President Buhari Seems to be the Glue that Holds the APC Together. Will the Crisis- Ridden Party Exist After his Tenure on 29th May 2023?
In 1986 during the famous Spycatcher trial, a former MI5 operative Peter Wright got infuriated that his concern about the infiltration of the British secret service by the Soviet Union has been largely disregarded. The spy went ahead to sign a contract to publish a ‘tell all’ book about his concern. In the trial that followed to stop the book, British cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong made a statement in evidence which was NOT TRUE yet adjudged NOT A LIE but a MISLEADING INFORMATION….. and so goes the theory: ECONOMY OF TRUTH or better still, being ECONOMICAL WITH THE TRUTH.
The ‘economy of truth’ is currently going on unabated within the top ranks of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) where party leaders are falling in line with half truths and often times outright lies about the precarious situation that the APC has found itself. In fact, in a bid to play the ostrich, some party leaders are still in denial that ‘nothing do’ the APC.
Some top leaders of the APC have muscled up enough courage to rely on sarcasm and the ‘economy of truth’ to say that there is NO crisis in the APC. What can be further from the truth?
Only those interested in the ‘economy of truth’ will pretend that there is no crisis in the APC and no question mark about whether or not the APC will survive after President Buhari’s tenure on 29th May 2023. With barely 11 days to the proposed national convention of the party, sale of nomination forms has not commenced which runs contrary to the convention time table released by the party.
Obviously, intra-party squabbles are usually witnessed especially in a ruling party just as the jiggles of a general election begin to build up. Despite this somewhat ‘normal’ scenario within a party in power, it is not out of place to state that the crisis in the APC is not normal. It is easily avoidable!
There are several reasons for the crisis in the APC but the most clear one is that the required intervention to nip in the bud ‘minor issues’ is usually lacking only to attempt to fix these ‘minor crisis’ after they become big and insurmountable.
The APC is now officially fragmented between the Pro and Anti-Buni groups. The former are of the opinion that the Yobe state governor, His excellency Mai Mala Buni should continue as caretaker chairman until the 26th of March 2022 when the APC ‘MAY’ (emphasis mine) hold its national convention. Of course there is a big question mark on the national convention itself because justice Bello Kawu of the federal high court Abuja had last week granted an order restraining the APC from holding its national convention as scheduled on 26th March 2022 or any other date until the determination of the substantive suit against the convention.
To add pep to the order and foreclose any attempt to vacate it, the learned justice also warned that the subject matter is now subjudice and must not be tempered with. Beyond the court order is the incomprehensibility of the fact that the APC leadership cannot agree on who should head the national convention as caretaker chairman of the party. How could the ruling party not agree on who should serve as its caretaker national Chairman for just 11 days before the national convention?
To aggravate the tense situation within the APC, the election umpire, the independent national electoral commission (INEC) has refused to accept the letter for notice of convention sent to it by the APC because it was not signed by the ‘ousted’ caretaker natonal chairman Governor Mai Mala Buni and a 21 days notice is required which is way more than the 11 days left before the national convention. Impliedly, INEC has rejected Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger state as the new caretaker national chairman of the APC.
The APC governors forum has rejected Governor Mai Mala Buni while INEC has rejected Governor Abubakar Sani Bello. So who will head the national convention if it ever goes ahead? As all the drama was going on, some party stalwarts broken into two groups, took the next available flight to London to meet President Buhari. One group seeks to persuade the President to allow Governor Buni head the national convention as APC caretaker chairman while the other want Governor Abubakar Sani Bello.
Feelers have it that Governor Buni who is said to travel to London from Dubai was blocked from meeting the President just as Governor Sani Bello continued to run the show at the APC secretariat in Abuja as the ‘caretaker national chairman.
Two caretaker APC chairmen: one in London and the other in Abuja. Who smiles last? Time shall tell!
There are several issues associated with the APC imbroglio but the reference that readily comes to mind is the Supreme Court judgement in Akeredolu V Jegede where the learned justices relied on section 183 of the 1999 constitution (as altered) to deal a technical knockout on the APC caretaker and extraordinary convention planning committee (CECPC) by asserting that Governor Buni cannot hold two executive positions at the same time: serve as caretaker national chairman and Yobe state governor at the same time.
Although the Supreme Court verdict went the way of the APC in Akeredolu V Jegede, the learned justices cautioned the APC to put its house in order: replace a sitting governor Buni as its caretaker chairman. This counsel fell on deaf ears as the APC went ahead with business as usual and retained Governor Buni as its caretaker chairman. Many Nigerians who wished the APC well including yours truely were concerned. As a matter of fact, yours truely wrote two articles in July and August 2021 specifically calling on President Buhari to intervene, replace Governor Buni as chairman and reconstitute the APC caretaker committee through the APC NEC and in line with the Supreme Court judgement in Akeredolu V Jegede.
