The All Progressives Congress (APC) is at crossroads over the filling of chairmanship position of its Board of Trustees (BoT). Leaders of the party may not publicly admit that, how much more talk about it in the open, but that is the prevailing situation at the moment .
The push for the headship of the board has been on since June. And the campaign strategy adopted by contenders for the office has been the same deployment of long knife against opponents without the public taking note.
For now, key contenders for the office include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Lagos State governor , Bola Ahmed Tinubu, erstwhile national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh and former Interim national chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande.
The earlier calculation was that the board of trustees of the party would be inaugurated soon after the general election or at worst, after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari. But that was not to be. No thanks to the crisis that engulfed the National Assembly. The crisis dealt a huge blow to the unity of the party . Its leaders who played divergent roles in the National Assembly leadership standoff became foes. A new alignment emerged. The issue of BoT and its chairmanship were temporarily brushed aside. Though the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, in its meeting soon after the inauguration had approved proposals made for the inclusion of some members of the party’s BoT as submitted by the APC National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, the infighting amongst leaders of the party was not to allow the chairmanship of the board to emerge.
Article 13.2 (X) of the APC Constitution (October 2014 as amended), deals with the powers of the BoT, stipulates: “The Board of Trustees shall elect its chairman, deputy chairman, secretary and other officers as it deems necessary, and formulate its own rules and procedures to regulate its meetings and activities.”
“The way things turned out in the National Assembly on June 9 affected the unity of the party. Even though we pretend outside , the party is split today . Some tendencies have emerged . The development has stalled the emergence of our BoT chairman”, a member of the National Working Committee (NWC) who does not want his name mentioned said.
On the surface, the contention over who leads the BoT of the party looks ordinary and harmless but the truth is that it is not. Agreed that BoT of any party is only an advisory body, it goes beyond that. The battle over the chairmanship of APC trustees board is about stealth move to have a grip on the structure of the party ahead of 2019 . Former Vice President , Atiku who does not hide the fact that his eyes are still fixed on the presidency wants to use the platform of the APC board to strengthen his clout and influence in the party.
“The party official said “Atiku wants to be in a position where he cannot be ignored by anybody in the party and in the government. He knows how important that office is, he knows he can use that to infiltrate and control most members.”
The former Vice President is believed to have moved in opposite direction with Tinubu in the National Assembly leadership tussle. That has further strained their relationship.
The former Lagos state governor and national leader of APC knows the mission of Atiku and is doing everything within his power to torpedo it. Tinubu’s shadow , at the moment, is looming large in the party . Take or leave it ,he has an overwhelming hold on majority of the NWC members and stretching his influence to a critical area like the BoT will be to his great advantage.
He is aware that Atiku has control of the leadership of the National Assembly as both the Senate President , Bukola Saraki and Speaker House of Representatives , Yakubu Dogara were installed by his group. Tinubu knows the significance of this. He also understands the consequence of allowing the man’s shadow to strayed into the party’s key arm like the BoT. That is why he is fighting hard to checkmate him.
Even if at the end of the day Tinubu does not go for the BoT chairmanship, he would prefer his acolyte to there . And that is why Akande is pushing hard for the office.
At the heat of the National Assembly crisis , Akande , working with Tinubu fired a salvo to the Atiku camp. The motive was to destabilize the camp and keep it in check.
In a provocative statement on June 28, He claimed that the members of the APC, who left the PDP, came into the ruling party with vested interests, which he claimed were fuelling the APC crisis.
Hear him , “What began as political patronages, which was to be shared into APC membership spread among ethnic zones, religious faiths, (as well as) political rankings and experiences, has now become so complicated that the sharing has to be done by and among PDP leadership, together with cohorts of former New PDP affiliations in the APC, by and among gangs against Buhari’s presidency, and certain APC legislators and party members who dance round the crisis arena to pick some crumbs.
“After the elections, which saw the APC to victory all round, a meeting was reported to have been held by certain old and new PDP leaders in (former National Chairman of PDP) Kawu Baraje’s house in Abuja to review what should be their share in this new Buhari’s government and resolved to seek collaboration with the PDP with a view to hijacking the National Assembly and, having got rid of Goodluck Jonathan, with an ultimate aim of resuscitating the PDP as their future political platform.”
Baraje did not take the attack kindly. He returned the diatribe to the former APC interim boss . He described Akande’s claims as unfortunate and expressed disappointed that he would make such claims.
