On formation in 2014, All Progressives Congress (APC) was a party of hope. It was literally transformed into a movement of sorts. The party came of age as an amalgam of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), New Peoples Democratic Party (n PDP), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Democratic Change (CPC) and a handful of members of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
The Leaders had different tendencies, even as progressive elements. But, as the journey began, it was evident APC harboured progressive and conservative elements. Thus, analysts contended that there was no line of demarcation, between, the ruling and opposition parties in the outer space.
From inception, it was a successful platform with massive support across the land based on the perceived credibility of its founding fathers. Not only it won at the centre, but it also had control of 24 out of the 36 states in the federation. In addition, it controlled the majority of members in the National Assembly. Scores of federal lawmakers from other parties defected to APC in the last five years.
Equally, within the period APC lost few of its strong pillars to the PDP that includes the former Senate President, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara who has of recent returned to the fold, Senators Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, Barnabas Gemade, Isa Hamma Misau, former vice president Atiku Abubakar and few others including the governors of Sokoto and Benue states.
However, from an analytical point of view, what made the APC a ruling party with some limitations, are its lack of clear-cut ideological focus and a window of multiple crises retarding its progress.
In most former APC- controlled states, there were protracted debates on the future of the party, should the then incumbent governors be denied a second chance. Many had asked: could the party survive beyond 2019 if those governors were denied victory at the gubernatorial election? Although it had the prospects and potentials to survive, it faced predictable hurdles. Observers posit that APC has to unite against 2023 even if it thinks it can rely on the power of incumbency at the centre which seems to be weak.
The scheming that surfaced before the general elections within the party added reason to the suspicion that things had fallen apart.
For instance, the grapevine has it that ongoing effort in Bauchi from the former state governor, Yakubu Dogara and the party’s State Executive Council to reunite the party as a united family is yielding positive results. They have embarked on series of meetings and contacts with selected stakeholders to explain to compare notes for future encounter while listening to criticisms and complaints from aggrieved members for possible correction apart from reaching out to prominent indigenes across party divide to ask for their hands of cooperation in building the state.
Most of the gladiators in the crises took their personality rifts and ego wars to social media. The war of attrition is at the expense of the platform. The attacks and counter-attacks underscore unresolved conflicts and deep division. Indeed, the state leadership of the party appeared at a time to be incapacitated to command respect in the fragmented fold.
As some good-spirited individuals are trying to broker truce, the state party leadership is determined to maintain its popularity. Concerned party members are expecting the arrowheads of the feud to close rank and fortify the platform to withstand the rigours of future elections as prominent politicians from other divides are now eyeing the party. So far, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara has returned to the APC fold along with over 1000 PDP supporters from his native Bogoro local government area, so also onetime member of the Federal House of Representatives from Katagum, Farouk Mustapha from the ailing New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Former Political Adviser to Governor Bala Muhammed, Musa Shittu Zaki has also joined the APC along with over 1000 former PDP members from his local government. The immediate past member of the House of Representatives, Salisu Zakarai from Ningi/Warji federal constituency has defected to APC
In one of his interactive sessions with some supposedly aggrieved APC members, penultimate Sunday, former Governor M.A Abubakar said: “Please let’s forget and forgive whatever wrong we must have erroneously committed in our journey to building a better Bauchi state. My administration and the party leadership mistakes were not intentional but human. Let us bury our differences if any in the interest of the people we have vowed to serve. We are a family and we should remain as the united political family we are known”.
The statement from the former governor convinced some of the aggrieved and indicated that APC in Bauchi state has finally introduced a crisis resolution mechanism for reconciliation.
But despite the efforts, structures recognized by party constitution at various levels are still weak and slumbering as no serious party business is initiated.
A factor in the disunity was the alleged sidelining of ‘top party chieftains’ in party affairs which was debunked by the state party chairman. In frustration, some of the ‘aggrieved’ said they were marginalized while the party leadership said they refused to come forward.
