APC: The dilemma of Buhari and his camp by Austin Oboh

The Herald NG
10 Min Read

Perhaps, the most lingering debate as yet since the merger process that culminated in the All Progressive Congress (APC) began has been the place of former military leader, Muhammadu Buhari, under the new arrangement. And it would be recalled that soon after the registration of the APC, a debate over his prospects as presidential candidate almost grew into a passionate plea by supporters of the former army general. His own response at the time was that he would defer to the wishes of the party. At a different occasion, he was reported to have said he would step down if the party produced a better candidate. That statement was considered suspicious in some quarters. The party’s official position was rather ambivalent. It claimed it was going to ensure a democratic process in the selection of its candidates.

Nonetheless, the last few weeks has seen the gradual effacement of Buhari’s personality just as that of his co-leader in the new party, Bola Tinubu, seemed to have amplified. Recently, it became known that the situation was causing concern among the CPC cell of APC. Some of the supporters of the former head of state, were reported to have expressed anxiety over what they described as the sidelining of their leader.

As is well-known, Buhari was the leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which joined other political parties to form the APC. The anxiety among his supporters is already generating uneasy calm in the former army General’s camp. One of their complaints concerns the leadership arrangement in the interim National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC which has witnessed the relapse of CPC influence in the merged party.

According to speculations, though Buhari knew he was going to lose some of his influence, he did not suspect it would be as much as it is at the moment.

The defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had entered into the merger with a lot of political clout and goodwill and had cornered most of the key political positions in the protem NWC of the new APC.

Sources confirmed that the CPC before the merger was run by Buhari and his close associates alone. Much of the decisions of the party were taken by him and executed by his lieutenants. What he wanted was what was done, but that the situation had since changed.

Of the NWC positions available when the merger took off, ACN clinched three of the most strategic- National Chairman, National Legal Adviser and National Publicity Secretary. The other two posts – that of National Secretary and National Financial Secretary – went to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). And out of the four parties in the merger, ACN alone had six governors, 15 senators and a widespread presence in all the six geo-political zones. The CPC had only one governor and a swathe of followership in many states of the north.

This profile of the ACN dashed Buhari’s hope of wielding as much influence in the party as he did with the CPC, and now there are rumours that if Buhari does not emerge as the party’s presidential candidate, intra-party conflict is imminent.

He said the Buhari group were skeptical about Yoruba politics because they are capable of concealing their real intention and springing surprise, especially in the choice of who flies the party’s flag.

Last week, Sani Mohammed Takori, a former member, House of Representatives, who represented Gummi/Bukkuyum federal constituency in Zamfara State, noted that “if Buhari is given the chance to contest for President under our great party, the APC, definitely he is going to be the next President come 2015, because he is the soul and heart of APC is Buhari.”

Not long ago, it was reported that leaders of the APC were in dilemma over the ambition of Buhari. He had indicated interest to contest the 2015 poll for the fourth time. It was learnt that while some major stakeholders in the ACN cell were keen in picking a northern candidate, particularly from the North- West, to confront President Goodluck Jonathan in the election, they, however, averse to Buhari’s candidacy.

Regardless, it is believed that the CPC segment is rooting for Buhari’s candidacy on the strength of his electoral value as demonstrated in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 presidential elections. “Even before the takeoff of the APC, the choice of who to be the flag bearer in the 2015 presidential election has been a major source of concern to us,” a CPC source had said, adding that “a major plank in the ACN does not want Buhari while the majority views his electoral value as an asset to the APC in the quest for the Presidency.”

It was gathered that Buhari was unyielding which informed his statement that he would once again contest the election. “In 2015, if given the mandate, I will uphold your trust,” he had said penultimate week.

A top member of the CPC said the leadership of the party was aware of the subterranean moves to prevent Buhari from being the APC presidential candidate in 2015. He, however, vowed to resist any attempt to pick the APC candidate through undemocratic means. Said he: “We are all democrats and equal partners in the merger process. So, every stakeholder has equal rights to vie for the presidential ticket. Buhari is eminently qualified and he will pick the APC ticket through open and democratic process.”

Some stalwarts in the ACN, however, reasoned that Buhari’s outing against President Jonathan in the 2011 election is a major factor to consider. They said that if the former ruler could defeat President Jonathan in 12 of the 19 states in the North, he was a sure bet for the APC in his quest to win the 2015 election.

In the 2011 presidential poll, President Jonathan, as an incumbent, polled 22, 350, 242 votes to defeat Buhari, who got 11, 914,953 votes. Out of the 19 northern states, President Jonathan won in seven states of Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Adamawa.

Buhari, as the CPC candidate, defeated the President in 12 northern states of Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Borno, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.

The performance of Buhari in the 2011 election and previous presidential elections has put some stakeholders in the APC in dilemma.

“Don’t forget that Buhari won in 12 states against Jonathan’s seven. So he is no pushover. We want to know which better candidate the coalition intends to produce outside Buhari,” another source has pointed out.

The National Publicity Secretary of the CPC, Rotimi Fashakin, in a media interview said no permutation could stop Buhari from contesting the 2015 presidential election. His words: “He has told everybody that when he is given presidential ticket, he will contest the election. Gen. Buhari, as a democrat, will run for the Presidency. Any creature can aspire to deliver his country from the shackles of bad governance. Don’t listen to speculation. There is nothing like permutation on issues like age. Nobody is using age in the presidential contest. General Buhari remains qualified. How old was Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela when they became presidents of United States and South Africa respectively?”

Buhari will be 73 by 2015. Critics believe that age may be a factor against his candidacy. Even the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, has expressed fears that the APC will be torn apart on the altar of ambition.

“Don’t worry, this is not the first time Nigerians would hear about merger. Let elections come and everyone will see the problems within them. They will be torn to rags because of ambitions,” he had said.

Given the growing uncertainties in the polity and even in the APC, observers are eagerly looking forward to see how the APC eases out Buhari while retaining the seeming cohesive form of the party at present.

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