Also , the APC national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, Saraki, Dogara, the Arewa Consultative Forum and the northern caucus of the party, among several others, tackled Akande over the comment .In the case of Audu Ogbe , nothing much has streamed out of his table . He knows that his fate hangs, more or less, on the outcome of the duel between Atiku and Tinubu. For now he is only disturbed that the BoT chairmanship issue is allowed to linger and stroud in uncertainty .
He said “ “It isn’t the constitution that is the real problem. Constitutions are run by human beings. We have our constitution; we have a certain understanding among ourselves about what we should do and shouldn’t do. I think there are some managerial lapses somewhere.
“For instance, we have not yet formally inaugurated our Board of Trustees. What are we waiting for? This is the kind of crisis that the Board of Trustees should have taken over and resolved and not the National Working Committee or the National Executive Committee of the party. Why is the Board of Trustees not in place?”
As expected, diverse arguments are being put forward by different tendencies and power blocs in the APC regarding the BoT chairmanship. For the Atiku men, the position, without debate, should be ceded to the North. They argue that the practice in other parties is that when the national chairman is from the South, the position of the BoT chairman is held by the North and vice versa.
Tinubu’s loyalists are not swayed by the argument. They insist that the focus should be handing the baton to somebody who has the capacity to strengthen the unity of the party rather than dwelling on his ethnic origin . Apart from that, they argue that both the President, Senate President , speaker of the House of Representatives and other key government functionaries are from the North .
“We are asking for a balance , we are asking for that move that will help the unity of our great party rather than divide it. We are insisting that the chairmanship of the BoT of our party must come from the south”, a top member of the party said .
The two political blocs are unlikely to give up their stand on this matter.
The APC chieftain captured the development thus “we are in a country where people pay much attention to issues relating to tribe. I know that we will sort out our differences on this matter. There is nothing wrong in the North insisting that the office must be zoned to the region . There is also nothing wrong in the South asking that it comes to the region. For me, the party is bigger than any individual. What is good for the party will prevail at the end”.
Another chieftain of the party, Osita Okechukwu does not differ in his position on the matter from colleagues. According to him it is surprising that some members of the party are losing sleeping thinking about the zone or region that should produce the chairman of the BoT. He claimed that the party knows how to overcome any of its challenges .
He said “We have a special way of crossing every bridge, this one will not be different. i dont think it will be right for anybody to lose sleep over who becomes our BoT chairman . The good news is that non of those people being rumoured as having the ambitiion to lead the board that is a political neophyte. They all know when to draw a line between their ambition and what the party needs”.
Of course several people are likely to disagree with Okechukwu but nobody can dismiss his views as hogwash.
Sure. apostles of North and South sharing formula in the distribution of top offices in the party hinge their argument on what is obtained in parties like the PDP. They may not like many things about the rival party but they are unlkely to shift their ground that PDP needs to be emulated on this.
Although the focus has been on Atiku and Tinubu in the whole thing, the political chess game has clearly transcended the two figures. President Buhari, expectedly, factoring the 2019 and the possibility of seeking a second term, is clearing all possible road blocks.
The appointment of Engr Babachir David Lawal as the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF) may seem innocuous, some individuals believe that it was a master stroke pulled by the presidency to keep Atiku out of the BoT chairmanship race and to a large extent, reduce his visibility in the party. Notable chieftains of APC feel this way.
This is the reason they hold such stand. Lawal hails from Adamawa, the same state Atiku comes from. By giving the top office to an indigene of the state, Atiku will be morally constrained from asking for BoT chairmanship.
This is how a top notcher of the party puts it “ the ambition of Atiku to emerge the Chairman, Board of Trustees of APC technically came to an end on the day the President appointed Lawal as SGF. Nobody will accept that Adamawa should produce both the SGF and BoT chairman. I think the President deliberately did that to reduce his influence in the party and stop him from possibly becoming an obstacle to him in 2019.”
He added “ with this appointment, Lawal will become the leader of the party in the state. I think the Tinubu camp will be happy with the appointment. But Atiku is not someone anybody can pocket, we expect him to come up with a new strategy . But it is a masterstroke pulled by President Buhari. I can tell you that that is the general thinking in the APC. And that is the whole truth about Lawal’s appointment”.
Certainly, Atiku may have also read the same handwriting on the wall. Whether the Tinubu camp is laughing last on the BoT chairmanship battle will be seen, sooner than later. The Sun