The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in a bid to retain power in next year’s general election is navigating through murky waters of politics characterised by twists and turns, acrimony, discontent, thrills and frills.
The atmosphere in the party is full of horse-trading, conflict of interests, religious and ethnic biases, especially, as the party’s bigwigs have initiated various schemes to outdo one another ahead of the polls.
Stakeholders and power brokers in the legacy parties who collapsed their structures to form the APC were still active and in the spirit that there should be power distribution among them during the pre-election year.
The APC was formed in 2013, when some opposition parties collapsed their structures and came together to wrest power from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
They were the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP).
The scramble for who gets what, was intense as the party held various primaries and the national convention where its new crop of National Working Committee (NWC) emerged.
The party witnessed ups and downs within its fold considering that the year under review was a pre-election year filled with a beehive of activities.
Protests over Muslim/Muslim ticket
Protests in the political space following the party’s decision to adopt a Muslim/Muslim ticket for the 2023 poll have continued unabated despite the proximity to the February 25, 2023 presidential poll. Some party leaders have already dumped the party and withdrew their support for its candidates ahead of the polls.
Pundits say the APC had shot itself in the foot when it fielded its presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Muslim from the South West and Kashim Shettima, its vice presidential candidate, also a Muslim, from the North East.
The development received heavy bashing from the Christian community and others who considered it an attempt to undermine Christians and sideline them in the scheme of governance of the country.
The fear by many, was that the fielding of a Muslim/Muslim ticket by the APC was a strategy to islamise Nigeria in the future.
But the APC, Tinubu and Shettima have consistently denied the claims, saying they were chosen to enable the party to retain power in 2023 and deliver good governance to Nigerians.
Despite the explanations and denial of a hidden agenda against the Christian community in the country, protests had continued unabated as some prominent Christians from the North spearheaded the protests predicting doom for the party.
A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, who was highly against the party’s decision had called on Nigerians not to vote for the same faith ticket.
Commenting on this at the APC Northern Christian Leaders Summit in Abuja, Lawal had claimed there is an agenda to suppress and oppress the northern Christians.
Similarly, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who was one of those at the forefront of the campaign against the Muslim/Muslim ticket said the adoption of the same faith ticket was antithetical to Nigeria’s quest for nation-building.
He said this in Abuja at a submit tagged ‘Meet the Church’ organised by the Nigerian National Christians Coalition (NNCC) with the theme, ‘The role of the Church in Nation Building.’
He argued that the APC ignored warnings by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Catholic Secretariat, ECWA Church and many other church bodies and adopted the same faith ticket in a manner that negated the fundamentals of nation building, such as shared identity, values and vision.
Crisis over campaign list
The APC had procrastinated in its campaign kick-off sequel to internal crisis that engulfed the party over the composition of its presidential campaign council.
Some governors who are members of the party, National Executive Committee (NEC), National Working Committee (NWC) and some National Caucus members among others had kicked against the earlier list released by Secretary of the Presidential Campaign Council, Hon. James Faleke.
Many stakeholders, especially state governors were aggrieved that their nominees were not captured in the list. The development forced the party to postpone the inauguration of its campaign council.
It later released a new list protecting the interests of many and later kicked-off its presidential campaign in Jos, the Plateau State capital, about six weeks after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had lifted the ban on public campaigns on September 28.
Yet the final list excluded some prominent politicians in the party such as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who contested against Tinubu at the primaries, Babachir Lawal, Yakubu Dogara and many others.
Some party stalwarts who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity yesterday said they were still aggrieved because their names didn’t reflect on the final list, thus, compelling them to resort to being members of some Tinubu/Shettima support groups.
It is imperative to state that the absence of Osinbajo’s name on the 422-man list had attracted different comments.
But explaining the reason in a statement, the Director of Public Affairs and Chief Spokesperson for Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo (SAN), said, “Mr. President has specifically directed that the Vice President and the SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha should be left out of the Campaign Council to concentrate on the governance of the country and administration of government.”
Aspirants forced to quit race at convention
The APC had held its national convention at the Eagle Square in Abuja on March 26, where the chairmanship contenders were compelled to step down for a former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
Adamu emerged winner of the party’s chairmanship slot because he was endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the preferred candidate even though he joined the race at the eleventh hour.
President Buhari had directed that the aspirants who stepped down for Adamu should be refunded the money they spent on expression of interest and nomination forms after the exercise.
But many months after assumption of office by the Adamu-led NWC, aspirants were still lamenting and groaning that they were yet to be refunded their money as directed by the president.
In a letter addressed to the Chairman, APC Election Sub-Committee and signed by one of the chairmanship contenders and former governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, the aspirants announced their withdrawal for Adamu as demanded by Buhari.
They were, a former governor of Nasarawa State, Sen. Tanko Al-Makura; Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Sen. George Akume; former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari; Sen. Sani Musa; Etsu Muhammed and Saliu Mustapha.
The party was being run by the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee led by Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, before the Adamu-led NWC took over.
The presidential primary
The presidential primary of the APC was held in Abuja, at the Eagle Square, where a former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, emerged as its presidential candidate on June 8.
Tinubu polled 1, 271 votes to defeat his closest rivals, a former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. While Amaechi polled 316 votes, Osinbajo scored 235 votes.
Tinubu contested against thirteen other aspirants; Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Mr Ahmed Rufai, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Mr Jack Rich, Governor Ben Ayade, Governor David Umahi, Senator Ahmed Yarima, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Osinbajo, Amaechi, Governor Yahaya Bello and Mr Ogbonnaya Onu.
Nine aspirants had earlier stepped down, eight of whom asked their supporters to vote for Tinubu, while one asked his supporters to vote for Osinbajo.
Those who stepped down before voting began were Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, Robert Boroffice, Ken Nnamani, Ibikunle Amosun, Dimeji Bankole, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi and Godswill Akpabio.
They asked their supporters to vote for Tinubu. The only female aspirant, Mrs Uju Ken-Ohanenye also stepped down for Tinubu, while Pastor Felix Nicholas, stepped down and asked his supporters to vote for Osinbajo.
Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, a former Minister of State for Education, was conspicuously absent at the convention.
Some of the aspirants were however, aggrieved after the convention as little or nothing has been heard from them about the party’s presidential campaign.
However, the APC national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu told newsmen recently in Abuja, that they were all working together for Tinubu’s victory on February 25, 2023.
It is instructive to note that the APC also fielded candidates for governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections.