Despite its growing acceptability within the country’s political circle, all appears not to be well with the All Progressives Congress as a crisis over power sharing and control is brewing in the party.
Investigation by Saturday PUNCH showed that the five governors, who defected to the APC from the Peoples Democratic Party, were locked in a supremacy battle with some leaders of the three political parties that merged to form the APC.
The parties that merged to form APC are the Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party and the Congress for Progressive Change.
Saturday PUNCH’s investigations in Abuja on Thursday showed that the looming crisis was threatening the nationwide membership registration, which the party had scheduled for early this year.
To forestall problem, however, the party has set up reconciliation committees in some of the affected states.
The governors, who left the PDP for the APC, included Alhaji Muritala Nyako (Adamawa); Dr. Rabiu Kwankwanso (Kano); Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Alhaji Abdufatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).
It was gathered that besides the struggle for position between the defected governors and ‘old’ members of the fast growing party, the APC was also contending with various crises in the states it is currently controlling.
The tussle for power in the APC states is principally between the governors and those who are against their total control of the state party structure.
It was learnt that the problem had manifested in Kwara, Kano, Sokoto and Adamawa states among others.
Findings showed that the outcome of the party’s reconciliation efforts would determine when the membership registration would hold.
The defected PDP governors that are said to be engaged in power struggle with old APC members include Nyako, Kwankanso, Wamakko and Ahmed.
In Kwara State for instance, members of the parties that merged to form the APC have described the leader of the PDP defectors, Senator Bukola Saraki, as a burden instead of an asset to the APC. Saraki is the political godfather of the state governor.
The members are of the opinion that the party does not need Saraki to win elections in the state. A former governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Mr. Dele Belgore, is the leader of the APC members opposed to Saraki’s take-over of the party.
A leading member of the Belgore group, Rev. Bunmi Olusona, said this in a statement, in Ilorin on Thursday.
In the statement titled, “Issues before the John Oyegun mediation committee,” Olusona stated, “We aver that we do not need Bukola Saraki to win elections in Kwara. In fact, the coming of Bukola Saraki is a huge burden on the Kwara APC.
“We now have a daunting task of convincing Kwarans that we remain a part of their hope for change. Without federal support, Bukola Saraki cannot win any election!
“We will never accept the leadership of Bukola Saraki and we will never accept any arrangement that cedes the party structure to any new entrant into the party.”
Another prominent member of the Belgore group, Dr. Saad Omo-Iya, also explained the group’s stand in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Omo-Iya said, “Saraki is a soloist and (a) despot. Some of us cannot work with him. That is why we are in the APC. Now that he has come to the APC, and it is being speculated that APC has handed over the party structure to him, that means some individuals own that party.
“It equally means that the party is no longer a party. It is like a property of some individuals. That does not really reflect democracy. Basically, looking at it, you can see that there is no basis for further relations.”
He said that the structure of the party should not be handed over to an individual, adding that registration of members should be free and fair.
However, Mr. Yemi Afoloyan, a former state Secretary of the Saraki-led PDP faction, told Saturday PUNCH in an interview that claims that Saraki was a despot were untrue.
He described Saraki as a grass-roots political leader, who stepped into the shoes of his revered father, the late Chief Olusola Saraki.
Afolayan said, “One of the best things for Kwarans and the APC in the state is the handing over of the APC’s structure to Saraki. We have the election winning machinery and we win and deliver wherever we go. We have come to the APC with an election-winning machinery and we are sure the machinery will not fail.
“It will deliver anytime. Saraki has not said he is going to the APC to take over everything. He believes in egalitarian society. The door is open for integration of all the stakeholders and shades of opinions.
“What is paramount in the mind of our leader, is the continued transformation and development of our dear State of Harmony.”
In an attempt to douse growing tension between supporters of the Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau-led former members of the ANPP and the Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, the national headquarters of the party has set up a reconciliation committee headed by the Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari.
Yari and Masari were given the task of drawing up a workable arrangement to accommodate the two leaders and their followers, and to prepare the ground for the party’s mobilisation and registration of members scheduled to begin this month.
A party source confided in Saturday PUNCH that the situation in Kano was “a little complicated.”
The source, who pleaded anonymity, said: “Members of the political parties that merged to form the APC are suspicious of Kwankwaso.”
They argued that even while in the PDP, Kwankwaso scuttled attempts by Vice President Namadi Sambo to reconcile him and other aggrieved party members.
