By Ehichioya Ezomon
Except in a few states, where the rug was rudely pulled from under the feet of so-called “leaders” of the party, proponents of the aborted tenure elongation for officials of the ruling All Progressives Congress dominated the contentious May 5 (and even Saturday’s May 12) congresses held across the country.
Thus, the outcome was more of sighs and hisses than smiles. Which is why there’s outpouring of calls for cancellation of the balloting in many states, especially in areas where aspirants were hoping to upstage officials that had overstayed their welcome.
Recall that the tenure advocates had boasted about their grassroots’ spread and reach in the states, and that canvassing extension in office was to save the APC from implosion that acrimonious congresses and conventions often precipitate. So, the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-headed National Working Committee, chapter chairmen and most of the state governors stressed this fear of divisiveness, to seek additional 12 months for the party officials at all levels.
Although the tenure champions won the day, they had just a one-month reprieve – from February 27 to March 27, 2018 – before the “superior argument” of President Muhammadu Buhari vitiated their dream of one more year to their original term due to expire next month (June).
Buhari’s foreshadowing was that, apart from infringing on constitutionally-mandated periodic elections into political offices, the positions thus elongated would constitute mere “caretaker committees,” which could not legally endorse candidates for any elections, as the courts had pronounced.
To avoid any legal jeopardy arising from such lacuna, the National Executive Committee of the APC voted for the congresses and a national convention, and asked interested aspirants, whether old or new members, and the current office holders, to go into the field and sell themselves to the party voters.
Well, the congresses held, and the tenure prolongation partisans and their patron-governors were proved right. They did not only hold sway in the states, but the balloting was a throwback to the larger Nigerian electoral atmosphere signposted by omens of rowdiness, manipulation, and bloody skirmishes.
In the midst of a dustup in Delta State, a chairmanship aspirant in Jeremi Ward 10, Ughelli South local government council, Mr. Jeremiah Oghoveta, was stabbed to death. In Bauchi State, aggrieved party supporters set ablaze the Ningi local government secretariat when results of the congresses in some wards did not favour their faction.
And in Rivers State, on the eve of the exercise, dissatisfied members vandalized the APC secretariat in Port Harcourt. A High Court in the city suffered the same fate last Friday before the local government congresses. Thugs of both factions of the APC, reportedly joined by those of the external Peoples Democratic Party, vandalized the court that was considering a motion to stop the elections.
Reports from other states were no less unsavory, with accusations of devious shutting out of aspirants unaligned with the power brokers – majorly current and past governors. Those sidelined were heavyweight politicians: former governors, former and serving minsters and lawmakers, and financiers, some of who had sacrificed more for the APC than the incumbents in the states.
Some examples: In Kaduna State, Governor Nasir el-Rufai outsmarted his main challengers, Senators Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi, by resorting to affirmation of candidates in all the wards, prompting the lawmakers to declare that “no congresses” ever held.
The camp of the Minister of Transportation and former governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, employed the Option A4 system of voting to gain all seats in the wards in Rivers State, and thus outwitted the faction led by Senator Magnus Abe, whose governorship ambition Amaechi opposes.
In Kano State, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his estranged political godfather and former governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, held parallel congresses. Also in Kogi State, the rival groups of Governor Yahaya Bello and Mohammed Audu/James Faleke (Reps member) conducted parallel congresses.
However, there were astounding congresses in some states. In Imo, Governor Rochas Okorocha was worsted by a combination of APC chieftains, who seized the election materials, to the exclusion of the governor’s supporters. Okorocha would hurriedly report the humiliating experience to President Buhari, who was in Daura, Katsina State, to participate in the congresses.
Factional APC members in Oyo State, led by the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, though reportedly manhandled by political thugs, celebrated their “defeat” of the camp of Governor Abiola Ajimobi at the ward congresses.
In Bauchi State, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and his supporters skipped the congresses, which Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar and his faction claimed with relish.
Similarly, the APC national chair, Chief Oyegun, stayed away from the voting in his home-base, Edo State, which chapter has thrown up former Governor Adams Oshiomhole to contest for that position at the national convention in June. Oshiomhole, who formally declared that interest in Abuja on Thursday, has the backing of President Buhari.
With the results of the council congresses on Saturday equally being scandalized by the “losers,” the fissures in the APC, going into the 2019 elections, may be deepening, to the “we-said-so” amusement of the tenure elongation enthusiasts.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.