BY ROTIMI DUROJAIYE
The National Vice Chairman for North West, Salihu Lukman, has written to the Progressive Governors’ Forum to express his displeasure over its alleged choice of former Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, to replace Abdullahi Adamu as National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress.
Lukman warned that such an endorsement would be unfair to President Bola Tinubu and Ganduje himself.
His warning was contained in a leaked letter written on July 21 and addressed to the Chairman of the PGF and Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzondimma. The letter is titled ‘APC National Chairman: PGF should serve as the Conscience of APC.’
A copy of the letter was also sent to the president, members of the APC National Working Committee, and Ganduje.
The Kaduna politician stated that he found it troubling that the APC governors under Uzodimma’s leadership could be thinking of adopting the former Kano governor as the next helmsman of the APC.
He said, “While it is within the right of Progressive Governors being a very critical power bloc within the APC to endorse any candidate for the position of National Chairman, to make such decision public in whatever manner is unfair to both President Bola Tinubu and other leaders of the party who are not members of PGF. It is even unfair to Dr. Ganduje who is being endorsed.
“I have served PGF between August 2013 and February 2022 as Director General. I am fully conversant with the conventional approach toward managing consultations between PGF and the party. Whenever PGF is privileged to reach an agreement with the President, being the party leader, on matters affecting the party, PGF takes necessary steps to first meet with the NWC or at the least the National Chairman. Where such decisions require pronouncement by organs of the party, PGF uses its influence within the party to negotiate the buy-in of members of the relevant organs.
“Given the implication of such endorsement in terms of being unjust and unfair to the North Central region and given that the position of the National Chairman is zoned to North Central based on which zoning for leadership of National Assembly was decided, it simply suggests that the PGF has deviated from its traditional role of acting as the conscience of the party”
That has been the tradition.”
Continuing, the APC chieftain stated that as a member of NWC, he felt slighted to first read about the report of the endorsement in the media.
According to him, the move reeks of the same constitutional violation and undermining of party organs that Adamu and the erstwhile former National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, were accused of.
Lukman further appealed to the governors to play their conventional role as the conscience of the party by sticking with the zoning arrangement instead of zoning the APC chairman’s position out of North-Central.
“Given the implication of such endorsement in terms of being unjust and unfair to the North Central region and given that the position of the National Chairman is zoned to North Central based on which zoning for leadership of National Assembly was decided, it simply suggests that the PGF has deviated from its traditional role of acting as the conscience of the party.
“If PGF is to act as the conscience of the party, even if assuming as it is being promoted in the public that the endorsement is coming from President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the PGF I know would have taken every step to convince the President otherwise and if the President insisted, they would have shielded the President by owning the decision. But to handle the endorsement in the way it appears in the public is unfair to President Asiwaju Tinubu and unfair to Dr. Ganduje who is being alleged to have put so much pressure on the President, which is not true.
“I want to strongly appeal to Your Excellency, as the PGF Chairman, to kindly return PGF to its conventional role of acting as the conscience of the party by ensuring that the party always takes the right decisions, which will protect the interest of every member, every region and all interest. The PGF under Your Excellency’s leadership must not be seen to be promoting or condoning decisions that are liable to acts of injustice and unfairness to any member, section of the country, or interest,” Lukman stated in the letter.
However, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, flayed the position of Lukman, saying his view does not reflect the position of the ruling party.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, Morka said contrary to Lukman’s position, the party is committed to Tinubu’s Renewed Hope agenda.
He said, “While individual party leaders and members retain their right to express their personal thoughts and opinions, they do not represent the official position of the NWC or the party. The official position of the NWC on the subject of succession to any vacant offices of the NWC or any other subject will be communicated via the official channels of the NWC.
“Change in the life of any individual or institution is constant and inevitable. As Africa’s largest political party, our demonstrated capacity to adapt to change and emergent realities always stands us out and sets us beyond the wishes of doomsayers. We remain committed to the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Administration towards uplifting the quality of life of all Nigerians.”
