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As the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) retreats to lick its wounds from the crushing defeat it suffered at the hands of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the recent governorship elections in Edo state, many questions are bound to be asked. The hows and whys will follow thick and fast, and possible recriminations are bound to follow within the party.
But to the wider spectrum of Nigerian life, one thing is distinctly clear; the APC despite all pretences and denials is a party skating dangerously on thin ice and it won’t be long before the knives would start to come out.
Indeed the APC went into the Edo elections as a deeply divided house. Before the party’s governorship primaries where Governor Godwin Obaseki who was then a member of the party was disqualified from participating, the party was sharply divided between those who wanted the erstwhile Chairman Adams Oshiomhole out and those who wanted him retained. In the background the main issue was the presidential ambitions of the party’s leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to succeed President Buhari at the 2023 presidential elections. There are those within the party arrowheaded by Governors Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Kayode Fayemi and Minister Rotimi Amaechi who are not enamoured on this and are determined to scuttle whatever foothold Tinubu may want to secure within the party.
These were the internal factors at play within the APC in the run up to the Edo elections. For Tinubu and his acolytes which included Oshiomhole, the Edo elections was looked upon as an opportunity to score two birds with one stone; defeat Obaseki and by so doing re-establish their relevance with the party thereby securing the much needed beach head for the race to 2023. Some deep sources within the party told me that for those in opposition to Tinubu and his group however while they welcome an APC victory in the Edo elections, they were not too unhappy that Obaseki won. This is because the bloodying of Tinubu and Oshiomhole at the Edo elections has handed them an opportunity to further cut the Asiwaju to size in their bid to stymie his presidential ambitions.
Reading the tea leaves, it is thus clear that sooner or later (sooner most likely) the push-pull issues raging through the APC will come to a head putting the party asunder. With the outcome of the Edo elections, the cracks within the APC are going to widen further as the factions engage in mutual bad blood recriminations.
The one factor presently preventing the party from hitting the rocks is the president Buhari factor. Both factions are beholden to him not just as president of the country and leader of the party, but also as a personality whose support they will necessarily need in their political plans going forward.
But how for how long can the president continue to hold the APC together in view of the no love lost state of relations between the factions within the party?
In reality, president Buhari is not seen to be doing anything concrete or tangible to keep the APC together. Under his leadership the party which swept the polity in 2015 winning more states and assembly seats right across the nation at the expense of the opposition has steadily lost ground. APC party members have complained some loudly, some in muted tones that the president has hardly been forthcoming in building and consolidating the party since it came to power. Some go as far as saying that the president is only concerned with his own immediate political interest only. They say further that the president’s public statement attributing his hands off approach to party issues to the need to allow for internal democracy, is actually to cover up his lack of capacity to handle political challenges and his abiding interest to restrict his involvement only to issues that concern him alone. That is why to a large extent, the president has only concerned himself with securing his own political space involving himself with party issues only cursorily from a distance it leaving it largely to its fate. This much has been evident in the existential challenges that have rocked the party and in the elections that have come up since the party has been in power.
To that I will add that in his heart, president Buhari harbours an abiding contempt for politicians from his training and experience as a military man and from his involvement with them since he joined partisan politics. For tactical reasons as a trained military man he may not want to show it, but having known him from close quarters since 1984 and followed his statements on public issues from then it is unmistakeable.
So I can say with all emphasis that president Buhari will not lift a finger to support any of the feuding factions of the APC or save the party itself from its inevitable path to implosion and eventual self- destruction in the coming months. A combination of his lack of political capacity, an abiding contempt for politicians and his innate political selfishness will see to that.
Nigerians should then be prepared to watch the slow, painful but inevitable death of the APC in the coming months.
Tinubu’s presidential ambitions will have one banana peel after another placed in its path all the way to 2023. The “young Turks’’ in the party will go at him the way wild dogs go after their prey in the African savannah. To make matters worse for him, he can only at present count on the support of two states, Lagos and Osun in his southwest political base. The choice of running mate if he does get the ticket of the party will present enormous challenges for him and may further lose him some support within the party.
The young Turks will be looking to either frustrate Tinubu out of the party or pull the rug from under his feet and take a huge number of APC party faithful with them into an alliance with an existing party or attempt to form a new party.
All this will make for a convulsive, uncertain future for the APC which may well end up with its demise.