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Congresses: Democracy takes flight in PDP, APC – Punch Newspapers

Punch Newspapers
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Mala Buni and Iyorchia Ayu
In this piece, JOHN ALECHENU takes a look at the recently concluded congresses of the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and posits that Nigerians need a change of attitude to make appreciable progress in politics
THE All Progressives Congress came to power on the mantra of ‘change’. Before being entrusted with power in 2015, the party promised, among other things, to change the way politics was being played in the country.
Perhaps, to demonstrate that it meant business, it held a presidential primary widely adjudged to be transparent by friends and foes alike.
A former military dictator, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.); former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; ex-Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso; Owelle Rochas Okorocha and the late publisher of Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah sluggled it out in the primary.

At the end of the exercise, Buhari, a veteran of several presidential contests, emerged victorious. It is pertinent to note that at inception, the APC attracted a motley crowd of politicians from diverse background. many of who appeared desperate to only grab power without a clear-cut idea of what to do with it.
Managing victory became a challenge for the new President and the relatively new APC which, for the first time, found itself in power at the centre. The APC ward, local government and state congresses of 2018, which produced delegates and candidates for the 2019 election, were as rancorous as they came.
The effect of the exercise lingered into the 2019 elections. Several factions went to court in Zamfara and Rivers states. The rest, they say, is history.


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Little, if anything, appears to have been learnt from the avoidable mistakes which the party paid for dearly. The varying political tendencies which were hitherto buried in the fight against the PDP which was then considered the common enemy, have not only surfaced but appear to be finding expression in last Saturday’s nationwide congresses of the ruling party.
Internal democracy has become the first casualty as evidenced in last Saturday’s APC state congresses held across the country. An appeal to members of the party by the National Caretaker Committee Chairman and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, for members to conduct themselves peacefully and respect the rules of the game appear to have fallen on deaf ears in a number of states.
Violence erupted in Osun and Ogun states while parallel congresses were also held in Lagos, Kano, Ogun, Osun, Bauchi, Rivers, Ekiti, Abia, Sokoto, Borno, Imo, Plateau and Enugu states.
In Osun State, loyalists of Governor, Adeboyega Oyetola and those of the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola clashed. Two persons were reportedly injured after opposition groups of armed men engaged in a fight.
The state chairman of The Osun Progressives, a group of APC supporters loyal to Aregbegsola, Adelowo Adebiyi, while confirming that two of the groups’ supporters were injured, said, “Two members of the APC, Adebayo Adebiyi and Ismail Akinyede, were directly shot by hoodlums.”
The faction, however, elected Razaq Salinsile and Lani Baderinwa as chairman and secretary, respectively. Oyetola’s loyalists on their part returned the incumbent APC state Chairman, Gboyega Famodun, for a second term.
In Kwara State, loyalists of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and those of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed held parallel congresses and produced two sets of state executives.

A similar scenario played out in Kano State where loyalists of the state Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and those of Senator Ibrahim Shekarau also held separate congresses. Ganduje’s faction produced Abdullahi Abbas as chairman while Shekarau’s faction produced Ibrahim Zago as chairman.
However, the National Secretary of the party, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, dismissed claims that parallel congresses were held. He said, “As far as the APC is concerned, we are very structured, we put up a committee and the committee has gone out to conduct the congresses.
“The next step will be an appeal and anyone with the issue will go to the appeal committee and if you are not satisfied with the outcome, the caretaker committee will handle it. That is our structure.”
The spokesman for the Concerned APC Members, a pressure group within the party, Abdullahi Dauda, blamed the upheaval over the congresses on the abuse of the consensus option. He said, “The problem is, when the APC was being formed all kinds of people who didn’t believe in progressive politics joined us. When we won the election, they wanted to continue to do business as usual. Of course, people will resist.
“Our founding fathers put the issue of consensus in the constitution to give room for people to talk among themselves and agree. Now, some people just want to sit in a room and write a list of their friends and announce it as consensus, how can that work?’
Speaking in a similar vein, a chieftain of the party from Enugu State, Osita Okechukwu, said, “Our constitution is clear and unambiguous about the issue of consensus.
“Article 20, to be precise, stipulates ‘all party posts prescribed or implied by the constitution shall be filled by democratically conducted elections at the respective National Convention or congress subject, where possible, to consensus, provided that where a candidate has emerged by consensus for an elective position, a vote of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by ballot or voice vote shall be called, to ensure that it was not an imposition which could breed discontent and crisis.”


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He insisted that no part of the document  encouraged the kind of imposition that was rife in some state chapters of the party.

 The situation in the opposition PDP is not any different. The party also held congresses in nine states on the same Saturday.
The crisis of confidence between supporters of the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, and aggrieved party leaders, who queued behind a former House Leader, Mrs Mulikat Adeole-Akande, boiled over as hoodlums vandalised at least 50 vehicles parked around the Jogor Centre, Ibadan, where the Adeola-Akande-led faction of the party held its state congress.
Several assailants, armed with sticks and machetes, were, however, prevented by security agents from entering the venue.
In neighbouring Osun State, former Governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and his supporters locked horns with supporters of the party’s 2019 governorship candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
Parallel congresses were also held, with each of the two factions naming different persons as the authentic state chairan of the party.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said unlike the APC, the PDP was an institution with well laid-out procedures and practices of dealing with its internal issues.

This, he said, would be brought to bear in handling pending matters ahead of the party’s national convention slated for October 30-31. He said, “For us in the PDP, our internal mechanisms for dealing with genuine grievances of our members are in place and fully functional. Whatever issues there are, we are confident that such issues will be resolved before we go into the convention.
“Our statutory bodies are up and running unlike the other party which has been unable to inaugurate its Board of Trustees after over six years since coming to power. The PDP has a history of conflict resolutions; our umbrella is big enough to accommodate Nigerians. Very soon, we will be receiving many more people who have since realised that the APC is not a place to be.”
A chieftain of the PDP, Dr Kachi Onanugu, said there was no basis to compare the PDP with the APC which has failed to brace itself up for the challenges of governance.
“The PDP which has found itself in an unfamiliar terrain which is the opposition, is eager to return to its familiar terrain as the ruling party.
“The APC too is finding it difficult to adjust to life as the temporary ruling party, because it will soon return to opposition where it truly belongs and should be preparing to return to in 2023.”
The Head of Secretariat of the National Consultative From, a new political movement seeking to replace the APC and the PDP on the political scene come 2023, Olawale Okunniyi, said, “There is basically no difference between the APC and the PDP. They are two sides of the same coin.
“Apart from a few of their leaders, most of the people in the APC today were at one point or another, members of the PDP. Even today, the movement of members from one of the parties to the other, occurs on a daily basis.


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“Their fight is not usually about public good; it is mostly about personal interest which more often than not conflicts with public interest. Nigerian citizens have to take ownership of the process going forward.
“This is why our movement is seeking the support of all well-meaning Nigerians across party lines to come together to rescue our nation from destruction.”
Although the 2023 election is still about two years away, the scramble for positions has started across political parties.
The crises in both the APC and the PDP border on positioning and the struggle to control the party structures across the board in order to tilt the system in favour of their group, personal interest or both. If things are allowed to continue the way they currently are, the 2023 election may witness a spike in cases of politically-motivated violence which does more harm than good in any given society.
For the situation to improve for the better, a change in the mindset of Nigerians to encourage the demand for greater accountability from elected leaders. Again, not a few are of the view that the two major political parties should lead by example with the way they conduct their congresses. The conduct of violent parallel state congresses appears to be an indication that internal democracy has already taken a flight from the leading parties.
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