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APC: More crisis looms after congress

*Sylva stepped down for fear of EFCC
*How the outcome will influence 2015 elections

WITH the election of Dr. John Odigie-Oyegun, a former Governor of Edo State, as the first substantive Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the just concluded National Convention of the party in Abuja over the week end, expectations were rife that Nigeria's major opposition party may have put its house in order.

Close to 7000 delegates were in Abuja to participate in the delegates' convention billed to ratify the party's amended constitution and put in place the national officers of the party to guide its affairs in the next four years.
However, there are strong indications that the show of camaderie in Abuja belies series of internal squabbles within the party which are likely to burst in the open before the primaries. A party chieftain who spoke to National Daily Saturday afternoon said that even though some of the candidates agreed to step down for others during the congress, it does not mean that they and their supporters accepted the outcomes. The infighting within the party took a new turn with the so-called PDP elements in APC pitted against the legacy elements made up of those who were members of the merger political parties that formed the APC.
Dr. Oyegun, it would be recalled, was ratified as the party's national chairman after series of horse trading between northern governors and the party's leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Going into the congress, the governors had campaigned effectively for the former governor of Bayelsa State, Timi Sylva, but according to our source, Tinubu and some elders of the Party were said to have prevailed on the governors to back down on Sylva because of the various graft charges against him. They were cautious not to play into the hands of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who may use the anti graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to go after Sylva. To this end, they decided to compensate him with the less sensitive position of Secretary to the Board of Trustees (BoT). However, Chief Tom Ikimi was said not be unhappy at the turn of events. But he decided to let go when his associate in the Atiku team clinched the position of the National Secretary. A source who spoke to National Daily said that many of the younger members of the party preferred Chief Ikimi to Dr. Oyegun because Ikimi has been more vocal and visible in recent times than Oyegun and moreover, Oyegun is seen as being too old to lead the party. This group is said not to be happy at the party's penchant for old men when abound.
Another important intervention in the process was how former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku lobbied hard to get Alhaji Kashim Imam of  Borno State to step down for Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State for the position of the national secretary. Atiku had informed the delegates during the voting process that the north-east elders had asked Imam to step down for Buni. Kashim Imam was said to have lost that position because of the fear of having Bola Tinubu control of both the National Chairman and National Secretary of the party. Imam is seen as Tinubu's man, which was why the northern elders kicked against his aspiration.
Equally elected are the former Governor Segun Oni of Ekiti State as APC Deputy National Chairman (South), Segun Oni's election is seen as a strategy for this week's gubernatorial election in Ekiti State. Oni defected to the APC few weeks ago from the PDP and he held similar portfolio in the PDP before his defection. A former National Secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Lawal Shuaibu, was elected Deputy National Chairman (North) at the Convention. With Alhaji Lai Mohammed returned as the National Publicity Secretary of the party.
The major problem facing the APC, according to our source is the growing disconnect between the national secretariat and the various state secretariats. A former Imo State Governor, and former chieftain of the APC told National Daily that the party will never rise up to play national politics because its leaders are so used to running regional arrangements, thus they lack what it takes to manage a national party. That take from Chief Udenwa seem to be reverberating across the states where the party is having challenges. It could be recalled that before the convention at Abuja over the week end, there were series of disagreements many of which led to physical brawls before the situation was brought under control. First, it was the Abia and Ebonyi State delegates who staged a protest over alleged non-release of their accreditation tags. They attacked some party officials until the Police arrived at the scene.
The denial of accreditation to some of the delegates, according to our source, is part of the ploy to cut out delegates perceived to have allegiance to those the powers that be in the APC do not like. In the South East for example, many of the delegates are of the opinion that the influence of the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, and Senator Chris Ngige is not for the good of the party. Those who were denied accreditation said that the duo is responsible for the crisis rocking the party in almost all the five states of the South East.
Also, delegates loyal to the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, were also denied accreditation. This is not unconnected with the cold war between him and his erstwhile godfather and former governor of the state, Chief  Olusegun Osoba, who was also conspicuously absent at the convention. With the baring of delegates loyal to him from participating in the convention, the battle line is drawn in Ogun State, one of the barred delegates told National Daily in Abuja. Osoba's absence and that of all the National Assembly members from Ogun State, according to the delegate, is a pointer to Governor Amosun that he should be careful and the need for him to re-strategize. The crisis in Ogun which is a stronghold of the party is said to be giving the leadership of the party sleepless nights especially with the failure of the Ope Salami peace efforts aimed at harmonizing the two factions.
In Kaduna, the story is not different; a delegate from Kaduna State told National Daily that unless efforts are made to settle the disagreements within the party in the state, results from this convention will make no meaning in the state. According to him, aspirants to various offices in Kaduna State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress are still contesting the outcome of their state congress. According to them, the failure of the national body to reject that result portends a grave danger to the party in the state.
