Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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The delegates Convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress has now come and gone. The highly anticipated drama of a staged walk out by the aggrieved nPDP pressure group in the party at the meeting turned out to be a ruse.
Five years ago, in August 2013, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar led some Governors of the then ruling PDP to stage a walk out at a convention of the party. Governors Sule Lamido and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Jigawa and Kano States were the first to exit the venue. Governors and delegates from Kwara led by Abdulfatah Ahmed, Adamawa led by Murtala Nyako, Niger led by Babangida Aliyu, Sokoto led by Aliyu Wamako and Rivers led by Rotimi Amaechi also left. They all trooped to the Yar’ Adua Centre where they held a meeting. Even the diehard optimist of that party knew the wrenching effects of such an act.
It sent shivers down the political spines of ‘the biggest political party in Africa’. In less than two years after the event, the PDP which had boasted that it was going to rule Nigeria in the next sixty years came tumbling down. For the first time in the political history of the country, a ruling party sponsored a presidential candidate who was thoroughly thrashed by the opposition.
Following the exit of Atiku Abubakar from the ruling APC late last year, fears were expressed that he would again take out his fellow political travelers. So far that has not come to be. Not even the loquacious Hajia Alhasan, the Minister of Women Affairs go gave notice of her imminent resignation to follow him the day he decides to contest the presidency has dared to fulfil her promise.
Still as the date for the Convention drew near, fears were expressed, not too silently that history was about to repeat itself. These fears gained currency when the same nPDP group with its penchant for dramatic walk out sent a warning missile to the APC. In a letter signed by Abubakar Baraje and Olagunsoye Oyinlola to the John Odigie Oyegun led executive of the party, they cried out, accusing the leadership of the APC of not appreciating their contributions that led to the success of the party at the polls in 2015.
Supported by other such notable politicians like former governors of Kebbi, Adamu Aliero; Gombe, Danjuma Goje; Osun, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and an ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, they demanded that the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun should facilitate a meeting for them with President Buhari within seven days.
According to them, most of their members delivered their states to the APC at the last elections. They also said some of the governors were assigned specific responsibilities to ensure that other states were also delivered to the APC in the 2015 elections: Wamakko, apart from his state, Sokoto, also took charge of Kebbi, while Mr Kwankwaso, the then governor of Kano State, took responsibility for Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa states.
“There were also unprecedented efforts by many stakeholders such as Senator Bukola Saraki, in concert with others, to deliver the entire North-central to the APC,” they said.
The nPDP described their efforts in the APC as a “watershed moment in Nigeria’s political history.”
They said their contributions and sacrifice were made to the APC in spite of the fact that the presidential ticket was taken by the erstwhile Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN) blocs of the party.
“It is a matter for grave concern that His Excellency, Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has never publicly acknowledged our efforts in the face of clear evidence that the total number of votes scored by the APC in states where leaders and members of the then new PDP bloc held sway made the difference,” they said.
The group also narrated its grievances which it said, if addressed would lead to a harmonious APC “where justice, equity, fairness and peace will reign and enable APC avoid rancour, reinvigorate the pace of national development and face the 2019 general elections as one united party”.
There is no evidence in public space that the issues raised by nPDP have been resolved. The leaders of the pressure group were however at the convention ground even if they wore long and melancholic faces. They did not stage a dramatic walk out but it may be too early for the APC to celebrate. This phase of the crisis has come and gone but the new phase may be more challenging for Nigeria and the APC.
PDP in its hey days specialized in resolving their issues in a ‘family manner’ until the bubble burst in 2015. There is no guarantee that the aggrieved members of the party have accepted defeat. They may not be yelling on the streets, calling for help. But by driving the pressure group underground, the party may just be postponing the evil day.
The APC raised so much hope in Nigerians that it will be a tragedy if it gets intoxicated with power and starts behaving like the PDP it rightly humiliated at the polls in 2015. It could be very tempting for the party to do so since there appears to be no viable opposition party to challenge it at the next elections.
I will hate to see the day the APC becomes an all-conquering behemoth like the PDP. Events in post independent African states have shown that when a party becomes too strong and party leaders start answering pompous titles, it unleashes tyranny on the hapless population. Look at Ghana under Osegyafo Kwame Nkrumah, Kenya under Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Uganda under Milton Obote, Ivory Coast under Felix Houphouet – Boigny, Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, Liberia under William Tolbert and lately Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe. The list is endless.
If only the other political parties who appear to be in complete disarray can organize themselves to give the ruling party a serious challenge. What Nigeria needs is a two-party state, with each of them in a strong enough position to form a national government.
Sadly, we are not moving in that direction.