The governing party, All Progressives Congress, is dealing with many challenges and may be counting on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to help address some of them. In many occasions, the VP has stepped in to help unravel many nagging problems within the party. But as the chairman of the Tripartite Consultative Committee of APC, National Assembly and the Presidency established by President Buhari recently, Prof Osinbajo is now well positioned to deal with many of the irksome crises in the party and reposition it for the 2023 race.
The biggest headaches for the APC are the loud grumbles and skirmishes from disgruntled members; conflicts in some state chapters and the forthcoming congresses and National Convention. How can the party elect a new set of over 100,000 executive officers to fill various positions in the over 8,000 electoral wards, 774 LGAs and the 36 states and FCT, in addition to some 30 national offices, without infighting, and still remain strong enough to withstand the onslaught from the PDP? This is the challenge the VP and the APC national leadership is grappling with.
Even before Congresses begin, in April or May, the party will have to register new members and revalidate old ones, in addition to zoning party offices to different states. Constitution amendments are also part of the activities for the first half of 2021. For me, there’s a strong need to alter the Constitution to allow for a longer interval between Congresses and the beginning of the primaries season. Party members are expected to suggest other areas that require some changes. These are all herculean tasks, and unless the processes are well managed in a fair, objective and transparent manner, a new set of crises could erupt. The party’s ability to manage the various unpleasant outcomes of these exercises will determine its fate in the general elections of 2023. The first order of business is zoning the national offices in a manner that appears equitable and logical, without compromising merit, competence and character. Since the party is inclined to fielding a Southern presidential candidate in 2023, it is safe to conclude that the new National Chairman would be a Northerner, most probably from the Northwest.
The new chairman should be a level headed, accomplished and competent person who does not belong to or have loyalty to any of the contending camps in the party. Oshiomhole’s unabashed partiality and rigidity in engaging with key stakeholders led to a near collapse of the party early this year. Hopefully, he has now realized the limits of bravado. This time around, we need a well educated, well-spoken and visionary chairman with a broad world view and cosmopolitan outlook to lead the party. He must be conversant with Nigeria’s diversity and be ready to accommodate every section of the country within the party. Besides, the overall processes that lead to the various congresses in the states and the national convention in Abuja should be fair, equitable and transparent. The National Caretaker Committee should ensure that the party’s constitution and other laws of our land are strictly adhered to in order to avoid lawsuits and desertions from disaffected members.
An incident that happened just before the last meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee should be a lesson and guide to us all. But for the legal mind and timely intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC would have landed in a serious legal trouble during the last NEC meeting. The NEC meeting dissolved the party’s organs at the zonal, state and wards levels and reappointed them as caretaker committee members. But the initial plan of the party was to dismiss these officials and replace them with a new set to be chosen by the governors and other leaders. Just before the proposal, apparently instigated by some governors, was tabled for adoption, the Vice President indicated his intention to speak and was given the floor. He cautioned against outright dismissal of the party officials as contained in the motion, and advised that such arbitrariness would open the party to many legal challenges. Such lawsuits could linger till the primaries, which might lead to disastrous consequences.
The wisdom in Osinbajo’s counsel which the President and other leaders quickly acknowledged is that the dissolved party officials would have no grounds for legal and legitimate claims since they are still in charge of running the party at their different LGAs, states and zones. This level of clearheaded recommendation from the VP could only be possible because the law professor has no self-interest to project above that of the party. Osinbajo’s selflessness, humility and wisdom have been his strength in this administration. Obviously, the governors had preferred outright dismissal and replacement of the party’s EXCOs with their handpicked men in order to have total control of the party. APC needs the Vice President’s guidance as it goes through preparations for congresses and convention, and indeed, other agenda planned for the New Year.
Similarly, the governors must be advised that their unbridled and insatiable urge to control the party and influence the emergence of their preferred candidates at the expense of the wishes of the people are the major causes of crises as the one we saw in Zamfara last year which cost the party the governorship seat. In other states, these conflicts are draining the party of energy and resources.
In Kwara, the governor is feuding with the duo of Lai Mohammed (Minister of Information) and Gbemisola Saraki (Minister of State, Transportation) on the opposite side. In Imo State, a similar tussle is unfolding between the camp of Governor Hope Uzodinma and Senator Ifeanyi Ararume. In next door Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transportation) is yet to settle his longstanding feud with another chieftain, Senator Magnus Abe. Their quarrel led to the party’s atrocious performance in the 2019 elections in the state. I can only hope that these warring sides would sheathe their swords before the Convention.
I should, however, emphasize these intra-party squabbles are not peculiar to the governing party. In the PDP, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is at odds with the party’s NWC. He said the other day that the PDP is too weak to upstage APC in 2023 because of the incompetence of its NWC members, the same set of people the governor promoted actively only four years ago. What has changed? No doubt, APC has a lot of housekeeping to do in 2021. The party requires men and women of goodwill and noble intentions to step up and resolve its many difficulties. The Vice President’s wise counsel will always be invaluable.