By Omoniyi Salaudeen and Onyedika Agbedo
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is on the verge of an imminent implosion, as fault lines in the ruling party widen.
The fresh political acrimony is coming on the heels of anxiety and apprehension over the health condition of President Muhammadu Buhari. For three consecutive times, the president did not attend the Federal Executive Council meeting, giving rise to wild speculations about his health.
While the APC national leadership appears to be taciturn about the developments, fearing to rock the boat, some forces within the party are unhappy that the critical stakeholders who are supposed to be in the know are kept out of touch with Mr. President. “As the leader of the party, everybody looks forward to Buhari as a rallying point. But since his ill-health became a matter of public concern, the party has lost the necessary cohesion and a sense of direction,” a close source told Sunday Sun.
This concern, he added, partly explained why the former interim national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, recently threw a bombshell, warning those feasting on the health condition of the president against throwing the country into another political turmoil. Akande had in the widely reported statement said: “Let me warn today that those who wish to harvest political gains out of the health of the president are mistaken. This is not Nigeria of 1993. We are in a new national and global era of constitutionalism and order. We hope Nigerians have enough patience to learn from history.”
Akande’s reference to 1993 is particularly intriguing, as it suggests an alleged gang-up against Vice President Yemi Osinbajo by those he accused of holding the country by the scruff of the neck. The late MKO Abiola was the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election which was annulled by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida (rted). Abiola later died in detention in controversial circumstance after a prolonged political imbroglio that shook the nation to its very foundation.
The warning, according to some analysts, was a way of preempting any untoward plan against the vice president.
The former governor of Osun State further blamed the face-off between the executive and the National Assembly on the antics of some political hawks around the president. “The second is the disorder and lack of cohesion between the National Assembly and the Presidency. These two great red flag dangers have the potential of plunging the country into unprecedented chaos and destabilising the gains of democracy since 1999. The greatest danger, however, is for political interests at the corridor of power attempting to feast on the health of Mr. President in a dangerous manner that may aggravate the problems between the executive and the National Assembly without realising if in the end, it could drag the entire country into avoidable doom,” he posited.
But in another breath, a concerned group, Northern Patriotic Assembly (NPA), has interpreted Akande’s outburst as a deliberate ploy by some leading political figures in the South-west to hijack Buhari’s government. According to the group, the former national chairman of the APC was merely acting a script, which was designed to create confusion and anxiety that would pave way for the emergence of a Yoruba as the next president, if eventually they succeed in shoving Buhari aside. A statement signed by its President, Idakwo Jibrin and Secretary General, Alhaji Adamu Wakil, respectively read in part: “Even more unnerving is situation whereby people we once held in high esteem as elders, leaders and professionals decided to descend into the mud, using President Buhari’s health as their new object of obsession. They have fanatically tried to impose this obsession of theirs on other Nigerians in a desperate bid to cause panic and confusion. Sadder still is the fact that these mischief makers are people who pose as President Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders, associates and friends. With this crowd of desperadoes, Mr President need not worry about the opposition; the real vipers nest is in his courtyard.”
“They are the ones, who finding no avenue to corner the government to themselves, are now working day and night to use the President’s health as campaign tool to hijack the government. We want Nigerians to specifically call these people to order. They cannot be allowed to run riot with their own missions to the detriment of the rest of us. The founding chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, who spoke from two opposing directions urged caution about the way President Buhari’s health is discussed yet went on to describe it as a challenge to Nigeria. This is unbecoming of an elder statesman of his stature. He should apologize to Nigerians and stop making such unguarded utterances going forward.” The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), also reacting, chided the founding national chairman of the APC and other civil right activists for their ‘unhealthy’ comments on Buhari’s health. The National Publicity Secretary of the Forum, Muhammadu Ibrahim, in a statement in Kaduna, said that the fears and concerns over the president’s health were unnecessary and uncalled for. It reads: “Arewa Consultative Forum has observed with concern that some individuals are carelessly making unnecessary remarks pertaining to the health of President Muhammadu Buhari. What Nigerians need to do now is to pray for his good health and not to speculate or draw conclusions which will do no one any good. ACF advises Nigerians to please pray for the improvement of Mr. President’s health so that he can serve the Nation with more vigour.”
