Following President Muhammadu Buhari's intervention, some founders and pillars of the All Progressives Congress, APC, have returned to the trenches to restrategise and plot fresh plans to realise their 2023 political quests.
Notable leaders of the party considered to be posturing for 2023 include Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi; Kaduna governor, Nasir el-Rufai; and Ekiti governor, Kayode Fayemi among others.
President Buhari, last week, backed the decision of factional acting National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Giadom, to hold an emergency National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting.
At the NEC meeting held at the Presidential Villa, members, on the suggestion of President Buhari, dissolved the National Working Committee, NWC, and appointed a caretaker/convention planning committee headed by Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, with Senator John James Akpanudoedehe as secretary.
The main faction of the NWC, which enjoyed the support of 18 members, was led by late Senator Abiola Ajimobi. While ill, and till he died, National Vice Chairman, South-South, Ntufam Hilliard Eta stood in for him.
The faction enjoyed the backing of suspended National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Thus, some observers saw the dissolution of the NWC as targeted against Tinubu and his 2023 presidential ambition. The Presidency and Governor Buni dismissed this insinuation as balderdash and insisted that the sack of the NWC was to save the APC from implosion.
Indeed, Vanguard checks showed that the party, before the dissolution, was facing 11 law suits in various courts.
Following the dissolution, some members of the NWC, who described the NEC as illegal contemplated challenging the decision in court but later changed their minds over what a source attributed to: "We don't want to be seen to be challenging the President's decision."
Indeed, Tinubu at the weekend said President Buhari had spoken "and we accept his decisions" just as he said he had not made any decision regarding 2023 because "the concerns of this hour are momentous enough."
In like manner, Oshiomhole said he has taken the dissolution of the NWC in good faith and reassured the President that his confidence in his leadership remained unshaken. A stalwart of the APC said the dissolution of the NWC has brought forward a battle that would have been fought in 2022 when Oshiomhole's tenure would have ended.
How Oshiomhole's mistakes hurt his allies
"Oshiomhole made many avoidable mistakes that have caused a setback to those depending on him to prosecute their 2023 aspirations. Although his tenure would have ended before the 2023 election but he would have had a hand in producing his successor.
"Now, that opportunity has been lost, those depending on him will fight hard to have a hand in producing the next NWC, and it is not going to be easy," the source said.
The source projected that the national chairmanship will still go the South-South, though the APC no longer has a foot hold in the oil-rich region, following the defection of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State to the PDP.
According the source, the South-West will not accept the chairmanship slot because its leaders are interested in the presidency. In like manner, the source said the North does not seem ready to relinquish power to the South in 2023 and may not accept the position.
Tinubu returns to drawing board
Regarding permutations for 2023, a top Tinubu supporter told Vanguard yesterday that "the dissolution calls for retrospection, going back to the drawing board and re-strategising for 2023. Our leader is an experienced politician. He knows the game. He also knows his onions. He was elected to the Senate in 1993 with over one million votes, the first person to be elected to the Senate with over one million votes.
"We still have more than two years to 2023. He cannot be seen to be fighting the Commander-in-Chief, though he would have loved Oshiomhole to serve out his tenure as APC chairman."
Fayemi, el-Rufai move to strengthen party
On the same count, the camps of Fayemi and el-Rufai have started reaching out to stakeholders on the way forward. A close aide of Governor Fayemi said the dissolution of the NWC was done in the interest of the party and "it is a welcome development" adding that the governor is now joining forces to make the APC strong and virile because "it is when the party is strong that you can realise your aspiration."
Why stakeholders moved against NWC - Amaechi loyalist
Also, a source loyal to the Amaechi tendencies in APC said: "At the inception of the APC, the agreement was that the CPC will control power, ACN will control the party, and n-PDP will control the legislature but now the CPC and ACN want to control all. This cannot be allowed to continue as we approach 2023."
Amaechi is one of biggest pillars of the APC in the South-South, given the fate of Oshiomhole. Others include Chief Timipre Sylva, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, and Senator Godswill Akpabio but Amaechi is said to be closest to President Buhari among the lot.
El-Rufai had no hand in Oshiomhole's ouster -- Abba
Governor el-Rufai is considered as one of those who played crucial roles in the sack of the NWC and is now backing efforts to reposition the APC ahead of the 2023 polls, where he is expected to go for the vice presidency or presidency, though he recently made case for power-shift to the South in 2023.
However, Alhaji Abdullahi Gambo Abba, a chieftain of the APC in Kaduna State, said since Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna had not publicly disclosed his intention or plans for 2023, it would not be credible for anyone to speak on that.
