Sunday, April 22,2018
With President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent declaration to seek re-election in 2019, presumably, the ruling All Progressives Congress is mapping out various strategies to ensure the success of his campaign.
Particularly crucial to the President’s ambition will be key allies whose former political parties — the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance — merged in 2013 to form the APC. The merger paved the way for an unprecedented presidential election victory by an opposition party.
But going into the 2019 elections, the stakes seem higher for the ruling party, especially now that the APC’s incumbency hangs in the balance and the threat of another determined opposition party looms large. Evidently, Buhari will need all the help he can get.
Back in 2009, when scores of opposition parties existed without any real electoral leverage, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu advocated a mega party to challenge the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party. Tinubu, once the lone opposition governor in the South-West, was one of those who championed a two-party system and sought for members of the opposition to forge a united front in order to win at the polls.
The call came after the highly controversial 2007 general elections, which saw the emergence of the now late Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP as president. According to CNN, election observers from the European Union described those polls as “the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world, with rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation.”
Part of the groundwork that was laid for what would become the APC began when the Alliance for Democracy, the party on whose platform Tinubu became Lagos State governor from 1999 to 2007, underwent a metamorphosis. The AD partook in a merger with other opposition parties, including the Justice Party and the Advance Congress of Democrats, to become the Action Congress and later the Action Congress of Nigeria.
The merger helped secure the ACN’s dominance in Lagos, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Edo, Kogi, Bauchi, Plateau, Niger and Adamawa states. Tinubu’s role as the spearhead of this merger and later the APC alliance consolidated his political influence in the country, although some argue that his relevance has waned over the years.
Alongside the effort of Tinubu, the contributions of other prominent members of the old ACN proved significant to Buhari’s 2015 presidential campaign on the platform of the APC.
One of them is the erstwhile ACN national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande. When the ruling party was formed, he steered the party as the interim national chairman until Chief John Odigie-Oyegun took over as the substantive national chairman.
Also, a notable name in the days of the ACN, former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was a standard-bearer of the party in the South-South. Oshiomhole remains a force to reckon with in the party. As the party’s May 14 national convention draws near, he is positioning himself as one of the major contenders for the seat of the national chairman of the APC. This makes him one to watch in the President’s 2019 campaign.
Like Buhari, former Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has his sights set on returning to power in the state. Fayemi, who got elected on the ACN platform, was unseated by the current governor Ayodele Fayose on June 21, 2014 in an election marred by rigging allegations. If the Minister of Solid Minerals Development wins the election on July 14, he would have reclaimed the only South-West state in the hands of the opposition, thus posing an advantage to the Buhari campaign.
Other key members of the now defunct ACN are Babatunde Fashola (Minister of Power, Works and Housing), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun State governor), and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo State governor).
Speaking in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, the Director of Publicity and Strategy, APC, Osun State, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, gave the assurance that the ACN bloc would deliver for Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.
“If Buhari is our candidate, we will deliver bloc votes for him; there is no doubt about that. The former ACN members, who are now in the APC, will surely deliver votes and a resounding victory for the APC candidate in the presidential election.
“Whoever our candidate is in 2019, I can assure you that the votes from the southern block are well assured. We will do nothing but ensure the victory of our presidential candidate. The ACN bloc in the APC is still very strong. Nothing has changed now. The only thing that has changed is that we have become more strengthened. We are stronger than ever before. Sincerely, I don’t know of any challenges before us,” Oyatomi said.
At the point of the APC merger, the CPC was significant as the party to which Buhari belonged. In fact, the CPC was set up for the sole purpose of actualising Buhari’s presidential ambition. The foundation for the party was laid by the Buhari Organisation, a campaign group in support of the former military dictator.
Unlike in 2003, when the ANPP gave Buhari an automatic ticket to run for president, he faced some opposition in the 2007 race. Even when he clinched the presidential ticket, there were a number of issues relating to the integration of the TBO with the ANPP Campaign Committee.
Eventually, the party joined forces with the campaign for Yar’Adua, much to Buhari’s chagrin. Buhari, feeling betrayed, then left the ANPP to form the CPC.
Following the APC merger, the ex-general brought his CPC family into the fold, including the former CPC national chairman, Tony Momoh, and current Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun.
The governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, never contested election on the platform of the CPC. However, he has been a long-time associate of Buhari and, by extension, the CPC.
These and several others have their work cut out for them as Buhari charges into the 2019 elections on the platform of the APC.
The Publicity Secretary of the APC in Nasarawa State, Mr. Hudu Sambo, said the CPC bloc within the ruling party is strong enough to deliver the required votes that Buhari needs to win the 2019 presidential election.
Sambo said, “Nasarawa was the only state in the federation controlled by the CPC before the 2015 general elections. We are stronger now because many PDP politicians have since defected to our party.
“The CPC bloc within the APC will deliver the entire northern Nigeria for President Buhari convincingly in 2019.”
The ANPP was established in 1998 under the All Peoples Party. Prior to the APC, the ANPP was a major party in the North, alongside the PDP.
In 1999, the party entered into an alliance with the AD to present Chief Olu Falae as the presidential candidate to challenge Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP. That year, it won governorship elections in nine states — Kogi, Borno, Yobe, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi and Kwara.
By 2003, it became the strongest opposition party, controlling seven of the 36 States — Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, and Kogi. After the 2007 elections, the ANPP controlled only three states — Borno, Yobe and Zamfara.
Buhari was the party’s presidential candidate in 2003 and 2007. In the April 19, 2003 presidential election, Buhari secured 32.2 per cent of the votes. In the 2007 presidential election, he also came second with about 18 per cent of the votes, according to official results. Both results were contested due to irregularities in the conduct of the elections.
Some of the prominent figures in the now defunct ANPP are Minister of Science and Technology and former ANPP national chairman, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; Sen. Ahmed Yerima; and Odigie-Oyegun.
Another original ANPP member is former BoT chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff. After joining the APC in 2013, Sheriff defected to the PDP in 2014.
Following a two-year-long leadership tussle in the PDP, the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on February 17, 2017 declared Sheriff as the authentic National Chairman of the PDP. However, in July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled against Sheriff, which led to his removal as the PDP chairman. Sheriff’s tenure was rife with accusations of being an APC mole.
Incidentally, two months after his dismissal, he held a private meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja. After the meeting, which held for less than two hours, Sheriff refused to speak with State House correspondents when he was approached.
Moments after, Odigie-Oyegun also came to Aso Rock to see the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
If the PDP was right about Sheriff’s alleged duplicitous role, he may be a major asset to the Buhari camp in 2019.
APGA, a predominantly south-eastern party, was set up prior to the 2003 elections.
Following a protracted internal battle between then Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, and the former APGA national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State led a faction of the party into the emerging APC.
Okorocha’s influence is crucial to Buhari, especially as the ruling party’s leading figure in the South-East, where Buhari has encountered the most criticism.
‘New PDP’ camp
According to several political pundits, the absorption of a group of aggrieved yet powerful PDP members into the APC was the final ingredient in the new alliance’s winning formula.
At a special PDP convention on August 31, 2013, an Abubakar Baraje-led faction of the PDP announced that it was breaking away from the then ruling party to form the ‘New PDP’. Arguably the most significant mass defection in Nigeria’s political history followed on November 26, 2013 when the APC announced its merger with the New PDP.
The merger gave the APC a total of 18 governors and ensured that the party had at its disposal some of the more experienced politicians in the country, including Minister of Transportation and former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Agriculture and former PDP chairman, Audu Ogbeh; former Ekiti State governor, Segun Oni; Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed; former Anambra State governor, Chris Ngige; former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako; and former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso.
The Rivers State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Chris Finebone, told SUNDAY PUNCH that those who formed the New PDP before creating the APC still possessed the quality and following to earn Buhari the highly-coveted second-term victory in 2019.
Finebone admitted that though some persons, who were occupying offices of governor or other political positions in 2014, wielded enormous powers then, their powers might not be as potent in the current dispensation.
He however noted that the presence of such persons in the APC would give the party victory.
Citing Tinubu and Amaechi, the immediate past governor of Rivers State, the APC spokesman maintained that the presence of the duo in the party would surely amount to more votes for Buhari.
“Generally, on a scale, their power will be less now because they are not occupying the same positions they occupied before as governors. But because they are all in one political party, their strength put together is big enough to help the President win again,” he stated. Punch