APC: Congresses of Chaos and Confusion
By Kabir Akintayo
The winner-takes-all political system we operate in Nigeria is always a sine qua non for disaster. As far as there is too much of power to wield and excess access to state funds at stake, struggle for political power in Nigeria will sadly remain do-or die contests.
For the APC, which a lot of political observers see as a gang of strange bedfellows hurriedly assembled between 2013 and 2015 for the purpose of seeking power, for power sake, it was obvious that the recent congresses were going to end in fiasco going by the superiority battles between most state governors on one hand and some lawmakers and ministers from their states some of whom are their predecessors, on the other hand. The desperation to seize the party organs for the purpose of pursuing narrow, political ends, is the reason for the battles, not the good of the party; not even the common good of the state or country at large.
No one was therefore surprised when hours after the commencement of the congresses, news of violence, gun shots, invasion of venues, parallel congresses and deeper factionalization of the state chapters of the party rented the air.
Shekarau Versus Ganduje Return Match
The long-drawn battle between former Kano state governor, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau and present governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, has been like a typical heavyweight boxing duel between two renowned pugilists, which has to keep happening in phases for the true winner to emerge and for watchers to be entertained. The latest in the series happened recently and the APC congresses provided the perfect setting for it.
Since joining the APC, Shekarau has hardly bowed to the command of Ganduje as the leader of the party in the state. He conducted his own parallel congress at the state level which produced Ahmadu Danzago as state chairman while Abdullahi Abbass emerged from the Ganduje camp. The latter group is the one recognized by the national body of the party.
Shekarau has however vowed to fight on.
Reign of Bullets in Ogun
The battle for supremacy between Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun state and his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, is even more lethal and dangerous. Theirs is like that of the Lion and the Tiger in the jungle: The latter wants the former to escort him to a hunting expedition and carry his bag of meat for him. But the former, famously called the King of the Jungle, says no way: That instead of him to carry Tiger’s bag of meat for him and be his subordinate, everyone would rather hunt separately and be his own boss.
But if the two wild beasts are made to hunt in the same jungle, it will be bloody…
That was exactly what happened in Ogun state on that day as both Abiodun and Amosun had only one jungle to fight for its dominance and control: The state chapter of the ruling party.
It was alleged that some thugs, numbering about 20 and loyal to the governor, invaded the venue where the loyalists of Amosun held their congress, chasing everybody away with sporadic shootings. The party members later remobilized, armed themselves with sticks, stones and chased the thugs away, and continued the congress which produced Derin Adebiyi as the factional state chairman. The Governor Abiodun-led faction which was held at M.K.O Abiola stadium elected Yemi Sanusi as the state chairman.
Aregbesola Versus Oyetola
The Osun state congress witnessed similar situation as the aforementioned. Just like others, it was a supremacy battle between the sitting governor Gboyega Oyetola and his predecessor Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who is now the Minister of Interior.
The group loyal to the sitting governor held its congress at the Osogbo City Stadium, where Gboyega Famodun was re-elected as the state chairman through a consensus.
The other group loyal to Aregbesola held its own congress at Onward area, Osogbo and elected the former party secretary, Alhaji Razak Salinsile as its new Chairman, also through a consensus.
Lagos: Strange Things Happen
The situation in Lagos is not only shocking, it is also embarrassing, from the point of view of the party hierarchy. It is difficult if not impossible to comprehend the fact that a state being led by the Jagaban himself could contemplate having any form of organized dissension much less, a faction. The worst of it all is the fact that there are even more than two factions in the state.
The new “Lagos for Lagos” group allegedly sponsored by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, is said to be seeking new ways of doing party politics, away from the culture of imposition favoured by Tinubu and his group. According to sources in Lagos, the new group also aims to undo and undermine the presidential ambition of Tinubu. The group produced Sunday Ajayi as it’s state party chairman.
There is also another group led by another former governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, which produced Mrs Beatrice Omotayo Tugbobo as the newly elected chairman during the state congress.
The Tinubu faction elected Cornelius Ojelabi as its state chairman.
No Show in Oyo
The congress couldn’t hold in Oyo state due to the complaint of irregularities by party members. The congress has been postponed for the third time within just two weeks. This made the Chairman APC caretaker extraordinary convention planning committee Mai Mala Buni to hold a meeting with the stakeholders in the state and affirm that Pa Akin Oke is the authentic chairman of the APC in the state pending when the election will take place.
Mai Mala Buni during the stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja said that “in any state where the party does not have a sitting governor, the Chairman of the party in the state is the leader of the party and he is expected to be the rallying point of all affairs of the party.”
