The All Progressives Congress (APC)’s convention has come and gone leaving in its trail bitterness and discontentments, requiring a special political dexterity to handle.
The emergence of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led executive has obviously polarized the ranks of the ‘juggernaults’ in the legacy party. While some camps have been perceived to have triumphed and are singing eureka, others have been confined to sulk and secretly lick their wounds.
The bitterness which followed the convention and its attendant consequences on the unity and cohesion of the party are expected to be seen as events unfold in the polity.
Prior to the convention, tension was raised to high heavens with several forces and interest groups holding tenaciously to their positions and candidates, especially for the exalted position of the party’s National chairman. The reason for this is however understandable. Whichever group produces the leadership, it is trite politically, has an advantage in the control of the party’s machineries and stands a better chance to influence who gets what in the party.
It is to this effect that contestants for the position are being sponsored by entrenched interests ahead of the convention and the intrigues and political gimmicks which came into play ahead of the congress only attested to the importance attached to the leadership positions in the party.
For instance, the candidature of the the former Bayelsa state governor, Chief Timipre Silva, has the backings of the governors on the platform of the party. It is evident that those governors on the platform of the opposition APC, like in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have enormous influence and control over the structures of the party in their states as they remain the gate-keepers. To this extent, Silva had the support of his colleagues, himself being a former governor in whom they feel they could invest their trust.
Chief Tom Ikimi, who played a prominent role in the merger of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which metamorphosed into the legacy party, was also propped up for the Chairmanship position by some interest group headed by the former Borno state governor, Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff (SAS).
This group, according to source within the party, was plotting to gain the control of the party in order to insulate its leadership from the manipulations of certain founding fathers of the party and influence the eventual emergence of whoever becomes the Presidential flag-bearer of the APC by 2015. It was speculated that the sponsor of this Esan born politician once had an altercation with one of the party leaders and the dust of the rift has yet to settle before the APC convention last weekend. To some observers therefore, Ikimi’s candidature appeared to be vindictive against certain interests perceived to be dominating the affairs of the party.
The candidature of Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, was backed by the Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi, though this support could not be sustained as he was never mentioned as a contestant for the position of the Chairman of the party.
However, Jaja’s rejection was a contravention of an earlier agreement the party’s leadership had with Amaechi that he would be allowed to nominate candidate for the position of the party’s National Chairman. Amaechi, in a recent report, lamented that he was betrayed by the APC leadership having been earlier denied the opportunity to be nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate of the party. Now the Rivers state governor is crying out blue murder as he has obviously lost out in the power game in the party.
The candidature of Chief Oyegun, who eventually emerged the National chairman of the party, was allegedly sponsored by the party leaders but anchored by the former Lagos state governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Oyegun, a man of modest means, emerged the chairman of the mega opposition party after a lot of political gimmicks and horse trading which torpedoed the plots of the APC governors who had planned to ‘hijack’ the party machineries to foster their political objectives ahead of 2015 general elections.
At a time during the negotiations which made the other candidates to ‘step down’ for the consensus winner of the chairmanship seat, there were reports that the Tinubu’s group threatened to dump the party should Ikimi or Silva emerge the National chairman of the party. The Tiinubu group argued against Silva candidature on the ground that his ongoing matter with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) could be an excuse for the opposition to harangue him and hold the party to ransom.
The group posited that Ikimi was too self opinionated and stubborn and as such would be difficult to control by stakeholders in the party. His closeness to Sheriff was also seen as a negative as most of those pioneer leaders of the party who consummated the merger were not too sure of his loyalty to the party.
Although the world was made to believe that Ikimi stepped down for Oyegun to emerge the consensus chairman, events later proved to the contrary as the Edo politician insisted that he was actually schemed out of the contest. According to him, the entire convention was a sham with a premeditated result tailored to suit the interest of the super powers in the party.
The party stalwart, who could not stomach his frustration, indicated that he may soon be on his way out of the party. Although there are ongoing efforts to placate those who felt aggrieved at the outcome of the APC congress, there are indications that the political wounds inflicted on them may take a long time to heal.
For instance, the Rivers state governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), who has been playing pivotal roles in the propagation of the opposition party in the country, seemed to have lost out as himself and other four governors, who decamped from the PDP into the APC have little or no input in the new party Exco.
Governors , apart from Amaechi, who dumped the ruling party for the opposition include those of Adamawa Murtala Nyako; Kwara, Abdulfatah Ahmed; Sokoto, Aliyu Wamakko and Kano’s Rabi’u Kwankwaso. With this development, the purported goal of presenting one of them as the Presidential candidate of the APC by 2015 may be jeopardized unless certain permutations are redressed.
Signs that all was not well in the party came to the fore recently at the inauguration of the newly elected APC Exco when fourteen of the sixteen APC governors shun the occasion. This was quickly followed by a report credited to Ikimi accusing Tinubu of being a tyrant.
Meanwhile, the battle ahead seems to be more complex as the choice of the Presidential candidate for the legacy party would prove more Herculean. Formidable candidates, including former Head of State and pioneer leader of the party, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and the irrepressible politician, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, are leading the pack.
Atiku, like Amaechi, must have been promised certain position before he would agree to dump the PDP for the APC, but the treatment meted out to the Rivers state governor by the leadership of the opposition calls for a rethink. Although the party has denied zoning the Presidential ticket to the North West, there are indications that such may not be true considering the reality presented by the composition of the party’s executive. It won’t be a surprise if at the end of the day those currently jostling for the sole ticket are disappointed.
In any case, the task of remolding the party remains the singular most important challenge before the Oyegun led Exco. But how the task would be accomplished is cause of worry to political watchers who are of the opinion that those politicians who have ‘lost out’ in the power equation may find it very difficult to compromise.
The danger of failing to reconcile the aggrieved members could spell doom for an opposition party angling to seize power at all levels in 2015. Analysts believe that it would be in the interest of the APC for the aggrieved hardliners to leave the party than for them to remain in its fold to work against its victory in 2015.