Barely three weeks to the national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, on May 14, it’s 24 governors and other national leaders remain polarized over their struggle to control the party’s structure ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence that the party must hold an elective convention that will usher in a new set of executives, the struggle by the power blocs within the party to control its structure especially at the national level has heightened. While a former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is currently leading eight serving governors pushing to install immediate past governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole as the party’s national chairman at the May 14 national convention, 16 other serving governors that tag themselves as pro-Buhari are bent on returning John Odigie-Oyegun and his National Working Committee, NWC members into office.
Just as the governors are locked in a fight to finish, which many see as a battle for the survival of their own political career, another trouble that may lead to a crippling legal conundrum is brewing within the ranks of the party. This borders on the provisions of Article 20, Section IV (a) of the APC constitution.
Governors backing Oshiomhole and why
Governors lining up behind Tinubu to support Oshiomhole include Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo, Abdullahi Ganduje of kano, Godwin Obaseki of Edo and Kashim Shettima of Borno. One common factor among them is that, apart from Ambode, Ganduje and Obaseki, the rest are rounding off their second term in office.
Saturday Sun investigations reveal that beyond blind loyalty to anything Tinubu, another common denomination that binds some of the governors to this group is their bid to starve off investigations by an anti-graft agency they believe Tinubu has some level of influence over. Some of them are already being investigated but that seems to have been frozen for sometime now.
It is public knowledge that Governor Yari was for a long time having issues with the anti-graft agency over alleged diversion bailout fund and Paris Club refund money. The same thing applies to one of the governors from a southwest state. Sources in the anti-graft agency reveal that, the governor may have questions to answer regarding alleged diversion of N5billion bond fund and another money laundering charge for which the Managing Director of Heritage Bank, Mr Ifiesimama Sekibo, and a businessman, Kolapo Kola Daisi have been before a Federal High Court in Lagos for an alleged fraud of N605,321,051.05. Also joined in the charge sheet marked FHC/C/95C/18 is a company, Greame Properties Limited. The governor’s alleged link to the deal is currently frozen. Governor Ganduje who used to be behind Oyegun switched camp because of pressure from his southwest colleague who is also his in-law.
Governor Okorocha, it was gathered got into this group because he needed a new set of party executives in Imo state to replace the current ones who have failed to buy into the project of installing his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor. Both Governors Aregbesola and Ambode are known lackeys of Asiwaju Tinubu and as such will naturally follow his direction wherever he turns. In his case, Governor Shettima is a very close ally of Aregbesola. He believes strongly in the ability of Tinubu to make him a Vice President anytime the mantle of leadership falls on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to be the President of the country. For Governor Obaseki, he’s morally bound to go with Oshiomhole, who is his predecessor and benefactor.
The pro-Oyegun governors
No doubt, the 16 governors rooting for the return of the Oyegun led NWC have a common agenda; to stop Tinubu from hijacking the structure of the party both in their state and at the national level because most of them are first term governors pushing to ride on Buhari’s shoulders back to the office for a second term, while the second termers desire to control the party structure to be able to install their successors. They include: Bindo Jibrilla of Adamawa; Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar of Bauchi; Samuel Ortom, Benue; Badaru Abubakar, Jigawa; Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, Kaduna; Aminu Bello Masari, Katsina; Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi; Yahaya Bello, Kogi; Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara; Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, Nasarawa; Abubakar Sani Bello, Niger; Ibikunle Oyelaja Amosun, Ogun; Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, Ondo; Simon Lalong, Plateau; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Sokoto; Ibrahim Geidam, Yobe. Most of the governors in this group are either die-hard Buhari supporters, or eyeing a re-election for second term. Some others are just comfortable with their present state executives and wouldn’t want anything to alter the structure. Also in this group are those scared of Tinubu’s shadows because they are at the moment locked in battles with his loyalists in their respective states, while some equally belong to a different power bloc within the party, which has a soft spot for Oyegun’s leadership. The case in Katsina, Buhari’s home state is a bit peculiar. While Governor Masari is backing Oyegun’s continued stay, some of the President’s men are desperate for a new election because they want to change the party executives in the state, which is controlled by Masari who is seeking re-election. This is because the son of an influential member of the President’s kitchen cabinet, Mallam Isa Funtua is gunning for Masari’s seat and so wants a change of the party’s exco. The son identified as Abu is believed to be married to one of Buhari’s older daughters.
Fresh legal hurdle
Saturday Sun gathered that the party may eventually run into a fresh legal tango after its national convention on May 14. Some stakeholders fear that whichever camp loses out at the convention may seek for its nullification in court based on the provisions of Article 20 of the APC constitution. The party’s National Executive Committee, NEC had at its last meeting directed the National Working Committee, NWC to conduct “a guided congress” from the ward through local council to the state and national level. This means that the party’s executives at the ward level will constitute the electoral college instead of party members electing the delegates that will constitute the electoral college.
According to Article 20 (iv) (a) on ‘procedure for nomination of candidates’, the party’s constitution states, “Further to article 20(iii) of this constitution, indirect primaries for the purpose of nominating a candidate shall be done at a designated venue for that purpose, by an Electoral College of delegates democratically elected by members of the party from the various Wards contained in the particular constituency at congresses.”
The violation of this provision through the ‘guided congress’ is what the concerned stakeholders are afraid is a potential landmine, that may tear the party apart in the weeks ahead.
The party had in a letter to the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, dated April 9, 2018 and signed by the party’s National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, announced the dates for the state, local government and ward congresses nationwide. While the state congresses will hold on May 9, the local government congresses will hold on May 5, and the ward congresses scheduled for May 2.