APC: Many sides of governing party in 2023

The All Progressives Congress (APC), in the reckoning of many observers in 2023 was a party with a blend of fortune and misfortune despite consolidating its stronghold on power at the center.

APC, unequivocally, had glorious outings in the year just ended, by first retaining the presidential seat and leadership of the 10th National Assembly as well as having more governorship seats in the states.

The ruling party could not have asked for more as it currently occupies the major juicy political positions in the country and perhaps, leaving other political parties with crumbs.

However, the achievements did not come on a platter as the party went through a political furnace to retain the presidential power won by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who took over from Muhammadu Buhari.

APC equally made history in the year ended as a party that was constantly enmeshed in unending leadership crises but still went ahead to record all the electoral victories.

Also, the ruling party retained its identity of sacking its national leadership with the removal of its immediate past national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, Secretary, Iyiola Omisore, and the resignation of other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) like the Vice Chairman, North-West, Salihu Moh Lukman, and National Legal Adviser, Ahmed El-Marzuk, in one clean swoop and under controversial circumstances.

The year will go down in the history of the APC, as that when the incumbent national chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, emerged under contentious situations when the power that be, the presidency and members of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) forced him on the party members.

In retrospect, his emergence was completely unexpected, unimaginable, and against the run of play as it amounted to usurpation of the conventional zoning right of the North Central geopolitical region, particularly Nasarawa State, which ought to have statutorily produced the replacement for the immediate past chairman, Abdullahi Adamu.

APC in 2023 was a party that suffered from post-presidential party primary and post-election victory crisis as the presidential flag bearer and winner was in an apparent cold war with the then-national chairman, Adamu, and many other stakeholders.

The ruling party equally made history as a party that went into the major elections in 2023 as a divided house. APC’s leadership generated billions of naira, especially from the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms but could not support its candidates with the usual campaign funds. Candidates from the presidential, National, and State Assemblies to the governorship, against the tradition, went into the general elections last year without any financial support from the leadership of the party.

In the words of former APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, “Nobody supported the party’s candidates before us and nobody had done it after I left. If anything, the people that took over from the caretaker committee raised two times the resources than what we raised, but they decided to pay themselves… Let me not reveal the party secrets…”

According to former NWC member, Salihu Lukman, APC in 2023 was a party enmeshed in financial recklessness, rascality, and dictatorship, especially from the Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC members.

The party was apparently on the front burner for both positive and negative reasons in the year under consideration. Arrogance, unending leadership crises, complaints, and lamentations reigned supreme in APC, in the year 2023, to the point of destabilizing the party.

The cold war between former chairman, Adamu with many members of his NWC, the endless complaints by the members of the party’s secretariat staff, the blunt refusal and or deliberate reneging in the President’s directive and the gentleman agreement to refund the aspirants for the national leadership positions the funds they expended for the failed expedition, the sharp alignment and realignment during the pre and post party primaries, among many others, made the ruling party a house of commotion in the year 2023.

By extension, beyond the harsh economic policies the ruling party intentionally inflicted on Nigerians, the APC-led Federal Government also subjected the country to severe pressure and hardship with its currency redesigning policy which created a scarcity of cash that not only cost many Nigerians their lives but also crumbled many small-scale businesses in the country.

In fact, like the biblical injunction of chastising and adding to the yoke of Nigerians, the current APC government’s policy of so-called fuel subsidy removal worsened the situation of the people.

In reality, according to many pundits, APC, in 2023 was synonymous with meting out endless anguish to Nigerians with the twin harsh economic policies of currency redesigning and removal of fuel subsidy.

It was also a year the ruling party perfected and raised the bar in the art of desperation to win elections regardless of the methodologies and approach. It instituted the popular mantra of power did not serve a la carte and the grab, snatch, and run with it popular refrain.

Many political watchers argue that what APC failed to win through the ballot papers, it desperately got through the law courts as exemplified in the victories it recorded at the Election Petition Tribunal, Appeal Courts, and also the Supreme Court.

The ruling party was also allegedly accused of perfecting other acts of electoral malfeasance during the off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states.

To actualise its resolve to consolidate power, APC in 2023, directly and indirectly, ensured that the party became the comfortable nest where heavyweight politicians from other political parties flocked for relevance and protection.

Interestingly, chieftains of other political parties like the Young Progressives Party (YPP) serving senator, Ifeanyi Uba, former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart, Uche Ekwunife, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) Bauchi State governorship candidate, Halliru Dauda Jika, former PDP chieftain and ex-Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, opposition parties’ state executives like Kano, Bauchi NNPP among others, have pitched their tenth under the protective custody of the APC in 2023.

Frowning at the trend, the ruling party’s woman leader, Sharon Ikpeazu noted: “I believe our democracy will benefit greatly if we amend our electoral laws to prohibit cross-carpeting. It was personally heart-breaking for me to see many people pour into the APC immediately after our victory. Many of them had said most despicable things about our party and then-presidential candidate before the elections.

“To my mind, that dilution of our membership as well as the lack of a clear progressive roadmap caused us to lose sight of the progressive path.”

Appraising the APC in the year, a party chieftain told Daily Sun in confidence that the ruling party failed in all ramifications in 2023 to live up to its promises and progressive credentials. He said: “I am a founding member of APC. There are good things to be said about the APC, to expose its pitfalls to strengthen it after correction is where to go.

