Chief Bisi Akande
A fresh faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue state now known as ‘new APC’ emerged yesterday with the current Chairman of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) in the state, Baba Agan claiming its leadership.
The leadership crisis bedeviling the party worsened at the weekend as prominent party members were said to have staged a walk-out on the harmonisation meeting called to pave way for an interim leadership of the party in the state.
Daily Trust gathered that meeting which held Sunday evening at Royal Choice hotel, Makurdi by both faction of the APC in the state appointed the Senate Minority Leader, George Akume as chairman, harmonisation committee of the party.
But, Akume was said to have altered the position and named one of his loyalists, Barr. Targema Takema to chair the 15-man yet to be named interim executive members expected to harmonise the merging opposition parties in the state.
The development was said to have provoked a counter reaction from some among the 39 leaders of the party in attendance who felt belittled by the choice of Takema because he had never held any position either in the state or at the national level throughout his participation in party politics.
Reacting on a telephone interview, one of the aggrieved persons, Alhaji Abubakar Maishanu Usman (Young Alhaji) told our correspondent that he had to walk out of the meeting because Senator Akume’s imposition of his ‘boy’ was a complete disregard to the party’s constitution.
But Agan who announced his new faction today in Makurdi blamed the development on the inability of Senate minority leader, George Akume to adhere to party constitution without imposing unpopular candidates on members.
“What you see happening in the Benue state chapter of the APC today is a direct fallout of an era of impunity and disconnect between leading members of the party and the Senate Minority Leader,” he said.
Agan said he has 20, 000 followers that do not recognise Akume as leader of the party in the state and as such would not be subject to him.
Akume’s media assistant, Mrs. Becky Orpine told journalists that Agan does not know what he is talking about and that he was never a member of the APC as claimed.
“Is he a member of the APC? There is no crisis in Benue state APC and nobody is looking towards that direction because we are a united family,” she said.
Presidency, APC in war of words
The Presidency on Sunday blasted APC leaders saying that they were not only unprogressive but also describing them as “politically expired” politicians. However, the APC reacted swiftly, saying Nigerians knew very well that most of the PDP leaders were septuagenarians and octogenarians.
APC national leaders – Chief Bisi Akande is 74 years, Maj.-Gen. Muhamadu Buhari,70; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, 61 and Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, 61. The PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, is 76; Board of Trustees Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, is 80 and Chairman, Disciplinary Committee, Umaru Dikko, is 77.
But the Presidency, through the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said with the “politically expired” leaders in the APC, there was no way it would be a threat to the PDP.
It added in a statement in Abuja, that it would be foolhardy for anyone to think that the APC would be an alternative to the PDP.
“This fact is further reinforced by the fact that even its (APC) leadership parades politically expired, analogue and yesterday men, including the likes of Akande, Ikimi, Bello Masari, Buhari, Ogbeh, Bashir Tofa and their likes, who do not promise any hope for today’s Nigeria and therefore cannot bring any meaningful change to the polity,” the Presidency added.
Insisting that the membership of the APC was not progressive, it claimed that the ideology of the party was not also impressive.
It said the only common thing that bound them was the desire to seize power from the PDP.
The Presidency claimed that President Goodluck Jonathan was being persecuted because he was from a minority tribe.
“The membership and composition of the APC is nothing progressive. They are ideologically ill defined and seem to have come together for only one purpose which is to grab power from the PDP and united on one sentiment which is their peculiar hatred for the person of President Jonathan. Is there an offence in being a President from a minority tribe?,” it stated.
The Presidency said that those who joined the APC did so because of their hatred for the President, which it said started since he won the election in 2011.
The Presidency said, “Those who cooperate with them from the North are not true mainstream northern politicians but rather anarchists and irredentists who pursue political power based purely on ethnic sentiments.
“From the first day of the Jonathan Presidency, these people have tried all methods to suffocate his administration and make it impossible for him to govern. Immediately the President was inaugurated, he was made to contend with a major post-election violence unprecedented in the annals of our political history.
“This paved the way for the escalation of the Boko Haram insurgency to the level that was totally and absolutely unimaginable; reducing previous episodes like the Maitatsine riots and similar previous sectarian violence in the North to a child’s play.
“It is to the glory of God, tenacity of purpose and ingenious administrative capacity of President Jonathan that in spite of these overwhelming and daunting security crisis, his administration still records a most distinguished performance in terms of delivering dividends of democracy ever recorded in the annals of the history of Nigeria.
“Isn’t it surprising too that since their coming together, Nigerians have yet to know what the APC stands for in terms of definite agenda? What do they have that is better than the PDP?
“They have no official manifestoes; rather what we hear from one leader is a sharp contradiction from what we hear from another.”
For example, it said Buhari,who is the leading figure of the APC in the North, delivered a lecture in London in which he alleged that he spoke against restructuring of the Nigerian federation, resource control, sovereign national conference and other core demands of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.
The Presidency added that Tinubu went to a similar event more recently and listed out APC’s proposed programmes on power, agriculture, and rail transportation which were not in any way different from the contents of the Transformation Agenda of the PDP.
