While the various political elements that formed the victorious coalition, the All Progressives Congress, APC, gathered against the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, pundits had believed it was only a matter of time before the gang-up would come unstuck. However, the various constituents surprised everyone, sank their differences and worked together to ensure the ouster of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, with Muhammadu Buhari as the arrowhead of the grand coalition of the old North and the ruling political mainstream of South West.
They were not expected to push through the threshold of beating a ruling behemoth like the PDP, but luck was on their side because Jonathan proved incapable of holding his party and government together to achieve a successful re-election. But now that the APC is sitting pretty in the saddle, it is obvious that the litmus test for it as a ruling party is still in play. Two things will further challenge its viability as a ruling coalition that can stand the test of time. Number one is power sharing among the various political interest groups. Number two is the hot-button games towards 2019.
Let us pause and ruminate over a few issues. People always say it is ideal to allow members of the National Assembly to choose their own leaders rather than allow “external influences” to “impose” leaders on the Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members. Before 2011 when the Seventh National Assembly was empanelled to work alongside the Jonathan presidency, the “external influence” that was obvious to all was the Presidency.
During the eight years of Olusegun Obasanjo in the Presidency, he brazenly sought to dictate who emerged as the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives. He used every “stick-and-carrot” trick in the book to get his preferred candidates in, and when they outlived their usefulness, get them bundled out. In one of the scandalous sessions, the Ghana-Must-Go bagfuls of raw cash he allegedly sent to bribe members of the House of Representatives to remove Hon Umar Ghali Na’Abba were displayed on the floor of the Green Chamber.
But in 2011, Jonathan tried to do what the APC just attempted and met a disastrous defeat. He wanted to put Hon Mulikat Akande in office as the Speaker of the House to complete the zoning formula of his Party and give every geopolitical zone a share of the spoils of PDP’s victory at the polls. But a new “external influence” popped up from an unusual quarter and made total nonsense of the PDP zoning formula.
Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu was in ascendancy as a powerful opposition leader. He went into the throng of PDP members-elect and sponsored Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (who brought in Hon Emeka Ihedioha as his Deputy) to beat Akande to implant a rebel leadership in the House of Reps. Tambuwal eventually led the revolt against the PDP from inside the House. It was a masterstroke that helped Tinubu to midwife a successful takeover of power at the centre later on.
Surprisingly, on June 9, 2015, Tinubu and the APC fell into the same trap that he had set for Jonathan and the PDP in 2011. The number of “external influences” increased. While the President, Muhammadu Buhari, appeared to have learnt from the humiliation of Jonathan in 2011 and announced early enough that he would not interfere in the choice of the Senate and House leadership, Tinubu staged a Tony Anenih-like internal primary election that worked towards a predetermined result in an attempt to impose his chosen candidates: Ahmed Lawan for the Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila for Speaker of the House of Representatives.
If he had been allowed to successfully close that deal, he would have entrenched himself in the National Assembly. By so doing, he would have further edged out other stakeholders in the ruling coalition, including elements of the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, Rochas Okorocha’s interests and most importantly, the “new” PDP faction. In fact, the interests of Buhari’s old Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, would have been subsumed under an accreting Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, faction.
This was what prompted the vehemence with which the nPDP faction fought back and defeated Tinubu. We now saw former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Governor Okorocha of Imo State and others closing ranks with Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Aliyu Wamakko and the rest of them. They went as far as colluding with the opposition PDP, to which they conceded the Deputy Senate President in efforts to put in their colleagues, former Governor Bukola Saraki, as the new Senate President, and Hon Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker, House of Reps.
The stage is set for a season of heated struggle for the control of the APC. It is no longer going to be an all-Tinubu affair. He alone is no longer going to be “the Party”. If he and his lackeys in charge of the machinery of the Party push to make good their threat of sanctioning the “saboteurs” who committed the “treachery” against “the Party”, they will have a humongous fight in their hands. Tinubu will be ranged against the PDP faction composed of tested Northern political hotheads who see him as nothing but a mere upstart local champion (refer to how Saraki referred to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as a “mere commissioner”).
Unless the fallouts of the National Assembly polls are wisely managed and the interests of all the coalition partners subsequently factored into all the power sharing activities of the party, we may eventually witness any of several interesting scenarios.
One may be that Tinubu, with the support of Buhari, could eventually triumph over the nPDP and other rebels and push them to either return to PDP for 2019, or form another, third political party to challenge for power. The second could be that Tinubu may be defeated by a realigned coalition of the North with South East and South-South, along with their PDP stalwarts from the South West. In that case, Tinubu might be forced to go solo again with his ACN faction.
The truth is that the power play towards 2019 is in full swing. The virility of the APC coalition, as currently constituted, will be sorely tested in a series of face-offs and standoffs for control. The North is going to be very assertive. They are now in power, with 17 compared to Tinubu’s five states. In fact, Tinubu has very little control over Edo State APC and its local leader, Governor Adams Oshiomhole. When it comes to the crunch Oshiomhole can pick and choose where he wants to pitch his interest, bearing in mind that so far, Tinubu’s power sharing efforts has not factored him in.
Tinubu’s staying power in the Party will hang, in the main, on his continued good relationship with President Buhari. And to remain in the President’s good books and be welcome among the Northern hawks around him, Tinubu will have to increasingly and openly concede the fact that, though the APC has “many leaders” as Alhaji Lai Mohammed naively put it, PMB is the supreme leader of the Party.
It is from PMB’s continued gracious approval that Tinubu will sustain his position as the National Leader of the APC.