” pointed an accusing finger at President Buhari for displaying neutrality in who emerges as the Senate President without due regard to the fate of the party.
According to Tinubu; “Despite the choice of National Assembly leaders being a mixture of party politics and legislative duty, the aloofness, or the perceived neutrality of the President allowed the ‘fight’ within APC to fester until it went of hand.”
The APC leader had explained that the invitation of the APC lawmakers to the International Conference Centre was to be at the behest of the President; shockingly, the President did not show up.
“The bewildered 51 APC Senators, who were waiting endlessly for the President in ICC, watched the proceeding of the inaugural session from a nearby TV box. Before the 51 APC Senators could race down the five-kilometre stretch from ICC to the Assembly Complex, Saraki had emerged as an unopposed candidate. To add insult to injury, President Muhammadu Buhari neither showed up nor sent apology to the stranded Senators at the ICC. They were left at the mercy of troops from the Brigade of Guards, who had already been deployed in the centre ahead of the supposed arrival of the President. Unfortunately, there was no communication between his office and the 51 APC Senators who heeded his invitation. It was around 10.35am, we saw that the inaugural session was already on and Saraki had been elected. If we were to be defeated, it should have been done on the floor,” Tinubu had complained bitterly.
Tinubu had further said that the coup in the National Assembly by PDP was a litmus test for Buhari’s leadership prowess.
“The President may need to assert himself by playing a fatherly role to reunite his political platform that is in tatters. When some leaders met with the President after the coup in the Senate, he was said to ‘be hollow’ without a solution to the crisis at hand. The time to act is now,” he had declared