The crystallization of the merger plans of the country’s major opposition parties into the All Progressives Congress, APC last year, was regarded as a serious threat to the electoral invincibility of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. However, the perfection of the merger has been another issue. All over the country, the harmonization of the structures of the legacy parties that formed the APC is stirring serious disharmony.
By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & DEMOLA AKINYEMI
AFTER scaling the major hurdle of sinking their political differences to merge as a party last February, leaders of the nascent All Progressives Congress (APC) had assured that sharing of official positions and nomination of flag bearers for elective slots would not constitute a stumbling block to their onerous goal of rescuing Nigeria by kicking the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) out of power in 2015.
Indeed, both individually and jointly, leaders of the merged parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and some stalwarts of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) following APC’s registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on July 31, 2013, said they would have a seamless sharing of positions by ensuring equity and justice in the process.
Against this backdrop, the APC hierarchy set up harmonisation committees to drive the process. However, the exercise has been riddled by complaints and protests across the country. As it were, the APC is faced with another major hurdle that may hurt its main goal of capturing power in 2015 even in some of its current strongholds.
The fissures and cracks arising from the harmonisation process were further exacerbated by the defection of five PDP governors, 37 House of Representatives members and leaders of the New PDP to the APC on November 26, 2013.
The five governors are Alhaji Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Alhaji Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto), Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) and Alhaji Abdulfatai Ahmed (Kwara).
Before the nPDP leaders and governors’ defection, slots were to be shared across board among the defunct merged parties according to their political footholds.
This is a tough nut to crack on its own. Therefore, sharing positions in the bigger APC will not be a tea party.
Thus, APC has been locked in leadership crisis in Kano, Sokoto and Adamawa states, ever since the defection of the five PDP governors to the party.
Govs are leaders in their states — Masari
Speaking on the challenge, Deputy National Chairman of the APC, Aminu Bello Masari reportedly said that the 16 APC governors should remain the party leaders in their states.
In an interview with BBC Hausa service, Masari said this was the position as stipulated by the constitution of the party.
He said the harmonisation committees in the states had been tasked to share positions and produce party leaderships in states where APC is the opposition party. “What I know is that any APC governor is the leader of the party in his state.
Other positions would then go to the party members. But when we come out with proper arrangement about the problems, it will surely solve over 70 per cent of the crises. APC governors are leaders in our 16 states.
However, our harmonisation committees in states are to share positions in states where we don’t have governors,” he said.
He said in Gombe State, for example, party leaders have reached a consensus that former governor Danjuma Goje is the party leader.
Masari appealed to party members to be patient as membership registration will commence on January 28. “Then in February, we are going to begin states’ congresses and by March, the national congress to elect leaders will come up.”
Stakeholders reject interim exco in Ondo
In Ondo State, the party is embroiled in crisis with some stakeholders and members rejecting the interim executive put in place for the state and accused the National Vice Chairman (South-West), Otunba Niyi Adebayo, of attempting to impose unpopular executive members on them.
Rising from a meeting, held in Akure, the stakeholders, including chairmen and secretaries of the merged parties, their governorship candidates and deputies, called on the national leadership of the party to intervene before it is too late.
In a statement by the state secretaries of the defunct parties, Gboyega Adedipe (ACN), Bala Umaru (ANPP) and Olufisayo Falarungbon (CPC) and read by chairman of the defunct CPC, Lekan Obolo, said the harmonisation committee of the party was not properly constituted before the interim executive was put in place.
They stated that out of the 31 people that were supposed to be members of the harmonisation committee, only 11 were present, adding that the 11 were from the defunct ACN and that the ANPP and the CPC were not accommodated.
The challenge in Kwara
Although, APC, which mainly arose from the nucleus of the defunct ACN has been having crisis in Kwara, the recent teaming up with the nPDP and Senator Bukola Saraki’s election winning machines appears to be complicating the problems of party in the state.
Vanguard checks revealed that the party will have its hands full regarding who flies its flag in the 2015 election. Alhaji Muhammed Dele Belgore (SAN), the ACN’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2011 election, is said to be angling to repeat the feat in the next election, banking on his last experience to defeat the Saraki dynasty.
