Johnchuks Onuanyim writes on the crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over an attempt by the leadership of the party to reverse a tradition whereby outgoing state governors are given the free hand to anoint their successors
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, did not mince words at a recent meeting with journalists with correspondents in Abuja, when he said that the crisis in the party is being fomented by three governors. He listed the governors as Abdullazizi Yari (Zamfara), Rochas Okorocha (Imo) and Ibukunle Amosun (Ogun). According to Oshiomhole, the governors asked for favours that could not be granted by the party and since it was impossible, they resorted to mudslinging.
For Ibukunle Amosun, the APC national chairman accused him of anointing candidates for the party as an emperor, while he accused Okorocha of trying to build a political dynasty, which the party has no machinery to support. However, he was not able to say what the governor of Zamfara State, Yari, did wrong. The governors are insisting on a tradition that has existed in the Nigeria’s polity since 2003, whereby they are allowed to decide who gets what politically in their respective states. While it is believed that such political culture is bad, the APC national chairman benefitted from it as governor of Edo State.
Two years ago, Oshiomhole chose Godwin Obaseki as his successor in Edo State, without any recourse to the then APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. He also chose the deputy governor. Following such a trend, the three governors mentioned by Oshiomhole, demanded to choose their successors, but that had pitched them against the APC national chairman, who believes that he needed to institutionalize internal democracy in the party.
Internal Democracy is a situation where everybody has equal right to aspire for any position and emerge through the mandate of the party members. Unfortunately, not up to 10 per cent of APC candidates for the forthcoming 2019 general elections emerged through strict adherence to such process, some person had argued.
This was evident in the statement of the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, who alleged that there was impunity during the party’s primaries. She particularly said that if the party knew that it was not going to allow free and fair processes, it should not have allowed people to spend their money in obtaining nomination and expression of interest forms.
The governors are insisting on their loyalists taking over from them and to also hold other political offices after their tenure elapses, but this, the Oshiomholeled National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, kicked against. The ruling party’s executive body rather opted for aspirants supported by other party chieftains. In Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun was chosen against Adekunle Akinlade, the choice of the Governor Amosun, while the choice of Senator Hope Uzodinma dashed Governor Okorocha’s plot to have his son-in-law and Chief of Staff to succeed him.
Similarly in Zamfara State, the party said no to the candidate of Governor Yari, Mukthar Idris, who is presently the state commissioner for Finance. Some other candidates anointed by the governors for other elective positions were also rejected. The governors’ argument on the choice of the candidates that were chosen by the party was that the primaries were not fair.
They also argued that some of the candidates whose names were submitted by the NWC, lost during the primaries but the Oshiomhole-led executive went ahead to present their names to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In the case of Imo State, Governor Okorocha argued that the Ahmed Gulak- led Governorship Primary Election Committee did not conduct any primary in the state and therefore could not have declared Uzodinma as the winner of the exercise. Members of the committee arrived the state on October 1, but Gulak left the state early hours of October 2 for Abuja, where he declared Uzodinma the winner of the primaries.
The leadership of the party cancelled the primary election and set up another committee, but weeks later, it went back to recognise it by submitting Uzodinma’s as the party’s governorship candidate for the state. But some analysts have argued that if Nwosu, who emerged from the second governorship primary election conducted in the state should not be the governorship candidate, Uzodinma who was announced by Gulak shouldn’t also be.
The governors of Zamfara and Ogun states are also concerned that the party indulged in illegalities in choosing candidates for the party in their respective states. It was at the height of the argument and altercation between the governors and the APC leadership, that Oshiomhole was arrested and interrogated by the Department of State Services (DSS) for taking bribe during the primaries. But, Oshiomhole, who was embarrassed by the act didn’t need any soothsayer to know where his ordeal was coming from. Let off the hook, he accused the “enemy governors” of being responsible for his ordeal.
Only the governor of Ogun State has come out like Pilate to wash off his hands from the tribulations of the APC national chairman in the hands of the DSS. However, the allegation, arrest and interrogation of Oshiomhole have opened up another vista in the crisis as some other party members and none members are calling for the resignation and prosecution of the APC national chairman.
The first to make the call is the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu. Besides calling Oshiomhole to resign, Okechukwu urged the relevant security agencies to investigate the accounts of the APC national chairman as well as those of his aides to unravel what transpired during the party’s primaries and what informed the choice of candidates for the party. His words: “Penultimate week, I joined the league of APC moral leaders, faithful and men of good conscience to call on Comrade Adams Oshiohmole, to honourably resign forthwith as the chairmanship of our great party.
“In his usual narcissistic disposition, he refused. As the ‘Oshiohmole Must Go’ wave raged, the Department of State Services got wind of it.They interrogated him and I patiently waited to read from Comrade Oshiomhole and his spin doctors over his tango with the DSS, in the social or mainstream media, neither rebuttal nor denial came from them.
“I, therefore, once again stridently call on Comrade Oshiomhole to instead of pontification, grandstanding, do the needful by honourably resigning the chairmanship of our great party.” A group, Coalition for New Nigeria (CNN), led by Stanley Ohu, sent a petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences (ICPC) demanding for the prosecution of Oshiomhole. The group said: “We are determined in our quest to arrest the danger faced by our party, the governing APC, occasioned by the integrity challenged of the National Chairman, Oshiomhole.
“As you are all aware, our party, the APC is in serious crisis following the most reprehensible, divisive and widely condemned primaries across the states. “Given the various allegations of corruption by respected chieftains and members of the APC, we are here calling on the various anti-corruption agencies to begin a comprehensive probe of not only these allegations, but his time as the governor of Edo State.”
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, joined the fray, when he called on the APC national chairman to toe the path of honour by resigning his position. His words: “The APC boss has lost the moral right to participate in politics let alone be chairman of any party. I remember in those days, even Oyegun, they never accused him of something like this. I have left that party. I’m sure the President, based on integrity, knows the right thing to do.”
It is not only the three governors that are angry with Oshiomhole. The governor of Niger State, Mohammed Bello, is also said to be nursing ill feelings against the APC national chairman for allegedly substituting senatorial candidates who won the primary elections in his state with serving senators. Also, the crisis in the Ondo State chapter of the party cannot be divorced from the ways and manners in which the candidates of the state for next year’s election were chosen. It is pertinent to state that the state party chairmen have somehow been rail rolled into the crisis. Most of them are occupying their positions courtesy of their governors and would be willing to follow their principals.
The state party chairmen are said to be divided over the crisis and the call for Oshiomhole’s removal. One of them who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “It is not removing Oshiomhole that is the problem, but the consequences of that removal. “If such action would cost us the next election it would not be good for us and if his stay as chairman would also cost us the election next year, it would not be good for the party.
“The best thing that should happen is for President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in a sincere manner.” Another state chairman, who spoke on the issue, said he would prefer Oshiomhole to be removed. But, reprieve has come the way of the party chairman given the confidence vote on him by five APC state chairmen in the South-South zone.
The party chairmen are those of Delta, Edo, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states, who met in Abuja recently and pledged their loyalty and support for the APC national chairman. Members of the party’s NWC are also said to be with him. The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, who came to office at the verge of this crisis, in his defence of the national chairman, said nobody has proven allegation of bribery against him, and therefore it would be wrong to ask him to resign on that basis. Issa-Onilu said that the chairman is rebuilding the party, and in rebuilding a structure, some designs most go. This, according to him, is what the party is presently witnessing.