“We may recall that without the voodoo politics played by the ruling party, there was no way we could have won the last presidential election. It took the institution of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to help our party win the election.”

Enumerating further the ills of APC, the party chieftain said that; “in economy, since the APC took over the reign of government, despite all the efforts at making the country self-sufficient, we still have not made food available to the downtrodden as they have been at the receiving end of the downturn.

“In security challenges, while I acknowledge the efforts made to bring the security situation under control, no day passes by that we do not have large-scale killings, including military blunders that have caused so much carnage in the country.

“We swore to fix the country and all hands must be on deck to achieve our electoral promises, but it is easier to win without going naked with force if we can achieve relative peace in the country.

“There is still a lack of internal democracy in the party as exemplified during the elections last year. In reality, APC is practicing autocracy because only those who are already in power are allowed the space to win primary elections.

“There is no level playing field for the contestants and this will continue to hurt the party and if nothing is done, it may continue to thwart the strength of the party. It is important to note that lack of internal democracy has continued to rob the party of the new breed of leaders who might have solutions to the country’s present challenges.”

Assessing the party further on injustice, he said: “In APC of today, only the man with the power is right. This is to the extent that the fate of members is determined without even looking at the crux of the matter. The party executive members are worth nothing. They can’t even call the governors and other leaders to order because the governors can change any party chieftain at will. This is like swimming against the tide.”

Corroborating the claims by the chieftain that APC has continued with its identity of living in self-denial of losing its progressive credential last year, Salihu Lukman recently wrote that; “we need to really, really open up and engage our leaders in such a way that they don’t relapse back to the old ways of remaining in denial simply because they have won the election, or we have won the election.

“It is very clear and is also not a secret that having won the election, Nigerians are faced with more challenges. Life is becoming more difficult. So far, the advocacy about getting the structures of the party to function appears not to have achieved anything. As we are today, almost all the structures of the party, except the NWC, are not meeting.

“Since the last national convention or the convention that elected the leadership of Abdullahi Adamu in March 2022, we had only two National Executive Committee (NEC), and only one national caucus meeting. The National Advisory Council is yet to be inaugurated. We have youth, women, and persons with disability wings that have not been structured or anything done other than the name in the constitution to define their orientation.”

In his words of caution, the former Director General PGF wrote: “I am worried that our leaders have become very comfortable to imagine that they can do anything and get away with it. We must appeal to our leaders that things are almost getting out of hand at the rate at which we are going under a party that is envisioned to be progressive.

“We are likely going to start witnessing rebellion and if care is not taken by 2027, we will be kicked out of office, which means taking Nigeria back to where it was in 2015. We owe our leader or President Tinubu the responsibility to tell him the honest truth.

“Reforming democracy is not about just serving people who are in office now; it is to serve Nigerians. Our democracy must be responsive to the point that Nigerians can make a demand and elected leaders who listen to the demand of Nigerians and translate that into policies of the government, or decisions of government in the way that begin to meet the expectations of Nigerians.

That is the value of democracy. Once democracy cannot achieve that, then we have a problem.”

In his assessment of the party, former National Secretary, and member National Advisory Council, Waziri Bulama argued in a chat with Daily Sun that the fact that the APC retained its national spread and appeal in 2023, was a big credit to its strength.

“The status and performance of any political party in Nigeria in 2023, has to be seen within the context of a young post-military emerging democracy. Hitherto, our political parties have been dominated by strongmen and tribal, regional, and religious influences.

“Within this setting, the fact that APC has struggled to retain its national spread and appeal in 2023, is a big credit to its strength. Secondly, it is also a remarkable feat that in 2023, APC managed the transfer of power from a powerful ex-military ruler to a full civilian elected President.

“Above all else, the quality of elections has continued to improve under the APC since 2015 and more so in 2023, as attested to by all stakeholders. The institutions of the state, that is INEC, the security apparatuses, and the judiciary, all continued to exhibit accountability, neutrality, and independence in managing the 2023 general elections.”

And for the former deputy governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere, Nigerians should exercise more patience for both the APC-led government and the leadership of the ruling party.

“Yes, things may not be roses for Nigeria and Nigerians as they desired under the APC government, but we have to exercise more patience for both the party and the APC-led Federal Government. I believe strongly that we are still going through the democratic learning curve as a nation. And if you ask me, apart from one or two challenges, our party deserves commendation, not condemnation in the outgone year.

“Regardless of whatever perception we hold about last year’s elections, it is no mean feat to retain presidential power and equally hit the ground running in constituting the cabinet as fast as President Tinubu did. We can deny the fact that at the tail end of last year, we have heard less of the leadership crisis hitherto prevalent in the party.

“Yes, the effects of the fuel subsidy removal may have dwarfed the achievements the APC has recorded; we cannot however but give our party credit in getting many things right last year. I want to appeal for more calm, time, and patience from Nigerians for our party,” Madumere pleaded.

A pip into the New Year will confirm that there is still humongous challenges ahead of the ruling in winning the confidence of Nigerians during the conduct of the two off-cycle governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.

Reclaiming its progressive credentials will start with the provision of level playing grounds and internal democracy in the conduct of credible party primaries to elect acceptable candidates of the party devoid of Rancour and acrimony.

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