Because of their non-ideological status, which actually confers no distinction on political parties making it easy for members to switch allegiance with the fluidity of flowing water, it appears that there is no difference between Nigerian political platforms.
But the 2014 experiment of forming a mega party from existing groupings that gave birth to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has shown the depths of differences among politicians across the platforms and how difficult an alliance of forces could be. Despite recording an unprecedented victory at the poll and being in government for almost three years with enough resources and time to cement the bond, the APC has continued to move from one crisis to the other while the fault lines along the various elements that formed the party continue to widen.
From the federal to the state and even council levels, the party is being faced with crises of disunity coming from allegations of rejection of those that worked for its success, deliberate alienation of major players, internal bickering, supremacy tussles among leaders and outright sabotage of the platform, creating a political party in the mould of a tower of Babel.
With less than a year to another round of election and the desire to remain in power, it recently dawned on the party that unity of purpose, which has eluded it since 2015, is needed to wade through the political waters even while the platform is faced with the burden of failure in government, fear of internal sabotage and a rising opposition in the larger political field.
To resolve these myriads of problems and strengthen the platform to be able to face the challenges of reelection, the task of rebuilding the party was penultimate week, thrust upon the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, a major pillar of the alliance who had been allegedly sidelined from the scheme of things.
While many Nigerians are waiting to see how Tinubu, who for the first time since the election is being addressed as “national leader” with the conviction of the title, is going to handle the new task of leading the reconciliation process, others are of the view that the assignment was either deliberately meant to keep him busy or aimed to further compound his problems in the party.
It would be recalled that before now, Tinubu had been identified as one of the aggrieved leaders deliberately shut out of the party despite his commitment especially in terms of finance, mobilisation and delivery to the 2015 victory of President Muhammadu Buhari. At a point, it was rumoured that the former governor of Lagos intentionally placed himself on self-exile to avoid being hounded by those that were close to the corridor of powers who were doing everything possible to reduce his influence including trading away the sweat of those who worked for the success of the party in the Kogi governorship election.
Questions are also being asked why Tinubu was given the assignment when another election is fast approaching with emphasis on the fact that the same Tinubu was completely ostracized by some powerful forces in the presidency that had even won some of his loyalists to their side with the intent of removing the claws of the Lion of Bourdillon.
On several occasions, Tinubu, has publicly condemned the running of the party by the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, calling for his resignation and government policies when he wrote against the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachiukwu. Although coming from a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the admonition from former Works Minister, Adeseye Ogunlewe, to Tinubu to be wary of his new assignment, summed up the view of many who believe that the whole thing was a political strategy to either reuse the former governor.
Others also believe it was a tactic to put him in a difficult position of forcing him to stay within the party especially when other pillars like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, former Kano governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Senate President Bukola Saraki, are either leaving or planning to leave the party.
According to Ogunlewe, “That assignment could be antics of President Buhari to use and dump Tinubu again. The reconciliation they are talking about is too belated. What are they reconciling? Since Buhari came into power in 2015, he has refused to make appointments into the boards of parastatals and agencies.
“Many of those who worked for the success of the party have been abandoned. They don’t know what is going on in the government. They have no say in the affairs of the government.”Speaking on the development, a chieftain of the party in Ekiti State, Dr. Olusegun Osinkolu commended President Buhari for choosing Tinubu for the mission, expressing confidence that the national leader of the party is someone with cognate political experience and dexterity to deliver on the sensitive task.
He said further: “The crises in some APC dominated states were becoming sources of embarrassment to the party,” pointing out that the fact that President Buhari was aware to engage Tinubu in the task, confirmed him as a loyal party man.According to him, “Time has come for APC to learn how to be proactive in averting crisis rather than to wait and allow it to fester before taking the right steps.”
But before Tinubu is a daunting task of reconciling some seemingly irreconcilable elements within the party many of who are waiting to either play the Brutus when the election comes or simply refuse to show enough commitment to the success of the party.
Incidentally, Tinubu himself has been identified as a leader that needs reconciliation even as he has taken partisan positions in some of the areas he is expected to reconcile.For instance in Kano, Tinubu has publicly endorsed incumbent governor Umar Ganduje against Kwankwaso and in Ondo, he was publicly against the emergence of the governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu while his involvement was the main reason for the Kogi debacle.
In Ekiti where his estranged godson and Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi is the APC leader and Kwara where many see his hands in the trial of their godfather, Saraki, it would be difficult for Tinubu to maintain a neutral stand.And with these known flashpoints are the carry-over problems from the alliance days as the formative groupings still see themselves as loyalists to their former platforms rather to the APC as a party.
