Done with the presidential and National Assembly elections in which it returned its presidential candidate and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) faces a crucial test on Saturday in the gubernatorial and State Assembly poll. Not minding the divisions in the states, APC chieftains maintained unanimity in their support for the president's election, a development that must have helped the party to overcome the stiff challenge posed by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But on Saturday the divisions within the party, which trailed its congresses and convention might prove its undoing. The Guardian has tried to examine the structure of the ruling party as it faces the grassroots in the final tranche of the 2019 general election.
Ogun: Too close for comfort
SINCE the governorship primary of All Progressives Congress in Ogun State (APC) that threw up Dapo Abiodun, the party has been tottering from one crisis to the other, so much so that it may be consumed in the forthcoming governorship and State Assembly polls. The controversial emergence of Abiodun against governor Ibikunle Amosun's preferred candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, gave birth to the Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
Akinlade, along with his other loyalists, had turned down all entreaties and dumped APC for APM, while his principal remained in the ruling party and even secured Abeokuta central Senatorial District-seat.
Although Amosun won the Senatorial contest by defeating his main challenger and former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Titi Oseni of the ADC, his insistence on imposing Akinlade as his successor in clear disobedience to the party's position, coupled with his ignoble role in the violence that broke out at the party's presidential rally in Abeokuta, has earned him suspension from APC leadership.
Rising from a meeting of its National Working Committee (NWC) presided over by the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the party wielded the big stick against Amosun. "The party reviewed the serial anti-party activities of the concerned individuals before and during the last presidential and National Assembly elections in their respective states and resolved to enforce party discipline in line with our constitution."The NWC noted how the suspended members have continued to campaign openly for other parties and candidates that are unknown to our great party, even while they have constituted themselves into opposition to APC candidates in their respective states.
"Importantly, the NWC is closely monitoring the activities of our members across the country, and particularly, in the states these suspended members belong to."We wish to reiterate that any member of our party who takes any action solely or in line with the directives of the suspended members to undermine our party's candidates in the coming governorship and House of Assembly elections would face disciplinary actions.
"Consequently, the NWC calls on our members to disregard directives and actions of the suspended individuals and work assiduously to ensure the election of all and only APC candidates in the forthcoming governorship and state assembly elections," the party said in a statement.
While president Mohammadu Buhari, Amosun alongside two other APC candidates, Tolu Odebiyi and Lekan Mustapha won in the last election, Saturday's governorship and House of Assembly election may not be such an easy ride for the APC in the State.The contest is going to be a clear fight among four leading candidates, Abiodun who relies heavily on federal might, Akinlade, whose hope lies in the state apparatus and power of incumbency; either of the two Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gladiators, the philanthrophic Buruji Kashamu or a member of the House of Representatives, Ladi Adebutu who relies on money to woo the electorate and swing the votes in their favour, and Gboyega Nasir Isiaka of African Democratic Congress (ADC) said to be former President Olusegun Obasanjo's favoured candidate.
But if results of recently held presidential and National Assembly polls in Ogun State are anything to go by, then Amosun may not succeed in the succession battle. While the APC cleared the three Senatorial seats, the party won six of the nine House of Representatives seats, leaving PDP, ADC and APM with one each.Already, The Guardian learnt that Abiodun's faction is already poaching PDP members from both Kashamu and Adebutu's factions to consolidate its hold on the state. From Yewa, which is the stronghold of Isiaka and Akinlade, APC is in talks with former deputy governor, Salmot Badru, Chief Iyabo Apanpa and the Director General of Adebutu's campaign organisation, Waliu Taiwo.
And from Ogun Central, the APC leadership, led by former governor Olusegun Osoba has reached out to Oseni and they are working together to deliver the state to the APC in Saturday's polls.In the same vein, the ADC Senatorial candidate from Ogun East in the last election, Deji Ashiru has aligned with APC and has formally branded all his campaign vehicles in APC colour and logo.
A political analyst who pleaded anonymity said the only option for Ogun West to win the governorship election in the state is for the two gladiators from the zone to work together.According to him, "As things stand in the state at the moment, the only option for Yewa to win the forthcoming governorship election is to prevail on the two candidates to work together. Let one step down for the other. I know Amosun may not allow his candidate to step down but Isiaka may agree. Let them go to a round table to discuss on the way forward. If the two decides to go to the polls separately, there's no way any of them can win.
Already, APC is reaching out to PDP and ADC members and many of them have agreed to work for Abiodun."With the realignments currently going on across party divides, APC may not have a problem controlling the state legislature. A party chieftain who spoke on the development said, "If we go by the voting pattern of last Saturday's presidential and National Assembly elections, the APC will win not less than 20 of the 26 seats in the House.
