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2019: An Uphill Task For Buhari’s APC?




By Akanimo Sampson, Abuja

Boko Haram/ Herdsmen rampage…Hardship…Parallel Congresses… Persecution… Unemployment… Worsening poverty….With these signposts one can easily trace a path through the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The All Progressives Congress (APC) came to power in 2015 through a massive electoral victory that saw the then dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) eating the dust. Three years after that historic popular support, the Nigerian people do not seem to be seeing the Change Buhari and his party, the APC promised the electorate.

With the current economic, political and social situation in Nigeria, APC is not likely to win the 2019 Presidential polls if the election is manifestly free, fair and transparent. At the moment, Buhari and the party are facing an uphill task. That notwithstanding, in politics anything can happen.

Already, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is galvanising a national coalition to throw Buhari and his APC out of power in 2019. Obasanjo is known for propping up governments and and also pulling them down. In January this year he published a long letter hitting the Buhari administration real hard. Titled The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement, Obasanjo accused the Buhari of performing far below expectation and advised him against seeking re-election. He also accused the President of ‘’clannishness, lack of understanding of the dynamics of politics, and his tendencies to pass the buck of his government’s inadequacies to the immediate past administration.’’

In December 2013, he wrote a similar incisive letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he literally installed as President. It was titled Before it is Too Late. In it, Obasanjo highlighted a multitude of failures of the Jonathan administration. He capped his criticisms of the Jonathan government by dramatically tearing his PDP’s membership card. Spurred, the then opposition APC hailed him as a statesman who courageously spoke truth to power.

Watering down the heat, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed said, ‘’for the record, Chief Obasanjo is a patriot, and he has proven this time and time again. We appreciate what he said concerning the administration’s performance in two out of the three key issues that formed the plank of its campaign: Fighting corruption and tackling insurgency….Apparently, the former President believes that the administration does not deserve a pass mark in the area of the economy, which is the third of our three-pronged campaign promises….

‘’We believe that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedule, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury.’

In the mean time, stakeholders of African Democratic Congress (ADC) are boasting that their party has been adopted by Obasanjo’s Coalition of National Movement (CNM). They are vowing that ADC will enthrone a new generation of leaders in Nigeria in 2019.

In a communique issued after their meeting, the South East stakeholders of the party promised that the trust Obasanjo placed on the party will yield good dividends, assuring that their commitment and passion were in alignment with the good aspiration of all Nigerians. ‘’It is a known fact that the government of APC has failed in the core responsibilities of any government as the security and welfare of the people have deteriorated monumentally’’, ADC said.

In a seeming bid to sex up his dwindling image, Buhari claimed while receiving members of the Buhari Support Organisation led by the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, at the State House on May 22, that Obasanjo blew up $16 billion in the power sector without anything to show for it. ‘’You know the rail was killed and one of the former heads of state between [sic] that time was bragging that he spent more than $16 billion, not naira, on power. Where is the power? Where is the power? And now, we have to pay the debt’’, Buhari said.

Firing back through his media aide Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo said Buhari’s allegation that he wasted $16 billion on a power project that produced no power was ‘’based on ignorance’’ and recommended that the President and his ‘’co-travellers’’ should read his book, My Watch where he said he had exhaustively discussed and put the allegation to rest. He added for effect: ‘’If he cannot read the three-volume book, he should detail his aides to do so and summarise the chapters in a language that he will easily understand.’’

While the Buhari-Obasanjo dog fight continues to play out, the Kaduna wing of the PDP says democracy is fast eroding in Nigeria especially in Kaduna State, counting on events that happened in the last three years and described the 2018 Democracy Day Celebration as a day of sober reflection with nothing to celebrate.

Their state Publicity Secretary, Abraham Alberah Catoh, said only three years down the line, the tenets of democracy is fast eroding: ‘’The APC-led Federal and State Governments have been destroying the major institutions of our democratic state. Arbitrary arrests of innocent law abiding citizens, attacks on journalists ,media trials of perceived enemies and corrupt politicians from the opposition parties or dissenting voices, unconstitutional demolition of properties belonging to Nigerians and opposing political actors and demolition of markets.

‘’In Kaduna State, there is no single project initiated and completed by Governor Nasiru El-Rufai ,even with the quantum of monies, running into trillions of Naira from the Federation Account, Paris Club refund, bail outs, loans, grants and proceeds from the sale of government houses and properties.

‘’The spate of uncompleted projects in Kaduna is an eye sore, with no hope of completion in sight. In furtherance of the El-Rufai anti-people policies, over 50,000 civil servants were sacked without recourse to laid down rules ,even with their campaign promise of providing jobs to our teeming youths. The APC also promised to revive the ailing textiles industries, but as usual with the El-Rufai and APC administration, that is synonymous with lies and propaganda, nothing has changed, rather the people are worse off.’’