To convey an impression of a possible parting of ways, former Speaker of the House of Representatives was one of the aggrieved who criticized the former governor of poor performance in all sectors as the crux of their disagreement.
Although, the former Speaker was challenged by attack dogs for that blanket condemnation which he refused to shift post based on facts at his disposal, many argued that the alleged sidelining of those critical stakeholders that commanded respect and enjoyed public appeal, affected the route to genuine reconciliation, solutions to some of the challenges confronting the former government and the party at all levels which necessitated the final defection of the former Speaker and his associates at that time.
Observers posit that as a strategy to remain close to the corridor of power, majority of APC chieftains that piloted the affairs of the party, had blocked renowned political heavyweights and men of ideas to participate in the government for fear of exposing their incapacitation. The few that agreed to serve in the former government, found it tough to deliver optimum results.
The former governor had made a brief appearance at the political scene in 2010 for the Bauchi south senatorial by-election when the then incumbent, Senator Bala Muhammed was offered a ministerial position. As fate would have it, he made bold to try luck and he rode to power on the strength of his credibility, party associates, President Buhari and the ruling party. However, after victory, the party leadership went to sleep earlier than expected. Although the party controlled the executive and the legislature, it was not able to successfully forge a harmonious relationship right from the onset. Not only did APC fail the test of party supremacy, judging from its incapacitation to tame the challenges of opposition within. It woefully failed in the critical challenge of party discipline across board. In fact, there were several sanctions for indiscipline but no genuine reconciliation for the rift. Each and every member of the party rated himself a tin-god for worship by political office seekers.
For the first time in the history of Nigeria, the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives was not on the same page with the governor of his state despite being in same party unlike the scenario witnessed between former Speaker Dimeji Bankole and Gbenga Daniel in Ogun state in 2007 that consigned Dimeji to political oblivion.
At the national level, APC ignored challenges tearing its states, including Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Edo, Gombe, Rivers, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Sokoto and Imo, Adamawa, Jigawa and few others. With such unresolved development and poor party funding, APC seems not prepared to return to power in most of the states it controls presently even with the influence of President Buhari in 2023.
While the former Bauchi governor was paying monthly salaries and other sundry services, most of those expected within his party to support his objectives to fruition were more sycophantic and greedy than sincere.
Analysts say that apart from some few aides, majority of those that surrounded the former governor, singing praises and postulating in pretence, caused his 2019 defeat in Bauchi and Tafawa Balewa local governments.
They opined that from the experience of the past, some of those aides disappointed the former governor as the government was saturated with hypocrites, merchants, turncoats and renowned blackmailers and betrayers including political merchants.
The situation continued to worsen fanned by the efforts of hypocrites and fortune seekers within the hitherto APC united family.
A vocal chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abubakar Bibi Dogonyaro said thus: “M.A Abubakar had redefined what real change means because he had performed far below the PDP in physical developments, economic empowerment and vibrant civil service. APC politicized and bastardized the civil service to an extent that the civil service lost respect and dignity.
Reacting to the allegations, Suleyman Malami, a former aide to the state governor debunked the points raised by Bibi Dogonyaro and described him as a political prostitute and baseless noise maker that could not penetrate the brick wall that surrounded M.A Abubakar to achieve his selfish agenda hence his blackmail strategy for recognition that can only be accommodated by his like minds.
“It is only like minds that wine and dine with Bibi Dogo. The man is a complete nuisance to any society and should deserve no attention”.
“Bibi Dogonyaro is just one of those noisemakers that abound in Bauchi state. They are idle and therefore, ready to twist facts for peanuts. M.A Abubakar has no time to engage such a character in any debate”.
But the former governor’s former political advisor Sanin Malam Shehu agreed with the points raised by Bibi Dogonyaro and added: “Bauchi state was under siege by merchants from other climes who hijacked the state government. Even simple contracts that could be handled by indigenes were awarded to non-indigenes. Indigenes were denied access to simple contracts thereby denying them any economic benefit from their till.
