Tongues continue to wag among Nigerians in various fora over the seriousness with which President Muhammadu Buhari handled and resolved the crisis in his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the run off to its national convention last month.
The convention, which held on March 26 at the Eagle Square, Abuja, amid fanfare, was preceded by near-boat-rocking internal wrangling.
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The event came at a time killings, kidnapping and other forms of attacks by terrorists and other criminal groups on hapless communities in Kaduna, Niger and other places across the country reached a crescendo.
Aside security challenges, Nigerians are also battling with a number of economic difficulties including a grueling energy crisis which almost brought the country to a halt due to a long drawn fuel scarcity. Buhari, who also doubles as minister of petroleum was lampooned for allegedly giving lip service to the problem.
Events leading to the party’s convention raised questions about President Buhari’s claim that the security of the country took priority over any other issues for his administration.
The ruling party was also embroiled in leadership crises at a time terrorists were menacing Niger, Kaduna and other northwestern states almost unchallenged.
However, President Buhari, in a quick intervention, asserted his influence as the leader of the party and saved it from collapse, even as insecurity and other pressing national issues needed similar decisive intervention.
The president met with governors several times, gave orders and ensured that they were implemented. Even while on a medical vacation in London, he continued hosting party leaders in a deft move to prevent implosion within the ruling party.
The president also cut short the trip and on his returned continued series of meetings that ensured a seamless transition in the party.
Many believe that if the president had deployed the same leadership, energy and commitment he had shown in resolving the APC crisis to addressing insecurity in the country, the situation would not be as worse as it is.
How Buhari saved party from the brinks
The ruling party, in its eight years of existence, has had four national chairmen – Bisi Akande, John Oyegun, Adams Oshiomhole and Mai Mala Buni.
After Oshiomhole’s unceremonious exit as the party’s chairman, President Buhari’s intervention produced a Buni-led caretaker committee, which was given the mandate to hold a convention in six months. The convention was held after 21 months, following two postponements.
After maintaining studied silence on the state of affairs of the party, Buhari, in January, told the APC to take the issue of convention seriously, warning that it risked losing power to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He, thereafter, met with the party’s governors ahead of the national convention earlier slated for February 26. President Buhari again hosted governors on the platform of the party the following month after the postponement of the February convention created tension and uncertainty over its future, with many stalwarts engaging in mudslinging.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State had accused Buni of working with some governors and “yahoo yahoo politicians” to prevent the convention from taking place.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State also claimed that the president had approved the removal of Buni as the caretaker chairman.
There were also reports that the caretaker committee was served with a court order barring it from organising the convention which the committee however, allegedly, hid from alerting key Stakeholders.
Also, the moves to produce a consensus candidate for the chairmanship position and other party offices unsettled aspirants, further heightening tension.
While the Yobe governor was away in the United Arab Emirate for medical attention, the Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, took over the party’s leadership and presided over the caretaker committee’s meeting, giving credence to speculation that Buni had been removed.
The crisis worsened when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rejected the notice of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party unless Buni signed the letter of notification.
Amid the imbroglio, Buhari waded in again, warning that the APC was drifting towards the path of the PDP, a party he said failed for 16 years and also failed in opposition.
The president, in a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, warned the leaders (and membership) of the party to desist from name-calling and backstabbing, remain steadfast and maintain its unity if the party was to continue on the path of victory and its dominance at all levels throughout the country.
Also, after meeting with Buni during his London medical trip, Buhari warned party leaders to desist from attacking the Yobe governor, and called for the immediate return of all members of the party’s interim committee to their respective positions.
In a letter to the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abubakar Bagudu, President Buhari gave three clear instructions for the party’s leadership ahead of the convention and ensured that they were fully implemented.
“First, the issue of the leadership of the Caretaker Extra Ordinary Convention Committee (CECOC) should immediately return to status quo ante; secondly, all the members of the Governors’ Forum and their followers should desist from any behaviour or utterance that will likely lead to disunity in the ranks of the party, and ultimately jeopardise the transition to the convention; thirdly, the Mai Mala Buni-led CECC should, accordingly, be allowed to proceed with all the necessary preparations to hold the convention as planned, unfailingly on March 26, 2022,” Buhari stated in the letter.
Few days before the convention, Buhari also held separate meetings with the party’s governors and chairmanship aspirants to sway them to back his choice candidate, Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
The governors, after the meeting, told reporters that they had resolved to support whoever the president supported at the convention.
He also held separate meeting with leadership of the National Assembly and another one with what the Presidency called “founding fathers of the party” all in his bid to save the APC.
Endless attacks by terrorists
Many communities in the North and other parts of the country are steeped in mourning over almost daily violent attacks by terrorists, who murder, maim and kidnap citizens mostly unchallenged.
Even military formations are not spared from the unrelenting attacks of the terrorists.
In the week the governing APC held its convention, dozens of people, including security personnel, were killed and abducted in Kaduna, Niger and other parts of the North.
The hardest hit was Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State, which suffered four different attacks within the week. The attacks left over 70 persons killed and many others kidnapped in several communities.
The latest killing of 15 soldiers, three vigilantes and two civilians in Kaduna happened few days after terrorists bombed the Abuja-Kaduna train on March 28, killing nine persons, while dozens of others were injured and scores still unaccounted for.
Few days before then, the insurgents struck at the Kaduna airport and killed one person. The incident had forced some airlines to suspend flight operations to the airport.
In Zamfara, terrorists on March 27 attacked several communities in Talata Mafara and Bakura local government areas, killing four persons.
In another attack, they killed at least 35 people, including a village head, after they raided five communities in Anka Local Government Area of the state last week.
Gunmen, on March 28, killed five persons and wounded three in communities of Irigwe chiefdom of Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau. Same day, six soldiers were killed while several others were injured after bandits stormed a village in Suleja, near Abuja.
In Taraba, terrorists also attacked a mosque while worshippers were breaking their fast on Tuesday, killing three persons, while many worshippers were abducted in Baba Juli village, Bali Local Government Area.
Some Nigerians said the occurrence of these brazen attacks in quick succession under the government’s watch called for concern.
‘Show seriousness in tackling insecurity the way you resolved APC crisis’
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and head of the Transparency International (Nigeria), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the kind of leadership and resources Buhari deployed to resolve the APC crisis was also needed to arrest insecurity.
He said even when situations pointed to a crisis-filled convention, with varying interests within the party at loggerhead, the president single-handedly steered the leadership of the party and the numerous candidates vying for different positions to build consensus and ultimately achieved a peaceful party convention.
“It is this kind of leadership that is expected of the president to demonstrate in arresting insecurity in the country,” he said.
Rafsanjani expressed worry that insecurity in Nigeria had taken a severe dimension, with terror groups becoming even bolder in their dastardly acts.
He said, “Life in Nigeria has indeed become too brute, too short and too uncertain for citizens, especially as the activities of these terrorist groups remain unchecked.
“The Kaduna State governor has been left helpless and has continually called on the federal government to deploy the full strength of security apparatus in flushing out the groups. His proposal for recruiting foreign mercenaries also suggests lack of capability by the Nigerian forces to deal with the situation.
“The occasional summoning of security chiefs to the Presidential Villa after every attack and issuance of directives has not yielded any visible result; hence, it is expected of the president to go to the full extent of halting insecurity in the country.
“As we approach the 2023 general elections, it is paramount for the country to attain security stability for peaceful, inclusive and participatory elections.
“As much as it is expected of citizens to participate en masse, it is vital for security agencies to assure citizens of their safety during the elections.
“The president must, therefore, ensure that the safety of Nigerians is given the same importance that was accorded to the stability of his political party by pulling every resource within his powers to entrench security in the country.”
Nigerians free to air their views – Presidency
When contacted, a presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu declined to comment.
However, a senior presidency source said Nigerians are entitled to hold opinions on the country’s security situation.
He said, “People are holding opinions, and we cannot stop people from holding opinions. People are entitled to hold their own opinions.”