The emergence of a powerful cabal, presently dictating the economic and political direction of the country, is believed to have set in motion necessary machinery aimed at retaining power in 2019. And determined to sacrifice any and everything that tend to stand on its way, maneuverings by the group, whether positive or otherwise, have already created crisis within the governing All Progressives Congress (APC). AMOS DUNIA takes a look at the issues involved in the crisis with additional report by MUSA SIMON REEF
With Nigeria in recession and the continuing poor performance of the economy taking a devastating toll on the people, it would have been expected that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and his governing All Progressives Congress (APC), would at least devote more attention to fixing the downturn in the nation’s socio-economic fortunes.
This unfortunately does not appear to be the case as the APC is more concerned with the intrigues of consolidating its strangled hold on power ahead of 2019. Insiders readily acknowledge that the development is of serious concerns and already giving some members of the administration not in the inner circle of power some sleepless nights. To the so-called second eleven in the PMB regime, so much attention being put on 2019 to the detriment of efforts at pulling the economy out of the woods.
Already, different interest groups are jostling for the blood vessels and soul of the party to enhance their grip and effective control of the presidency and the party machinery. The main focus of this influential group, believed to be more powerful than the once upon-a-time “cabal” during the reign of Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, is the 2019 presidential carrot. But for the reigning ‘Cabal’, it is either 2019 or nothing else matters. Thus, the group has vowed that except and unless, there are health challenges, President Buhari would be convinced to contest the 2019 presidential elections.
The group, comprising members of the inner clique, some powerful ministers referred to as “Buhari boys”, governors, party chieftains and other high political appointees, are too determined to crush any opposition within and outside the presidency and the APC. Also, they are not ready to listen to the idea of having a possible standby replacement for PMB.
To these groups with different long-term objectives, allowing another political leader to take over means capitulating in their present prized positions and surrendering their firm grip and enormous influence in the corridors of power.
For a start, one of the cabals allegedly led by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir, like the comatose Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) used to launch the 2015 presidential campaign of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is equally making early moves to reach out and identify key people from and amongst the Northern minorities that will help the presidency and APC galvanise support for PMB ahead of 2019.
Accordingly, this group successfully brought together some Northern Christians political leaders in Abuja on November 19, 2016 under the aegis of Northern Christians Politicians Conference (NCPC) but attended by some few Muslim politicians led by the Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulrahman Danbazzau (rtd). The one day conference was targeted at confidence building for the Northern minorities and to forge a common understanding with their North-west allies perceived as having used the minorities in the past for their electoral value after which they are dumped and left in the cold as spectators and not participants in the country’s governance.
The NCPC, as gathered by Forefront, is mandated to work on keeping intact and securing the votes of Northern minorities who are mostly Christians for President Buhari on the premise that he is working to have a united north like in the days of the Late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello.
Not yet done, another cabal in the presidency that has become so uncomfortable with what its members described as “the over-bearing influence” of some prominent APC leaders, carefully plotted an uncommon political maneuvering using the National chairman of the Party, Chief John Oyegun to deal a deadly blow on Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. In their calculations, the clique worked hard to ensure the governorship candidate of the party in Ondo State was not his (Tinubu) preferred candidate. The move did not go down well with Tinubu, who instantly called for the resignation of Chief Oyegun. But despite the hues and cries of Tinubu, President Buhari feigned ignorance of the happenings within the party by looking the other way.
Specifically, the party primaries and governorship elections in Ondo State was used by this cabal to test its strength, deflate the political force and stature of Tinubu as well as to consolidate its hold of the Sunshine state and by extension the South-west ahead of 2019 general elections.
However, while Ondo State may have worked according to plan and permutations at least for now, there are still higher hurdles to cross in the South-west zone known to be better positioned to play the role of the beautiful bride in 2019. For instance, out of the four APC-controlled states in the zone, only Governor Ibikunle Amusu of Ogun State attended the Ondo State APC governorship grand rally while governors of Osun and the two big States of Lagos and Oyo were conspicuously absent just as Ekiti is under the firm control of strongman Ayo Fayose of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and may not be easy to over-run by the APC.
An APC member, who does not want his name in print, said, “The outcome of the Ondo governorship poll is a clear demonstration that a particular force in our party is desirous of taking over control at all cost, while the old power broker is left to lick his wounds in the dark. Nothing may change in the long run, as those elected to deliver on the change mantra may not be able to rise above the politics of 2019 to concentrate on development.”
Similarly, a source close to a serving cabinet minister told Forefront that the Minister has expressed concerned over the fact that politics of 2019 is seriously influencing the decision of government that is now all out to tackle expected challenges to be posed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
According to him; “We all may think we have been insulated from the politics of 2019, but the unfortunate thing is that we are caught in the web of certain forces working to curb the influence of Tinubu. Accordingly, every action of the inner circle of the Buhari’s cabinet is predicated on 2019.”