In a circumstance like this, the ruling party is expected to manage the situation in the overall interest of the stability of the polity. But intriguingly, the party has been relegated to the back seat in this government. A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, while expressing concern over the anxiety on the ill-health of the president in an interview with Sunday Sun lamented, saying: “the voice of the national chairman of the party is not known. We don’t even know who the secretary of the party is. Party caucus doesn’t meet. They don’t have a role to play in the government. When we were there, Audu Ogbeh was a member of the Federal Executive Council.
He was always sitting there as the chairman of the party. It doesn’t happen now. Oyegun should be a member of the Federal Executive Council. The ruling party in this instance has a very little role to play in what is happening now. That is unfortunate. It is not good for our democracy because the party is the vehicle that transported everybody into power. Now, the party is taking a back seat. It is not good for our democracy at all. The leadership of the party must play a role in the government.”
A former presidential candidate of Citizens Popular Party (CPP), Chief Maxi Okwu, while also commenting on the development, noted that the APC was already on the verge of implosion. His words: “The APC is a ticking time bomb. The day APC holds its next convention, whether Buhari is there or not, it will implode. The party is a coat of many colours and they are finding it difficult to stick together. They got power without knowing what to do with it. So, the day they hold their next national convention, they will scatter. That is what is clear to those of us who can predict the politics of the country.”
Speaking in the same vein, Secretary General, Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezugwu, maintained that the APC should be held culpable for the confusion and anxiety generated by the health of the president. He lamented: “For the mere fact that the hierarchy, the main body of APC does not even know what is happening in the government indicates a total confusion to the whole country. That is to show you that the APC is the worst political party to come into government in this country. The same thing that is happening now was applicable when the late president Yar’Adua was sick. The incumbent president who is sick now demanded for Yar’Adua’s impeachment then. But his aides come out with different information about the president’s health condition on a daily basis. Are we running a banana republic or what?
There is so much confusion in the system. The DSS, EFCC, NIA and other agencies of government under the Presidency are having one issue or the other with each other; they are divided among themselves even when they are supposed to work together. What we have now is executive lawlessness; there is so much confusion in the system caused by the executive.”
According to him, “The way forward is that we should know the true picture of the health of Mr. President. If he is unable to govern, let him resign. We never expected this type of confusion from the present administration given the way the president had been championing the cause of this country.”
However, a former minister of information and founding member of the APC, Prince Tony Momoh, dismissed the insinuation of an alleged crack in the APC as unfounded. He said: “APC is a political party run by the National Working Committee (NWC) and other organs of the party. There are the party’s constitution and the manifesto. The manifesto says what the party promises to do; the constitution shows the organs of the party at the ward, local council, state, geo-political and the national levels plus the caucuses and all that. The Presidency is an organ of government headed by the president. Then, you have the Legislature constituted by the National Assembly (NASS) and state assembles; and then the Judiciary. So, what has the health of the president got to do with the party? If party chieftains make statements, they make statements. The party cannot sit down and has not sat down to make a statement on the health of the president because it is irregular for them to do so; they are not the medical team of the president. So, I don’t see any confusion anywhere unless you have specific cases to mention.”
On the comment credited to Akande, he added: “Every member of the 170 million population of Nigeria has a right to express himself or herself; and also vote in elections if qualified to vote. So, they can come out and say anything they want. I don’t know why we are always afraid when people express themselves in a democracy and think that the expression is evidence of chaos. There is no chaos there.”
“As to the health of the President, who is there that cannot be ill? And who says that illness has to do with old age? What of children who are born today and they die today? We are on earth but not natives of the earth; we are natives of paradise. Healing comes from above. Who tells you that the person who is bedridden today will not get up tomorrow? So, those who are making their own calculations and so on and so forth can go on doing so. But God must endorse what man does and nobody knows what God will endorse,” he concluded. (The Sun)