As the nation awaits the unveiling of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees, which he has repeatedly promised to constitute before the end of this month, palpable anxiety, lobbying, desperation and intrigues have seized the entire party apparatchiks.
The delay has widened the cracks in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and exposed the various interests, orientations, differences, catalyzing in solidifying the two major blocs within the party.
Notable leaders of the party have slipped into restiveness, following recent appointments of key functionaries of the government, which in their calculations left them in the lurch, holding the wrong end of the stick.
President Buhari has so far adroitly warded off the intense jockeying, with his eyes set squarely on “goals in concert with the primus inter pares”, Sunday Sun was told.
Unlike the general perception within the polity, the president is said to be engaged with only one major bloc, which in general estimation constitutes a sizeable chunk of the ‘soul’ of the party, and a key factor and ally in the success recorded in the March 28 presidential election. The two major blocs in the party are the president’s bloc, which is composed of elements in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and other northern elements who have since the famous victory been assimilated into the fold; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s bloc which comprises the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and a rump of renegade politicians from other parties.
According to a top notcher of the party, “these two blocs are the APC and the APC are these two blocs. Not everybody is equal in the APC. Buhari brought integrity, and cultic following, Tinubu brought following, resources and courage. There are those who brought only resources”. Painting a deeper scenario of the jostling for power in the party, the stalwart said: “You see in APC, where there are about 10 to 15 million members, not all the members are worth 15 million votes. Some are worth 10 million votes; some are worth only five million votes. Is it democratic to say that I that am worth probably 10 votes am equal to the man that is worth 15 million votes? Only five to seven people know where we go. Others will follow.”
In consonance with this analysis, Sunday Sun learnt that the script is always at play during meetings of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and in the pattern of consultations by the President before major decisions are reached. The NWC is dominated by these two blocs, whose members often reach out to their leaders to untie knotty issues. Any of the two powerful blocs can overturn NWC decisions using their zonal strength, Sunday Sun further learnt.
A breakdown of the analysis shows that there are 36 state chairmen, two ex-officio members from each zone. Powerful elements like Buhari or Tinubu can torpedo NEC using their numerical strength in their zones.
Contrary to widespread speculations that the president is running the government alone, and has sidelined critical leaders of the party, Sunday Sun was given a different picture.
Indeed, the president is always engaged in informal consultations. “The president is constantly consulting, but not all are formal consultations. It is informal. The president is not going to have a meeting of NEC where there are 80 people or 100 people to discuss his list of ministers. You can see that there is no disconnect between the party and the president.”
It was further learnt that the ACN bloc might be roundly rewarded in the nomination of ministers through Tinubu, and not the governors from the South-west zone. This is a clear departure from the tradition in the past whereby governors nominated the ministerial nominees. The president has equally tipped off the former governor on the list, in line with his style of carrying him along. Tinubu is said to have not objected to the list, despite his misgivings about a few of the names.
The running style of the party and government may have fuelled apprehension in the party as the president prepares to name his ministers. The new PDP, which joined the party with so much gusto, resources and aplomb is poised for a showdown.
Sunday Sun learnt that this seemingly critical bloc is toying with a number of options to upstage the applecart. A key figure in the party who spoke to Sunday Sun, said that their group was not unaware of the evolving situation. He said the development began immediately after the victory of the party in the presidential poll and has been managed since then.
“It was for this reason that we went the extra-mile to try to take control of the two arms of the National Assembly. We succeeded with the Senate, and to a small measure in the House of Representatives. They are doing everything to upturn our victory in the Senate so that we will be effectively sidelined.”
The struggle for power by these blocs has brought in its wake untold instability in the National Assembly, as they have only managed to sit for just 12 times since the inauguration on June 9. One of the options on the card is to use the Senate to block the ratification of the ministers. This option may go with the wind if the court removes the leadership of the Senate this month, as is being widely expected in government circles. This obviously accounted for the long delay in the constitution of the ministerial list. In a counter offensive, the new PDP in collaboration with opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is considering pressing charges of impeachable offences against the president, should he forge ahead with this style, which they dubbed dictatorial.
The long adjournment of plenary and the incendiary probes that are ongoing have been designed to arm-twist the president, and bring him to the negotiation table. So far, the trick has not worked. It was further learnt that the president does not trust majority of the New PDP leaders, preferring instead to work with his own people and the ACN bloc, especially with the vice president emerging from that crucial bloc. In realization of this goal, he has turned a blind eye to some thorny issues, like allegations of marginalization of some sections of the country that have the capacity to rock the party in future. Indeed, the President was quoted to have acknowledged this in a recent interview with the BBC Hausa Service, where he said he would only appoint those who suffered with him in the last 12 years that he had been seeking for the office. The undoing of the New PDP appears to lie in its marginal presence in the party. The bloc had angled to clinch the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by positioning former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.
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Having lost the slot, the focus has since shifted to three ministerial positions, namely; Power, Works and Housing and Education. A source within the bloc vowed that anything outside these three is unacceptable. “We lost out in the race for SGF, we lost the Petroleum ministry. Are they saying they would have won the election without us?”
The bloc of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by the Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha is not in the calculation of the power equation at all, even as the governor leads the APC Governors Forum, aka, Progressives Governors Forum. Having brought in very little into the arrangement, and with insignificant presence in the party hierarchy, and in all the arms of government, they have been consigned to the realm of irrelevance despite their loud grumbles. An aide of the governor, who claimed he was not speaking with the permission of the governor and therefore would prefer anonymity, dismissed the claims of marginalization of the group in its entirety. “We joined the party to save Nigeria from slipping into the precipice because of bad governance, corruption and impunity. We did not join because of expectations of juicy positions. We are not complaining. The government of President Buhari is doing very well and Nigerians are satisfied with what he has done so far.”
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Reminded that politics is all about struggle for power, he said calm, results and normalcy can be achieved without drawing blood. A peep into Buhari’s likely names in the ministerial list shows that it will not be any different from his previous appointments in terms of bent and interests. So far the President is holding it closely to his chest. Already the list has been sent to the Department of State Services, DSS for security checks. Giving an insight into the list, the President had said, “If I choose people I know quite well in my political party, people whom we came (together) all the way right from the All Peoples Party, Congress for Progressive Change, and the APC and we have remained together through good and trying times, what then is the reward for such dedication and suffering? They did not defect because of positions; they did not involve themselves in the pursuit of personal gains.” The list, when released is bound to elicit shock in many quarters and send ripples down the spine of many a Nigerian.