By AHMED ‘LATEEF
Barely 100 days to the commencement of the 2019 general elections, the internal crisis rocking the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the outcome of the primaries in yet to fizzle out as stalwarts within the party have renewed showdown for its soul. AHMED ‘LATEEF writes on how the festering battle within is likely to blight the chance of the party.
The war of attrition within the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seems intractable. Party stalwarts are up in arms against one another, the fall out of which could be deciphered from the recent primary elections that produced certain individuals as candidates.
The conduct of the crisis-ridden primaries was not without initial postponements due to conflict of interests. The internal strife pitched party leaders against one another to the extent that it has led to cleavages.
Findings showed that while some members of the party were seen as old progressives and ardent supporters, some others, particularly those who felt disenchanted with the state leadership of the PDP and decided to maintain their membership of the APC were being perceived as pawns who were only deployed to destabilise the party.
In the APC also, others who crossed to the party from the hitherto Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo-led state PDP were also believed to want to reap from where they did not sow. The untoward development has made the party to be fighting its internal battle left, right and centre.
The carry over of the subsisting mutual distrust was reflective in the shadow elections of the party in which some aspirants were announced as candidates of the party conducted through direct mode while others had since remained disgruntled.
There were also allegations that some names that were earlier announced as winners of the primaries had been substituted by the National Secretariat of the APC, thereby heightening the tension that the party was heading for rock, especially as aggrieved leaders have sustained their vitriolic attacks against the party.
One of the aggrieved aspirants on the platform of the party was a one-time Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, who contested the governorship primary. Abdulraheem, who also served as Chairman, Federal Character Commission had never hidden his discontent since the official declaration of Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq as the governorship flag bearer of the APC in the state for the 2019 general elections.
The former Unilorin boss and his supporters believed he won the shadow election but the party hierarchy dubiously pronounced Abdulrazaq winner in order to frustrate the former.
The recent meeting the gubernatorial aspirants held with President Muhammadu Buhari appeared not to have assuaged the feelings of the disgruntled as some of them still continued to openly ventilate their grievances.
To show that the internal crisis, which was precipitated in the party by the primary elections had yet to abate, an erstwhile Unilorin vice-chancellor declared during his arrival in Ilorin from Abuja that the meeting with President Buhari ended without any directive that they should back any individual as governorship flag bearer of APC.
Upon his arrival at the Ilorin International Airport where his supporters received him, Oba Abdulraheem said President Buhari only asked the aspirants to throw their weight behind the party.
The position of the former Unilorin VC was an indication that the dust that generated over the emergence of Abdulrazaq as the governorship flag bearer of the APC in the state was yet to settle.
Abdulraheem claimed he won in nine out of the 16 local government areas in the state and scored overall majority votes in the primaries.
“When we met with President Muhammadu Buhari, we were not told to support any particular candidate. We were appealed to, to support the party and not any individual.
“I’m very sure that justice and fairness would be done at end of the amendment process. I won convincingly in nine out of the 16 local government areas in the state and it is a well known fact to everyone. But whosoever emerges would be supported in the interest of the party”, Abdulraheem said.
The former Unilorin boss, however, declared that he remains a committed stalwart of the party despite his discontentment over the party primary election.
“I will remain in APC no matter whom the party flag is given to. APC remains the only and best alternative for the people of this nation. I will not leave APC no matter the circumstance(s).
“What we are facing now is just a mere misunderstanding and as soon as it is put to rest, we shall all come together in unison in order to ensure the victory of the party in the forthcoming general elections”, he said.
He thanked his supporters for standing by him, stressing that, “everything will soon be over.”
Apart from Oba Abdulraheem, whose disenchantment was said to be unsettling the APC, a former Chairman of the state chapter of the PDP, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo and other top politicians were said to be nursing grievances against the opposition.
A number of politicians, who led the opposition prior to the recent alignment, realignment forces, rapprochement and defection from one party to another, had been reportedly sidelined in the scheme of things and therefore finding it herculean to enjoy requisite patronage in the party as anticipated.
While in PDP, Oyedepo used his party to kick against the policies and programmes of the government then led by the APC but the former in company of his sympathizers later dumped the PDP for APC upon the defection of the Senate President Bukola Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed into the PDP on the ground that strange bed fellows cannot co-habit together.
The disenchantment, which reportedly became heightened after the primary elections of the APC is now a source of worry to pundits and observers alike as to what becomes of the party in the event that the festering internal wrangling was allowed to fester.
It was observed that Oyedepo, who has been a prominent opposition figure on radio programmes through which policies of the present administration are criticised, has been absent, thereby accentuating the suspicion that all is not well within the party.
But Oyedepo reacted swiftly yesterday in a telephone interview that he nursed no grudge against the party as a fallout of the primaries.
He expressed confidence that in spite of the challenges facing the APC at the moment, he was committed to ensure its victory in 2019.
The politician explained that crossing to another political party comes with challenges but he remained unwavered in sending the PDP government in the state out of power.
Oyedepo said, “I’m not aggrieved. And those that are aggrieved, they are trying as much as possible to provide a platform of unity in the party. Normally after an election like that, there will be some people that will not be happy. But it has now become the responsibility of leaders of the party to unite people together, which I know the party is doing for now.
When asked why he has stopped featuring on radio programme unlike in the past, he responded thus, “I was on programme last week at Harmony FM, (a Radio Nigeria station). And about two weeks ago, I was also at Royal FM. Today, everything depends on my being available. If I’m available I will go. But that has nothing to do with disenchantment against the party.
“I want us to as much as possible win next year. I will prefer my party to be in government rather than PDP to be in government in Kwara.
So, there is no any grievances that can be above winning an election in Kwara.
“I foresee victory for us in 2019. We have done a lot of work, especially when we were in PDP. And we will still continue with the good work to make victory. Joining another party has its own challenges, which we are facing. And then after the challenges, we will come together as a powerful united party to win in 2019.
“Definitely, many people are tired of this government in power. We are going to key into such to ensure victory for our party in the coming election”, Oyedepo said.
The Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee of Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa led state chapter of APC, Mr Kayode Oyin-Zubair, who spoke in a similar manner yesterday, denied any crisis in the party, saying that aggrieved leaders are being pacified and prevailed upon.
He disclosed that while a reconciliation committee had been set up to collate grievances of members, a delegation had been dispatched to reach out to the former Unilorin boss in the bid to calm frayed nerves.
He said, “We have gone pass crisis level in our party. What we are doing now is just the necessary things ahead of the elections. Professor Oba you are talking about, is a respected and revered person in our midst. Whatever that you might have seen in the time past, it is natural for anybody to have done that.
“You can’t go into contest and somebody will lose election and wouldn’t have reacted one way or the other. That is gone with that. Number of mechanisms has been put in place. We have made it public that we have a reconciliation committee that has started sitting chaired by another revered elder-statesman, Chief Peter Olorunisola (SAN) with other respected members of the party. They are equally collating grievances and reaching out to party.
“As for Professor Oba, a high-powered delegation has reached out to him. They are discussing with him. There is no any crisis in our party any longer. We are discussing now how we are going to win the bye-election in Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero Federal Constituency, which is going to be a litmus test for us”, Oyin-Zubair said.