Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives’ Congress , battle escalating crisis and loss of quality membership, less than one year to a general election in Nigeria.
BY VICTOR UGBORGU
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, minister of Transportation had a strenuous time denying a statement credited to him about two weeks ago. He was said to have described the emergence of Adams Oshiomhole as national Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as “bad luck” to the party.
According the news item which went viral , especially online, Amaechi was said to have treated internal crisis which engulfed the APC after the congress that threw up Oshiomhole and others as “bad luck” that is chasing Oshiomhole. No matter how hard he tried to refute the statement attributed to him, present happenings in the party seem to justify the ‘bitter truth’. In fact, since Oshiomhole took over from John Odigie Oyegun, former chairman of the party, some weeks ago, confusion and a new wave of crisis erupted in the APC. Indeed, APC’s ship seem to be sinking on daily basis,even as Oshiomhole has been busy threatening fire and brimstone about how to expel from the party, cabinet members who disobeyed his directives.
While berating Chris Ngige, the Labour Minister for not carrying out his directive to inaugurate the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, Oshiomhole was quoted as saying, “If the minister refuses, we will suspend him from the party. You know we must return to internal discipline. For me, it is the height of mischief for any minister. You cannot purport to be honourable minister and you act dishonourably and nobody is greater than the party”.
Not yet done, he took a swipe on the presidency. Hear him: “And if the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party. And when we expel the minister we will prevail on the president that he can’t keep in his cabinet people who have neither respect for his own decisions nor have respect for the party”.
Verbatim gathered that some members of the party have not been disposed with the way and manner Oshiomhole has handled the party so far since he assumed office a month ago, especially at the wake of mass defection of members to opposition parties.
President Buhari Covering His Face
Many party faithful have frowned at the recent comments made by Oshiomhole as he continues to issue out threats against “erring” members. Even Presidency sources revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari was jolted by the comment by his party’s national chairman where he said that if the President was condoning indiscipline from his cabinet he was not going to condone it. “The President was not happy with the comment of the APC Chairman because it portrayed the President as inefficient,” the Presidency source had said.
The more Oshiomhole tries to dispel rumours of friction between him and party members, the more the crack widens. Indeed, the APC has never had it so bumpy since the merging of various parties to form the APC which helped to wrestle power from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, in 2015.
Many politicians in the country believe that Oshiomhole is gradually turning to the proverbial bewildered man who decided to chase rats while his building is on fire.
Tuesday, July 24, 2018 will ever remain evergreen in the nation’s political history as 15 senators of the APC, dumped the ruling party and defected to the opposition PDP. The senators in a joint letter to Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate, made their intention known. According to them, “After due consultation, with our constituents and stakeholders in our constituency, in proper recognition of section 16 (1G) of the 1999 constitution, and for the faction in our party, The All Progressives Congress, we hereby inform the Senate that we the undersigned hereby inform you that we are changing our political affiliation from APC to PDP. We thank you for your exemplary leadership”.
In a follow-up announcement, Saraki said another senator, Abdulaziz Nyako, also announced his defection.
On that day, there was mild drama in the Senate as Ahmed Lawan, Senate Leader tried in vain to stop the mass defection of some lawmakers from the ruling APC.
The senators said they made the decision to decamp after due consultation with their constituents and stakeholders in their constituencies.
Shortly after the letter of the first 14 lawmakers was read by the Senate President, Lawan stood up to oppose the defection. He said disagreement in the APC does not translate to factionalization of the party, ‘which is the basis upon which a lawmaker could abandon his party’.
The chamber was then thrown into a rowdy session as the newly-defected lawmakers disagreed with his statement. They made effort to stop him from talking, but after a moment, Lawan was allowed to continue his speech. In his speech, he said it was true the APC had its own internal challenges and members had internal disagreements but it was not enough for them to leave the party. “I feel our senators of the APC stock will not have to move to another party. I also believe that because the issues are under serious discussion by the party leaders and stakeholders of this party, I will ask Mr. President (of Senate) that, the announcement be quarantined – contained; and give us leaders of the party an opportunity to use all avenues to address the issue. Mr. President, very seriously speaking, this matter should be stepped down until we exhaust all…”
Road to defection: PDP leader during a visit to Saraki in Kwara
But he was overruled by Saraki. The senate president also made reference to the absence of Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President at plenary due to the siege laid by security operatives at his Abuja residence. “Your point of explanation is noted. I’m sure that you have seen the seat beside you is absent. As we speak now, the deputy senate president cannot get out of his house, he’s under siege,” he said, saying he escaped a similar experience.