On the dissolution of the APC NWC, Abba, who had aspired for the Kaduna State House of Assembly to represent Kawo constituency in 2019, said there were many insinuations that some governors allegedly worked against Oshiomhole.
"Till date, I've not heard any governor or group of governors claim they had a hand in Oshiomhole's removal. It was just a party affair and calling names, including that of El-Rufai to have played any role, would be unfair," he said.
All eyes on Buni's committee
As it is, all eyes are on the caretaker committee over how it will navigate the sore spots in the party. This is one of the reasons, all eyes are on the Buni-led committee. Already, some members are laying land mines for the committee, saying Buni's appointment and swearing-in violated the APC constitution.
Make-up of caretaker committee
Essentially, the geo-political composition of the committee, to a large extent, reflects the legacy parties that fused to form the APC in 2013.
In February 2013, four legacy parties - Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, and Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, merged to form APC. They were joined in November 2023 by the n-PDP, a gathering of five Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governors, leaders and other stalwarts.
In November 2013, the APC announced a merger with the Abubakar Baraje-led faction of the PDP. Of the seven governors (G7) in the breakaway faction, five including Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Abdufatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) joined the APC.
Others bigwigs who left the PDP for APC were former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Nasir el Rufai, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari; former PDP vice-chairman, Sam Jaja; Timipre Sylva, former House of Representatives speaker, Aminu Tambuwal and former Kwara governor, Bukola Saraki.
The APC, with Buhari as presidential candidate, went on to win the 2015 election and defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP. It was the first time an incumbent president would lose a re-election in Nigeria.
However, midway into its first term, most of the n-PDP members alleged marginalization and returned to the PDP. In this crowd are Atiku Abubakar, Saraki, Tambuwal, and Dino Melaye among others,
Currently, most of the legacy parties are no longer in reckoning in the affairs of the APC. The faction of APGA led by Chief Rochas Okorocha appears annihilated in the APC. The ANPP team led by George Moghalu seems to be on the fringes of activities. The n-PDP also appears decimated with Amaechi, and Sylva among others remaining as survivals.
Thus, the ACN and CPC wing are the strongest arms remaining. While the n-PDP provided a sizeable chunk of the financial war-chest for the 2015 election, the CPC contributed voting strength and what has been described as "integrity." The ACN anchored by Tinubu also contributed men and material to the electoral onslaught. Before the NWC dissolution, the CPC and ACN wings were alleged to have cornered most of the juicy slots and sidelined the others, which necessitated the fight-back from the other camps.
13-man caretaker committee make-up
The make up of the 13-man caretaker committee shows a mix of persons from the legacy parties. The chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe came from the ANPP camp. He served as Yobe State chairman of the ANPP before the APC merger.
The secretary, Senator Akpanudoedehe came from the ACN camp. He was ACN governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom in 2011.
Governor Isiaka Oyetola is from ACN, Senator Ken Nnamani came from the PDP, which he left on February 6, 2016 and went into political sabbatical. He joined APC in January 2017 and is considered a loyalist of President Buhari
Chief David Lyon, the APC 2019 governorship candidate in Bayelsa came from the PDP. He defected to the APC in 2015.
Hon. Ismail Ahmed, APC Youth Reps, was a member of the CPC.
Other members of the caretaker committee are Mrs Stella Okorete, Governor Sani Bello of Niger, Dr James Lalu, Hon. Akinyemi Olajide, Abba Ari, Professor Tahir Mamman and Senator Abubakar Yusuf.
Although a chunk of the appointees are seen as loyalists of Tinubu and President Buhari, no fewer than five of them are said to be favourably disposed to Governors El-Rufai (Kaduna) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).
Buni's appointment violates APC constitution
Meanwhile, as a fall-back position, some leaders of the party, who have decided to sheathe their litigation swords, are laying land-mines for the Buni committee on the grounds that his appointment violates the APC constitution which forbids officers of the party from holding any executive position in government.
Section four, article 17 of the APC constitution reads: "No officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently."
Again, they contend that Buni should have been sworn-in by an officer of the APC and not the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami as provided by Article 29 of the party's constitution
The section reads: "Every officer elected or appointed as an officer of the Party shall subscribe to the Oath of Office as provided in Schedule II to this Constitution before an appropriate Principal Officer of the Party as may be approved by the National Working Committee."
Responding to the legality of his swearing-in of Buni, the Justice Minister reportedly said he could swear-in people at government and party levels.