By Emmanuel Oladesu
Immediate past Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has assumed the office of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at a very challenging moment in national history.
The ruling party has made a lot of promises to Nigerians, which President Bola Tinubu is expected to fulfill to retain their admiration and support. Although bold policies and programmes are being implemented by the administration, impatient Nigerians are complaining about the preceding but transient pains; they don’t appear ready to consider the long-term benefits of reforms.APC is also engulfed in some self-contradictions reinforced by the misdemeanours of certain big wigs in its fold. These are the party officials whose activities have negatively affected the cohesion of the National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Committee (NEC).
Matters that should be discussed and ironed out internally are sensationalised in the media by some garrulous top officials.Many chapters are divided, following the outcome of primaries that heralded the last general election. Crisis-ridden chapters include Rivers, Gombe, Oyo, Edo, Delta, Nasarawa, Osun, Ogun, and Plateau. Even as the party prepares for polls in Kogi, Bayelsa, Imo, Edo and Ondo states, the activities of gladiators tend to pose some threats to the platform.Many had predicted that the former national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, would not last in the topmost position. He was catapulted to the party office, not by the collective wish of the majority, but through the insistence of the party leader, former President Muhammadu Buhari, who was reverenced by many party elders.
The party, under Adamu’s leadership, produced President Tinubu. But the gulf between the party and the young administration it midwifed became widened too soon. Tension was brewing as both appeared to be working at cross-purposes. For example, the endorsement of National Assembly principal officers by the party through consensus was said to have been opposed and resisted by the erstwhile chairman.
Also, the management of party’s finances sparked a controversy when auditors were said to have raised eyebrows.As Adamu and former National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore resigned, the urgent need for replacement arose. Although it was speculated that Ganduje had been tipped for a ministerial position, the mantle of the party’s leadership instantly fell on him.It is instructive that presidential preference also played a major role in his selection as chairman, following widespread consultations with members of the National Caucus, the NWC, the NEC and other top party stakeholders.The lesson is that loyalty and dependability are great virtues on the part of the former Kano governor. These have rekindled the confidence of the President and National Leader of APC. It is now incumbent on Ganduje to beware of the pitfalls and mistakes that drew the curtains on the tenure of his predecessor.
APC is moving into another phase in its history. The fusion of the legacy parties – the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Democratic Change (CPC), new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) and a faction of the All Progressives Congress Grand Alliance (UPGA) – was a miracle. The 10-year-old party has survived the stress, storms and strains of politics, of which it is a major contributor. It is not an ideological party, although there is evidence of its disposition towards welfarism by many of its progressive members.
APC has also boxed itself into confusion, inaction, trepidation and fear, as underscored by its lack of boldness to tackle what has been described as the “national question”. The party raised the hope of Nigerians when its panel on restructuring, chaired by former Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, submitted its report on devolution and federalism. It seems the recommendations are now in the dustbin; or, at best, on the far corner of a dusty shelf.Hope is not lost as the snail-like progression to devolutionary processes suggest.However, from being an opposition party nine years ago, the party has dazed the opposition, winning two presidential elections and demonstrating that it has a better strategy than its main rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the noise-making “structureless” Labour Party (LP) of scattered and “disarticulated” Obidients.
Yet, it is indisputable that APC has been addicted to crises or intra-party squabbles, resulting from the battle for control. Between 2014 and now, the party has produced six chairmen. This underscores a sort of leadership instability.
A feature of APC is the dominance of party affairs by Governors.
Five of them: Chief Bisi Akande (pioneer Interim National Chairman), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Adamu and now, Ganduje – are former Governors. One of them, Mai Mala Buni, is a serving Governor.
Apart from Akande, the tenure of other chairmen were marred with crises of varying proportions; some of them were precipitated by the governors.
Akande vacated the interim leadership after laying a good foundation. Odigie-Oyegun had to leave when a tenure extension agenda was checkmated. Oshiomhole got into trouble at home where he was suspended by his ward chapter. The court upheld the sack. Buni’s caretaker committee enjoyed tenure extension, contrary to the initial plan. It was a sit-tight interim structure. Adamu could not get along with the President. The Governors saw to his exit.
The Progressive Governors’ Forum (NGF) is a potent force in the party. It was the bloc of influential stalwarts who insisted on presidential rotation or zoning to the South. The governors are party leaders at the state level. They constitute a very powerful force that cannot be sidelined in any critical deliberation and decision-making process.
Today, apart from other Governors in the Senate and those coming to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), President Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, Senate President Godswill Akpabio and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, are former Governors.
Governors played critical roles in the downfall of Odigie-Oyegun, Oshiomhole and Adamu. Also, prominent NWC and NEC members got to their current party positions through the influence of their Governors. To survive, it is expected that Ganduje should carry along these Governors. As one of them until May 28, he should demonstrate that he understands their language.
As the Chairman of the National Caucus, much is expected of the erstwhile Kano Governor. The National Caucus should be positioned as the moral voice and clearing house for major decisions and policies to be implemented by the government. The major assignment of the Caucus is the upholding of party supremacy and restoration of party discipline.
Conflicts and crises are concomitant with political existence. The new leadership, apart from resolving old conflicts that may have deepened old cleavages through genuine reconciliation, should nip potential ones in the bud before they manifest.
Many left APC to borrow some smaller opposition parties for contest. The new chairman should appeal to them to return. Membership drive should be a continuous exercise.
On the surface, it may appear as if some chapters are not kicking against the criteria for picking ministerial nominees. It is the duty of the party leadership to douse brewing or repressed tension by placating silently aggrieved chieftains and reassuring them so that they can have a sense of belonging.
Ganduje should anticipate predecessor/successor crises between former governors and new ones; governor/deputy rifts, which may be rear, and governor/minister face-off in some chapters. Abuja and home politicians should team up for the progress of the party.
Post-primary crises in state chapters warming up for off-season governorship elections, particularly in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa, should be resolved. Complacency, aloofness, hypocrisy and overconfidence may herald unexpected electoral misfortunes. Rival parties are not in deep slumber.
Ganduje must ensure that the party puts its house in order. APC should be a party of justice. There is need for internal democracy and genuine mechanism for crisis resolution.
If there is crisis in the party, it will distract its government. Officers should never deviate from the party’s rules and constitution. APC should, therefore, govern itself so that Nigerians can have confidence that the party can also govern the country in accordance with the constitution and rule of law.
Source: The Nation Newspaper