The party image maker also faulted the report that the agitation for Adamu and Omisore’s successors may have caused or deepened a crisis in the party.
Morka who was away from the country when the two party leaders threw in their towels, described the resignations as “a normal part of the democratic process”
“Quite to the contrary, there is no crisis in the Party. APC stands as one strong, dynamic, resilient, and progressive Party. The resignations under reference only show the high level of institutional maturity and quality of its leadership that place the best interest of the Party first and above personal egos and ambitions. The rapid and seamless succession, in acting capacities, to both offices exemplifies the cogency of its constitutional processes.
“Trending reports in sections of the media suggesting disharmony among members of the National Working Committee or between the NWC and other critical sections of the party’s leadership around the possible successor to the office of National Chairman are purely speculative. All sections of the Party’s college of leadership stand united in the quest for a more progressive Party,” he said.
IN THE BEGINNING
The APC was formed in 2013 with the main agenda to wrest power from the then ruling People’s Democratic Party.
It came on the political scene as a result of a merger of other political parties, which collapsed their structures to form a strong force against the PDP.
The political parties that collapsed their structures, popularly called the legacy parties were the Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change, All Nigeria Peoples Party, a breakaway faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the new People’s Democratic Party.
In 10 years, the APC has had five national chairmen.
The decision to appoint Akande as the interim national chairman of the party was reached during a closed-door meeting of stakeholders in Abuja, well-attended by politicians across the legacy parties.
A former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, had told newsmen shortly after the meeting that the appointment was part of the requirements for the registration of the new party.
Sheriff said the appointment of Akande was a consensus decision among the merging parties, while the national secretary of the ANPP, Tijani Tumsa, was appointed as the interim national secretary.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had directed the merging parties to put in place a national executive as part of the registration procedure.
Oyegun, a former governor of Edo State, became the first substantive national chairman of the APC after its registration.
He succeeded Bisi Akande following intense negotiations and horse-trading among various contending forces in the party.
His nomination was subsequently ratified by delegates at the first national convention of the party held at the Eagles Square in June 2014 in Abuja.
Oyegun’s candidature was promoted by the national leader of the party and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, now the president of Nigeria.
He served for only one term and couldn’t stand the pressure but withdrew his second term ambition.
Oshiomhole, also a former governor of Edo State, took over from Oyegun in June, 2018.
Oyegun, who was in the race for a second term, however, stepped down. He made his decision known at a press conference at his Abuja residence.
His decision paved the way for Oshiomhole to emerge as the next national chairman of the party. The former chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress and governor of Edo State had the support of former President Muhammadu Buhari and other top leaders of the party.
But his tenure was characterized by an intense crisis in the party, which led to his sack and other members of the National Working Committee.
The National Executive Committee, which is the second highest decision-making organ of the party, sacked the Oshiomhole-led NWC on June 25, 2020, over an alleged abuse of office and failure to unite the various interests in the party.
Oshiomhole and his team had just spent two of their four-year term when an existential crisis hit the party over the control of its structure.
A series of litigation, which led to Oshiomhole’s suspension via a court order followed, and several members of the NWC began to lay claim to the chairmanship seat.
Sensing the danger this could pose for the survival of the party, former President Buhari acceded to a request by the then factional national chairman of the party, Victor Giadom, to convene a NEC meeting, where the decision to sack Oshiomhole was finalised.
Mai Mala Buni
The NEC had, after dissolving the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC, constituted a National Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, chaired by the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, to run the party.
The Buni-led committee was first given six months, beginning from June 25, 2020, within which to organise an elective national convention for a new crop of the NWC to emerge.
But the committee’s tenure was later extended in December, 2020 by another six months to enable them reconcile aggrieved party members before the convention.
At the expiration of the six months, the committee did not complete its assignment as it had embarked on nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise, which ended on March 31, 2021.
Former President Buhari had single-handedly extended the timeline of the committee from December 2020 indefinitely.
Its inauguration gave a huge relief and hope to party members after a period of intense crisis and acrimony. Stakeholders of the said the party under Oshiomhole was gradually going into extinction as it was neck-deep in crisis.
The Buni-led committee, on assumption of office, commenced the process of reconciliation nationwide and constituted a national reconciliation committee headed by a former governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu.
The APC had, within the period, harvested PDP bigwigs, including Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, David Umahi (Ebonyi), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, former national chairman of the PDP, Barnabas Gemade, senators and other chieftains of the party.
The Buni-led committee had a serious headache as there were protests by party members over its delay in organising the national convention.
Adamu emerged as APC national chairman during a national convention organised by the Buni-led caretaker committee at the Eagles Square in Abuja in March, 2022.
Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State, was former President Buhari’s preferred candidate, and by virtue of this, other contenders for the position of national chairman were asked to step down for him.
But Adamu’s chance of exhausting his first tenure of four years in office became shaky as some stakeholders of the party called for his resignation for balance of power along religious lines.
For instance, Lukman asked Adamu to step aside for a Christian to take over his office.
Lukman had argued that there was no equity, fairness and justice as Bola Ahmed Tinubu, (then president-elect) the vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima and Adamu, the party’s national chairman, were all Muslims.
Although Adamu did not react to this, pundits said this power play and scheming had the potential of plunging the party into a deep crisis and eventually forcing Adamu out of office.
This eventually happened on July 18, 2023.
Adamu’s anticipated downfall
Adamu’s recent resignation as the National Chairman of the APC did not come as a surprise to many analysts, given the circumstances under which he emerged and the roles he admittedly played to frustrate the presidential ambition of President Bola Tinubu.
Adamu’s emergence as the National Chairman of the ruling party at its March 26, 2022 national convention was part of a wider plot by some forces in former President Muhammadu Buhari-led Presidency and the ruling party to stop Tinubu from emerging as the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 general election.
The same anti-Tinubu forces had in June 2020, under controversial circumstances, sacked the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee of the party and imposed a legally questionable national caretaker committee led by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State as chairman.
Oshiomhole’s major sin was his alleged closeness to Tinubu.
All the intrigues by the Buni-led committee to frustrate Tinubu’s ambition failed.
These included elongating its tenure, delaying the party’s national convention and considering drafting former President Goodluck Jonathan into the APC’s presidential race.
Buni was later forced to schedule a national convention, especially as the legality of his committee became doubtful following a judgment of the Supreme Court.
Ahead of the March 26 convention, Tinubu, as a political strategist, was believed to have supported all the leading chairmanship aspirants of the party.
It was believed that the former Governor of Nasarawa State, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, would have emerged as the chairman of the party in the March 26 convention due to his closeness to Buhari.
Al-Makura was the only governor on the platform of Buhari’s defunct Congress for Progressive Change.
But when the anti-Tinubu forces perceived his alleged hands in Al-Makura’s ambition, they quickly settled for Adamu, who left PDP only in 2014.
Before he was suddenly drafted into the chairmanship race, Adamu was busy with his assignment as chairman of APC reconciliation committee when other chairmanship aspirants were embarking on nationwide consultations.
Adamu, a known non-political associate of Tinubu, was anointed to stop his presidential ambition.
Tinubu’s allies believed that some of the nine guidelines imposed on the APC presidential aspirants in the form of code of conduct, including the signing of voluntary withdrawal form were among Adamu’s strategies to impose a consensus presidential candidate.
Adamu was also believed to have embarked on repeated extension of the deadline for the sale of APC presidential forms and the shifting of the screening of presidential candidates to buy time while the search for a consensus presidential candidate that would stop Tinubu continued.
When Tinubu made what many considered as disparaging remarks against then President Buhari and Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun in Abeokuta, few days to the party’s presidential primary, Adamu was quick to threaten him with a sanction, saying that he should blame himself if his insults on Buhari cost him his presidential ambition.