Will Governor Ahmed and Senator Saraki, who are now in APC, allow him? Will the Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who is also from Kwara and a former governorship hopeful accept the unfolding events? How will the party handle the interests of these major stakeholders and their supporters?
This development has polarised the opposition party in Kwara along two divides but before now there has been pretences about the political squabbles between the duo of Lai Mohammed and Dele Belgore until Saraki’s entrance into the APC which blew the face-off into the open.
Another core issue about the APC crisis in Kwara has to do with those who would never be comfortable with the political leadership of Senator Saraki which they believe would hurt their political ambition. There is also the alleged issue of the nPDP destroying APC and returning to the PDP.
APC camp oppose enthronement of Saraki, Ahmed as leaders
To the chagrin of the APC national leadership who vanguard gathered have already completed the merger process with the interim state executives which would be announced anytime from now, some members of APC believed to be sympathetic to the cause of Belgore, last Thursday at the APC factional state headquarters along Asa Dam Road, Ilorin threw a spanner into the political leadership of Senator Saraki and Alhaji Lai Mohammed in the state.
According to one Bashir Bolarinwa and a former minister for state Aviation, Alhaji Aremu Yahaya, who addressed the press conference, they particularly said their group opposed alleged allocation of the party’s leadership to Senator Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed in the state.
Arbitrary sharing of party offices
Their words: “We are not against the Sarakis or any other group joining our party as democracy is a game of number. We reject arbitrary sharing of party offices between us and the Saraki group. The registration process and election of party officials from the wards to the state should provide the desired confidence to all members of the party. We reject any rule that arrogates the leadership of the party in the state to his group either through the state governor or Saraki himself. The election of party officers must be free and transparent.”
The APC stalwarts urged that the state harmonising committee set up to midwife the party through registration process, ward congresses and election of officials must not be skewed in favour of the Saraki group but be composed of equal number of members from the legacy parties and the nPDP.
Fears over Saraki, Ahmed unnecessary — Afolayan
In a swift reaction, former Secretary of the PDP in Kwara State, Prince Yemi Afolayan, described the apprehension and fear of some prospective members of the APC in the state of possible marginalisation as unnecessary and misplaced.
Afolayan in an interview with Vanguard said for claiming that Senator Saraki lacked the potential to lead APC in the state that Bolarinwa and Yahaya had displayed their ignorance of the political barometer of Kwara.
Afolayan, who reiterated that Senator Saraki and other members of nPDP who merged with the APC had used every occasion to assure that there was no bifurcation between old and new members, said it was surprising that both men were fanning the embers of disunity in their quest for recognition.
He affirmed that Senator Saraki and other members of defunct nPDP were ready to partner with men and women of good will and good conscience to advance the ideals of APC in the state and Nigeria at large.
Also, some other APC stakeholders, same day, at another press conference berated what they described as pockets of crisis being perpetrated by some members of their party opposing the leadership of Senator Saraki and Lai Mohammed.
The stakeholders, who included former Kwara State Chairmen of the CPC, Alhaji Suleiman Buhari and that of the ANPP, Alhaji Taye Eleja, two APC members in the state House of Assembly, Hon. Tope Olayonu and Hon. Hassan Oyeleke among others, urged those they described as dissidents to leave the party instead of trying to cause disharmony among members.
“The agitation of the dissidents is not in the interest of the APC but a craving to continue to massage their ego when they knew that they cannot survive the competition”.
Categories of dissidents in Kwara APC
The APC leaders listed three categories of the dissidents, saying they include those who were aggrieved in the PDP when they were in the same party with Senator Saraki and later escaped to ACN stressing that, “it is just logical that they must keep on running”.
They listed other categories of the dissidents as those that enjoy the smallest of the legacy parties and always used the platform to negotiate during election while the third category are the over ambitious clique citing, Muhammed Dele Belgore, the former gubernatorial candidate of ACN among others whom they said believed that they cannot achieve their personal aspirations under the present arrangement.
The scenario in Kwara is a tip of what the APC is witnessing in many states. Whether the party will put its house in order ahead of the 2015 election is a question that time will answer.