Time to rework APC by Alabi Williams
The fortunes of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have plummeted seriously since the party won the 2015 presidential election. The party had drifted aimlessly for three years, and some of us waited for the time someone will halt the drift.
That nearly happened last week, when President Buhari, as the foremost leader of the party told his party men to take another look at the contentious tenure elongation that was gratuitously handed to the John Odigie-Oyegun-led national executive, as well as others in the states and local governments.
On February 27, at the end of its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, the party, without due consultations suddenly extended the tenure of its National Working Committee (NWC), by one year.
A gleeful Yahaya Bello, the Kogi State Governor was the one who broke the news.
As far as he and others who sought to profit unduly from the act were concerned, it was a done deal.
But the Governor of Zamfara State, who is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Abdulaziz Yari, reminded those who bothered to listen that such extension could be effective only after an amendment of the party’s Constitution, which only a National Convention of the party could engineer.
To further explain his understanding of the process of amending the party’s Constitution, Yari argued: “The process of amending the constitution is also expressly provided in Article 30 sub section 2, which state; Notice of any proposed amendment by any member or organ of the party shall be given to the National Secretariat at least 14 days before the date of the National Convention.
The notice shall be in writing, shall contain a clear statement of the proposed amendment and reasons for it.”
But all that seemed to fall on deaf ears, as Odigie-Oyegun, exulting in his escape was to rationalize the ‘gift’ to be in the best interest of the party.
According to him, the time was too short between now and the 2019 elections to hold an elective convention. He also cited the numerous crises in the party as not recommending a convention, which may throw up fresh crisis.
Hear him: “He said: I think the reason for not wanting to hold some of these elective congresses this year is very clear. We have a lot of work to do during this one year and each one has the potential of causing a crisis.
That has always been once there is an election; it always creates its own issues or the party felt some of these challenges could be deferred for one year for the serious task before us, which is the national election.”
That was perfect alibi to avoid presenting himself for an election. He found willing conspirators among the camp of governors who equally want to try their luck for a second term.
These are the same characters who have worked round the clock to hold President Buhari hostage with their ‘death do us part’ fawning. They have worked extra hard to give Mr. President the fraudulent impression that they love him more than he loves himself.
So, what they do every Friday, this camp of governors is to camp around the President during Friday prayers in Abuja, as if there are no mosques in their state capitals.
Thereafter, they crowd around newsmen to pledge their undying loyalty to Buhari, and to task him despite age to have another go at 2019.
These governors are young enough to be grandsons of Mr. President. Anyone who has a grandfather at home should know that at such vulnerable age, you do not urge them to undertake arduous tasks, like running for office of president.
They do not bother about our recent history, when Buhari had to abandon work for months to take care of his health in London.
What these governors are doing is to tie their electoral fortune to that of Buhari, so that when they gain foothold of their party’s leadership both at Abuja and in their states, their primary elections would be assured.
They would thus use the Buhari bandwagon to contest their governorships. That is their game plan. They thought they had perfected the deal.
But last Tuesday, Buhari shocked the plotters and disrupted their design to hijack the party, when he gave a candid opinion on the tenure extension controversy.
Even though Buhari was at the previous meeting when the decision to give the Oyegun team another lifeline of 12 months was supposedly taken, the man said he went home and consulted legal opinion, and was advised that tenure extension as an idea is laced with legal mines.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the party held a national caucus meeting at the Presidential Villa, and it was all smiles. Nobody thought the President’s bombshell would descend the following day.
Citing constitutional breach Buhari said: “As we all know a motion was moved at the last National Executive Committee meeting of February 27 to the effect when the tenure of the current executives expires in June this year, they should be allowed to continue for one year.
“On my own part, I have taken time to review and seek advice on the resolution and what I found is that it contravenes both our party’s Constitution and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
That was the bombshell. President Buhari cited Article 13 of the APC constitution, which provides for current principal office holders to resign one month if they wish to re-contest. He therefore advised the party to work towards fresh election for its executive officers at the different levels.
Questions to ask are; where Buhari got the courage to so brutally expose the Oyegun-led leadership that was thought to have his ears; is this an original Buhari plot or he was acting proxy for some forces in the party; what about his plan for 2019, has he abandoned it and ready to sacrifice himself and those who were bent on benefiting unduly from holding the party down?
This is the first time Buhari would be so forceful and forthcoming on party matters. He had been aloof, when he refused to interfere in the choice of principal officers in the National Assembly at the onset.
He seemed not to interfere when Kogi needed fixing during the governorship tussle between James Faleke and Yahaya Audu.
He seemed to abandon matters during the contentious governorship primary of the party in Ondo, which pitched the Oyegun NEC against Bola Tinubu, foremost party leader and strategist.
From one major controversy to the other, the APC was left for Oyegun to manage; yet he could not bring warring parties to a round-table settlement.
Instead, some governors of the party became emboldened, as if exploiting the lax leadership at the centre to entrench their interests.
Acting in concert, their joker was to hold the President and the party hostage with the promise of second term.
That Buhari could shrug off that temptation is commendable. Does that mean he is no longer interested in 2019? However it turns out, the interest of the party should be protected.
The era of ungodly romance between the executive and party leaders should be discouraged.
If we are able to discourage it at the national, efforts should be made to discourage it at the states. Party primaries, whether an incumbent is interested in 2019 or not should be thrown open.
The party should assert itself and discourage governors and other interlopers from hijacking its authority. Elected officers should demonstrate courage and allow party organs to function without criminal interference.
This is what observers expect of APC and its promise to do things differently.
This is what many expected of Odigie-Oyegun, a grand father with a great wealth of experience in public service. But he did not rise to the occasion.
How he manages the situation he has on his hands will be the legacy history will record for him.
On his part, will Buhari maintain his position and insist on due process on all matters pertaining to party management, as well as weigh all options regarding his fitness for 2019? We are watching!