Three Factions in Akwa Ibom
Just like Lagos, three different factions exist in Akwa Ibom. One is led by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The other one is led by Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, and the last one is led by the national secretary of the party, Sen John Akpanudoedehe.
Akpabio’s faction produced Steve Ntukekpo as its state chairman while Enang’s group produced Douglass Pepple while the Akpanudoedehe group elected Augustine Ekanem as it’s chairman.
In Cross River state, two executives were also produced through parallel congresses. Although, the more recognized and well attended one was that of Governor Ben Ayade that produced Alphonsus Eba known as “Okadigbo”.
The other group which is allegedly led by former Niger Delta Affairs minister, Usani Uguru, Prince Otu Bassey and Senator John Owan-Enoh, produced Egbeji John Jallo.
The former minister has however dissociated himself from the group, saying: “I don’t need any sermon to convince anyone that I’m not involved. No parallel agenda. No one will use me to achieve obscure missions.”
Boycott in Delta
The major controversy witnessed in Delta state was the boycott of aggrieved members in the election that produced Engr Omeni Sobotie, a loyalist of Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, as chairman.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, had earlier complained that the Deputy Senate President has pocketed the party machinery for self-aggrandizement.
The aggrieved group later released a statement signed by Keyamo himself.
The statement read: “We as Council of Leaders and the majority of the State Executive Committee want to reiterate our position and our resolve that, as leaders of the party here in Delta State, we are not a part of that kangaroo State Congress being organised by Senator Omo-Agege and his cohorts”
“We are calling on the National Leadership of the party to cancel and declare that sham they call congress null and void”
“We stand on the initial position of the party, and present the original consensus Ward to State Exco list as directed by the leadership of the party and put together by the leaders and stakeholders of the party from across all tendencies and factions within the party here in Delta State”
“We would not recognise any other executive other than the consensus Executives put together by the Leaders and Stakeholders, which have been affirmed as the wards, LGAs and State Executives, by all APC faithful across the State.”
Lai Mohammed Versus Governor Abdulrazak
The cut-throat rivalry between the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and Governor Abdulrazak Abdulrahman of Kwara state has taken dangerous dimensions in recent weeks. While the governor has accused the minister of being a liability to the party in the state and a petty thief who embezzled campaign donations, the minister has fired back, saying the governor is an unsound mind who is unfit for office.
While Sunday Fagbemi emerged as chairman for the faction loyal to Governor AbdulRazaq, a former caretaker chairman of the party in the state, Bashir Bolarinwa, was returned by the faction led by Lai Mohammed.
Similar situation occurred in Abia state where two executives emerged. There was a congress by the Chief Ikechi Emenike group monitored by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which produced Chief Enyinnaya Harbour as chairman.
The other group led by Donatus Nwankpa gathered at the indoor Sports Hall of the Umuahia Township Stadium, and elected Hon. Acho Obioma as it’s chairman.
In Enugu state, a faction of the party elected Comrade Adolphus Ude as the state chairman.
But in a parallel congress held at Destiny Event Center, Independence layout, a former governorship candidate of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Barr. Ugo Agballa, who recently joined the party emerged the chairman of his own faction which is believed to be sponsored by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama.
Factional chairmen also emerged in Niger state after parallel congresses. They are Hon. Haliru Zakari Jakantoro and Hon. Nasiru Yusuf Ubandiya.
National Body’s Reaction
The National body of the Buni led caretaker committee has issued a stern warning to those bringing factions and conducting parallel congresses that, any body found guilty will be prosecuted, adding that only elections supervised by agents of the party and INEC will be recognized.
The statement read in part: “Our attention has been drawn to reports of so-called and purported “parallel” congresses. To borrow the phrase of one of our esteemed governors, such “parallel” congresses are mere naming ceremonies.”
“The purported “parallel” congresses are futile activities and very strange to the party, our Constitution and the guidelines for the conduct of the State Congresses.
“Only exercises conducted by duly inaugurated State Congress Committees are recognised by the Party. The APC leadership will not hesitate to take adequate and lawful measures against any person or interest sabotaging the collective party’s interest and efforts to achieve peace and unity in our great party.”
Implications for 2023
Away from the above grandstanding, it is obvious that the APC has to resort to dialogue and reconciliation to pacify aggrieved party bigwigs who may defect to the PDP and hurt the ruling party from outside.
As it stands now, many are already threatening to defect which the party can not afford at the moment.
Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was heard recently bragging that some APC members will join the PDP very soon. This has to be a potential fallout from the congresses.
If the APC must retain power in 2023, it must carefully and meticulously evacuate the ghosts of its own scandalous congresses to avoid an implosion.