In Oyo State, for instance, the party is sharply divided along the two former platforms of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) causing a major rift between governor Abiola Ajimobi and Communication Minister, Adebayo Shittu. A former gubernatorial candidate in Sokoto State, Professor Muhammad Lawal Bashar, has also called Tinubu’s attention to the crisis in the state chapter of APC, alleging that there are injustices by the party against former members of defunct CPC.
While addressing a press conference over the weekend, Bashar who belonged to the CPC said despite the painstaking sacrifices in the electoral process that brought APC to victory, the former CPC members have been marginalised in terms of appointments and have been completely shut out of the party’s activities.
According to him, “After the victory at the poll, those from the PDP arm of the party under the leadership of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal formed the government without including us. They extricated themselves from all merger agreements and responsibilities.”To buttress his allegations, he said the PDP arm of the merger is currently occupying all the 69 elective positions including the governor and deputy governor, the three senators, 11 House of Representatives members, 30 members of the State House of Assembly and the 23 local government chairmen.
According to him, “All but one out of 88 political appointees including commissioners, special advisers, and board members are also ex-PDP members.”He added that even the position of Special Adviser to the President was given to a former PDP member who decamped to CPC after losing relevance in the PDP as at that time.”
The don however commended Buhari for recognising the exigency to appoint a mediator in the person of Tinubu to assist salvage the party from imminent disintegration and ultimate collapse.
According to him, “The former CPC members had decided to lay their grievances through the channel provided by the presidential reconciliation panel in order to seek redress to their plight.”Tinubu is also going to face similar task in his Lagos base where he is allegedly having it tough with some of his followers like the National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, who has been suspended from the party by his Mushin Ward allegedly on the directive of Tinubu.
Similar challenge is awaiting the reconciliation in Kaduna State between Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani, who is representing Kaduna Central are slogging it out culminating in the suspension of the governor by a faction of the party last week.It is also not going to be an easy task to reconcile the Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State with Senator Olamilekan Solomon Adeola, who currently represents Lagos West but who is vying for Ogun governorship position.
Meanwhile, a Human Right lawyer, Dr. Femi Aborisade, while looking at how possible Tinubu would succeed in the task said it is one thing to reconcile aggrieved members of the ruling party and another is to reconcile the party with aggrieved Nigerians.
According to him, “I am not a member of the APC and to that extent may not be qualified to discuss how they handle their internal affairs.“Be that as it may, it would appear to me that Tinubu might be one of the key persons in the party who may have to be reconciled. It may therefore be difficult for an aggrieved member to drive the reconciliatory process to meaningful success.”
Aborisade added that disagreements among the average bourgeois politicians in Nigeria are never about ideas, programmes and perspectives “they are usually about who gets what resources, contracts, positions and influence. Within this reality, once Buhari recognizes the particular or specific positions, contracts and offices that Tinubu may use to bargain with the aggrieved members of the APC, it is not ruled out that some relative success may be recorded in the reconciliatory efforts.”
Despite these odds however, Tinubu has commenced the process and with the bargaining that Aborisade referred to, the efforts could yield positive results since politics in Nigeria is about who gets what not necessarily what is best for the country and the citizens.
At the national secretariat of the party where he met with members of the National Working Committee (NWC) that stood between him and his gubernatorial choice in Ondo, Tinubu said “the solution was to seek opinions and advice of members on the various complex issues around some states or if there is any national one, to reconcile, move the party in a cohesive manner and reposition if any and build the confidence among ourselves.”
At separate meetings with Saraki and Kwankwaso in Abuja last Thursday, Tinubu was said to have offered an olive branch to the duo who are believed to be so disenchanted with the party that they are considering the option of returning to the PDP that they abandoned to float the APC at the approach of the 2015 elections.
On Saturday, the mediator was in Sokoto where he met with Governor Aminu Tambuwal and his predecessor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko and held closed-door meetings with them at both the Government House and Wamakko’s residence in Gawun Nama area of the state capital.
The meeting was later expanded to include Deputy Governor Ahmed Aliyu and APC National Vice Chairman for Northwest, Malam Inuwa Abdulkadir.In a brief speech after the meeting, Tinubu told reporters he was in Sokoto for a family meeting. “Family members meet regularly to talk to each other and I’m here for that purpose. This is a family meeting for today, tomorrow, for the good of Nigeria and the APC.While committed party faithful await Tinubu’s magic wand to bring unity into the family and create a new narration for political party management in Nigeria, the 2019 elections would decide if the voters can once again trust the APC to deliver dividends of democracy.