This weekend, precisely June 23, stakeholders in Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) will converge on Abuja to elect new national officers who will pilot the affairs of the party for the next four years.
From May 14 originally announced as the date for the convention, the party later shifted it to June 2 and just few days to the scheduled date, it announced that the convention will now hold on June 23.
While many claim that the new date was arrived at in order to allow the party put its house in order following the crisis that trailed the ward, local and state congresses of the party in order to avoid an implosion at the convention, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s National Publicity Secretary dispelled the reports saying it was due to the just concluded Ramadan fasting exercise.
Shedding light on what transpired before the new date was arrived at, Abdullahi who said the June 23 date is final said “That is not exactly correct. As a matter of fact, there was no time we said we are going to do our convention on June 2nd. It was just a proposed date and you cannot point at a single statement that the party issued through me that says that our convention will hold on June 2”.
“The moment we constituted the Convention Committee, it was important for us to reconcile with them the date that will be suitable for this exercise.Some people proposed June 2nd, but there were also so many other people who felt it will not be politically sensitive for us to hold a convention during Ramadan”.
“But there were contending argument that there was nothing in Islam that says we could not do convention during Ramadan”.
“ So, we were going back and forth with this argument until the Convention committee came back to say even in terms of logistics, we may not be ready by that June 2nd and that many of our members are traveling for Umrah (lesser Hajj). So, we feel it is best we fix a date after Ramadan and that was when the party now decided that June 23rd will be an appropriate date”.
“So, it had nothing to do with any issue being put forward about whether crisis will occur at the convention or not. It is just a matter of looking for a convenient date for everyone” he said.
Also speaking with DAILY INDEPENDENT, Tony Momoh, a national leader of the APC said even if there is implosion in APC, It cannot lead to the downfall of the party as that will not be the first time an implosion will occur in a political party
“If there is implosion in APC, will it be the first? Has there not been implosion in PDP? Yes the PDP lost in 2015 but it didn’t lose in 1999 when there was an implosion”.
“I was there when Barnabas Gemade wanted to be national chairman and then Sunday Awoniyi also wanted the same position. Then a list emerged at the convention. I wrote about this in my Democracy Watch column. A lot of people were very angry and came to invade the place”.
“They later formed a parallel group and went to set up a three-storey building and police went and drive them out. Many occasions like that we have had implosion and the party didn’t collapse.
“So, if the possibility of putting our house in order is there, then it means it will not implode. If putting our house in order is what will make it not to implode, then we have to put our house in order. But I am telling you that the party imploding or not is not a function of new PDP leaving” he said.
Also speaking, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state who is the Chairman of the Media subcommittee of the Convention Committee revealed that the shift in date of the convention from June 2 to June 23 was occasioned by the need to give every party member their constitutional right to free religious practice and not put undue stress on the Muslim members who are fasting.
He also confirmed the report that the reconciliation committee headed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state is working underground to reconcile the aggrieved members before the new date of the convention.
Ajimobi said: “Those who know the meaning of reconciliation must first of all realise that it is all encompassing and the Asiwaju’s committee is working quietly, reconciling people underground and working with everyone. You will see a lot of people moving round and talking quietly with the Asiwaju group. So, the reconciliation is ongoing.
“As human beings, from the beginning of our being in this world till the end, we must continue to reconcile. We must reconcile ourselves with the environment and reconcile ourselves with people. So, reconciliation is a work in progress. I believe the Asiwaju team is working very effectively and reporting to the President.”
Will It Be Postponed Again?
Just last week, there were reports that there are plans in the offing to further postpone the convention by one week so that the party can address some challenges bordering on finance, logistics and other issues. This rumour was however dispelled by Senator Victor Ndoma- Egba, secretary of the party’s national convention committee who said the event will go on as scheduled.
Ndoma- Egba who said about 6, 800 delegates are expected to participate in the exercise further disclosed that efforts were being made to resolve all pending issues from the states where there are issues especially subsisting litigations, assuring issues that could abort the convention would be resolved.
He said: ““It is not correct. The convention will hold on the 23rd of June as planned. Nothing has happened to suggest the contrary. So, I can say categorically that the convention is going ahead.”
We are expecting about 6, 800 plus delegates. Of course you know that we will have observers, vendors, the media, entertainers. In all you should expect about 8, 000 people.”
“We are hoping to resolve those issues before the convention, especially in states where we have court processes. We are working to resolve them in one way or the other. This is politics and at the end of the day, you must leave a window open for harmonization and reconciliation.”