"Yoruba do not vote for new parties. ADC and APM are relatively new; they may not really make a good showing. Look at what happened to former Governor Rashidi Ladoja's Accord Party (AP) in Oyo; despite Ladoja's popularity at the time, he still did not win. "
The source added that areas such as Imeko, Ijebu North, Waterside, Ipokia and Abeokuta might be shared between APM and PDP.
Oyo: APC, PDP 'swallow' others
THE result of presidential and National Assembly elections has not only changed political calculations in Oyo State but forced political parties to go into coalition ahead of the governorship and State House of Assembly elections holding this weekend. Against all expectations, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) trounced the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the presidential election, though with a slim margin, but the failure of Governor Abiola Ajimobi to win his senatorial election further made the party vulnerable.
The PDP scored 366,690 while APC polled 365,229 in the keenly contested presidential election. With the new development, next weekend's governorship election is going to be a struggle battle between the APC and PDP. But the trend of the coalition did not surprise many because some of these governorship candidates went back to political parties they left in annoyance when things were not going their ways.
For instance, former governor Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) to African Democratic Party (ADP) at the eve of the primaries. He accused Governor Abiola Ajimobi of imposing candidates on the party, but he has now dropped his governorship ambition to form a coalition with the APC to work for the victory of Chief Adebayo Adelabu.
In the same vein, former Governor Rasheed Ladoja who also dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for African Democratic Congress (ADC) and later went to Zenith Labour Parry (ZLP) is currently in coalition with his estranged PDP and promised to ensure Engr Seyi Makinde emerges winner of the governorship election.
But the most surprising of all these coalitions and alliances was the maverick moves of Akala-Alao, who was the first to make moves for the coalition against the APC. The former governor had at different fora said he was not desperate to become a governor but his ambition was to stop the APC from continuing to occupy the Government House. Indeed, he was the convener of the opposition parties' meeting against the ruling APC.
But his anti-APC changed immediately he met the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who sealed the deal for Akala's return to the APC. Although he said he would remain in ADP, he promised to work for APC in the governorship election.His words: "Following the outcome of the just concluded presidential and national assembly elections, I, Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, Oyo State 2019 Action Democratic Party (ADP), have decided to form an alliance with the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adebayo Adekola Adelabu, ahead of the March 9th Governorship and state House of Assembly Elections in the state. However, all the ADP candidates for the House of Assembly seats will go to the elections with my maximum support.
"It is widely known that I initiated alliance talks with the main opposition parties in Oyo State vis-a-vis my great party - ADP, ADC, the PDP and ZLP."My boss, Senator Rashid Adewolu Ladoja, is a mediator. Meanwhile, during the alliance process, I received an emergency call from the presidency. In the meeting with Presidency, I was prevailed upon to work for APC. My response was that I should be given 48 hours to consult with my people, the opposition parties alliance committee as well as the teeming members, the leaders and the stakeholders of my great party, ADP.
"On resumption to the alliance meeting, Ladoja told me point blank in the presence of other governorship candidates that I was not in consideration for governorship due to my place of birth - Ogbomoso. According to him, 'we need an Ibadan man to slug it out with another Ibadan man, which is Bayo Adelabu.' With the statement, my geographical place of birth is the only crime I committed.
"Since I've been unfairly and technically booted out of the alliance talks, I consulted with my party stakeholders and supporters whose support has brought me this far. Having realised that my 2019 governorship agenda cannot be realised in isolation based on the present situation, the only option remaining for me is to form an alliance with Mr. Bayo Adelabu of APC."He maintained that Adelabu "is ready to work with ADP to adopt and implement the core values of our party and my manifesto," adding that the presidency approached him for an alliance based on their performance and grassroots network not only in Ogbomoso but also in Ibadan, Ibarapa, Oke-Ogun and Oyo.
"Our core values and philosophies as indicated in our ADP manifestos, 'Rescue Mission Agenda' have been adopted by Adelabu with the presidency as witness. I have therefore as a candidate of ADP, accepted to support Adelabu of APC for victory and therefore form a coalition government. My solemn gratitude goes to our members, state and national leaders of ADP for the ample opportunity given to me to lead and fly the flag of the party. Though my decision is a very tough one, it is for the progress of Oyo State."