Contributing to the debate, a founding member of the 2014 mega-merger and political activist who aspired to fly the flag of the party in the 2019 gubernatorial race, Capt. Bala Jibir said: “M.A Abubakar administration was a huge disappointment and an insult to true democracy”.
But Bauchi State onetime PDP publicity secretary, Bashir Bukar had a different opinion: “M.A Abubakar was a grossly misunderstood leader. He meant well for Bauchi State and had done his best to develop the state within available resources that should be commended. He led an upright government and never involved any of his relatives in the running of his government for any reason. His children were kept at a distance so also his wives. His projects are not hidden from the eyes. Civil servants were carried along and he sanitized the service.
“With the return of Dogara and other credible politicians to the APC fold and the interest of defection already signalled by some short-changed PDP foot-soldiers that risked their lives for the party in 2019, the 2023 political struggle will be interesting.
While the political mudslinging gathers momentum, an associate of former governor M.A Abubakar, Mustapha Hassan Gwarzo was of the opinion that the governor was a misunderstood messiah of Bauchi state by majority of the people while some of his trusted aides did not help the system to grow through their actions and greed.
“I have been monitoring events in Bauchi state since the present administration came on board on May 29, 2019. I’m made to understand the sentimental feelings of certain stakeholders in the APC project towards the former governor. There are certain politicians that still nurse grudges against the outcome of the APC primary election that produced Muhammed Abubakar as the flag-bearer of the party and his subsequent victory at the poll in 2015. Several efforts were made at various levels and by important personalities to reconcile any difference that may still exist between the former governor and those aggrieved.
“I personally had intervened to broker truce and I reached out to highly placed individuals including the presidency and respected party chieftains to intervene. The results are encouraging. The former governor is making efforts, his associates and party chieftains are making theirs, all we pray for is to succeed and restore the fading glory of Bauchi state. We are not relaxing until we achieve an appreciable result. We are not saying the former governor is guilty of any offence but as a leader, he has to create room to accommodate all which he has done. We are neither contractors nor politicians but peace agents for the survival of the democracy and good governance in Bauchi state”.
Expressing his opinion on the stewardship of former governor M.A Abubakar, a member of Bauchi State House of Assembly (Lere/Bula) constituency, Aminu Tukur said: “We founded APC in 2014 with the sole aim of introducing certain critical changes in government business to benefit the people apart from fighting corruption and abuse of office. But M.A Abubakar ignored us and dined with his detractors. He partly caused the defeat of APC at the gubernatorial election.
“He was power-drunk few days after his inauguration. He believed he was the alpha and omega in the polity. The man seemed to have suffered from a sycophantic complex endemic ailment that was artificially created by his aides for deceit.
As the situation got tensed before the general elections, over 17 political parties fielded candidates for the 2019 gubernatorial contest. Those in the fore-front were; All Progressives Congress (APC) with four declared aspirants (Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, Prof. Ali Pate, Capt. Bala Jibir and Barr. M.A Abubakar). Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had Senators Bala Muhammed, Abdul Ahmed Ningi and Ibrahim Adamu Gumba. New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) had Dr. Sama’ila Khaila Dahuwa, Senator Abubakar Maikafi, Mahmoud Maijama’a Ajiya, Usman Sufi and Amb. Shuaibu Ahmed.
After party primaries were conducted, M.A Abubakar clinched APC ticket which caused ripples within the party and subsequent factionalization and defections. The end result was the defeat of APC at the gubernatorial contest suspected to be through a rigging mechanism.
Rt.Hon. Yakubu Dogara has now returned to the APC fold after receiving ‘disappointment’ in the PDP, APC will surely behave itself and avoid mistakes of the past that caused its defeat at the gubernatorial contest. The party presently has a ray of gubernatorial aspirants that have the technical capacity to confront any political challenge. But will PDP allow itself to be chased out of power with ease? We wait to see!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues