Consensus Vs Open Contest in APC

Salihu Moh. Lukman. Photo credit: The Sun

By Salihu Moh. Lukman


Electing Party Leaders through Consensus


Since the commencement of negotiation for new leadership in APC, starting with Ward Congresses, the decision of the APC CECPC is that new leaders will be elected through consensus. This imply that stakeholders will reach agreement on specific individuals who will emerge as party leaders. So far, the process has achieved some degree of success as the new leaders of the party from wards to local governments and states have emerged through consensus. There were instances of disagreements, which the party’s reconciliation committee under the leaders of Sen. Abdullahi Adamu has succeeded in resolving many of the cases.


With the National Convention scheduled to hold March 26, 2022, the process of achieving consensus is similarly expected to produce new national leaders. Already, following meetings of the CECPC, Progressive Governors and other party leaders with President Buhari, some initiatives aimed at achieving consensus leading to the emergence of new national leaders have commenced. A zoning formula has been reported to be agreed and the President is reported to have expressed his support for the emergence of Sen. Adamu as the consensus National Chairman of the party around whom the negotiation to achieve consensus for other positions is expected to be achieved. Progressive Governors were reported to have been mandated by the President to work with the CECPC and achieve agreed consensus on all party positions.


Party Activities and attempts to Undermine Consensus


Incidences within the last few days appear to be almost questioning whether any negotiation is taking place within the party to achieve consensus. From uncertainty about whether the party’s National Convention will hold, circumstances have been created whereby directives of President Buhari, who is unquestionably the leader of the party, to negotiate consensus leading the emergence of new leaders seems to be discarded. Conflicting directives to party leaders allegedly from the President are allowed to appear in the public. Every time new directive appears, party leaders and members complied, and new realities also emerges in the party.


For instance, when on Sunday, March 6, 2022, on the day President Buhari went to London, the information emerged that President Buhari instructed Progressive Governors to initiate processes of leadership change in the party given the reluctance of His Excellency Mai Mala, the APC CECPC Chairman to implement decisions to hold the party’s National Convention, party leaders and members welcome the decision, which accounts for the legitimacy enjoyed by all the eleven members of the CECPC who immediately rallied themselves around His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello who was vested with the responsibility of acting as APC CECPC Chairman in the absence of His Excellency Mai Mala who was out of the country for medical treatment.


Immediately, activities of the party around preparations for the March 26, 2022 National Convention were strengthened. The CECPC under His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello began meetings almost on daily basis. Decisions taken were implemented immediately and communication with party members and the public regarding preparations for the National Convention was very regular, unlike under the leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala. Newly elected States’ leadership of the party were inaugurated, an action which should have been carried out long ago but deliberately stalled as part of the plans to sabotage the National Convention. With the inauguration of States’ leadership of the party, the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) was scheduled for Thursday, March 17, 2022. The scheduled NEC meeting was also designed to begin to return the APC back to normal operations as provided by the party’s Constitution.


The NEC being the second highest organ of the party has the powers to take decisions, which should guide party operations in between National Conventions. Under the APC constitution, the NEC is required to meet every three months. The last time the NEC met was December 8, 2020, when in view of the challenges facing the party, and trusting that the leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala will faithfully and honestly implement decisions taken leading to the emergence of new leaders, transferred its powers to the CECPC. As of December 8, 2020, the expectation was that the tenure of the CECPC would not go beyond six months, implying that by June 2021, the APC National Convention would have taken place and new party leaders would have emerged. Sadly, His Excellency Mai Mala began endless postponement of the National Convention, and it became clear to everyone, including President Buhari that the CECPC leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala has abused all the trust of party leaders and members, with allegations of corruption against the Chairman and Secretary, His Excellency Mai Mala and Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe respectively.


Changes in CECPC and Syndicated Media Campaigns


With the emergence of His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello as Acting CECPC Chairman on March 7, 2022, and all the actions taken to implement decisions leading to the Convention, confidence of party members and leaders began to be restored. Some few party leaders who collaborated with His Excellency Mai Mala to sabotage the decision to organise the National Convention, however, began media campaigns aimed at undermining the legitimacy of actions taken by the CECPC under His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello. Mostly done through surrogates, the campaigns include planting syndicated report of a coup against His Excellency Mai Mala, leading to the emergence of His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello as Acting Chairman of the CECPC.