It is fair to say that the APC lacks guidance and if the required intervention was provided and the APC NEC had removed Governor Buni as chairman, reconstituted the APC CECPC in line with the Supreme Court judgement, the APC will not be where it is today: in near total disarray.
PLOT TO STOP APC FROM FIELDING CANDIDATES IN THE 2023 ELECTION
The APC seem to be enjoying too
much power at the centre that it has failed to learn its lessons. The Rivers and Zamfara experiences in the 2019 gubernatorial election are enough basis for the APC to avoid its current crisis. The APC gave away power on a platter of gold in Zamfara and Rivers states in the 2019 gubernatorial election simply because members placed personal interest over and above party and national interests. This could repeat itself in the 2023 Presidential election for the APC if the right steps are not taken.
Clearly, there is an underground and indeed verified plot by the main opposition party to use the Supreme Court judgement in Akeredolu V Jegede and stop the APC from fielding candidates and also exclude it from the ballot in the 2023 general election. The basis for this plot will be hinged on the fact that the Supreme Court has invalidated Governor Buni’s chairmanship of the party in Akeredolu V Jegede because he (Buni) cannot hold two executive positions at the same time. In this regard, it mean that any action Governor Buni took as caretaker chairman of the APC is adjudged null, void and of no effect whatsoever. Also recall that the Supreme Court stopped just short of invalidating Ondo state Governor Akeredolu’s election victory simply because Governor Buni as caretaker chairman of the APC signed Akeredolu’s Letter as APC’s candidate for the 10th October 2020 election. The Supreme court questioned the letter because Governor Buni, who signed it, is not qualified to serve as caretaker chairman of the APC being a serving governor of Yobe state. Indeed, he (Buni) cannot swore to two oaths for executive positions at the same time.
Recall that in the run-up to the 2019 gubernatorial election in Rivers state, the Supreme court in Magnus Abbe and Others V Rivers state APC, excluded the APC in the gubernatorial election by disqualifying all its candidates in the election.
ala Rivers, the APC also gave away power in Zamfara state during the 2019 gubernatorial elections when it failed to present a single candidate and couldn’t agree on who should be its gubernatorial candidate in the election. Parallel congresses and primary elections were held by the warring APC factions in the state. The APC later reclaimed Zamfara state when PDP Governor Bello Matawalle defected to the APC.
Although the APC won the 2019 Zamfara guber election fair, square and clear, it didn’t assume power as the Supreme Court voided all APC votes and awarded victory to the PDP who came a distant second in the election.
The Rivers and Zamfara scenarios are sufficient lessons for the APC to learn from and avoid any pitfalls but current events suggest the contrary. The APC has not learned its lessons as personal interest took the centre stage over Party interest. Now where will the APC be if the Courts decide to follow the same route and demobilise the APC (which currently has two caretaker national chairmen: all serving governors) in the 2023 Presidential election? Is there nobody in Nigeria’s 200 million population qualified and competent to serve as APC caretaker chairman except a serving state governor?
The scenario of confusion currently taking the centre stage at the national chapter of the APC is very closely similar to what we witnessed in Rivers and Zamfara in the 2019 gubernatorial election.
LIKELY SCENARIO IN POST-BUHARI APC AFTER 29th MAY 2023
There is a likelihood of mass defection from the APC after President Buhari’s tenure in May 2023. Dissatisfied and aggrieved members may defect to either the PDP (for those who benefit from, and want the status quo to remain) OR the so-called smaller political parties, SDP, ADC, YPP etc (for those who want the status quo to change for a better Nigeria).
As a matter of fact, the gale of defections from the APC could kickstart early after the 26th March 2022 convention (if it ever hold) as party rebels who feel schemed out of relevance seek other platforms to realise their ambition.
The following major groups are likely to defect from the APC:
1. Some aspirants for the post of the party’s national chairman: Some of them feel the zoning arrangement which ceded the national chairmanship to the North Central is not a fair deal. They feel that they have not been treated fairly. Some of these aspirants have repeatedly said that they will not step down for anybody.
2. The second group that may follow the wind of defection from the APC are the aggrieved party members in some states that were marked by stalemates during the last state congresses of the party. Recall that there were stalemates and parallel congresses in several states particularly Kano and Sokoto. Kano APC crisis seems to be resolved albeit the case is said to be proceeding to the Supreme Court. Sokoto is still hanging as the party has no duly recognised state chairman. The case between the two APC factions in Sokoto state is pending in court.
After May 29th 2023, the APC will be ‘on its own’ as nobody will expect President Buhari to continue to steer the ship of the party after handing over power. He deserves a rest after such a very long time in public service.
In this regard, the APC must retool and restrategise if it wants to continue to exist after President Buhari’s tenure in 2023. Aggrieved members must sheath their sword in the interest of the party and our dear country Nigeria but will they?
Will the APC survive after Buhari? Your guess is as good as mine.
DR ABUBAKAR ALKALI
Convener, Movement for a New Nigeria (MNN)