It said in spite of the long years of existence of the three political parties(ACN, Congress for Progressive Change and All Nigeria Peoples Party) that merged into the APC,they were unable to find credible personalities among their followers for national positions and offices.
“The ACN particularly is reputed to always outsource its presidential candidate to the PDP. It is not surprising therefore that in the new party’s national executive, six of its 11 members, which is about 60 per cent are former chieftains of the PDP,” it added.
Because of this, the Presidency said Nigerians would want to know whether the APC was different from the PDP or that it should be regarded “as PDP 2.”
Faulting the description of the APC as consisting of old and expired leaders, the Interim spokesman for the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, wondered if those leading the PDP could be categorised as young men when all of them were in their 70s and 80s.
He added that Nigerians would determine the fate of APC and the PDP in 2015.
The APC interim spokesman added, “What Okupe is saying is that the National Chairman of the PDP is a young man.
“He is saying that the chairman of its Board of Trustees is also a young man. This is a party whose national youth leader is about 70 years. Nigerians are not fools. At the appropriate time, they would decide what they want.”
Meanwhile, political leaders, including governors in the North-West, are divided over whether to join the APC or not.
Our correspondent gathered that the leaders and their followers were not happy with Jonathan and were therefore determined to ensure his ouster in 2015.
For example, some northern governors, especially those in the North-West, have been meeting political leaders and former rulers, complaining about Jonathan’s style of leadership and the running of the PDP.
The governors are Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko(Sokoto), Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa).
They also complained about the crisis in Rivers State, which they were said to have alleged was caused by the Presidency.
It was gathered that while Nyako had been fraternising with the defunct ANPP before it became a part of the APC, Lamido, on the other hand, had been lambasting the promoters of the new party.
A source close to two other governors said; “for now, the best thing to do is to engage in wider consultations rather than just jumping into a new party; there are many ways to kill a rat; if the PDP believes that without some governors it could go it alone, then, when election comes, we shall see.
“That has been the position of the rest governors but it is only the Adamawa State governor, who is insisting that his colleagues of like-minds should dump the PDP before 2015.”
But the Chief Press Secretary to Nyako, Ahmed Sajoh, said his boss was not leaving the PDP.
He said, “The governor has made it clear that he is not leaving PDP, but the matter in Adamawa is beyond comprehension whereby the national chairman of the PDP decides what goes on in the party in the state without an iota of concession to the governor.”
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There are indications that the INEC may suspend the registration of the proposed mega opposition party, All Progressive Congress, APC. Elombah.com learnt on Friday that the decision to halt the registration was reached at a meeting involving the National Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and other top officials of the commission last, Tuesday. It was gathered that besides putting the APC’s registration in abeyance, INEC might write the merging parties on Tuesday, to choose another name.
This, THISDAY gathered, has created a new wave of apprehension within the ranks of the merging parties and they see it as yet another plot to scuttle the registration of the APC.
A reliable source within the opposition coalition parties who confirmed the twist in the APC registration application, alleged that INEC based its decision on the pending court case by one of the rival political associations, African People’s Congress challenging the registration of the coalition’s APC.
However, leaders of the Congress for Progressive Change has said the APC will not change its name. The National Publicity Secretary of the CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, told Sunday Punch in a telephone interview that no court can stop the Independent National Electoral Commission from registering the APC.
He said “It’s too late in the day for anybody to try anything funny with our registration. No court can stop INEC from registering APC.
“We have followed the proper procedure what is left is purely administrative.
“The African Peoples Congress which was set up in a hurry by the PDP was disqualified by INEC.
“We are not losing sleep because at this point, we cannot be compelled to change name when it is clear that the APC acronym is free for our use. When we get registered, anybody who has issues with, it can go to court.
According to him, the law was clear about the procedure for the registration of political parties.
This, he said, had made the registration imminent because, “the law says if after 30 days we don’t hear from INEC, we are deemed to have been registered.
“We had our various conventions and submitted our documents 27 days ago. All I can tell you now is, no shaking.”
Another APC member said: “This is a plot not to register us and it is an afterthought. Part of the plot is to ensure that nothing happens until September because the courts are going on vacation”.
When contacted, National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Lai Mohammed said, “We will issue a robust statement tomorrow (Sunday).
Meanwhile, two senior lawyers, who spoke with PUNCH said INEC can advise the party to change its name.
Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN) noted that since confusion over the identity of parties contesting an election was one of the factors that could lead to the nullification of the results of an election, the electoral commission would be in order if it advised a prospective party to change its name.
He said, “Two parties cannot bear the same name, just like when you are incorporating a company. INEC cannot register two names that look alike, that will confuse the electorate. INEC will be justified to ask a party to change its name if there are two parties with the same name.
“This is because one of the issues that can lead to the nullification of an election is when parties have the same name leading to confusion among the electorate.”
Also, Mr, Mike Ahamba (SAN) said INEC can ask the APC to change its name.
“They (INEC) can advise the party (APC) to change name in order to avoid a conflict.
“If I am a member of the APC and if they ask me, I would have advised them to get another name a long time ago,” Ahamba said.