Power blocs within the All Progressives Congress (APC) have started the scramble for the control of the party’s structures, a few days after the approval and release of new dates for its ward, local government and state congresses.
The PUNCH gathered in Abuja, on Sunday that with Friday’s decision by President Muhammadu Buhari, to approve the timetable for the party’s congresses, power blocs especially state governors and party leaders with 2023 presidential ambitions, had set in motion plans to ensure that loyalists emerge as leaders at the various levels.
According to the timetable released by the party’s National Secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, on Friday, ward congresses will hold on July 24, 2021 followed by local government congresses on August 14, 2021 and state congresses on September 18, 2021.
At inception, the APC had four visible power blocs based on the influence of personalities who controlled the legacy parties which came together to form the party.
This played a key role in the formation of the first National Working Committee. The then interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, was a leading figure in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, his successor Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, came from the All Nigeria Peoples Party.
Former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who is also of the ACN bloc, took over from Odigie-Oyegun, as national chairman. The current chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni, came from the ANPP. President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, became the main power bloc after the 2015 general election, which he won.
A member of the party caucus, who spoke in confidence, told our correspondent, “Our membership registration has thrown open the party to members.
“Like it or not, although our President Muhammadu Buhari will not be on the ballot in 2023, he will most likely be interested in who succeeds him.
“I say most likely, because his brand of politics before now is non-interference in party affairs. That has changed.
“The most visible of the power blocs now are those of Mr President and his key loyalists from his days in the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change). They include former and serving governors, ministers and powerful aides, who pull the strings from behind the scene.
“Our state governors and of course, our national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, who like him or not, is a deal maker and still wields influence despite attempts to whittle it down.
“Now, each governor, some ministers and ambitious federal lawmakers, will be slugging it out during these congresses.
“But the way our system is wired, most governors will have their way at the end of the day. It is only logical; they control resources and they fund the party in their states.
“The party recognises them as leaders at the state level. having control of the structure strengthens their power base thus giving them leverage at the national stage.
“Delegates for the elective national convention will emerge from these congresses. In the event we decide to use the direct primary method used while Buhari as our candidate for his second term, governors hold the aces.”
Another party source said, “No governor will sit idly by and allow those who are not loyal to him to emerge as officials. That will be amount to digging his own political grave. That is what is informing the intrigues in the state chapters that you are witnessing.
“The National Chairman of the APC, Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, is the current face of governors who control the party at the national level.”
The CPC bloc is currently reaching out to others to allow it produce the next National Chairman.
The Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, is currently leading the campaign for his predecessor, Senator Tanko Al-Almakura, who was the only governor on the CPC platform before it merged with it others to form the APC.
In one of his campaign stops in Nasarawa, Sule said, “Two of the legacy parties; the ACN and the ANPP each produced two national chairmen of the APC.
“The only legacy party that has yet to produce the national chairman is the CPC. Once the CPC is allowed to produce the next chairman of the APC during its forthcoming national convention, it’s only fair to consider Nasarawa State.”
Already the battle for the control of the structure is causing ripples in the South-West where Tinubu’s loyalists are battling those of Governor Kayode Fayemi, in Ekiti, and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, in Osun, who are also believed to be nursing presidential ambitions.
In response to questions about the issue, the coordinator of a pro-Tinubu group, the South West Agenda, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, said, “I know that there is no much problem in Osun. What is happening there is just being exaggerated by people who think they can benefit from.
“The governor is in charge and he enjoys the support of the party and the people. Yes, there may be disagreements here and there, which is normal in human interactions but it is not something to worry about.
“In Ekiti where members of SWAGA are being persecuted, some as you must have heard have been illegally suspended and harassed here and there. Nevertheless, we are going to keep reaching out.
“This action against our members is very unfortunate because whatever we are doing, we are doing within the party. And our organisation is actually mobilising and winning new members for the APC and all is to the advantage of our party and I see no reason why this should be a problem.
“Well, this is a passing phase and it will go when people begin to appreciate what we are doing. In Ekiti State, we can only ask the authorities here to have great introspection, reexamine themselves and change their ways.”
A pressure group within the party, Concerned APC Members, is however opposed to what it claims is an attempt by the party’s governors to shut out all those who laboured to establish the APC.
Spokesman for the group, Abdullahi Dauda, said this in an interview with The PUNCH, in an interview, in Abuja.
He said, “First, let me say we are opposed to the tenure elongation given to Governor Buni and others. It is part of what we have campaigned against right from the beginning. Now, what they want to do is to install stooges from the ward, local government and state levels so that they can decide who becomes anything in the party in 2023. We will not take it because this party belongs to all of us.
“A political party is not a one man show. Without our constitution, the President has the powers to extend the tenure of anybody he wants in the APC but our party is built on its constitution, that constitution does not give the President the powers he has exercised on this issue.
“We believe that the President was misled by these ambitious governors and we hope he will see reason to reverse it. This is not a dictatorship; it is a democracy. We will write letters to party stakeholders and the president to reverse this unconstitutional decision and if that fails, we will tell you what we are doing next.”
When contacted, the National Secretary of the Party, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, said, “All that Mr President did was in line with our constitution. Like I said, on Friday, the last National Executive Committee meeting of our party conferred on the Caretaker Committee the power of the National Convention which is the highest decision-making body of the party in line with Article 13.3 of the APC Constitution.
“Under the leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni, a peacemaker and visionary, we intend to ensure that peace is restored to the party and that our congresses at the various levels are held successfully.”
Asked whether the party has concluded talks on the issue of zoning, he said, “We will cross the bridge when we get there.”