The CECPC Secretary, Sen. Akpanuduodehe, on Monday, March 7, 2022, walked out of the meeting of the CECPC chaired by His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello. Then news of his resignation and subsequent rebuttal by him emerged. As it turned out, the CECPC actually passed a vote of no confidence on the Secretary in with provision of Article 21(vi) of the APC, which affirms the power of organs of the party to take such actions based on two-third votes by members of the organ. The resolution for vote of no confidence against Sen. Akpanuduodehe was passed by ten out of thirteen members of the CECPC. Thereafter, the CECPC announced that Prof. Tahir Mamman is the Acting Secretary and Barr. Ismail Ahmed is the spokesperson. Throughout the week of March 7 – 14, Sen. Akpanudoedehe was conspicuously absent from the APC National Secretariat and didn’t attend meetings of the CECPC, although on Friday, March 11, 2022, he was reported to have visited the APC National Secretariat but did not attend the CEPCP meeting, which ongoing at the time of his visit.


As part of the syndicated news reports aimed at undermining decisions and actions taken by the CECPC under the leadership of His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello, there was the false report that thirteen APC Governors were threatening to leave the party if the decision to change His Excellency Mai Mala as Chairman of CECPC is achieved. Some party leaders, including Governors Nasir El-Rufai and Rotimi Akeredolu SAN of Kaduna and Ondo States respectively responded with the information that only three Governors, not thirteen, are supportive of His Excellency Mai Mala. The three Governors are Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Hope Uzodinma of Imo and Dapo Abiodun of Ogun States. The remaining eighteen Governors and the Deputy Governor of Anambra State are supportive of initiatives being taken by the CECPC under the leadership of His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello.


Conflicting Presidential Directives and London Lobbies by Party Leaders


Around the same period, during the weekend of March 11 – 13, there were reports about President Buhari returning His Excellency Mai Mala as the Chairman of the CECPC. Then on Sunday, March 13, there was the statement by Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special to the President on Media and Publicity, informing APC leaders about President Buhari’s warning drawing attention to the electoral consequences of the open leadership contestation in the party and calling for order. By Monday, March 14, the report was that party leaders including His Excellency Mai Mala, His Excellency Kayode Fayemi and His Excellency Nasir El-Rufai have traveled to London to meet with President Buhari. No details of the meetings emerged. The feeler, however, was that President Buhari met Governors Fayemi and El-Rufai and endorsed preparations for the March 26 National Convention initiated by the CECPC under the leadership of His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello and accordingly confirmed that he will be attending the scheduled March 17 NEC meeting of the party.


Before the weekend of March 11 – 13, there were media reports about some party leaders, including Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, Mallam Abubakar Malami, Minister of Justice, Mallam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education and Hon. Farouk Adamu Aliyu, meeting the President in London. This report of the visit by Sen. Sirika, Mallam Malami, Mallam Adamu and Hon. Aliyu was remotely associated with all the lobby to influence decisions of the President regarding the need to achieve consensus leading to the emergence of new leadership for the APC. Interestingly, the presence of these longtime political associates of President Buhari in London may have been responsible for many of the reversals of decisions taken by President Buhari regarding the party’s leadership contestation.


The four leaders – Sen. Sirika, Mallam Malami, Mallam Adamu and Hon. Aliyu were political associates of President Buhari since 2003 when he first contested for President under the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP). Part of what has emerged suggest that their mission to London was to get President Buhari to alter the decisions reached with Progressive Governors and other party leaders on zoning party positions. Particularly, they wanted the President to unilaterally change the decision to get the Deputy National Chairman North moved from North-East to North-West so that Hon. Aliyu can become the President’s anointed candidate. Recall that there was a discredited zoning list purportedly signed by the President, dated February 25, 2022 with Hon. Aliyu, who is from North-West as the agreed candidate for Deputy National Chairman North, instead of allowing it for the emergence of someone from the North-East as agreed. In that discredited zoning list, the position of National Secretary was given to South-East and not South-West as was later announced by the CECPC.


Consequently, by the evening of Wednesday, March 16, 2022, news about the President reversing his earlier directive to Progressive Governors and party leaders to the effect of changing the leadership of the CECPC emerged. Conveyed in a letter to His Excellency Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Chairman Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) directing a ‘return to status quo ante’ on the leadership of the CEPCP, with photo images of President Buhari together with His Excellency Mai Mala in the company of Mallam Adamu, the President effectively reversed his earlier instructions. By the morning of Thursday, March 17, 2022, Sen. Akpanuduedehe announced the cancellation of the scheduled March 17 NEC and attempted to alter the composition of Convention Committees announced by the CECPC under the leadership of His Excellency Sani Bello. Members of the CECPC had to immediately to enforce the vote of no confidence on Sen. Akpanuduodehe to stop further attempts to reverse decisions taken on the March 26 National Convention. His Excellency Mai Mala who returned to the country on Thursday, March 17 had to issue a statement affirming the sanctity of all decisions taken by the CECPC under the leadership of His Excellency Sani Bello.


