The governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is, once again, mired in crisis. This time around, the governing party is walking a tightrope, which appears to be strangling it by the day. The choice of former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, as running mate to the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is tearing the party apart.
The Muslim/ Muslim ticket option has culminated in a gale of defections, with many aggrieved members of the party still threatening to dump the APC. Since Tinubu made the announcement during the last Sallah celebrations that he had settled for Shettima, opposition against the same faith ticket became stiff. Governorship candidate of the APC in Rivers State and a close ally of the former Transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, Tonye Princewill, is one of the aggrieved party members who resigned their membership in utter rejection of the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Last week, former secretary to government of the federation, Babachir Lawal, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, insisted on a Muslim-Christian ticket, threatening that APC members who are Christians would work against the party in 2023 if nothing changes. They argued that the single faith ticket of the APC was not accidental, but a deliberate agenda to subjugate Nigerians of the Christian faith further called to question the present NWC of the party which he noted was skewed against Christians.
They asked Nigerians across ethnic divides who are Christians to use their voter cards to reject Tinubu and Shettima at the forthcoming February 25, 2023 poll. Dogara and Bachir who incidentally are from the same North East geopolitical zone as Shettima made real their threat when the latter paid a visit to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, at his country home in Port Harcourt .
As the opposition against the same faith ticket sets the APC on the part of implosion once again, some members of the party have said it is not the rancour over the choice of running mate that is threatening the party’s existence. According to them, it is how the leadership of the party, under Sen Abdullahi Adamu, handles the crisis that would determine whether the governing party would crumble ahead of the 2023 polls or leap over the post-election hurdle.
There is a growing disenchantment within the APC over the attitude of the Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) towards the Muslim-Muslim ticket crisis rocking the party. The thinking is that there is little or no effort by the party leadership to reach out to aggrieved members of the party. Instead, some members of the APC NWC like the national vice chairman (North West), Isaac Kekemeke, have described the agitation of both Lawal and Dogara as anti-party activities that should attract sanctions.
An APC chieftain who did not want his name in print told LEADERSHIP that the lack of ability on the part of the Adamu-led leadership of the party to resolve the impasse created by the choice of a running mate is in sharp contrast of the reconciliatory prowess of immediate past leadership of the party led by Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni. He noted that the erstwhile caretaker committee chairman of the APC would have personally taken the reconciliatory moves to the doorstep of the aggrieved party members.
The APC chieftain recalled how when the National Executive Committee of the APC dissolved the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC in June 2020 there were fears that Tinubu and largely the Action Congress (CAN) camp of the APC would revolt and resist the Buni-led caretaker committee in view of the relationship between Tinubu and Oshiomhole. But Buni’s bold, calculated and heroic first move of visiting the pioneer APC national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, in his Ila country home, and Tinubu at his Bourdilon Victoria Island residence, tamed the two renowned founding members of the party. They both accepted the Buni-led committee and paid allegiance.
Shortly after the appointment of the Yobe governor as chairman, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC, his director general (DG), Press and Media Affairs, described him as “a man with a magnetic character, a very strong expert in reconciliation, with a humility that deflates every anger and disarm his adversaries”. Some party members doubted the DG and dismissed his claim as a mere PR for his principal. But Buni proved them wrong.
In a party where members’ perception had been that for any APC programme or project to receive the blessings of Akande and Tinubu, it is already a successful project, Buni’s move to get their support was quite strategic and important for the task of repositioning the party and winning the confidence of other major critical stakeholders to accept the legitimacy of the committee.
It would be recalled that the slogan of teamwork proclaimed by Governor Buni on assumption of office provided the needed unity by the committee to execute its assignment. Then came the constitution of sub-committees, with members of the committee and other stakeholders appointed as chairmen and members. This gave all members a sense of belonging and commitment to reconcile feuding parties and members for a united APC.
The speed with which former and new members joined the APC still remains stunning and unbelievable. After a few moves of reconciliation, some members who vowed never to look back at the party, returned back while those at the verge of leaving, dropped the idea and never left. Buni’s dragnet captured the former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barnabas Gemade, and two former Speakers of the House of Representatives, Oladimeji Bankole and Yakubu Dogara into the party fold.
With his skill in party administration and deep understanding of the complexities of politics and politicians, Buni led the Caretaker Committee to capture three serving governors of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, Cross River State, Ben Ayade and Zamfara State, Bello Mutawalli, as well as millions of their supporters.
Also, on the long list of decampees were several former and serving federal and state legislators, deputy governor of Anambra state and a former member of the PDP Board of Trustees, Mrs Joy Emordi. It was a tsunami sweeping away the opposition party.
Also, the tripatite relationship between APC, the executive and legislative arms of government initiated by the Buni regime provided a smooth understanding required for the implementation 9f government policies and programmes.
The Buni-led APC administration also ensured the conduct of the membership registration and revalidation exercise which recorded over 40 million members. Not a few APC members boasted that in Nigeria’s political history, this remains the single successful party membership registration and revalidation exercise. They said with such a numerical strength, APC cannot doubt its success in elections in Nigeria.
Governor Buni’s political sagacity was however redefined by his medical trip to Dubai and the palace coup by some of his colleagues. Even with the abortive coup, he brought everyone to his fold, including those who reportedly betrayed him, on arrival from the medical vacation. The Yobe governor sailed through the turbulent waters successfully to organise a very successful national convention with everyone on board. After the convention that brought the Adamu-led NWC, an elated President Muhammadu Buhari eulogised Buni for ensuring that the party gets another life and is set to approach the 2023 polls with a united front.
But President Buhari’s euphoria of a united party ahead of the 2023 polls seems to be short-lived. The emerging but avoidable crisis over the choice of a vice presidential candidate which is now rearing its heads is threatening the chances of the party. The threat by members of the National Assembly to leave APC for other political parties constitutes a huge threat that must be addressed immediately to avoid collateral damage.
Some members of the party believe strongly that the APC national chairman, Adamu, and the party’s presidential candidate, Tinubu, both know Buni’ capacity, capability and competence in reconciling the differing voices and opinions to emerge united and stronger for a successful 2023 general election and can as well take advantage of this style of leadership. The thinking is that just like Mamman had posited, the “magnetic and humble character” of the Yobe State governor remains the only option to a stress-free victory in 2023 for the APC.