ENVISAGE 39 POLITICAL PARTIES in Nigeria, in a coalition led by leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, massing against the ruling All Progress Congress, APC, ahead of the 2019 general elections. There are others who are critical about the present state of affairs in the country – past leaders, religious leaders, civil societies and impoverished masses. They seem to have lost confidence in the present leadership of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, under President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a display to give the impression that the coalition was inconsequential to the political future and fortune of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, led-government, Lauretta Onochie, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media, in her Twitter page, described the coalition as a “coalition of corruption”. She said the coalition is made up of “partakers and defenders of corruption”.
Onochie’s words: “Coalition of Corruption = Corruption United People’s Party, CUPP”. And added: “The CUPP of corruption is now full with the coming together of disgruntled partakers/defenders of corruption. There’s hardly anyone of them who has no question mark on his head. Nigerians have gone past the era of following corrupt leaders. Congratulations Buhari”.
More cautious Bolaji Abdullahi, National Publicity Secretary of APC, in his reaction to the Reformed-APC, a faction of ruling party that fused into the coalition said the party is united behind President Buhari. He said “We respect the right of everyone to join any association or group. However, we wish to reiterate that the so-called R-APC is not a faction of our Party. Our party, the APC remains united under the leadership of our President, H.E. Muhammadu Buhari”.
“We once again reiterate the commitment of our party to address real grievances of our genuine members. We call on them to take advantage of this opportunity while the windows for reconciliation are still open. We are confident that no level of gang-up can make our government under President Buhari to waiver in its promises to Nigerians to rid our country of corruption and improve the quality of lives for our people”, Bolaji Abdullahi added.
Adams Oshiomhole, National Chairman of APC, at different times, in his reaction to coalition said he would not lose his sleep on the coalition against his ruling party. He acknowledged that there are genuinely aggrieved party members, and said that reconciliation door was opened to such ones for discussion. He promised that their concerns and genuine grievances would be addressed. The coalition signed the MoU, July 9, 2018.
About three weeks later, Tuesday, July 24, tsunami defection hit the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, at the National Assembly – 15 Senators and 37 House of Representatives members defect to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Again, Adam Oshiomhole shrugged-off the loss of 52 members in a single instance to opposition party as inconsequential. Oshiomhole’s words: “The party that I am privileged to chair is not worried at all. We are not disturbed. I am not going to miss my sleep and we will go into the campaign.”
In the wake of the defections Oshiomhole rushed to President Muhammadu Buhari’s office. On his way out, after close-door meeting with the president, Oshiomhole told journalists: “As the national chairman, I am committed to listening to very legitimate grievances and engaging all those who are aggrieved. But I insist that I will not miss a sleep one minute over mercenary activities”.
Oshiomhole added: “The thing going on is that you have a lot of so-called big masquerades with very little and no electoral value. I have tried my best, which I think I needed to do, to give people comfort, those who claimed to be aggrieved. But those who have other hidden agenda that are not negotiable, I am not going to be able to appease.”
On the implication of the defection, Oshiomhole said: “If people have chosen that it is more politically convenient to suspend the process of legislation ahead of time because it is not convenient for their political interests and choose to insubordinate the Nigerian national interest for that purpose, it is their choice. If there are implications, it is for the Nigerian nation not for APC.”
Bolaji Abdullahi, National Publicity Secretary, of the ruling APC, on his part, urged APC members to remain calm. He said the party would continue to consolidate on its “majority status” in the build-up to next year’s elections. He said: “APC remains in firm control of 25 of the 36 states of the federation and maintains a clear majority in the federal House of Representatives and state assemblies”.
President Buhari’s reaction on the defections was contained in a statement by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the president. Shehu said the president held no grudges against the defectors and wished them success in their future undertakings. He urged party members not to despair but see the defection as a seasonal event that happens whenever an election is near. Buhari said he was committed to the values of democracy and freedom of choice, and willing to work with all members of the National Assembly, irrespective of political party affiliation.
While in Lome, Togo, at the week-end, and met with Nigerian community in Togo at the Nigerian Embassy, Sunday night, Buhari said the defections in the APC was not “bothering him”. Garba Shehu, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity’s statement said: “I am not bothered about the defections. Ordinary Nigerians have developed confidence in us and are defending us. I assure you, majority of Nigerians back home are appreciative of our efforts”.
Yet, the ruling party, APC, embarked on several meetings with some aggrieved members for reconciliation. Bolaji Abdullahi, APC National Publicity Secretary said the series of such meetings held with “stakeholders” by the leadership of the party, including President Muhammadu Buhari were signals of efforts the party was making to keep its house intact.
Abdullahi words: “I am sure you are aware of all the efforts being made including at the level of Mr President. All these are indications of what is going on. So, the idea now is for everybody to rally as much as possible to prevent any defection. Meetings are going on and we believe that at the end of the day, we will be able to persuade everybody to have faith in the party and to know that their interests will best be protected within the party”.
And added: “So, for us, we believe it is in our interest to keep as many people together as possible within the party. You also know that the national chairman met with the former Governor of Kano state, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso. We believe that all these efforts that are being made will in the end save the day for us”.
Main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is the key beneficiary of the defections from the APC. Until the Senate and House of Representatives, officially state the actual standing of members in both chambers, what has been released to the media on which political party is in majority is unofficial. But APC Senators said the party is in majority with 53 members and PDP 48. President Buhari’s meeting with APC Senate caucus, Wednesday night had only 39 senators in attendance.
Whatever way the ruling APC sees the crisis in the party – whether bad enough to make the leadership of the party lose sleep; or insignificant not to be bothered about; the certainty before the ruling APC is that the “Undertakers Have Taken Over” and are at work, and may engage the ruling party in a fierce battle in 2019 general elections for the leadership of Nigerian State.
The “Undertakers” began with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s special press statement to President Buhari in January 2018, titled: “They Way Out: A Clarion Call For Coalition For Nigeria Movement” urging Buhari not seek re-election in 2019. It was followed by the formation of the Reformed APC; then the coalition of 39 political parties led by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against the ruling All Progressive Party, APC. Then the big one – the defection of 15 Senators and 37 House of Representatives members to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Not done yet. The bigger masquerades lurk. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, officially, launched his interest to vie for the presidency on the platform of PDP. Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, seem to be on their way to the PDP, and carrying their loyalists along, including Abdufatah Ahmed, incumbent Governor of Kwara State. Also in the kitty of the PDP is incumbent Governor of Benue State Samuel Ortom, who has declared for the party. Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State seems to be on his way to PDP.
Obasanjo, in 2015, led a crusade to stop President Goodluck Jonathan, including launching a book on the leadership of the former president. In coalition with other interest groups — local and international, Obasanjo caged Jonathan, and got the former president to concede defeat before counting of votes were completed. Now, it is President Buhari. How far can the “Undertakers” go? This is left to time to determine.