22 June 2018

Nigeria: What to Expect From APC's 'Multi-Purpose' National Convention

Tomorrow at the Eagle Square Abuja, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would come face to face with what remains of its birth pangs as it holds its second national convention. From the series of events that preceded the convention, it would not be out of place to style the general meeting as a multi-purpose or even, a confrontational convention.

The ruling party would be confronting a lot of little demons that have dogged its existence, including the vexatious collaboration with the falsely called new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), the consequences of its parallel congresses, the issue of party funding and President Muhammadu Buhari's ambiguous politics of aloof leadership.

President's ascetic style.

For a greater part of the APC existence, President Buhari succeeded in making himself recessive, either out of affected civility or decoy to avoid confrontation with the political maestros that aided his election, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the nPDP voyagers.Deferring to the contributions of the former governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, to his electoral victory, President Buhari must have developed the ambivalent posture as a decoy. In one breath his accommodates Tinubu as leader, in another he encourages the notion that the President is the leader of the party.

Analysts observed that no sooner had Atiku left APC than the President began to show active involvement in the politics of APC structure and management. Even as the President began to attend party meetings, he formed the habit of waiting for party stakeholders to take a stand before coming out with his own position.To a large extent that the convention is holding in the first place could be attributed to the reverse leadership of the President. The party held its National Executive Committee (NEC), and even with the President in attendance, resolved to gift the National Working Committee (NWC) led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun with tenure elongation.

But, the President had to return with a contrary position, suggesting either that he outsourced his political analysis or merely decided to humour the power brokers in the Presidency, voted for a review of the tenure elongation gambit.The review of NEC position on tenure is just one out of many instances of President Buhari's lack of surefootedness in political decision making that have rubbed of negatively on the life of APC.

Recently, the 2015 governorship candidate of the party in Ebonyi State, Senator Julius Ali Ucha, placed the blame of the confused and near comatose state of affairs in the party on Ogdigie-Oyegun, stressing that the outgoing national chairman nurtured rivalry and disunity within the party. But, with what has been going on, even behind the scenes, it is obvious that Odigie- Oyegun and his NWC are not the only ones to blame for the blurry state of affairs in APC. The President's refusal to lead from the front was a big contributory factor.

In the past three years, it was apparent that the ruling party's failure to assert itself also impacted negatively on the polity, especially the unending schism between the Presidency and the National Assembly. As APC holds its convention tomorrow, part of the realities it would contend with is the relationship between its politics and quality of governance it provided so far.

Although President Buhari applied his military training to hide his aversion to the members of nPDP for the past three years, his recent decision to shun a direct meeting with the former PDP bloc over their stated grievances, goes a long way to define the possible challenges the party would confront during and after the convention.

Party funding

One of the reasons cited for the failure to hold its mid-term convention was lack of funds. APC has been living in denial about the place of money in the running of a political party. Right from his days as military head of state, Buhari had always looked at funding of political parties as the engine room of corruption. And perhaps, owing to the unrelenting onslaught against the opposition PDP, the President must have distanced himself from the running of the party in a strategic effort to deny party functionaries the opportunity to request for funding.

When therefore some stakeholders alleged misappropriation of funds against the NWC, it must have been the direct effect of the nonchalance of the party's leader, Buhari. But, why the APC governors attempt to 'takeover' the party failed, has become obvious.As at the time major stakeholders were second guessing about how best to put the party in the right direction, President Buhari had not made up his mind on whether to seek a second term in office or not.

It is possible that harassed as he said he was by his health challenges, the President thought it would be unnecessary to angle for a repeat mandate. To what extent that indecision by the President impelled the passivity of the party could not be easily recognized.The new found vibrancy in the party leading to the delayed convention could therefore be attributed to the President's declaration of interest in a second term, which has become a kind rallying point for the party chieftain.

There is no doubt that the President's ambition would open the storehouses of funds to oil the party machinery. Could that be reason the former Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, is being propelled to replace Odigie-Oyegun? When that happens, those that blamed the incumbent national chairman might come to terms with the fact of how it is President Buhari's ambition that is analogous to the planned renewal of APC.

Contending with aftermath of parallel congresses

DESPITE the fact that the national convention is a purely internal affair of the ruling party, observers say the outcome of the exercise could impact much on the polity and country's governance.Some of the concerns being raised ahead of the convention revolve around the manner in which APC has been conducting its affairs in clear affront to its constitution and that of the Federal Republic.