“Sambo was in Kano twice and each time an agreement was reached, Kwankwaso’s group breached the terms,” the source added.
When contacted, the Director of Press to Kano State governor, Baba Dantiye, said fears about Kwankwaso’s commitment were misplaced.
“His only concern is the salvation of this country. It is not about his interest; he is committed but it will be unfortunate if they feel that way even before the committee starts its work. His Excellency has an open mind and is ready to work with everybody.”
Also speaking on the issue, Shekarau’s spokesman, Sule Ya’u Sule, said, “We have always insisted on justice and fairness to all. We are waiting for the committee to come.”
However, other chieftains of a faction of the ANPP such as Alhaji Bashir Tofa and Senator Kabir Gaya among others, have since pledged allegiance to Kwankwaso, recognising him as the leader of the APC in the state.
The situation in Sokoto State is not any different as loyalists of former governor Attahiru Bafarawa have accused a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bello Masari, who heads the state reconciliation committee, of bias.
They insist that his actions have been tailored in favour of Governor Wamakko to the disadvantage of old members.
It was also learnt that there was a power tussle between Nyako and a former governorship candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change in Adamawa State, Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa.
A source admitted that teething problems were bound to occur when a new party of APC’s magnitude is formed.
Marwa expressed confidence that the national leadership of the party was up to the task of dealing with the challenge.
He said this in a short message to one of our correspondents.
He said, “These teething problems will come up but I am aware that the national hierarchy of the party is attending to the issues and hopefully, will be resolved very soon. APC stands for internal democracy any day.”
Fears being expressed by party members are not limited to northern states.
Some members of the National Assembly have also cautioned the party against allowing state governors to hijack the process.
Senator Adegbenga Kaka (APC, Ogun-East) warned that any state governor, who attempts to hijack or manipulate the party membership registration exercise would be doing so at a great risk.
Kaka said any governor who attempted to do so would incur the wrath of party members.
He said, “No governor that is desirous of building a virile party will ever attempt to hijack or manipulate the registration of party members. They will not want to incur the wrath of would-be-members. I still maintain that we are all equal until registration is carried out. All intending members are equal no matter how highly placed anybody may be.”
But the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Ogun State, Alhaji Sola Lawal, also dismissed such fears.
He said those expressing fears over the membership registration exercise were only crying wolf where none existed.
Lawal said it would be impossible for any APC governor to manipulate or hijack the membership registration process in his state due to the magnitude of the exercise.
He said, “There is no reason for anyone to be apprehensive of the exercise. For one, the process is too open for anyone to manipulate. Every polling booth constitutes registration unit. In other words, prospective members of the party who vote in a polling booth in general elections are expected to be bona fide party members in that unit.
“It is therefore impossible to deny anyone registration. The governor or anyone for that matter is not capable of manipulating things in thousands of registration centres. It will be lazy of anyone to hide behind fear of interference to fail in doing what is right to mobilise supporters for the exercise. The field is free.”
Also speaking on the issue, the Senator representing Oyo-South, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, allayed such fears.
The senator explained that the major task before the party at the moment was to register as many members as possible.
He said, “There are guidelines for party registration. We will follow the rules in Oyo State. As it were, our party is in the dominance in the state. The forthcoming registration of new members is a collective effort. Everybody is involved.
“This is not the time to start talking about someone using the exercise to hijack party structure. We are all using our political strengths and popularity to get as many members as possible from other parties so that we can retain our leadership position in the state.”
Lanlehin said, “We are all mobilising and sourcing for members now. We are fishing in the same water into the same boat. It is after that that the leaders could be talking of having those that will be loyal to them in the executive of the party during the congress that will come up later.
“We are working out modalities for that but it is not what you referred to as power tussle. It is just obvious that as leader you will want to have loyalists among the executives of the party but like I said it is not an issue that can lead to crisis at all.”
Attempts to get the reaction of the interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, were unsuccessful as he did not pick our correspondents’ calls to his phone.
Also, a text message sent to him was not replied as at the time of filing this report.
But in his reaction to some of the issues raised, the former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said the apprehension among some people was understandable.
He said, “All these apprehensions will be taken care of. We understand the apprehension of people but we are going to make sure there is real equality and that no person is unduly marginalised in the scheme of things because we must build a party where opportunities for all abound.”