Information pieced together indicates that despite denials from several quarters that all is well with the APC; it is becoming clearer that the crisis between Asiwaju and Buhari’s kitchen cabinet is causing sleepless moments and ripples within and outside the party.
In this wise, attempts to fix the present economic recession is becoming a herculean task as there is no focused attention to pull the country out of the woods. “Pulling Nigeria out of the woods can only be realised through focused attention on the problems at hand. In a situation where government officials are engaged in plotting for political supremacy ahead of the 2019 polls, the result may be disastrous.
Creating New Sphere For APC In South-east
It was equally gathered that the relationship between President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet and the South-east APC politicians cannot be described as cordial or in the best of terms, as ardent PMB’s supporters are increasingly becoming wary of what an insider described as the perceived “fear of treachery” from Igbo politicians.
Buttressing this point further, a former governorship candidate in one of the South-east states in the 2015 polls, said the PMB-led government is particularly not comfortable with Governor Rochas Okorocha whose presidential ambition is still a subject of muted speculation. This is in spite of spirited efforts by the Imo State Governor to wield influence on the affairs of the governing party. Okorocha, according to the former governorship candidate, is being closely watched with a view to checkmate him should he spring a surprise with a subtle interest to contest the 2019 presidential poll.
“Governor Okorocha has submitted his nominees for board appointments, but the President’s kitchen cabinet has jettisoned it. Pointedly put, it is now visible in the political arena that the Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum has his relevance whittled down due to politics of 2019 that has engulfed the present administration.
Forefront equally gathered that placing much premium on the 2019 polls when the administration is yet to go midway, is a deliberate attempt aimed at creating and causing confusion in the polity owing to the seeming lack lustre footprints of the Federal Government to critically address issues that has led to the present economic recession in the country. Accordingly, the issue of who succeeds who in 2019 should not be a subject for discussion.
Confirming the crisis within the APC, a BOT member and close ally of PMB, Alhaji Buba Galadima agreed that the governing party is having serious problems at the moment just as he confirmed that President Buhari will run in 2019 possibly on the platform of another party due to the problems attempting to wreck the party.
He was however countered by the Presidency through the Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who said Galadima was not in a position to speak for PMB who is busy with getting things fixed in the country.
Also speaking on the crisis rocking the APC, a former Chairman of the party in Kaduna State, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed urged President Buhari to as a matter of necessity intervene in the crisis within the party and save it from disintegration. According to Baba-Ahmed; “The problems affecting the party have been left to linger for too long and must be settled in the next few months, if the party hopes to retain power in 2019. Even if you can forgive some of the crisis and blame it on inexperience, you cannot forgive the fact that we have tolerated this crisis for too long. They have persisted, and that is not something we should excuse, we should not also excuse the existence of massive problems in states and at the national level.
“In political terms, four years of an administration is only like two years or two and half years. In a year’s time, we will not be talking about governing this country; we will be talking about campaigns for 2019. And if this party doesn’t fix itself at the national level, doesn’t fix all the problems it has in the states, it is unlikely to come back to Nigerians with the confidence it came to us in 2014 /2015, to say give us another mandate.”
Lending credence to allegations that APC House is fraught with disunity, Governor Okorocha at the end of a meeting between the Progressives Governors Forum and President Buhari told journalists that there is no running away from the fact that there is lack of unity in the governing party, stressing that the goodwill of the APC since it won the 2015 polls has considerably waned due to avoidable bickering.
According to Okorocha, “To return to the path of sanity, there is the need for the re-assessment of the affairs of APC in order to reconcile differing views to pave way for unanimity.”
But in a bid to create a plan of support for the President, his footmen have reportedly reached out to some key South-easterners to form a bulwark of support in a manner that would strengthen the APC in the event the strongman of South-west politics, Bola Tinubu, caves in to pressure to mastermind yet another rainbow coalition to wrest power from the APC in 2019.
Forefront reliably gathered that the search for prominent politicians that will brighten the chances of the APC in the South-west has begun in earnest. This is just as it was gathered that for now, Minister of Science and Technology and former Governor of Abia State, Dr Ogbonanya Onu is now the arrowhead of a new strategic think tank to forge a strong alliance to strengthen the APC in the South-east. Others in the same calling are Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, former Governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo and former Abia State Governor, chief Orji Uzor Kalu, who recently defected to the APC.
It was gathered that the four politicians are now serving as torch bearers who are irrevocably committed to creating new spheres of influence for the APC in the South-east.