That the All Progressives Congress (APC) is having leadership crisis is no longer news. What is news now is that the party is collapsing with no leader in charge. Following the Appeal Court ruling sustaining the suspension of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the party, late on Monday, June 16, 2020, members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party started making disparate claims as to who is the Acting National Chairman. It is as if the party doesn’t have a constitution or those who operate the constitution are either ignorant of its provisions or have decided to set aside the constitution and just embark on a free for all fight. Yet, APC is the ruling party in Nigeria.
Is it possible for a ruling party in control of the federal government, with President Muhammadu Buhari who is incontestably the moral leader, not to be able to resolve a matter as important as who preside as the National Chairman of the party? How can a party so blessed with experienced and very skillful leaders such as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Chief Tony Momoh, etc. be incapable of resolving the problem of leadership vacancy? With twenty Governors and in control of the National Assembly leadership producing the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, shouldn’t that serve as a source of strength to be able to solve any leadership dispute in the party, no matter how complex?
These are practical questions requiring very urgent response. Every loyal member of the party must be ashamed of what is going on now. Within few hours of the Abuja Appeal Court ruling, our party has produced three conflicting claims to the position of the National Chairman. Sen Abiola Ajimobi, Deputy National Chairman South, Chief Hilliard Eta, National Vice Chairman South South and Chief Victor Gaidom, Deputy National Secretary are all within 24 hours of the ruling presented to Nigerians as Acting National Chairman by disputing sections of the party’s leadership. While Chief Eta is being presented to stand in for Sen Ajimobi who is indisposed, Chief Gaidom is being presented on the strength of a court ruling on accounts of vacancies, which may have made him the most senior NWC member as at March 2020. All manner of arguments bordering on legal technicalities around interpreting provisions of the party’s constitution are being presented.
Didn’t the resolution of the problem in March 2020 led to some reconciliation within the NWC? If there wasn’t reconciliation, why was there no action between March and now towards resolving the matter with Comrade Oshiomhole’s short return to the position of the National Chairman? Somehow, this situation reminds one of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s diagnostic of March 15, 2020 when he argued that “we must be alert to another sickness that seems rampant within a certain segment of society. That sickness is old Ambition-virus 2023. This illness afflicts many in the political class along with their allies in the media. Those touched by this malady find that their ability to tell time and discern the difference between the present and the future has been strongly impaired. The carriers of this sickness are confused as to the very season our nation now finds itself. They conflate things, which no sensible person would conflate. The primary symptom of their malady is the driving tendency to believe the events of 2023 will be decided before we even exit the year 2020.”
Without doubt, this diagnostic is true. On the strength of this prescriptive accuracy, we may need to ask, is APC faced with a cancerous situation? Could the cancer have spread to have consumed all our leaders? Somehow, this may appear to explain the state of health of members of the NWC. Virtually all of them may have been infected with the highest degree of the “old ambition-Virus 2023” on accounts of being proxies to politicians that are already in critical stages on account of the sickness. Being proxies, they will do nothing without the approval of their patrons (if you like godfathers).
With the godfathers in critical stages, it would appear that to treat the “old ambition-Virus 2023”, we must go beyond the members of the NWC. In fact, the NWC members are just the face of the symptoms. The careers of the symptoms are not the NWC members but their godfathers. In other words, it will be foolhardy to imagine we can resolve the leadership problems of APC by solving the current leadership tussle in the NWC.
We may recall that the last time, in March 2020, we had this problem, it took the combined intervention of President Buhari, Governors, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other leaders to create the temporary reprieve, which was terminated by the ruling of the Appeal Court of June 16, 2020. Before the intervention of these leaders in March 2020, the controversy around who has the authority to convene meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) given the suspension of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the party was the dispute. With the resolution of the problem and particularly since meetings of NEC are statutorily required to hold quarterly, why didn’t the NWC under Comrade Oshiomhole convene any NEC meeting between March and now when the crisis resumed? Wouldn’t it have been possible that NEC may even have pre-empted the current crisis?
May be the NWC members, including Comrade Oshiomhole are conscious of the high possibility of the party’s NEC taking steps to apply the right treatment to the “old ambition-Virus 2023”, which may include terminating the tenure of the NWC members responsible for the crisis. Termination of the tenure of any of the NWC members responsible for the crisis could mean destroying the ambition of the godfather behind the affected NWC member. Is it why the crisis is lingering and no end in sight? What is it that can be done to help our leaders find a permanent handle to resolve our current APC leadership challenge? Can we immediately activate intervention of our leaders – President Buhari, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Governors, Asiwaju Tinubu, Chief Akande, Chief Onu, Chief Momoh, etc. similar to what happened in March to resolve this matter? Or, is it that these leaders are also infected by the “old ambition-Virus 2023” sickness?
The situation APC finds itself is very traumatic for every member. By extension, the inability of the party to find solution to the leadership crisis makes it also traumatic for all our leaders including those of them who today serve as the face of the crisis – Comrade Oshiomhole, Chief Eta, Chief Gaidom and their accomplices in and out of the NWC. What makes the situation more frustrating is the reticence of President Buhari in the face of what obviously could damage the legacy he will bequeath to the nation. While, we must celebrate the fact that his leadership style is required to ensure that the party is managed independently and therefore made possible for the exercise of supremacy of the party based on decisions of organs, “old ambition-Virus 2023” may have weakened the capacity of the party to benefit from the commendable leadership approach of President Buhari.