According to the PDP, ‘’the spate of wanton killings by herdsmen and unknown gun men and kidnappings is unprecedented, people are maimed and killed without government intervention, but even with the glaring lack of government’s deliberate intervention in protecting the citizens, Governor El-Rufai announced to the world that ‘the security situation in Nigeria is only exaggerated by the media’, he further described it as lacking substance enough to be a topic of discussion. No wonder ,the government has allowed the reckless killings and kidnappings in Birnin Gwari, Giwa and Southern Kaduna to go on.

In a seeming tacit attack on the Buhari administration, Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, warned the electorate against blind voting in 2019, saying democracy is not something that is gained from the ballot box. According to the leader of the Green Chamber of Nigeria’s bicameral Legislature, ‘’the ballot box sometimes has produced some enemies of democracy, those who have completely discarded the tenets of democracy’’.

Continuing, Dogara said, ‘’we have to invest more in building democracy and democratic institutions. Where institutions are strong; democracy itself will be made strong. And to be very candid, Parliament is the hope of saving the people from dictatorship. Where democracies fail; it is common place to blame it on Parliament, it becomes the fault of members of Parliament who are not willing to stand up to principles and be defenders of those democratic institutions’’.

The speaker was speaking in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, while playing host to a parliamentary delegation from Liberia, undertaking a study tour in the country, comprising of members of Joint Committee on Public Accounts, Expenditure and Audit, led by Senator Henry Yallah.

This attack tends to give credence to the speculation of an impending exodus of some leading politicians from the APC, following the public release of the names of its high-profile members who met the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) bloc of the ruling party.

Former Chairman of the nPDP, Kawu Baraje, has named Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Speaker Dogara, among key aggrieved APC members who attended a meeting, where the group allegedly considered the option of mass defection.

Members of the nPDP in APC on April 27, this year addressed a letter to the National Chairman of the APC where they informed the party of their grievances and expectations from both the party and government. According to Baraje, ‘’following this development, the party invited us and we honoured its invitation to a meeting. We met with the leadership of the party last week, during which we resolved to report the outcome of our meeting to our members and stakeholders before arriving at any decision or proceeding with the next phase of discussions or actions with the APC and government.

‘’I am glad to inform you, therefore, that we have briefed our members at a meeting convened in Abuja on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, where we reviewed the state of the nation and our party, APC, and constituted committees on various issues, especially on how to rescue Nigeria from economic, social, political and especially security challenges. The meeting was well attended by members of the nPDP, including serving and former governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, and other aggrieved APC stakeholders.’’

Those he listed as having attended the meeting include: Saraki, Dogara, Tambuwal; former Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso; former Osun State Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, his Adamawa State counterpart, Murtala Nyako; Senator Mohammad Aliero, Senator Danjuma Goje, Senator John Enoh, Senator Andy Uba, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, Senator Rufai Ibrahim and Senator Ibrahim Danbaba.

Others are Sen. Suleman Nazif, Sen. Isa Misau, Sen. Muhammed Shitu, Sen. Shehu Sani, Sen. Dino Melaye, Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi, Sen. Shaaba Lafiagi, Sen. Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Sen. David Umaru, Sen. Barnabas Gemade; Chairman, former nPDP, Alh. Abubakar K. Baraje; Mr. Aminu Shagari, Mr. Kabiru Marafa, Mr. Isa Ashiru, Mr. Muh’d Soba, Mr. Mark Gbillah, Mr. Sani Rano, Mr. Garba Durbunde, Mr. Aliyu Madaki, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, Mr. Rufai Chachangi, Mr. Razak Atunwa, Mr. Emmanuel Udende, Mr. Hassan Saleh, Mr. Nasiru Sule, Mr. Orker Jev, Mr. Aliyu Pategi, Mr. Isah Halilu, Mr. Rabiu Kaugama, Mr. Abdussamad Dasuki, Mr. Ismaila Gadaka, Mr. Lado Suleja, Mr. Dickson Tarkighir, Mr. Babatunde Kolawole, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, Mr. Danjuma Shida, Mr. Danburam Nuhu, Mr. Sunday Adepoju, Mr. Sani Zorro, Mr. Ahmed Bichi, Mr. Garba Mohammed and a host of others.

In a bid to chart a middle course, leaders of the nPDP held a meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the previous Monday, but failed to commit themselves to the APC cause. They have been vocal about their discontentment with life in the APC.

After the meeting with Osinbajo, Baraje said, ‘’we are looking forward to some of the promises. There will be other meetings because we have been put into subcommittees and then we will now identify specific and general problems and then we will proceed to see Mr. President. But it was a very good meeting.’’

Obviously, it is a season of political horse trading for Buhari and the APC if they are determined to enter the 2019 elections as a cohesive party. The Congresses have left the party badly bruised just as the persecution of perceived political foes in the National Assembly has ruptured the party. And, whichever angle one looks at the building power battle, it is indeed, an uphill task for Buhari and the APC. ENDS

Akanimo Sampson is a celebrated editor, activist, and prolific writer.