In Benue State, there was a massive defection of members of the APC to rival PDP few days to the convention. The reasons for the defection are not different from the source of other disagreements in virtually all the states. The defectors complained of lack of internal democracy in the party. According to Mr. Ndzeda Iho, former speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly and Sen. (Prof) David Iornem, who led defectors, they were joining the PDP because it was an all-inclusive party. Sen. Iornem said that the entire structure of the APC in the senatorial district had been collapsed to enable the members join the PDP. He added that they were PDP members who went on sabbatical to APC. “APC is disorganized, running a one man show and playing the politics of exclusiveness,'' he said.
There are similar problems in Cross River State the party is deeply factionalised, same in Oyo State, Borno State, and even in Edo State where the party is facing an onslaught from the ruling People's Democratic Party.
Another major schism within the party is the widening division between the governors and the elders of the party. It would be recalled that a section of leaders of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)  now known as the legacy parties within the APC  recently accused the G-5 governors  Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Abdulfattah Ahmed (Kwara), Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) of hijacking the party. Efforts were made at the convention to resolve the problem but our source said that they simply sheathed their swords to avoid the embarrassment an open confrontation at the convention will convey to the rival PDP where most them came from. They accused the PDP elements for engineering the zoning arrangements introduced in the APC.
In the zoning arrangement released few days before the convention, the South-South will produce the National Chairman, Deputy National Secretary, and Deputy National Legal Adviser; while South-West gets National Legal Adviser, Deputy National Chairman and National Financial Secretary.
For the South-East are National Organising Secretary, National Auditor, Deputy Financial Secretary and Deputy Women Leader even as North-Central gets National Publicity Secretary, National Women Leader, Deputy Treasurer and Deputy Welfare Secretary.
National Secretary, National Youth Leader, and Deputy National Auditor are for the North-East to produce while North-West has the Welfare Secretary, Deputy National Chairman, National Treasurer and Deputy National Organising Secretary zoned to it. Each of the six geo-political zones is expected to produce the following  One Zonal National Vice Chairman, One Zonal Women Leader, One Zonal Youth Leader and One Ex-Officio member.
Those who approved the new zoning arrangement were: Prince Abubakar Audu, Deputy Governor Borno, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, Governor Murtala Nyako, Chief Segun Osoba, Ibikunle Amosun, Governor Rochas Okorocha, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, Timipre Sylva and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. Others were Alhaji Kawu Baraje, Sen. George Akume, Sen. Kanti Bello, Sadiya Umar Farouq, Sen. Aisha Jummai Alhassan, Sen. Danjuma Goje, Hon Kawu Sumaila, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, Gov. Umar Tanko Almakura, Sen. Ali Modu Sherrif, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Governor Babatunde Fashola, Sen. Lawal Shuaibu, Gov. Adams Oshiomhole, Hon. Bayero Nafada, Gen. Lawal Jafaru Isah, Sen. Bukola Saraki, Sen. Ahmad Sani Yarima, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Engr. Buba Galadima, Gov. Ibikunle Amosun, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Gov. Rotimi Amaechi, Chief Bisi Akande, General Muhammad Buhari, Gov. Abdulaziz Yari and Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
But there are indications that all hopes are not lost. In his acceptance speech titled 'we must set forth at dawn'', the newly elected National Chairman of the party, Dr. John Odigie Oyegun said that he, with extreme humility, accept the responsibility to lead the Party onto the next phase of its evolution and onwards to the fulfillment of its destined mission as the liberator of the Nigerian people. He admitted that the APC has work to do boasting that ''in 2015, Nigerians will finally have the opportunity to kick out a long-ruling party that has, among other things, failed to provide them with stable power supply, failed to provide them with security that will enable them sleep peacefully on their beds at night, failed to provide employment for millions of Nigerian youths, and failed to stem the tide of corruption that is robbing Nigeria's children of their future''.
Acknowledging the divisions that is wreaking the party, Oyegun noted that for the APC to succeed, it must ''pledge this night to work together as a team. We must embrace the ideals of unity, oneness and harmony, and the spirit of give and take. We must learn to let go of past grudges and previous grievances and move forward together as members of the same family''.
Speaking in similar vein, the leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said that ''pulling off the merger is something beyond punditry. It was a merger destined to fail, yet it survived. It was no easy task, but it was a task that needed to be done''. Warning on the need to remain united, Tinubu said that ''though we have differences, we would understand them and work together. Though we would disagree, we would hold those crucial conversations to reach an agreeable consensus. These we will do because we must never let primordial or parochial sentiments stand in our way or distract us from the national rescue assignment we have embarked upon''.
Reports indicated that the APC will hold its presidential primaries in November as announced by Senator Chris Ngige. From the results of the convention, it is most likely that the party's presidential flag bearer will emerge from the North West or North East while the running mates will come from the South West. A chieftain of the party from the South-South who pledged anonymity said that the APC has not made any effort to woo the South East and the South-South region in spite of the Chairman coming from there. According to him, Oyegun is Tinubu's choice and will most likely dance to the tunes being beaten by Tinubu. The party he said will regret this decision to cut out the South East from their permutations as they hold the key for Jonathan's reelection being the presidents strongest support base.

 

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