When the All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed in 2013 from the union of Congress for Progressive Change, Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria People’s Party and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance, the general consensus was that they had come to save Nigeria from the bloated ruling party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The singular nature of their foe made it easy to ignore their glaring differences. Concerns over Muhammadu Buhari’s ambition and Bola Tinubu’s control were subsumed under their collective quest for power. But these opposing interests existed nonetheless. They were the faults under the tectonic plates of the party. And now that they the ones in power and the enemy, PDP, has been effectively neutered, the cracks are now shifting and small eruptions have begun to occur in the party.
Crises at the congress
The state congresses held across the country in May were/ characterized by tranquillity in some states and discord in others. This led to parallel congresses in Kwara, Kogi, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos, Delta, Enugu, Kogi, and Ebonyi state. These parallel congresses were organised by some of the party’s top officials including the Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnya Onu (Ebonyi), Minister of Communication, Mr Adebayo Shittu (Oyo), Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu), and Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (Kwara).
There was violence in Ondo state, where journalists and party members were attached by thugs. Chaos ruled in Imo, with its nadir the point where the governor Rochas Okorocha and National Organising Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Osita Izunaso, together wandered around looking for “one mike” who was supposedly with the election materials, a moment made even more pathetic by how funny it was.
Fractions within factions
But of all these commotion across the country, perhaps the most indicative of the party’s underlying divisiveness was the ultimatum issued by the nPDP group, a crew of party men who defected to the All Progressives Congress from the then ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party. The original defectors included then governors and former governors Aliyu Wamakko, RabiuKwankwaso, Adulfatah Ahmed, Murtala Nyako, Rotimi Amaechi, Adamu Aliero, Danjuma Goje, Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the ex-speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal also defected. The victory of APC and the effective gutting of PDP could be inadvertently traced to the movement of these men across the political aisle. But it appears in their movement, they still chose to retain their old identities.
Political movements in Nigeria generally lack a proper identity, so it’s no surprise that migrating from one to another doesn’t require a change. The defectors from PDP to APC, led by Abubakar Kawu Baraje, who described their movement as a “watershed moment in Nigeria’s political history,” gave APC National chairman John Odigie-Oyegun a seven-day ultimatum to facilitate a meeting with them. They who believed their actions led to the election of the president wanted to have an audience with him.
“It is a matter for grave concern that His Excellency, Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has never publicly acknowledged our efforts in the face of clear evidence that the total number of votes scored by the APC in states where leaders and members of the then NEW PDP bloc held sway made the difference,” they said in their letter to the National Chairman.
In an unsurprising twist, however, some members of this nPDP group, led by Senator Adamu Abdullahi, a former governor of Nasarawa State, refuted the allegations of the Baraje-led group saying, “the alleged marginalisation was full of contradictions as PDP is adequately represented in the executive and the legislative arm of the APC led federal government.” That PDP requires or even has representation in the party that led to its vanquishing is all that needs to be said about the power dynamics in Nigerian politics. There are no political differences—not to talk of one based on ideology. There are only politicians people in power and those aspiring to supplant them.
Implications for elections in 2019
In an ideal world, the internal wrangling of APC and its continuos splitting into parallel factions should be nothing but spectacle for the rest of the country. Their status as ruling party, however, implies that the actions of members of the party hold the potential to affect even people who have no part in their partisan dynamics. The violence that attended the fractured congresses is just the beginning of possible chaos.
The party – President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in particular – doesn’t have a reputation of upholding the rule of law in the country. This, combined with the party’s internal dynamics, raises doubts about their ability to run free and fair elections in 2019. The ability of the Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP administration to let the INEC commissioner his work with minimal interference in 2015 is partly responsible for the ease of transition the country witnessed after the elections. There’s no precedence to show the same can be assured under APC. A house divided against itself may not stand. That is well. But when the falling house stands the potential of trapping a nation’s electoral process under its collapsing superstructure, then more attention should be paid to its structural integrity.