But ADC and ZLP on Monday concluded their deal with PDP and adopted Makinde, as their governorship candidate. The Directors-General of their respective campaign organizations involved in the coalition confirmed the decision on Monday, saying that details would be provided later.It was gathered that a formal announcement and unveiling of the coalition would be made on Tuesday at a press conference. With the ADC and ZLP, the number of opposition parties in the coalition are now officially five with the inclusion of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the PDP. The agreement was expected to have been reached on Saturday but ADC and ZLP were said to still be in consultation with their party stakeholders
Enugu: Shifting allegiances, leadership crisis
THE hope that the coming together of members of Enugu State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) to vote President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections would have served as a morale booster to the party into winning an election for the first time in the state this year is fast disappearing.The crisis that has permeated the state chapter leaves no hope that the party will make an impact in the governorship and State Assembly elections this week. In fact, there are tendencies that Enugu APC may be heading towards its worst defeat in elections conducted in the state since its inception should the March 9 elections hold this weekend.
This is because, while its major opponent in the election, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which produced the incumbent administration of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has embarked on vigorous campaigns since the conclusion of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, APC Enugu chapter appears not to have woken up from its hangover.There are no campaigns by the party going on anywhere in the state. PDP members and candidates are meeting regularly in their wards and campaign offices to fine-tune strategies that could enable them coast to victory. There is increased intensity in the campaign jingles for vote for the party. The candidates, who emerged in the last elections, have teamed up with those running on March 9 to campaign.
This is not so with the APC. Since the declaration of the results of Presidential and National Assembly elections, most of the candidates who participated and lost in the process have not returned to the state. Sources said its party office on GRA, Enugu, has not opened since the concluded elections.
Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) and one of the prominent leaders of the party in the state, Osita Okechukwu, who apparently could not stomach the development, had on Sunday raised alarm over the governorship campaigns of the party.He had said while reacting to a question from a reporter: "Please help me to inform Comrade Oshiohmole that there is no vigorous campaign going on in Enugu by Senator Ayogu Eze. This information is important because he may accuse me unduly if APC loses. For when his darling candidate, Juliet Ibekaku Nwangwu lost the senatorial seat he allocated to her, he made me the scapegoat.
"Little did Comrade agree that Juliet is a dark horse and to compound matters, she did not campaign vigorously. She hoped to use federal might to write results, not reckoning with the ubiquitous card reader. This assumption made her to lose in Egede her ward and the remaining 80 wards of Enugu West Senatorial District".
Whatever may be happening in Enugu APC is as a result of the crisis that erupted in the party almost immediately after its merger. Presently, there are two factions with fully functional executives in the state. While one of the factions, led by Dr. Ben Nwoye, occupies the state secretariat, the other, led by Deacon Okey Ogbodo, meets at his residence. Each of the factions also produced candidates for the 2019 general elections at all levels. There are matters in court over the authentic chapter as well as litigations over rightful candidates that should stand in elections for the party. Confusion has become the epicenter of activities in the party.
The last membership drive in which several aggrieved members of PDP joined the party in the state appeared to be the last straw that broke the camel's back. Rather than help APC recover from its slumber, the registration which the members saw as an indication that the "people have accepted the party" became its albatross.The big names such as former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former governor, Sullivan Chime, former Speaker Eugene Odo, Senator Ayogu Eze, Emperor Baywood Ibe and the rest of them came with their members and overwhelmed the founding members.
Investigations indicated that this deepened the crisis based on the interest of the 'new' members which was anchored on using APC to realise their political ambition and those of their cronies in the 2019 elections. This manifested in the tickets of the party for the various elective positions in the 2019 general elections. About 99 per cent of those who secured the tickets are former members of PDP who joined the party out of protest.
Senator Eze, who is one of the governorship candidates of the party in the state, had everything going for him when he joined the party late last year in his quest to realise his ambition. The national and state machineries were in his favour to emerge the governorship candidate of the party and this dwarfed the efforts of many others, who indicated interest for the position.Determined to ensure his emergence, the primaries conducted in the state for the purpose, ended in his favour. This did not go down well with other contestants, who held parallel primaries. While other protests that arose from the exercise were contained, that of George Ogara, who emerged from the primary held by the Ogbodo faction refused to be go away.
Ogara, a lawyer had gone to court. A few days to the botched Presidential and National Assembly elections, the court had given a verdict that he "is the rightful candidate of the party for the governorship election" and not Senator Eze. It then directed INEC and the party to remove Eze's name and replace it with that of Ogara, a judgment which the party refused to abide by on the ground that it (party) does not know Ogara and that it had appealed against it.
As it is, there is confusion over the actual governorship candidate of APC in Enugu State between Eze and Ogara. Eze's campaign posters are everywhere in the state; the same for Ogara. Eze, sources said, could not campaign because of the court judgment which has not been vacated, though he appealed against. Ogara, on the other hand, cannot campaign because the party has denied him. His name is not on the ballot for the election because the party has refused to recognise him and submit his name.A source told The Guardian that supporters of the contending candidates would not want to "waste their votes" on wasteful project.
