APC and Party Crisis in Nigeria; By Jibrin Ibrahim

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VIRTUALLY all Nigeria political parties are in deep crisis. Those who control them have no respect for internal party democracy and due process. They see their positions as party leaders as opportunities to use the organisation for the maximum advantage for themselves. They show absolutely no concern about the possible risks their reckless behaviour poses for the survival and future of the party. They party is only a vehicle for their personal ambition and they are ready to move out to another party at any time if their own parties collapse due to their own reckless behaviour. The current crisis of the ruling APC is another demonstration of this basic political reality.

The most concerning revelation was that the Mai Mala group had since November 2022 obtained a court injunction against the proposed convention he was charged with organising and was apparently waiting until a few days before the convention before serving it on the party to block the March 26 APC Convention from holding. This would then create the justification that the legal quandary would mean that given the tightness of the INEC time table, the only way forward was for Mai Mala to continue to run the affairs of the party and conduct the party’s primary where candidates for 2023 elections would emerge.

On Monday, the nation woke up to sensational stories and drama about a coup d’état in the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC). One story was that before his departure to the United Kingdom, President Buhari had sacked the Yobe governor, Mai Mala Buni, as Acting APC Chairman and replaced him with Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, as Sole Administrator. Bello did go to the party secretariat to chair a party meeting and inaugurate some committees but would not confirm or deny the party takeover theory.

The other story was that Bello was only holding temporary chairmanship until the substantive chair, Buni return home from his medical tourism. The secretary, John James Akpanudoedehe, first said Bello had no powers to preside over any meeting but seeing the massive security presence around the secretariat decided to keep mute while the meeting was being conducted. To keep the drama on, Governor Bello sent out a tweet, stating that: “I am currently presiding over the Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC at the National Secretariat of the Party.”

On Wednesday, Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna State finally made a clear statement on Channels TV saying that the President had indeed given them a directive to remove Mai Mala Buni as the chairman of the caretaker committee of the APC. He added that 19 governors of the party and one deputy governor unanimously agreed to carry out the directive of the president, saying the remaining three governors are the ones dishing out “fake news” that Buni has not been removed.

This, of course, raises the fundamental question about the party’s reality as a vehicle controlled by the president and governors rather than elected party officials. It would be recalled that the party crises developed following the removal of Adams Oshiomhole as the Chair of the APC in June 2020 following a series of reckless decisions and alleged corruption in the conduct of party affairs by him. The Mai Mala Committee was then appointed to work for six months to organise a party convention where officials would be duly elected. They did no such thing.

Between November 2021 and January 2022, the APC Convention had to be postponed three times because of deliberate refusal to initiate most of the processes required, such as booking the venue for the Convention and serving the statutory three weeks’ notice to INEC. The Yobe Governor had to be removed because it became clear that he was determined to ensure that no convention takes place and that after some time, his committee would have to organise the convention as well as party primaries for the 2023 elections. This created a lot of concern in the party because it is generally known that he has political ambitions to emerge as a candidate and that he was subjecting the whole party machine to serve his own political ambition.

What is interesting is that although the party has been ran by governors who are peers for almost two years, a small cabal could emerge from amongst them and impose their will on the entire party. They all saw the three attempts to call the convention scuttled by this cabal but were unable to take decisive action to save the party in good time. One of the governors from the North-East geo-political zone was alleged to have protested that: “The cabal formed by our other colleagues has suffocated the life out of APC. The party has been reduced to the equivalent of a…gang where decisions are now based on who can manipulate President [Muhammadu] Buhari better.”

The most concerning revelation was that the Mai Mala group had since November 2022 obtained a court injunction against the proposed convention he was charged with organising and was apparently waiting until a few days before the convention before serving it on the party to block the March 26 APC Convention from holding. This would then create the justification that the legal quandary would mean that given the tightness of the INEC time table, the only way forward was for Mai Mala to continue to run the affairs of the party and conduct the party’s primary where candidates for 2023 elections would emerge.

Meanwhile, it has been widely reported that there are on-going deals being concluded for him to emerge as a running mate to some presidential aspirants. What is clear from what has emerged so far is that self-interest rather than party interest is the dominant interest controlling party dynamics. The reckless pursuit of self-interest was leading the party directly into auto destruction.

It appears that it was this fear of self-destruction of the party that forced President Buhari to return to Nigeria before proceeding to his medical tourism trip to London. We now understand that thirteen governors elected on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) were ready to quit the party if Governor Mai Mala Buni was not removed as the Chairman of the party’s Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC). It was in the context of this threat that the President had to get involved in party matters and allow for the removal.

What is interesting is that although the party has been ran by governors who are peers for almost two years, a small cabal could emerge from amongst them and impose their will on the entire party. They all saw the three attempts to call the convention scuttled by this cabal but were unable to take decisive action to save the party in good time. One of the governors from the North-East geo-political zone was alleged to have protested that: “The cabal formed by our other colleagues has suffocated the life out of APC. The party has been reduced to the equivalent of a…gang where decisions are now based on who can manipulate President [Muhammadu] Buhari better.”

This type of behaviour is not just true of the APC but is the same for virtually all the parties. As I have always said, once we accept that parties are organisations run by godfathers rather than party members, democracy can never work within parties and by extension, in the country.

Ibrahim is a professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development. He is also the Chair of the Editorial Board of Abuja-based online newspaper, Premium Times.

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