By CHIDI OBINECHE
A seething disquiet is currently sweeping through Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. The suppressed blow-up is not about disenchantment with the party and its leadership. It is not about the seeming loss of faith by some disgruntled elements in the prosecution of its programmes and policies. It is all about realignment of forces and building of fortresses. Since trouncing the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2015 general elections and seizing the reins of power, little attempts have been made to harness the diverse interests that came together to rout the common enemy and forge a rock solid party that will stand the test of time. The consequence is the cacophonous sputtering that has left the party divided on core issues. Added to the pervading atmosphere of repressed ambitions is a longing for social unity by the contending power blocs, which is subsumed under a unifying cause.
The power blocs
About four visible blocs are arraigned against each other in a glistening surge for a cutting edge and relevance. This constellation, which is almost fluid and facile is up in arms with each other on three grey areas: the management of the economy; appointment into offices; and positioning for the 2019 primaries of the party. President Muhammadu Buhari who came into power carrying all the blocs along is seen by many of the party leaders to have since relapsed into his original structure, comprising mainly of a rump of retired northern military officers, relations, especially from the North-east his maternal home, and a galaxy of hard core faithfuls of his defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Sunday Sun learnt from a close source to the party that the “siege” on the president by these blocs immediately after winning the elections caused the long delay in constituting the cabinet, a situation that created avoidable tension while it lasted. Upon the empanelling of the cabinet, and sharing of other “spoils of victory”, the bloc of the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which is largely perceived to have swung victory for the party has in more ways than one demonstrated that it is holding the short end of the stick. Although the group has in no way made its disapproval of the unfolding scheme of things obvious, it has left no one in doubt that it is not within “the inner kitchen.” The source said: “Consultations on some core issues are not done. Regular interactions are far and in between. Indeed, Asiwaju had to go to London when he was on leave to be able to gain free and unimpeded access to him. Is that how it should be?” Just recently, Tinubu was described by the Financial Times of London as the “gray cardinal” behind the defeat of ex- president Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential elections. The jostling for control of the party, and ipso-facto, the government, may have thrown the party into tactical confusion. Earlier proposals by Asiwaju to the president to infuse his administration with egg heads and technocrats were allegedly spurned. The national leader had pushed Mofe Boyo, The Managing Director of Oando for the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dele Alake as the president’s Communication’s Director, Wale Edun as Minister of Finance, and Yemi Cardoso as Minister of Budget and Planning. Buhari , who vacillated on it for some time was roundly warned by his associates to be wary of Tinubu who they perceive as an “astute politician”, and who may in the nick of time outsmart him. In the build up to the 2015 general elections, owing to what political analysts believe is the yeoman’s role Tinubu played in the formation of the party, he was being addressed as “national leader.” After the elections, he retained the title to the chagrin and dissatisfaction of some bigwigs in the ruling party, who are bent on cutting his wings and whittling down his influence. The Abubakar Atiku bloc, which initially was not seen as a major threat has of recent graduated to a force to be reckoned with. His outbursts on restructuring of the nation and the attendant media visibility and acceptance did indeed knock on a sore nerve of the APC and attracted to him many elements from the North-central and southern parts of the country in the party. Atiku, who is widely seen as a wily political war horse has since upset the calculations with his burgeoning popularity, which is adjudged by the president’s spin doctors as a potential threat to his re-election bid. The former vice president is also believed to have warmed his way into the hearts of some of the leading lights in the party and the governors. To butt, Atiku was invited by the party leadership for clarifications on his outbursts and the need to mellow his speeches. The Rabiu Kwankwaso factor is also strong and prevalent in stirring the angst in the party. The former Kano governor is said to be subtly revving up his campaign structures and has not shown any overt interest in the Buhari administration so far. The Kano chapter of the APC has since dissociated itself from the perceived ambition of Kwankwaso . Smirk, the party has heaved in to declare no vacancy in the presidency.