Noting that the PDP was largely plunged into crisis by a garrison styled leadership, which is the direct opposite of President Buhari’s approach, our current crisis may suggest wrongly that having a liberal President who provides free atmosphere to the party is responsible for the crisis facing the party. This will be a very wrong conclusion. However, the question is, what further measures could be required from the President in order to ensure the emergence of a good synergy between him (President Buhari) and the party? What may be apparent is that “old ambition-Virus 2023” sickness afflicting other leaders as diagnosed by Asiwaju Tinubu in March 2020 may block support to the President to resolve the crisis.
This is why all leaders who believe they are not infected by the “old ambition-Virus 2023” should step forward to support President Buhari and protect any further distraction and potential damage to his legacy. To such an extent, one would expect that Asiwaju Tinubu being the Chief Physician of “old ambition-Virus 2023”, as well as being that old politically strong ally of President Buhari, whose partnership assisted in producing the APC and ensuring the defeat of PDP in 2015, he will be in the forefront in activating the moral authority of the combined leadership of President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu to resolve the current APC crisis. The combined moral authority of President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu should have involuntarily moderated the conduct of other leaders of the party especially members of the NWC.
Does the current APC leadership crisis therefore suggest declining moral authority of our two leaders? It is very easy to reach conclusions. However, what is of interest to all party members, and by extension other well-meaning Nigerians, is what will be required to re-energise the moral authority of President Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and direct it properly to resolve current and future leadership crisis in the party.
May be, for President Buhari, the challenge of resolving the current crisis is not as daunting. In which case, it would only give credence to the illogical mischief that the President is unperturbed and uninterested. This is where the new Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, with his knowledge and experiences should do everything possible in the circumstance to facilitate a complete resolution of the leadership crisis in the party in order to guarantee that the President is able to bequeath incontestable and enduring political legacy. Every additional time the party spent in this crisis will mean the failure of the Chief of Staff and other advisers to the President.
In the case of Asiwaju Tinubu, unlike President Buhari, he should be more fastidious in ensuring that the party is rescued, and the leadership crisis is resolved. This is because, unless he (Asiwaju Tinubu) is also infected by “old ambition-Virus 2023”, to the extent that he has lost rational considerations as to make him believe that the health of the party is inconsequential in making him emerge as President Buhari’s successor, he (Asiwaju Tinubu) should be very keen in ensuring quick resolution of the APC leadership problem. Should this be the case, it will only go to confirm that either Comrade Oshiomhole or some of the crisis leaders in the APC NWC are acting as proxies to Asiwaju Tinubu.
We can go on trying to interpret and explain current challenges based on conduct of our leaders. The fundamental question is what is it that can be done to bring about immediate resolution of the crisis? The reality of “old ambition-Virus 2023” in APC, correlates with a cancer patient requiring organ transplant. No amount of medication can cure the patient. In fact, the longer the patient continue to live in denial through taking just prescriptive medication, the higher the risk that the cancer will spread and damage other organs of the body. Perhaps, this is why in addition to the disputants in the leadership conflict in March 2020, a very safe Sen Abiola Ajimobi is being dragged into the dispute even at a time when every well-meaning and humane party leader should be more interested in the wellbeing and quick recovery of Sen Ajimobi. This is a shameful tragedy of how our politics is departing from being human. Everything is just about holding public positions by whatever means. It is not even about what we do with those positions to positively impact on human life but how we use them to control public resources, even if it means sacrificing fellow leaders and members.
This is a sad return to all the dastardly known political credentials of the predecessor ruling PDP, which APC is expected to have destroyed. Why should this be happening under the watch of all our leaders who inspiringly led us painstakingly to produce APC and defeat the PDP in 2015? With the manner Sen. Ajimobi is being dragged into being one of the disputants, all APC members and patriotic Nigerians must call our APC leaders to order. In particular, President Buhari and all APC leaders who are vested with the responsibility of assisting President Buhari to move this country forward, should focus in directing the affairs of the party towards convening a NEC meeting to commence the process of curing all our leaders of “old ambition-Virus 2023” as diagnosed by Asiwaju Tinubu in March 2020.
As part of the treatment, it is very clear we need an organ transplant by way of replacing the members of the current NWC who constitute the problem. By provisions of our party’s constitution, it is only the National Convention that can discharge that function. And it is only the NEC that can convene the National Convention. Any hesitation not to convene NEC and hopefully activate the process of convening the National Convention could suggest that beyond the NWC, the whole party, APC, is infected with the “old ambition-Virus 2023”, all our leaders, President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu inclusive. The first test is whether NEC will be convened or not.
Beyond President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu, our leaders, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Governors, Asiwaju Tinubu, Chief Akande, Chief Onu, Chief Momoh, etc., all of them individually, should demonstrate the needed sensitivity and commitment to resolving this matter. APC must not be allowed to turn into a Frankenstein monster that will destroy our leaders and pollute our democracy. The capacity of our leaders to resolve this crisis is never in doubt. The issue is how speedily? A stitch in time, saves nine!
*Salihu Lukman works for the Progressive Governors Forum.
This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum