The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC)- led Federal Government is threatening the kind of positive impact expected to be made on the socio- political and economic life of Nigeria and Nigerians by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
So much acrimony, rancour and suspicion now characterise the relations among the leaders of the APC who, despite all odds, were able to take power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which ruled the nation for 16 years.
At the root of all the troubles that had held the much celebrated new government hostage is the scramble for the political positions available at the federal level by many anxious and impatient party leaders, most of whom are only concerned about their selfish interests as against the talk of national interest that dominated the APC campaigns for votes.
As the nation anxiously awaits the new government to fill key offices and fulfill the promise of change that gave birth to the Buhari administration, the President seemed to be waiting for the rather unimpressive political battle over who gets what.
APC Govt hunted by its coalition nature
The fears expressed by many in the days of the merger drive by the precursor-political parties to form the APC that the crisis that would ensue might be too much to manage is manifesting too early for the government that is yet to mark it’s two weeks in office.
The current unabating crisis in the APC began right from the days of electing persons to fill party offices when the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as well as those from the ‘New Peoples Democratic Party (New PDP)’ locked horns.
The suspicion grew as the party moved from one stage of development to another and became more intense as it moved to its presidential primaries. At the moment, the CPC has got the Presidency, the ANPP got the chairmanship of APC, ACN took the position of the vice president.
The ‘New PDP’ is yet to secure one. Such is the historical background to the current crisis that held the APC hostage to the detriment of the kind of meetings and deliberations on key national problems that should engage the party and its government.
At the moment, such key appointments, including Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Chief of Staff to the president are yet to be made. It was gathered that until the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly, those appointments could not be made since the zonal considerations would be an issue.
The Battle for Soul of Senate
Suddenly, the nation is being entertained with the kind of political music that characterised the early life of the PDP- dominated Senate even by a government of “change”. APC National Chairman, John Oyegun, described the scenario as part of the internal democracy that should be expected from APC’s administration. But is the party prepared to handle these crises in such a manner that they would not terribly distract government or produce negative effects on the “change” gospel?
Failure to immediately wade in and nip disagreements among its Senators-elect in the bud as well as seeming vested interests of key leaders of the party have festered the crisis to the level where no respite seems to be in sight.
The election of its candidates for the offices of Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker last Saturday only fuelled the tension as large chunk of stakeholders boycotted the primary election that was conducted to that effect.
The fear that going inside the chambers of the Senate for the election of the Senate President without a united front could make it lose the number three position to the opposition party had delayed that election which should have held last week.
The APC is left with 59 Senators after the death of Senator Ahmed Zannah, while the PDP has 49. With only 33 Senators who voted for Ahmed Lawan during Saturday’s primary election, the APC still has some 26 Senators in the camp of Bukola Saraki.
Calculations are that a larger percentage of the 49 PDP Senators had already taken side with Saraki and this poses a serious threat to the APC candidate.
Saraki does not look like an aspirant ready to give up his ambition even after the APC had announced its candidate, and this remains a great challenge.
Should the scenario remain this way till Tuesday, which is the day of election, the APC is sure to have in its hands a repeat of what happened to the PDP government when the immediate past House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, breached his party’s decision, contested and became Speaker.
The result was the protracted face-off between the House and the executive arm of government, a situation which crippled many policies of the Federal Government and ultimately made the PDP to lose the election.
Saraki was swift to declare the primary election unacceptable to his team when he reacted Sunday morning. He said that his supporters and himself boycotted the primary election to select the consensus APC Senate President because the party’s National Working Committee did not guarantee them the process of secret balloting.
He said that it was sad that at a meeting conveyed by the APC NWC during which the “Senators of like minds” requested for secret ballot system as the mode of voting, the Oyegun led APC national working committee rejected the request. Saraki said the NWC insisted on open balloting as a means of determining the APC consensus candidate.
“As result of the inability of the APC leadership to guarantee the Senators of like minds the right of secret ballot system, we are not participating at the election and this we made clear to the national chairman of our party. Whatever they do in the name of consensus, for the Senate presidency election, we are not part of it.”, he said yesterday. “Members of my group are still meeting to come out with further action. But for now, we are not part of the consensus arrangement.”
In a statement later issued by the Senators on the side of Saraki and signed by Senators Dino Malaye and Ahmed Sani Yerima, it was stressed that the process adopted by the APC leadership was unacceptable.
The statement reads: “We the Senators-elect of Like Minds today 6th of June 2015, on the invitation of our party, attended an interactive meeting with selected 5 members from each group, the Unity Forum and the Like Minds Group. Regrettably, the Unity Forum insisted on open ballot voting which we discovered is different from the electoral process used to conduct the earlier election with the House of Representatives members-elect. To us, this open ballot voting is primitive, undemocratic and against universal electoral norms and practice.
“In the light of the above, we the Senators-elect of Like Minds hereby insist on our position of Open Secret voting process which we believe is in consonance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the universal electoral values.
“As responsible citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and leaders in our own right, we have resolved and hereby state that we shall not be part of a process that promotes undemocratic electoral process that may resort to rancorous and uncivil situations which inhibits the rights of individuals to vote for the candidate of their choice, as this process will further divide us than unite members of our party.
“In conclusion, we the Senators-elect of Like Minds wish to state categorically that we will participate only in the constitutional election scheduled for Tuesday, the 9th of June 2015 in line with the rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We by this press release invite the media to a joint press conference by the 65 Senators-Elect of Like Minds drawn from across party lines on Monday morning, the 8thof June 2015.”
Issues that may shape election of Senate President
Without doubt, Tuesday election in the Senate has recorded a very keen contest. The last time the nation witnessed something close to this was in June, 2007 when the immediate past President of the Senate, David Mark, stood against former Benue State Governor, George Akume in an election that ended 38 against 69 in favour of Mark. The contest is so keen that taking a decision on whether Senator Saraki or Senator Ahmed Lawan would clinch the presidency of the Upper Legislative Chamber depends on several issues which are still unfolding.
Those who believe that Tuesday’s election would favour Saraki hinge their argument on the possibility that the support from the PDP senators would remain valid till election time on Tuesday.
To that effect, it is believed that in the South-South geo-political zone, he could get three votes from Akwa Ibom, two from Edo where the APC has one Senator, three each from Rivers, Cross River, three from Delta and Bayelsa states.
But in the South East, investigations showed that Abia State could give him only two votes, while he is expected to clinch the three votes each from Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, and Anambra State.
In the South West where the national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, holds his ground, Saraki may also clinch one vote from Ogun State, one from Oyo, three from Ekiti and two from Ondo states. There is no likelihood that he will get any vote from Lagos and Osun states.
Saraki and Lawan may be very close in the North West. In the zone, Saraki could get three votes from Sokoto State because of his relationship with the immediate past Sokoto governor, Aliyu wammakko, he may get two from Kebbi, two from Zamfara, three from Jigawa and one from Kaduna states. Kano and Katsina states so far remain the stronghold of Lawan. From his own geo-political zone, Saraki is expected to get the three votes each from Kogi, Kwara and Plateau while he may get one vote each from Nasarawa, Niger and FCT.
The controversial Benue State is the home base of his opponent, George Akume, who is contesting the Deputy Senate President with active support from Banabas Germade. It is not certain if the former Senate President, David Mark, would want to vote.
Although North East is home to Lawan, some lawmakers from the zone may have since abandoned him for getting endorsed by ‘external forces’. Senators and Senators-elect from the zone were the first to address the press, denying alleged endorsement of Lawan. Their grouse was that it was their responsibility to select who leads the zone if and when the party decides to zone the position to the North East.
Also, there is likelihood that Saraki may pair with either Senator Ali Ndume or Danjuma Goje. With this division, Saraki could grab some votes from the zone. For instance, he is likely to get one vote from Taraba, two from Adamawa, one from Gombe and one from Borno.
Lawan is expected to corner all the votes from Bauchi States as well as his home state, Yobe. A Senator representing Borno State, Ahmed Zanna, who died recently is yet to be replaced.
But an analyst who is close to the Lawan camp said: “Although, I came short of suggesting that Akume and Lawan should agree to step down for each other, so that one would pick the position of Senate President and the other Deputy Senate President simply because I did not want to offend the sensibilities of either of these solid candidates, it was gratifying when the APC Senators Unity Forum, a group comprising 37 out of the 60 members-elect, got Akume to step down for Lawan so that Lawan would emerge as Senate President and Akume as Deputy Senate President.”