On the outcome of the screening of the 179 aspirants for the various offices, he said “the screening committee finished its assignment yesterday. As we speak, the screening appeals committee is sitting. After the screening, there is an appeals panel to review the cases of those who feel aggrieved with the outcome of the screening committee assignment.
“You cannot know the outcome until the appeals committee finished its work. The screening appeals is sitting and until that committee finished its work, I cannot give you a number of those screened out or screened in. There is still a process going on.”
He further revealed that the convention committee has no serious challenge with funding.
“So far, we do not have so much of a challenge. But we are still expecting contributions from stakeholders.
“If there is any complain of lack of money, I think the first port of call is the secretariat and I am not aware of any committee that has come here to say we are not been funded.”
New PDP As Major Threat
One major hurdle before the ruling party is how to calm the raging storm which arose over the demands by the Peoples Democratic Party bloc in the party known as nPDP for talks with President Muhammadu Buhari and the party leadership over alleged marginalisation since the party came to power in 2015.
The anxiety in the ruling party stems from the fact that key members of the bloc walked out of the PDP convention in 2013. Seven governors led the offensive which includes Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto). While the others joined the APC, two governors, Sule Lamido of Jigawa and Babangida Aliyu of Niger stayed back in the PDP and are still members of the party till date.
The group, had in a recent memo to APC leadership, raised allegations of being excluded from the affairs of the party, demanding a reversal to the trend, within a specific period.
By Monday, June 4, a continuation of the meeting between the nPDP and the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to address issues raised in the letter, was scheduled.
But while the matter lingered, the APC constituted its national convention committees, without members of the nPDP featuring in any.
Though talks were ongoing, the nPDP felt it has had enough of the humiliation following the withdrawal of security aides of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and other principal officers of the National Assembly.
The group was also infuriated by the decision of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led NWC to go ahead with the ratification of the congresses from wards, local governments and states where some of its members had issues.
Another issue some members of the bloc had kicked against is the public endorsement by President Muhammadu Buhari of Comrade AdamsOshiomhole, former governor of Edo state as the next national chairman of the party.
With the coast clear for Oshiomhole to succeed Chief John Oyegun as the next chairman, many felt the president used his position as the party’s National Leader to influence other members of the party to support Oshiomhole who has been receiving endorsements from key players of the party, including the two chambers of the National Assembly.
The group in a statement by its chairman, Abubakar Kawu Baraje while pulling out of the talks, accused the Presidency and the leadership of the APC of showing bad faith in the discussion by taking steps that were inimical to the positions of the members of the nPDP.
The statement by Baraje reads in full: “The public may recall that there have been ongoing talks between members of the former nPDP, the APC and the Presidency in recent days.
“Nigerians may further recall that a team from the former nPDP led by Speaker of the House of Representatives, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and four others, were to meet with the Vice President, His Excellency Prof Yemi Osinbajo today.
“However, while we are truly and earnestly committed to achieving reconciliation, harmony, truce and cohesion in the APC as we approach the 2019 general elections, it is appears that the Presidency is not interested in the talks and that they may have been negotiating in bad faith.
“We were alarmed that immediately after our meeting with the Vice President last week, the presidency misrepresented what transpired at the meeting by trying to blackmail some of the principal actors involved in the discussions in a national daily.
“Similarly, the leadership of the party (APC) went ahead to ratify all the Congresses from ward, local governments, states and zonal where many of our members have complaints, effectively presenting us with a fait accompli.
“The persecution of our members using state security apparatus have continued unabated.
Though there were insinuations that the PDP bloc has already made up its mind to quit the APC, a decision many believe will be carried out at the convention, Abdullahi who is also an integral part of the PDP bloc said it is wrong for people to insinuate that members of PDP bloc are interested in leaving the APC.
He said if actually the faction’s sole aim is dumping the ruling party, it would have just left without writing to the party leadership on the need for dialogue to address some acts of injustice in the party.
“The issue of new PDP is quite different from what we witnessed during the congresses. I can say this without fear of contradiction; of course you know my relationship with the new PDP. I am from the PDP extraction and so, I am involved in a way” .
“I think the issue is that most of us who came from the PDP there is a sense that we feel that we have not been adequately compensated within the entire political arrangement. I think that is the general feeling within the nPDP” .
“The truth is that majority of nPDP people within the APC want a better relationship. If we are coming to say let’s look at this issue, we are saying that we want this union to be stronger. Some people are saying that nPDP want to go away. No, I don’t have that feeling” .
“I think for nPDP members to have called for dialogue with the party leadership, they are actually interested in the relationship. If they are not interested they won’t bring anything forward, they will just spring a surprise at everybody” he said. (Daily Independent )