For instance, questions are being posed on how the party managed the aftermath of crises that arose from its last congresses across the nation.Even up till now, the crises generated by the last congresses are yet to be fully resolved. Investigation reveals that many party faithful across the country are still bitter over the style adopted by the Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC to handle the outcome of the congresses.

Some aggrieved members insist that the processes leading to tomorrow's convention was not only faulty, but that they also contradict the stipulations of the party's constitution on internal democracy, justice, fairness and equity.For instance, there are still unresolved constitutional issues in some states regarding the congresses, which the NWC overlooked and hastily swore in elected state chairmen.

Some of these parallel congresses include, Lagos, Kwara, Delta, Rivers, Ondo, Enugu, Kogi, Bayelsa, Oyo, and Ebonyi. Although, the incumbent National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi recently restated that the party had resolved all issues concerning the congresses and had also sworn in elected state chairmen in Abuja, he failed however, to give details of what were done to calm frayed nerves.Of particular note are states like Lagos, where the alternate state chairman, Fouad Oki, is laying strong claim to the illegality and unconstitutionality of the entire process, which he said was flagrantly violated.

Also in Oyo, nothing concrete had been done to address the grievances of the faction led by the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu and Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Although the party had recognized the governor's faction and would ultimately allow the delegates from Ajimobi's camp to participate in the convention, the 'bad blood' from the congress in the state may ultimately work against the party in the next governorship election unless some crucial steps are taken.

A party faithful, who spoke in confidence said with what has happened at the congress, APC violated all that it claims to stand for. "There is totally nothing different, between the ruling party and the PDP it has been criticising since it assumed power in last three years.While accusing President Buhari of compromise, the source said the president seems to have contradicted all he stood for at the beginning by bowing to the dictates of hawks, because of desperation to get second term.Then there is the fear that the apparent display of desperation by some APC leadership to impose their anointed candidates on the party before the next general elections, could wreak havoc on the internal cohesion of APC.

One other issue raised by Nigerians is that the shenanigans deployed by APC for the national convention, including wanton violation of the rule of law, freedom and human rights, could be a signal that the electoral umpire would not be muzzled to favour the ruling party in 2019 poll.Said a source: "This was how PDP manipulating internal politics, a reflection of what held the nation down for 16 years. It determined the characters that were elected into the party's executives and consequently, the type of candidates the party subsequently presented for elections. That was part of the reasons governance was held hostage for years, because of cases before Election Tribunals."

The source said Nigerians should take the internal politics of APC very serious, as it is a sure reflection of what to expect in the polity in future.Concerns were also raised against the convention, particularly why the party allowed some aspirants to purchase forms, only to deny them screening, because President Buhari merely indicated interest to support Oshiomhole emerge as the next national chairman.

Why the sudden change by President Buhari, who was claimed he has no interest in internal politics of the party? Why did the party deliberately cleared the way for Oshiomhole at the expense of other national chairmanship hopefuls even the incumbent, Odigie-Oyegun, who was allegedly pressurized to drop his reelection ambition?Juxtaposing these factors with others, a group, Good Governance Initiative (GGI) and the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum recently raised the alarm that with the way things are going within the ruling party, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, should not be allowed to conduct the 2019 polls.While the Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Forum expressed lack of confidence in Yakubu, GGI insisted that the 2019 election would not be free and fair with the incumbent INEC boss in charge.

Senator representing Kaduna Central on the platform of APC, Shehu Sani in his view also condemned his party accusing it of doing similar things it has always criticised PDP for.Sani lamented that there was never a congress in Kaduna and other states, saying his supporters of the government were simply arranged to give it a stamp of approval in the name of affirmation. The Senator, who has been having a running political battle with his state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, said APC was practicing what it had always condemned the opposition PDP for in the past.

Another member of the party and former member of the House of Representatives, Abdurraham Terab told The Guardian, yesterday, that the purported 'Unity list' being bandied ahead of the convention would not change anything.Terab maintained that the so-called unity list comprising people to be imposed by few governors, who have special interest, cannot change anything.Abdu who is vying for the office of the national secretary said that the alleged unity list is anti democratic and should be rejected by all lovers of democracy.

According to him, "It is natural for people to push for the success of their own interest because, politics is all about interest. "There are many other lists flying around; these lists were produced by various interest groups within the party. It should however be noted that the over 7000 delegates and their principals have agenda they wish to push through tomorrow.

