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John Shiklam, in Kaduna, writes on the mounting controversy in the state’s chapter of All Progressives Congress over the inconclusive ward congresses of the party
The All Progressives Congress came to Kaduna State with a promising future that threatened the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, which has been in power in the state since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999.
Former prominent members of PDP had defected to APC last year in a move to take over power from the PDP in 2015. They included the former PDP state chairman, Alhaji Yaro Makama Rigachiku; former director general of the late Governor Patrick Yakowa campaign organisation, Ambassador Sule Buba; former chairman of Kaduna South Local Government Area and three-time governorship aspirant, Alhaji Suleiman Hunkuyi; and Alhaji Awal Tafarki.
Clash of Ambitions
However, the ambitions of some prominent members of APC is causing serious crisis in the party, and this is threatening to be a serious setback for the party in 2015. The crisis started during the ward congresses, which were characterised by protest and violence in some places following allegations of manipulation and imposition of candidates by some desperate politicians.
The results of the ward congresses have yet to be released by the State Congress Committee. Sources confided that ambitious politicians who wanted to control the party for their own political gains were frustrated at the process of electing the leadership of the party at the ward level, as many of them were unable to install their loyalists and surrogates.
Three chieftains of the party, who are believed to be nursing governorship ambitions, have been specifically accused of trying to install their loyalists at the wards.
Since the conduct of the ward congresses on April 14, APC has been in a kind of crippling suspense following the non-release of the results by the SCC, fuelling various speculations among members.
Chairman of the state’s interim management committee of APC, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, while lamenting the situation, said the non-release of the results had led some mischievous persons to start printing their own result sheets and other documents declaring themselves winners.
He said, in a statement, “Tension is rising and the entire exercise is at risk of losing all credibility. Without the ward congress results, local government and state congresses cannot hold. The party is imperilled by the silence and damage of opportunists who, in spite of their efforts, were unable to stop the ward congresses in most parts of the state.”
Baba-Ahmed stated that any attempt to organise the local government and state congresses without addressing the huge liabilities embedded in the ward congresses would compound the credibility crisis of the entire exercise. He also warned that any attempt to impose the leadership of the party at any level in the state will not be tolerated.
Baba-Ahmed, however, appealed to all members of APC to stay calm and disregard any claims that particular candidates had been elected. He urged the electoral committee to speak up on the outcome of the ward congresses and ensure that results to be released reflect the will of members.
The APC chieftain regretted that at a time when many states had successfully concluded their state congresses, a sensitive state like Kaduna was still awaiting the outcome of ward congresses. He appealed to the national secretariat of the party to assist the SCC to conclude a credible and acceptable congress in Kaduna.
Many aggrieved party members had protested against alleged imposition of candidates by politicians, particularly, a former PDP chieftain who they accused of trying to destroy the APC. APC stakeholders from Kaduna North, led by Alhaji Kabiru Umar, accused those entrusted with the conduct of the ward congresses of selfishness and executing the agenda of some politicians.
Umar said at a news conference after of a meeting of the stakeholders from Kaduna North council that only three ward chairmen had emerged by consensus out of the 12 wards in the area. He added that there were problems in the remaining nine wards following allegations of manipulation in favour of some candidates.
Sources said the APC national leadership was so concerned about the crisis among its members in Kaduna State that it mandated the Kano State governor, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, to mediate between the feuding parties and reconcile aggrieved members. But the meeting was said to have been hijacked by angry youths who became rowdy.
Some APC state and National Assembly lawmakers who attended the meeting at the Governor’s Lodge in Ungwan Sarki area of Kaduna were said to have been held hostage by the angry youths. It was gathered that after all efforts to pacify the youths failed, Kwankwaso left in anger without addressing the issues that led to the crisis.
Besides the issue of ward congresses, the party is also said to be polarised along the lines of the former political parties that came together to form the APC merger, namely, Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, and Congress for Progressive Change.
It was gathered that political alliances along the defunct parties still existed and the cause of the inclusive ward congress was power struggle among the members of the three former parties.
According to a member of the party, Mallam Idris Mohammed, “One of the challenges within the party is that some members still owe allegiance to the former parties and they want their former party members to hold leadership positions in the APC.
“Right now, three people who are aspiring for the state chairmanship of the party come from three parties that merged to form the APC and that is going to cause another problem, unless it is resolved through consensus.
“The maintenance of former identities among party members is a serious threat to the unity of party members, as they still identify themselves along the membership of their defunct political parties.”
The three major contenders for the position of the state chairman include former House of Representatives member, Hon. Bala Bantex, who was in the defunct ACN, former state chairman of the defunct ANPP, Alhaji Sadiq Maman Lagos, and Senator Mohammed Lawal.
There is a serious power struggle as each of the parties in the merger is struggling to control the party. Analysts say the crisis, if not promptly addressed, could hurt APC’s capacity to confront PDP at the poll.
Some observers had opined that with the alleged lacklustre performance of the Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Yero, APC stand a good chance to take over the governorship in 2015.
However, with the growing discontent among members, it is doubtful if APC can be focused enough to put up the good fight that could earn it victory at the poll.
But Bantex said it was a normal democratic process for people to disagree. He said when somebody is aggrieved it may not necessarily mean that the person was shortchanged, stressing that a normal democratic process has a way of throwing up winners and losers.
“That is not to say that those who are aggrieved have no case, they have a case,” he said. “The situation in Kaduna State is not totally unexpected, particularly, when you want to compare with other states that have governors of APC who can use that elevated position to reduce the level of rancour among the interest groups within the party.”
According to Bantex, “If you want to drive towards consensus, how do you make that happened? The only way you can make that to happen is when you have someone to play the role of a father who will say, ‘we appreciate what you are to the party and you are likely not going to lose out at the end of the day because politics is about vested interest here and there.’
“We have a situation where people are not only aggrieved but they don’t have any assurances, they don’t have assurances that notes have been properly taken of their contributions.”
Bantex was, however, optimistic that the crisis in APC would soon be resolved.
“We are praying that the resolution will come in a way that nobody will pull out as a consequence of the disagreement,” he said. “We will still go together as one party in view of the ultimate desire to have a change in the government of Kaduna State in 2015.”