REWIND to December 10/11, 2014 presidential primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in which the following votes were scored by the five presidential aspirants: General Muhammadu Buhari, (3,430); Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, (954); Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, (974); Owelle Rochas Okorocha, (674) and Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, (10).
Recall also that the venue of the primary was shifted to Lagos, ostensibly to allow Buhari’s sponsors to have their way in crowning him with victory over the other aspirants, notably Atiku. Also worthy of note, is the fact that about 8, 000 delegates participated in the elective convention. It should be stressed that four out of the five presidential aspirants complained against the choice of Lagos for the presidential primary. Though the party explained that the choice of Lagos was predicated on the fact that the party’s primary fell on the same date as that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Curiously, APC chieftains did not consider Jos, Plateau State, as alternate venue if indeed the claim of clash in date with that of the PDP was actually reason for traveling down to Lagos. It is also instructive, that only the preferred candidate, Buhari did not see anything remiss about holding the primary in Lagos. Even when Edo State capital, Benin was being considered, it took the chairman of the convention committee, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to convey the sudden change to Lagos.
Could it be that the ancient city of Benin could not contain 8, 000 delegates or host such event? Had it anything to do with the economic fall out of the convention or the fact that who calls the piper dictates the tune? But as if responding to the idea welling in the minds of many that the primary election had been settled to go the way the Southwest caucus of the party wanted, Fayemi had explained: “This is a democratic party. For us as a committee, the process is more important than who will eventually emerge. We did not arrive at Lagos accidentally; we arrived at Lagos with the full input of all our presidential aspirants.”
However, the former Ekiti governor wanted to convey the party position, it just suited that occasion. One year after, different versions of what transpired during the primary have begun to emerge. Not that alone, six months after the party took over from the PDP, a lot of water has gone under the bridge. Certain things hidden under the carpet are now being swept out to public glare and appreciation.
Was it possible that in a clean and transparent primary election, Buhari could have dusted the veteran political gamesman, Atiku Abubakar? Was the fear of Atiku behind the series of meetings and agreements extracted from the aspirants, demanding that they accept the outcome of the primary without defecting? Was there a gentleman agreement that after Buhari’s one term, Atiku should be supported to fly the flag of the party in 2019?
Throw Back To 2007 ACN Outing
That the former vice president brought momentum into the ACN during the 2007 presidential election could not dismissed. After waging principled democratic battle against his boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku crossed over to the ACN and made the 2007 presidential election highly competitive.
It was said that the Southwest ACN caucus headquartered in Lagos capitalized on the vice president’s desire to contest the election despite Obasanjo’s antics. Sources also said that the Southwest caucus concentrated on just the governorship leaving Atiku on his own, despite the huge financial and strategic contributions to the party. It was based on “these intriguing experiences that the vice president returned to the PDP.
The same sources said that when the Southwest caucus repeated similar attitude to Nuhu Ribadu in 2011, it became clear to Atiku that some politicians were collaborating with Obasanjo to deny him access to the presidency. When therefore the merger of legacy political parties happened and Atiku like the five PDP governors, found their way into APC, the recollection of how he quit the ACN moved some of the leaders of the new party to seek ways of placating the former vice president with a view to ensuring that he does not torpedo the ship of the emerging party.
The goings on in APC in the past seven months including the legendary supremacy battle in the National Assembly, nomination of ministers and nature of appointments into the Federal Government especially from the Northeast zone, it was said rattled Atiku’s loyalists who began to complain to him. Atiku was said to have enjoined his supporters to give Buhari and the Federal Government every support succeed.
But instead of placating the politicians, some of who missed out in the cabinet appointment, some of them were said to have hinted that the speculations of an unwritten pact between Atiku and Buhari must be real. While those suggestions were making the rounds, some PDP stalwarts from the north who felt shortchanged in the new scheme of things in the party were said to be plotting for a regional union of political actors from the zone to checkmate the romance between Buhari and Lagos. Those involved in the “strategic repositioning” were said to include former governors and legislators.
After reviewing the style of Buhari, the politicians were said to have reasoned that the General was repeating same old methods that earned him removal by his colleagues in 1985. Their findings also included that Buhari was being propped up for a second term chase as a decoy to pair a Christian politician from the Northeast and a prominent Southwest politician. While the politicians engaged in the strategic repositioning continued their schemes, it was said that some politicians from Southeast, who perceive Buhari as being distant to their political interests, began their own meeting with a view to fusing with their colleagues from the North.
The goings on in APC in the past seven months including the legendary supremacy battle in the National Assembly, nomination of ministers and nature of appointments into the Federal Government especially from the Northeast zone, it was said rattled Atiku’s loyalists who began to complain to him. Atiku was said to have enjoined his supporters to give Buhari and the Federal Government every support succeed. But instead of placating the politicians, some of who missed out in the cabinet appointment, some of them were said to have hinted that the speculations of an unwritten pact between Atiku and Buhari must be real. While those suggestions were making the rounds, some PDP stalwarts from the north who felt shortchanged in the new scheme of things in the party were said to be plotting for a regional union of political actors from the zone to checkmate the romance between Buhari and Lagos
At a recent meeting of the group in one hotel along Chime Avenue, New Haven, Enugu; those in attendance were said to have resolved to be part of the moves to recalibrate the existing political structure in the country. They were said to have resolved to keep their meetings to themselves till the “ripe moment”.
Sources said that when APC bigwigs got wind of the various schemes, they were alarmed saying that it would take some time before entrenched interests would spark off crisis in the party.
Shortly after chairing the public presentation of a book written by the minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnia Onu, the former vice president was said to have traveled out of the country. Not only did the book presentation draw a large crowd of eminent political personalities, the fact that President Buhari attended while Atiku chaired the occasion, caused a stir. Though sources said that Atiku was sighted in London, it did not take long before some holidaying Nigerians reported seeing the former vice president in Dubai.
As those pieces of information were making the rounds in some privileged circles, the rumour that the former vice president was holding meetings in the United Arabs Emirate to undermine Buhari took over. Atiku’s media office has refuted the rumours saying that the vice president’s political enemies were the ones sponsoring the propaganda to cause distrust between him and the president. In a statement signed by his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, Atiku denied that he had been holding political meetings at Burj Al-Arab, Dubai, to frustrate Buhari. Though he admitted being in Dubai, he explained that he was there to take care of his injured knee.
However, investigations revealed that the rumour against Atiku is part of the internal schisms in APC over control of influence and the impending appointments. For instance, apart from the appointment of chairmen and members of boards and parastatals, the party is yet to get replacement of some members of the National Working Committee (NWC), that were conscripted into the federal cabinet.
While sources within the party revealed that a recommendation has been made for the appointment of protem replacements in acting capacities so as not to generate strife in the party, others are kicking that deputies should act for offices where the substantive officers are absent. Of the positions slated for filing, those of the national publicity secretary and national welfare officer vacated by Lai Muhammed and Babachir David Lawal, are keen. These positions can only be filled at the party’s convention. The convention may also see the removal of some other members of the NWC. In the new year, a lot will unfold in the APC!