Politics

Opposition power brokers: The strongmen of APC

The confirmation of the All Progressives Congress as a political party in Nigeria by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the country’s electoral umpire, is a significant development for the nation’s democracy and politics.

While the merger process was on, political analysts had argued that the country had never recorded a successful merger of political parties.

Apparently, this was why one of the founders of the APC and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, described the coming together of the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, and a part of the All Progressive Peoples Party as not just a merger.

He said, “This is the first ever merger in the history of Nigeria and it represents a paradigm shift in our politics.”

With the formation of the APC, it has become clear that the 2015 general elections will be a battle between two titans.

The underlying benefits from the APC’s emergence are many and the most obvious being that the electorate would have a bigger alternative in the next elections, unlike what they had in 2011.

The Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, emphasised this in a statement, saying with APC’s registration, Nigerians now have an alternative to the ruling PDP that had taken them “for a bad ride in the past 14 years.”

The PDP and the presidency have however argued that the APC is not a threat to the ruling party’s existence. PDP’s acting National Publicity Secretary, Tony Okeke, said, “It is a clueless party, lacking in idealogy and in dire need of leadership.”

For those calling for a two-party system, PDP and APC are now the only dominant parties, going by the number of states they control and their membership at the National Assembly.

For instance, while the PDP controls 23 states, the newly registered mega opposition party, APC, controls 11. At the National Assembly, however, if the predictions that some PDP governors might dump the party for the APC are accurate, it might end the dominance of the ruling party.

Already, analysts have predicted that the PDP will lose in Rivers, Niger, Adamawa, Kwara, Jigawa and Kano states, after a keen observation of how governors of these states romance with their counterparts in the APC.

Another plus about the PDP-APC rivalry is that those seeking the retention of the current multi-party system can still have their say. This they can do, using the platform of  the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the Labour Party, which control one state each – Anambra and Ondo, respectively – or any of the over 20 other political parties that have not won any elective public office.

Speaking on the development, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Prof. Saleh Dauda, said the emergency of APC would make a lot of difference on the country’s political landscape.

He said the APC and the PDP would be “even alternatives” for the electorate, adding that such is good, as it would encourage healthy rivalry.

Besides, he said the country had tilted towards a two-party system, with the two parties dominating the political scene. He noted that such was recorded in the First, Second and Third republics.

Dauda also said APC would break regional borders, unlike the individual parties that formed the merger.

“It will lead to national integration. ACN and CPC – one of the dominant parties that formed APC – were regional parties. Now that they have come together, they’ll have a national appeal. Emphasis, now, will not be regional but national,” he said.

The don further said the APC would put the ruling PDP on its toes, saying “It is a wakeup call for the PDP. When the PDP fails to deliver the dividends of democracy, certainly, APC is an alternative party.”

Behind the APC are  some experienced politicians who have won elections in their  states. Many argue that these individuals once dined with the PDP, hence, there is no difference between both parties. SUNDAY PUNCH x-rays some of the power brokers in the new mega party.

Muhammadu Buhari

Former Head of State and first runner-up in the last three presidential elections, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) is one of the most influential Nigeria politicians. Whether or not he contests the presidency for the fourth time, the Katsina-born leader of the Congress for Progressive Change, who has millions of followers in the North, is a strong determinant in the outcome of the 2015 elections. He is from the  North-West Zone.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

No single individual has more political influence on the South-West than Bola Tinubu. He led the erstwhile Action Congress of Nigeria (one of the parties in the APC), which holds sway in five out of the six states in the South-West. He was elected senator in 1992 and served as governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007. APC will be depending on Tinubu’s influence to win the Yoruba states.

Ogbonnaya Onu

The last National Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, was the first governor of Abia State, February 1992 to December 1993. Though relatively quiet over the years, he is the most prominent politician in his home state, Ebonyi, and has followership in the some states of the South-East.