When all the plots to frustrate Tinubu failed, Adamu hurriedly announced the then Senate President, Ahmad Lawan as the consensus presidential candidate of the party, claiming that the party reached the decision in consultation with President Buhari.
“Adamu’s emergence as the National Chairman of the ruling party at its March 26, 2022 national convention was part of a wider plot by some forces in former President Muhammadu Buhari-led Presidency and the ruling party to stop Tinubu from emerging as the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 general election”
However, the backlash that greeted the announcement forced the Presidency to disown Adamu.
Seven members of the NWC of the party also denied Adamu’s claim, insisting that Lawan was his personal choice and not the party’s consensus candidate.
Lawan’s fate was finally sealed when 11 northern governors elected on the platform of the party insisted on a power shift to the South.
It was not surprising that after Tinubu had won the APC presidential primary, there was a cold war between his loyalists and Adamu.
The cold war got to a peak in September 2022, forcing Tinubu to deny nursing grudges against Adamu.
He argued that his alleged cold war with Adamu was a rumour manufactured to suit a particular purpose.
Tinubu said: “To the rumour manufacturers, I read in some papers about a disagreement between myself and the chairman and that was a very big lie. They didn’t know that we have come a long way. The big masquerade dance is not in the cage but in the market square.
“And that is what Adamu used to be, full of wisdom; we were governors together, before God put us together on this project again. He is going to be the chairman of the party for me to become the president of Nigeria. And I am very confident of that,” he reportedly told journalists at the APC national secretariat.
Tinubu’s claim did not, however, douse tension between his loyalists and Adamu’s camp.
When Tinubu emerged victorious in the February 25 presidential election, many believed that Adamu’s exit was a matter of a few months.
The crisis of confidence deepened when APC leadership and Tinubu anointed Senator Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbas as their consensus candidates for the positions of Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively.
The former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who challenged Akpabio was believed to be Adamu’s candidate.
When Abbas and other lawmakers-elect visited Vice President Kashim Shettima before their inauguration, the vice president had addressed Abbas as “by God’s grace, our Speaker-in-waiting.”
Shettima had also referred to his anointed deputy, Benjamin Kalu, as “our Deputy Speaker-in-waiting.”
But when Abbas and his team visited Adamu, he reportedly warned Abbas’ supporters to stop addressing the Kaduna lawmaker as the incoming Speaker.
Adamu’s statement had angered the National Vice Chairman of the APC for North West, Salihu Lukman, who alleged that the leadership of the APC was subtly working against Tinubu on the zoning arrangement adopted by the party.
Though Akpabio and Abbas successfully emerged as the presiding officers of the National Assembly, Adamu’s recent claim that the party’s NWC had no hand in the emergence of the principal officers announced by the two presiding officers re-ignited the crisis of confidence in the party.
Tinubu was believed to be behind the announcement of the principal officers who are made up of his loyalists.
As the controversy was still raging, Adamu admitted on a television programme that he actually supported Lawan in the run-up to the party’s presidential primaries.
As the party chairman, he was supposed to be neutral. But having worked for an aspirant who lost, it was not surprising that he was forced to resign.
The claim by the party that the audit report indicted him is the usual ploy the Nigerian political class uses to remove perceived enemies from office.
In the end, no corruption case will be successfully pursued to secure his conviction in the court.
Considering all these factors, it is not entirely surprising that Adamu has been cast aside along with the old guard. In fact, if the current powers decide to escalate matters, Adamu may gradually lose all political relevance in the coming years, rendering him unfit to receive the respect due to an esteemed elder of the North.
According to the party’s constitution, the position of the chairman will remain in the North and the most senior NWC member from the North naturally steps in with the exit of Adamu.
Depending on Tinubu’s disposition towards, Kyari, the Deputy National Chairman, could be the national chairman, at least, for now.