“This is not something that has started today, it will not end today. People have gone and come back, but these kinds of actions do not allow for what you are speaking. You have been here for many years and as such – DSP – as we are speaking cannot come out of his house,” he said.
They went ahead to list the names of the senators as follows: Dino Melaye; Barnabas Gemade; Ibrahim Danbaba; Shaaba Lafiaji; Mohammed Shitu; Rafiu Ibrahim; Suleiman Hunkuyi; Isa Misau; Monsurat Sunmonu; Soji Akanbi; Usman Nafada; Musa Kwankwaso; Suleiman Nazif; Lanre Tejuosho and AbdulazIz Nyako.
However, the APC leadership made frantic efforts to truncate the July 24 mass defection widely seen by Nigerians as a political Tsunami. For instance, there was siege on the houses of Saraki and Ekweremadu to prevent them from going to the senate chambers to receive the defectors and as part of a plot to impeach both of them.
This was well explained by Ekweremadu on July 27 while speaking to Journalists in Enugu after his triumphal entry to the state. “We anticipated that a number of our colleagues in All Progressives Congress (APC) would defect and join Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). In anticipation of that, the APC leadership tried to stop them. When that didn’t happen, the first thing they did was to invite President of the Senate to come to the Police. They believed that once the President of the Senate goes to the Police, I would be the one to preside and probably give effect to the letter of defection.
According to him, in that eagerness, the Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and other security agencies came together, about 200 of them, to stop him from going to the national assembly. “They said I should come to the EFCC to give explanation over the things I was accused of. I agreed to follow them even though there was no prior invitation, but they were not eager to let me go to answer the invitation. The plan was to stop me and the president of the senate from going to the national assembly today. Unfortunately for them, the president of the senate was already at the senate to preside over the plenary session”.
Ekweremadu also told his supporters that Buhari’s administration was threatening Nigeria’s democracy by its actions. He said those that insist that the right thing should be done in government are being hounded. “What happened in Abuja was a major assault on democracy and this is the second time it has happened. The Struggle we are involved in now is a struggle to sustain democracy and all Nigerians should come together in this struggle. Nigerians are entitled to their fundamental human rights. Nigeria is a beautiful country with a lot of potential but the way things are going now, even our friends in the international community are worried. We don’t value lives anymore. Soldiers die; they conceal the fact that they are dead so that their families cannot ask for their entitlements”, Ekweremadu alleged.
Ekweremadu said he would fight for Nigerians without fear of death. “I will be 56 years old this year, which is already higher than the life expectancy in the country so I am psychologically ready for them. I know it is not over but I am ready for them. I refuse to be intimidated”, he added.
In all, 13 of the senators defected to the PDP, while two pitched tent with the African Democratic Congress, ADC.
It was the same story same day in the House of Representatives as 37 members defected from the APC to PDP and the ADC. The lawmakers announced their defection during plenary presided over by Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House. From all indications, Saraki and Dogara may equally join the defectors soon.
Few days later, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state announced his defection from the ruling APC to the main opposition, the PDP. Terver Akase, his spokesperson confirmed the move. “Yes, he has defected from APC to PDP”, he told Journalists. It was learnt that Governor Ortom complained that the APC was no longer a platform that had the interest of the people of Benue at heart. “He now believes that his aspiration and the plight of Benue people would be better realised in the PDP than the APC”.
Ortom’s defection came barely a day after the Benue State House of Assembly impeached its APC Speaker, Terkimbi Tyanger. Ortom had earlier made the announcement at a meeting with elected local government chairmen in Makurdi, the state capital. No fewer than 13 out of the 23 local government chairmen in Benue state also dumped the APC.
To many Nigerians, Ortom’s defection was a home coming as he joined the APC from the PDP ahead of the 2015 elections having served as Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
He was earlier a member of the defunct All People’s Party, APP, before joining the PDP. He served as the director of operations of the PDP gubernatorial campaign in Benue State in 2007, and later as director of administration and logistics of the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organization in 2011.
However, some members of the Benue state House of Assembly have made moves to impeach Ortom after leveling allegations of embezzlement. Terkimbir Ikyange, the former speaker, who was recently impeached told newsmen on July 30, that Governor Ortom stole state funds amounting to N55 billion. He was also accused of non-performance in office. Ikyange who led eight lawmakers to plenary on Monday, July 30, under tight security, accused Ortom of stealing state funds amounting to N55 Billion. Ikyange stated that the House would communicate the notice of impeachment to the governor in seven days. But another faction of the House under Titus Uba, the new speaker, said Ikyange and six members of his committee had been suspended for six months.