Chief Umeh Jeremiah, a chieftain of the party, said: "I don't see us making headway with the level of acrimony and confusion we are into at the moment. I am grateful. However. to God that we won the presidential election. For the March governorship election, there is no hope."APC had variously hinted of using the 2019 elections to make inroad into Enugu politics. In fact, in the various meetings of party members, their leaders had served "a quit order on Ugwuanyi" and regarded him as the "last PDP member that should occupy the Lion Building in the state."
Last month, the Federal High Court in Enugu ruled in a suit filed by Okey Ogbodo that the congress that brought Nwoye into office did not follow the stipulations and guidelines of the party. It stated that Nwoye was not qualified to contest in the state congress. It, however, refused to pronounce Ogbodo as the state chairman of the party as well as refused to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Nwoye as the state chairman of the party.
In the same vein, the party's senatorial candidate for Enugu East, Lawrence Eze, had his dreams thwarted A few days into the election when the Federal High Court ruled that he was not the rightful candidate for the election. The court awarded the ticket to Mrs. Adaku Ogbu-Aguocha, who never campaigned anywhere until the election was over. All these have combined to dwarf the fortunes of APC in Enugu State and would indeed impede its chances in the March 9 elections.
LAGOS: Anxiety, suspicion reign
TENSION is mounting in the camp of the ruling APC in Lagos State ahead of the gubernatorial election following the poor outing of the party in the February 23 presidential election in which it struggled to defeat PDP with 792,460 to 632, 327, a margin of 106,133 vote differences.
This was in spite the fact that Lagos APC boasted that over 1.9 million party members voted for President Buhari in the direct primary that was conducted last year, with not less than 970,851 voting for its standard bearer in the coming governorship election, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and 72, 901 voting for the incumbent governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode in the governorship primary it held on October 2 2018. The sum total of votes that the party recorded in the governorship primary was 943,752.One of the factors challenging the leadership of Lagos APC is, what could have happened to the 1.9 million and the 943,752 party members they were able to mobilise for Buhari, Sanwo-Olu and Ambode during the presidential and governorship primaries less than six months ago? If the votes APC got in the presidential election held last Saturday are deducted from the 1.9 million it mobilised for Buhari in the presidential primary, a surplus of over 900,000 members of the party must have refused to participate in the election held last Saturday. This is a serious challenge for the party or perhaps the figures it reeled out in the primaries were fictitious and were targeted towards rigging the main election.
The development must have led to the series of meetings held by the party leadership since Sunday at the instance of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who has been trying to bring together all the factions in the party to work as a team before Saturday. For instance, an insider in the party told The Guardian that the chances of APC defeating PDP gubernatorial candidate, Jimi Agbaje, is a 50-50 chance situation judging from what happened two Saturdays ago.
For the first time since 2015, when APC won at the federal level, the likes of erstwhile National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, appeared in Tinubu's residence in Ikoyi where the likes of Ambode, Sanwo-Olu and other crucial members were present. Another strategic meeting is slated to hold today.In a similar vein, Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule and the party's leaders in Ojo Local Government Area also moved to close ranks ahead of the election on Saturday. The leaders took the strategic decision at an emergency stakeholders meeting held in Iba town, Iba LCDA, where the results of the Presidential and National Assembly polls in the area were reviewed.
They lamented the poor turn out of members in the area during the polls, stressing that everything would be put in place to ensure a better outcome in the forthcoming elections. Adebule, who met with APC stalwarts comprising G39, APC Executives, representatives of market men and women, APC Youths, appealed to the stakeholders to work for the success of the party in Saturday's poll.
While speaking with journalists after meeting, the deputy governor said it was important for people to consider the future of their children and the development of their communities far above other selfish interests while making political decisions. Expressing worry over the performance of the party in the last elections, she stated that election period is not the time that some party members to abandon their party for any reason whatsoever.She told journalist that all stakeholders in the area have resolved to forge ahead and work harder to ensure that they deliver all the polling units in the area to the party's candidate.
According to her, "We are now going back to the drawing board because we don't want to make the same mistake we made in the last elections. Our people did not come out as expected, which gave our opposition an upper hand but this time around, we have charged ourselves and we will not allow anything to chance."
IF there is anything that stands to favour Agbaje on Saturday, it is the non-indigene factor, mainly the Igbo voters that appear to hold the key. This is apart from the fact that he may also enjoy the support of Lagos elite who, although are minority voters, majority of them appear to be fed up with the political excesses of Tinubu, who has been in control of Lagos politics since 1999.