Convention aftermath and implications on 2019

Speaking on how the APC convention will pan out tomorrow, Director General of Voice of Nigeria and chieftain of APC, Chief Osita Okechukwu, said the exercise would be hitch-free. He expressed optimism that the party will win 2019 presidential election, despite opposition parties' plans and talks about alliances and coalitions."Opposition has lost focus and base. There is no much threat by the opposition. APC will emerge victorious in 2019 polls. We will settle our little differences before the election and become too strong for opposition to conquer."

But, one of President Buhari's estranged political allies, Alhaji Buba Galadimma was of the view that APC will be defeated by the coalition of political parties in 2019. In his remark, Galadimma told The Guardian that APC would be defeated by coalitions of political parties, which have been meeting and strategising."Coalitions of political parties are talking and reaching agreement to work together in 2019 to defeat APC. APC government is a total failure and majority of Nigerians are fed up with Buhari's government," Galadimma said.

Yet, a former minister of Health and chieftain of PDP, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that close to the elections, the coalition of political parties would collapse their structures and unite to work under one party structure. He said the essence of the ongoing alliances is to create awareness and mobilise people on the way forward.Responding to inquiry of a possible merger of political parties before 2019 elections, Chief Press Secretary to electoralumpire, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi told The Guardian, yesterday, that there is no merger application by political parties now, saying that parties can still submit applications, but such must be submitted 90 days before the election.

But, in his remarks, national chairman of United Peoples Party, (UPP) Chekwas Okorie said that merger may not be possible again, considering that current electoral act provides that political parties seeking to merge must give INEC mandatory 90 days notice.

According to Okorie, "Section 84 of the Electoral Act stipulates as follows-

(1) Any two or more registered political parties may merge on approval merger of political parties by the Commission, following a formal request presented to the Commission by the political parties for that purpose.

(2) Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the Commission 90 days' notice of their intention to do, so before a general election.

(3) The written request for merger shall be sent to the Chairman of the Commission and shall be signed jointly by the National Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer for the time being of the different political parties proposing the merger and shall be accompanied by- (a) a special resolution passed by the national convention of each of the political parties proposing to merge, approving the merger; (b) the proposed full name and acronym, constitution, manifesto, symbol or logo of the party together with the addresses of the national office of the party resulting from the merger; and (c) evidence of payment of administrative costs of NlOO, OOO or as may be fixed from time to time by an Act of the National Assembly.

(4) Where the request for a proposed merger is approved, the Commission shall withdraw and cancel the certificates of registration of all the political parties opting for the merger and substitute a single certificate of registration in the name of the party resulting from the merger."

He said: "This and other mandatory requirements of the law constitute major constraints to the consummation of a successful merger before the month of August 2018 when formal activities by political parties in preparation for the 2019 general elections will commence and end in October.

"I had long predicated that pre-2019 general elections would witness realignment of political forces in the form of coalition/alliances. This is what is going on right now. Soon some of these collaborations will be presented to members of the political parties that have concluded their Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU).

"The fact that quite a good number of political parties have opted for alliances/ coalitions principally to adopt common presidential candidates has already reduced the number of political parties that will sponsor presidential candidates in 2019. "However, INEC that registered 68 political parties ought to prepare itself for the possibility of each party exercising their right to sponsor presidential and other candidates to contest the 2019 general election with or without the existence of coalitions," he said.

Also speaking to The Guardian on the issue, a professor of political science, Mr. Joe Ogna, said that coalitions/alliances among political parties would not be enough to rout APC in the election. He said in political alliances, parties are not always committed like in merger arrangement, where it is obvious to all and sundry that they are on one platform.

"The truth is that with level of exposure and quest for materialism among the political class, coalitions and alliances cannot effectively work. Parties involved are bound to falter one way or the other, thereby paving way for the party in power to have its way in the elections. The defeat of PDP in 2015 was made possible majorly because of the merger of three major opposition parties with structures on ground.

"How many of the 68 registered political parties have offices in all the states, talk less of having structures on ground. Apart from APC, PDP, APGA, others are briefcase parties. Of what effect will alliances among such parties have on the polity? Majority of them will pull out of the alliances at the last minute to support the ruling party. Nigerians should not be deceived with the so-called coalitions and alliances ahead of 2019. PDP would have provided a platform to serve as a rallying point for merger before now. It has the capacity, but it seems its leaders lack the vision," Ogna said.

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