Return of Old attempts to Impose Party Leaders and Candidates


Part of the sentiment being used by the London lobby team of Sen. Sirika, Mallam Malami, Mallam Adamu and Hon. Aliyu was to ensure that the old Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) leaders are not ‘marginalised’ in the new APC leadership to emerge from the March 26 National Convention. These are old opportunistic argument, which were self-serving used by some few vested interests around the President to impose themselves as party leaders and candidates. There were many instances leading to imposition of candidates during elections, which undermined the electoral viabilities of parties associated with the President. From the ANPP in 2003 and 2007 to CPC in 2011, this has been the reality. Often, individual politicians with these self-serving agenda have used it to impose themselves on party members as candidates for elections. Although there are many instances whereby imposed candidates win elections, there are also many instances when acts of imposition destroyed the electoral advantages of the parties leading to the loss of elections. This was partly the reason for the large-scale defeat of CPC in 2011 election in Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Katsina and many states.


Perhaps, it needs to be highlighted that while the team of ‘CPC London lobbyists’ used the CPC sentiment to push for the anointment of Hon. Aliyu as Deputy National Chairman North, they were not interested in the reversal of the speculated anointment of Sen. Adamu as the President’s choice for the National Chairman in favour of Sen. Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, who is by far the most qualified former CPC leader aspiring for the position of National Chairman. Noting that Sen. Adamu was never a member of CPC, unlike Sen. Al-Makura who was the only elected CPC Governor in the country between 2011 and 2013 when CPC was dissolved into the current APC, why shouldn’t any CPC lobbyist prioritise the case of National Chairman over and above a Deputy National Chairman? This partly highlights the limitations of all the scheming influencing many of the President’s decisions to reverse decisions he took around all the leadership contestation in the party. Why should the President endorse Sen. Adamu over Sen. Al-Makura as the National Chairman of the APC? Didn’t Sen. Al-Makura defeat Sen. Adamu, which made the CPC to have the only State, Nasarawa, it won in 2011?


Sen. Al-Makura has led the APC to victory in all elections in Nasarawa State since 2015. In fact, it could be argued without any fear of contradiction that Sen. Adamu was compelled to leave the PDP because of the domineering electoral influence of the APC in Nasarawa State under the leadership of Sen. Al-Makura. Every rational consideration would expect President Buhari to choose Sen. Al-Makura ahead of Sen. Adamu. But the same old irrational and illogical decisions leading to imposition of candidates in ANPP and CPC have found their wat to APC and may have influenced President Buhari’s decision for Sen. Adamu over Sen. Al-Makura. These irrational and illogical decisions are driven by people who are opposed to political contests because they must impose themselves at all costs using their close relationship with President Buhari. Largely because they hardly have much electoral significance, meaning that on their own they can hardly win elections, instead, they just want to ride on decisions of the President to anoint them as candidates based on which they may succeed in bulldozing their way to emerge as elected leaders and candidates.


Partly because the so-called CPC lobby around President Buhari wasn’t about getting trustworthy people to emerge as APC leaders during the March 26 National Convention, the objective may have been to bring in people who can do the hatched jobs of imposing some so-called CPC old leaders as candidates for 2023 elections. Noting that, for instance, both Mallam Malami and Sen. Sirika are aspiring to emerge as APC Governorship candidates for Kebbi and Katsina States respectively, this may be the major consideration for the lobby around Hon. Aliyu to become the Deputy National Chairman North. Also noting that both Mallam Malami and Sen. Sirika are facing strong opposition within the party in their respective states, Kebbi and Katsina, the suspicion that they want Hon. Aliyu as Deputy National Chairman North so that he can do the hatched job of producing them as candidates by whatever means cannot be dismissed.


Recall that Hon. Aliyu was alleged to be at the centre of most of the allegations of corruption against the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole during the 2019 elections, the probability that he will collaborate with aspirants for elective positions to impose candidates cannot also be wished away. There were specific allegations against Hon. Aliyu of extorting huge amounts of money as Chief of Staff to Comrade Oshiomhole from some aspirants for the 2019 elections. Part of the information was that Hon. Aliyu parted ways with Comrade Oshiomhole on account of these allegations. Although these are allegations, however, to the extent that Hon. Aliyu is yet to put up any public defence to clear himself should discourage anyone from promoting him for any party leadership position in the APC.


Unilateral Reversal of Decisions Create Open Contest


By some default, therefore, while desperately pushing the President to anoint people like Hon. Aliyu as consensus candidates, these ‘CPC lobbyists’ have inadvertently created situations whereby there is the strong likelihood for an open contest in APC during the March 26 National Convention. Instead of working to support the President to win the cooperation of all party leaders, including the speculated choice of Sen. Adamu as the consensus National Chairman, an unregulated situation has emerged ahead of the APC March 26, 2022 National Convention whereby everybody is free to join the contest for the position of National Chairman. One of the mistakes of the so-called old CPC members, including the ‘CPC London lobbyists’, is to elevate the respect of party leaders for the President to the level of compelling obedience without recognising that it is a mutually reciprocal respect. Unlike what obtained under the CPC, whereby President Buhari was largely the singular electoral asset of the party, in the case of the APC, President Buhari, although the dominant electoral asset, other party leaders are also electoral assets in varying degrees, which was the added factor responsible for the electoral victory of 2015 and 2019.


Once President Buhari is made to unilateral change party decisions, and to that extend therefore create unregulated conditions for leadership contest, he is made to effectively undermine the respect he enjoys among APC leaders. Beyond creating an unregulated situation, an unhealthy condition has also been created whereby the President being a moral leader is being projected to be directing party leaders based on his presidential powers. With or without presidential powers, President Buhari has earned his position as the leader of APC. His unique personality as someone who is truly loved by very ordinary citizens remarkably earned the APC its electoral victory of 2015 and 2019. Party leaders and members will always respect instructions coming from President Buhari. Therefore, party leaders and members, by extension all supporters of President Buhari must appeal to so-called ‘CPC lobbyists’ to stop undermining the President’s authority through the attempt to impose party leaders and candidates for election.


Expanded Democratic Space in APC


The good thing, however, arising from the actions of the ‘CPC London lobbyists’ by getting the President to issue conflicting directives to Progressive Governors and party leaders, thereby disrupting negotiations for the emergence of consensus leaders is that it has in some ways mobilise internal rebellion within the APC, which will lead to open contests for all positions in the party in the March 26, 2022 National Convention. Given open contests, it is doubtful if any attempt by the President to influence the emergence of any leader, including the speculated anointment of Sen. Adamu for the position of the National Chairman can succeed. Thanks to the ‘CPC London lobbyists’, the democratic space in APC has been expanded beyond what it would ordinarily have been. For the first time, since 1999, internal party contest in a major Nigerian political party, APC, which is also the governing party, will most likely experience full blown contests for all leadership positions whereby winners may emerge irrespective of speculated choices of the President, and by extension, possibly all other party leaders.

 Unintended, the ‘CPC London lobbyists’ have also helped to inadvertently expand the democratic space for internal party contest for the emergence of candidates for 2023 elections. In other words, by their actions, they have weakened the high possibility that the party’s candidates for 2023 elections will emerge through consensus. This new reality is very much needed to challenge Nigerian political parties to comply with basic democratic tenets of free and fair internal contests for the emergence of party leaders and candidates for elections. This is perhaps very much needed to return the APC to its founding vision such that it can recover all its electoral advantages.

Acknowledgement and Appeal

 The unfolding dynamics in APC, which by some default is expanding the democratic space within the party is made possible due to the liberal leadership of the President. Associates of the President should also respect decisions the President take jointly with other party leaders instead of undermining his liberal disposition by seeking to get him to reverse decisions he jointly take with other party leaders. It was the liberal disposition of the President that allows him to respect positions of party leaders, based on which he subscribes to decisions and delegate implementation to competent structures of the party. If the President can respect other party leaders, why should other associates of the President exude any form of disrespect or contempt for other party leaders in whatever way?

 Accordingly, APC leaders and members should appeal to both President Buhari and his old political associates in the old CPC to refrain from acts that will undermine the authority of the President as the leader of the party. The President needs to recognise that being the leader of the party, imposes on him some level of propriety, which requires that once decisions are taken through meetings, it will require at least another meeting to change decisions taken. In every respect, the decisions of the President as conveyed in the letter to His Excellency Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, PGF Chairman of March 16, 2022 directing a ‘return to status quo ante’ could have been achieved from the London meeting with Governors Fayemi and El-Rufai. The letter to the PGF Chairman was avoidable and unnecessary.

 So-called old CPC leaders should stop projecting the President as a leader of only a section of party members. The President is the leader of all members of the APC and all Nigerians. Some of the so-called old CPC members, should also be reminded that, in their own rights, they have what it takes to successfully negotiate their emergence as leaders and candidates of the party without resorting to the undemocratic practices of imposition. Many of them are highly respected leaders of the APC and therefore, given free and fair environment for electoral contests within the APC, they can win elections to emerge as party leaders and candidates for elective offices. APC leaders and members should therefore appeal to these old CPC leaders to properly integrate themselves in the structures of the APC and develop the needed confidence to freely negotiate for leadership positions in the party based on ability to mobilise support to win majority votes. May Allah (SWT) bless the new democratic space in APC and support the emergence of new APC leaders based on majority votes at the March 26 APC National Convention. Amin!


By Salihu Moh. Lukman

Freelance APC Campaigner