The flurry of defection also went beyond the country as Ahmed Ibeto, Nigeria’s ambassador to South Africa has reportedly announced his defection from the ruling APC under which he secured the appointment from President Buhari. Ibeto also resigned as Nigeria’s ambassador. According to reports, Ibeto arrived Nigeria from Pretoria, South Africa on Sunday, July 29, and on Monday, July 30; he handed over his letter of resignation at the external affairs ministry. Ibeto served as deputy governor of Niger state under Muazu Babangida Aliyu on the platform of the PDP, the party he returned to. He dumped the PDP for the APC in the heat of the 2015 general elections after he lost the party’s primary.
In line with the defection fever, the governors of Sokoto and Kwara states have also jumped ship to PDP. There are some insinuations that leaders of the nPDP which later metamorphosed into R-APC bloc would soon lead hundreds of their followers and supporters out of the ruling party back to the PDP at the “injury time.
Gov. Tambuwal during the official defection to PDP in Sokoto
The magazine gathered that at the “appropriate time” five serving APC governors, 28 Senators and 70 members of the green chamber of the National Assembly will move en masse from the APC to the PDP. The calculation is for the PDP to have equal number of state governors with the APC or more, ahead of the 2019 polls. This will give the PDP the majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.
Indeed, it is like political Tsunami as the APC continues to crumble and lose key members of the party. Those who left the party said they were disappointed and dissatisfied with the conduct and performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, which they helped install. They believe that there should be an intersection of forces to fight the ineffective government in power, no matter those who constitute the crowd. They also demanded that APC should give them automatic tickets in their various positions, which Verbatim learnt was not guaranteed.
With the turn of events, political watchers expect the defectors to undo what they did in 2015 when they teamed up with the APC to sabotage Jonathan’s administration and consequently remove him from office. Political analysts believe that these defectors can also repeat the 2015 history”.
Mixed reactions have continued to trail the recent political upheaval in the country. President Buhari said he was not bothered about defection of APC members to other opposition political parties because they are featherweights when it comes to the changing of political equation in Nigeria. According to him, majority of Nigerians still appreciate his government. While responding to a question during an interactive session with the Nigerian community in Togo at the Nigerian Embassy, Lome, he said many Nigerians would defend him and vote for his party in 2019 elections, insisting that ordinary Nigerians appreciated the performance of his administration.
“I am not bothered about the defections. Ordinary Nigerians have developed confidence in us and are defending us. I assure you, majority of Nigerians back home are appreciative of our efforts”, he boasted.
Solomon Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), said the 14 senators and 32 House of Representatives members that defected from the APC to other parties were merely deceiving Nigerians as they would eventually work for the re-election of President Buhari in 2019. Enang, who addressed newsmen on July 26, on the latest developments in the National Assembly, claimed that the defected legislators assured him of their readiness to campaign for the re-election of President Buhari in 2019. According to him, the affected lawmakers though now members of other political parties, had expressed support for President Buhari, saying they had no political scores to settle with him. “The affected lawmakers have expressed solidarity with President
Buhari and stated emphatically that they are not against President Buhari or his re-election in 2019. In fact, in my interaction pre and post expression of intent to defect, all the dramatis personae , the senators and House of Representatives members, a great number of them have indicated that even if they pursue their bid on a different political platform they’ll still campaign for President Buhari for 2019 on the APC platform,” he claimed.
Oshiomhole, the loquacious national chairman of the APC seems not to understand the enormity of such exodus of his party members. He said the door was still open for APC members who want to defect from the party, adding that in the present situation “there is no Catholic marriage”.
Speaking in Abuja recently during a meeting with the APC caucus at the House of Representatives, Oshiomhole said the party would not dangle “dollars” or “automatic tickets” before aggrieved party members in a bit to prevent them from leaving. He said those who want to go to the opposition parties should go.
“You must know that access to Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN has been cut off, the access to Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC has been cut off, the access to converting defense spending to private pockets has been cut off.
“And then those who have done it are now helping security agencies to explain. Pit latrines have been opened and people are vomiting left, right and centre. They are confessing like witches and wizards”, Oshiomhole assumed.
He specifically berated Governor Ortom’s movement to the PDP as a movement of a non-performing governor who reduced governance to Nollywood. He equally challenged Ortom to show one single project completed under his administration in the past three years. “I couldn’t assure governor Ortom that we will overrule the position of our members and leaders in Benue state that come 2019 we will give him ticket. I wanted to simply cross check with him in the allegations made against him and he was to come by Wednesday (July 25) that is why he organised that drama. And that tells you the quality of reasoning, with all due respect to Governor Ortom, how he reduced governance to Nollywood”, Oshiomhole said hypothetical.