Realignment of northern forces
The immanent realignment of northern forces behind Buhari has opened up wide cracks, suspicion and mistrust. The move, it was learnt, is geared towards checkmating Atiku and Kwankwaso, and bringing to the front burner, the positive changes wrought by him since he assumed power. Of prime interest is what is called in some circles, his “northernization policy,” which has seen many appointments gone to the North. Added to this is his unhidden protection of northern interests, like in his turning a blind eye to the Fulani herdsmen who shepherd their cattle with unrestrained tardiness across the nation, including Abuja streets, and strengthening of the nucleus of infrastructure and power in the region. The realignment is also cutting across the socio-political groupings in the North that are rearing up to consolidate the Buhari presidency beyond 2019.
Beyond the intrigues and maneuvers is the cauldron of rage, anger, and bitterness in the party. The ravaging hardship, poverty and dwindling political patronage are contributing to the disquiet in the party. The general expectation of an eldorado in the Buhari presidency has not been fully realized. A leader in the Lagos chapter of the party told Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity that “The government need to do more to assuage the raw nerves of the party members and convince everyone beyond rhetoric that the dream of a rosy future and a disciplined and organized nation is not fading away.” For most members of the party, the euphoria of victory is over. There is a sniggling feeling that the wind of economic woes and hardship may blow up the cohesion, unity and energy required to hold the party together, and down the forces of opposition in the next elections. Only last week, a chieftain of the Party and member of its Board of Trustees (BoT) Olisaemeka Akamukale accused Buhari of appointing 3 saboteurs as ministers.
He said “The truth is that most of them are interlopers because, it takes those within the Party to understand where the Party is headed. I agree that Mr. President, perhaps, because of what he met on ground and style of leadership, has not been forthcoming with the distribution of leadership.”
Rapprochement with Tinubu
To stave off the growing discontentment in the party and douse the anger within, a rapprochement with Tinubu, considered as the party’s most influential figure is in the offing. The president, it was learnt, is aware of the loyalty of the former governor of Lagos State, and is taking steps to right the wrongs that have been visited on him. In the calculations of the president’s associates, Tinubu is far less a threat than Atiku, and Kwankwaso and should be courted. Unlike the duo, he is not nursing any known presidential ambition, and his tumultuous followership in the South-west can come in handy in the positioning of Buhari ahead the 2019 presidential primary of the party. Part of the proposed deal is to enlist his support in the ousting of the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, handle the sore issue of budget padding currently threatening to destabilize the House of Representatives, and chart a robust policy thrust for the administration, especially now that the opposition PDP is in disarray. The inability of the presidency to make progress in the numerous attempts to get Saraki out as Senate president was attributed to the non-involvement of “tested leaders like Tinubu”. In the unfolding development, considered by many of his associates as a breakthrough, which is gradually afoot with recent appointments of his close aides, including his Chief Press Secretary, Sunday Dare into plum positions in government, the “ Bourdillon Lion” would be appeased over these glaring “ oversights” in the past, which tended to send wrong signals about his relationship with Buhari. Prime in the long list of errors is the James Faleke issue in Kogi. He had worked at cross purposes with the presidency backing Faleke to succeed the late Audu Abubakar, but kissed the dust eventually. Also, in the contest for the senate presidency’s seat, Tinubu was fighting Buhari’s battle by supporting Ahmed Lawan. His preferred candidate was George Akume, but he switched over to Lawan after reading the lips of the president. On June 17, this year, he, with the Awujale of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Ogbagba II, and former National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande had visited Buhari in London with an Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG of Ijebu extraction who they proposed to step into the shoes of retiring Solomon Arase. Despite the assurances received from the president, it came to naught. On June 3, another error was committed when the president hosted members of the National Assembly to dinner. Senate President, Saraki while observing protocol referred to Tinubu as “the national leader.” Buhari, when it was his turn to talk reportedly rebuked Saraki, saying “Senator Bola Tinubu, even though the senate president referred to you as national leader, you are not the national leader, but one of the national leaders of the APC.” When Tinubu criticized the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu over the lingering fuel crisis, the presidency swiftly came to the defence of the minister. The president’s Special Adviser on media, Femi Adesina said on Channels Television, Sunday Politics that “ the minister should not be crucified by anyone for telling Nigerians the truth.” These issues rankled and hurt Tinubu’s camp.
As the spiraling grumblings in the party continue to wax in intensity, the party is set to summon a meeting of the National Working Committee, NWC to take decision on erring members. This is as there are plots to hurriedly endorse Buhari for second term. The Sun