Bisi Akande

As an old timer, Bisi Akande was deputy governor of Oyo State between 1979 and 1983 when late Bola Ige was governor. In 1999, he was elected governor of Osun State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy. He later became the former chairman of the ACN. His political influence can make a difference for APC in the South-West.

Ibrahim Shekarau

After an impressive showing at the NN24 TV Presidential Debate ahead of the 2011 presidential election, Ibrahim Shekarau came to national consciousness as a politician of note. Though he placed a distant fourth with 917, 021 votes, the former governor of Kano State in the North-West zone remains a crowd-puller.

Adam Oshiomhole

Not until 2012, when he was elected for a second term as governor of Edo State, Adam Oshiomhole’s political clout was not obvious. The former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress won his first term following a court ruling that the April 2007 election in which the candidate of the ruling People’s Democratic Party Oserheimen Osunbor had initially been declared the winner, was rigged. His second term election victory was regarded as a defeat of the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Tony Anenih, who was seen as the godfather of Edo politics.

George Akume

The Minority Leader of the Senate, George Akume, is notable in the politics of Benue State in the North-East. He served as the governor of the state from 1999 to 2007, the first governor of the state to have completed two terms in office. On the strength of his popularity, Akume left the Peoples Democratic Party, the platform on which he had been governor, and was elected to the Senate in 2011 as a candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria.

Mallam Nasir El-Rufai

Starting as an adviser to the transition government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Nasir El-Rufai, went on to head the Bureau of Public Enterprises, and was Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, July 2003 to May 2007. Towards the end of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term, El-Rufai became the most powerful cabinet minister. He is a strong critic of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and has many followers across the country, especially on social media platforms. He is from the  North-East Zone.

Aminu Bello-Masari

A grass roots champion of some sort, Bello Masari, who was the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2007, has over the years garnered respect and followership in the North, especially in his home state, Katsina State.   He is from the North-West zone.

Rauf Aregbesola

Activism and controversy stand Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola out among the APC governors. His dogged spirit is also a trait that has continued to endear him to many since he served as commissioner for works in Lagos State. He has a large followership who believes in his political ideologies. And despite being in charge in Osun, he is still a popular figure in the politics of Alimosho local government in Lagos State.

Bukar Abba Ibrahim

As the first governor dominant political figure in Yobe State, Buka Ibrahim’s roots run deep. In the Third Republic, Ibrahim contested and won the governorship election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party. He was again elected governor in 1999 and served two terms before proceeding to the Senate, where he has remained till date. Ibrahim’s influence on the Yobe electorate is undeniable. He is from the North-East zone.

Sani Yerima

Former governor of Zamfara State in the North-West zone,  Sani Yerima, is arguably the most controversial lawmaker. His implementation of Sharia law in his state, in January 2000, being the first governor to do so made him the hero of a vast population of Muslims in Zamfara and some others parts of the North. Lately, he has been an advocate for girl-child marriage. He is no doubt the current kingmaker in his state.

Rochas Okorocha

Governor Rochas Okoroacha of Imo State had in 1999, failed to win the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party for governorship election in the state, losing it to Achike Udenwa. He moved to the All Nigeria Peoples Party, and also was denied the presidential ticket on the platform of the All Nigerian Peoples Party in 2003. He returned to the PDP, and President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him as Special Adviser on Inter-Party affairs. In 2005, Okorocha formed the Action Alliance, with the plan to be its presidential candidate in the 2007 elections. But he again returned to the PDP and in September 2007 he sought to be the PDP National Chairman. For the first time, Okorocha proved his political worth by defeating the incumbent governor, Ikedim Ohakim of the PDP in the 2011 election using the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance. He joined the APC with his large support base, apparently dumping APGA.

Babatunde Fashola

Arguably the most popular governor in the country, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State is referred to as the benchmark of governance, shown off by the Action Congress of Nigeria vis-à-vis APC. It is believed that his popularity apparently saved him from being impeached in 2009, over an alleged disagreement with his political benefactor, and former governor, Bola Tinubu. He was also endorsed for a second term for same reason. The Fashola brand has since become APC’s selling point.

Annie Okonkwo

One of APC’s anchors in the South-East is Senator Annie Okonkwo, who represented Anambra Central constituency of Anambra State, Nigeria, from 2007 to 2011. Okonkwo was a contender in the February 2010 elections for Anambra State governor but lost Peter Obi, who got reelected. In APC, he is currently the deputy national chairman (South-East) and a potential candidate of the party in the forthcoming Anambra governorship election.

John Oyegun

Another power broker is the Third Republic Governor of Edo State, John Oyegun. He was elected as governor on the SDP platform. When democracy was restored in 1999, Oyegun became a leader of the All Nigeria Peoples Party. And in 2009, he became the chairman of the Technical Working Committee of Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform.

Nuhu Ribadu

While he served as the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu’s stance on graft-related issues exposed him as a rare breed. Ever since, his image has assumed a firm footing both locally and internationally.

Not seen as a yes-man, the anti-corruption czar’s take on national issues is often applauded.  Besides being an ex-presidential candidate of the defunct ACN, the Yola, Adamawa State-born Ribadu was the former chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force.

Audu Abubakar

Though he experienced defeats in the last three governorship elections in Kogi State, Abubakar Audu is still a political force to reckon with in that state. He was the first governor of Kogi State, in 1992, and was elected governor again in 1999. He was however defeated by Ibrahim Idris when he sought reelection in 2003. He is from the North-Central.

Tony Momoh

A journalist who was appointed Minister of Information and Culture during the regime of  military president, Ibrahim Babangida, between 1986 and 1990, Tony Momoh went on to become the national Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change in 2011. The Edo State-born 74-year-old politician is a former Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nigerian Airways.

Modu Ali Sheriff

Sheriff is one of the most popular politicians in Borno State and the entire North-East. He was elected senator representing Borno Central on the platform of the United Nigeria Congress Party during the regime of Gen. Sani Abacha. In 1999 he was again elected senator, as the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party. In 2003, he became governor of the state and served two terms.

Ibrahim Geidam

The Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Geidam, who was elected deputy governor, was sworn in as governor on January 27, 2009, following the death of Governor Mamman Bello Ali due to a liver problem. His influence and understanding the politics of the North-East made the ANPP appoint him the chairman of the party’s tactical committee for the 2011 elections.

Segun Osoba

A veteran journalist, Segun Osoba, went on to become governor of Ogun State twice; from 1992 to 1993 as a member of the Social Democratic Party, and from 1999 to 2003 as a member of the Alliance for Democracy. Holding both Ijebu and Egba chieftaincy titles, Osoba remains a force to be reckoned with in the politics of Ogun and the South-West.

Chris Ngige

As a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Chris Ngige was the Assistant National Secretary and Zonal Secretary of PDP in the South-East, in 1999. He was elected governor in 2003. In August 2005, an election tribunal led by Justice Nabaruma nullified Ngige’s 2003 victory and the Court of Appeal confirmed the annulment on  March 15, 2006, and awarded the victory to Peter Obi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance. Within his 33-month stay as governor, he endeared himself to the electorate, to the extent that he was elected to the Senate in 2011 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, a party that was largely unknown in the South-East.

Audu Ogbeh

With a political career dating back to 1979, when he became the Deputy Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria, Audu Ogbeh is another political heavyweight in APC.  He was appointed Federal Minister of Communications in 1982 and later the Minister of Steel Development. He became the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2001 and was forced to resign in January 2005. He left the party the same year. He is from the North-East.

Femi Gbajabiamila

Femi Gbajabiamila is a lawyer, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2003, and re-elected in 2007. He is currently the house’s Minority Whip and represents the Surulere I constituency of Lagos State. The 41-year-old lawmaker has been criticised by members of congress for switching parties in the past.

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