Despite several denials by chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the rumours of plans by some disgruntled elements in the party to breakaway and form a new party has refused to go away. Two months to the first anniversary of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, talks about forming new political parties, alignment and re-alignment of forces have become deafening, raising concerns over the possibility of the ruling party staying beyond one term in office.
While the party has continued to claim that it is putting measures in place to put its house in order, there are pointers to the fact that the die is cast and the various factors that combined to form the party may soon go their separate ways if their various demands are not met. Contrary to their claim, however, Independent has learnt that the plot by some dissidents in the APC to form a new political party is real and it is being spearheaded by the group loyal to embattled Senate president, Bukola Saraki on the one hand and some loyalists of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on the other.
Saraki’s Supporters Want Out
Recently, some loyalists of Saraki, who felt he is being rewarded with evil despite his immense contributions to the emergence of APC as Nigeria’s ruling party have also hinted that they may have to pitch their tent with another party, if the leadership of the APC continues its hostility towards Saraki.
Saraki’s troubles started since June 2015 when he pitted himself against the choice candidate of the leadership of his party, Ahmad Lawan and, by inference, President Muhammadu Buhari and he has not known peace till date.
The Kwara-born politician and former governor of the state had conveniently decapitated the enemies within his party with the wholesale support of the senators of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who also have one of their own, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, as the deputy senate president.
Saraki is currently standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged false declarations of assets, a move many of his loyalists believe is orchestrated by the federal government to get rid of him, having full knowledge that it will be difficult to get him out of office through impeachment.
While expressing his disaffection over the manner Saraki is being treated, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, a former acting chairman of the PDP who announced the formation of a faction of the PDP, leading six governors of the party to eventually align with the APC in 2013, recently issued a note of warning to leaders of the APC, saying the issues that made him and some key members leave the PDP have started to rear their heads in the APC.
Baraje, who spoke with journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, lamented that factors that led to the factionalisation of the PDP and its eventual collapse were gradually creeping into the APC, adding that impunity, lawlessness and divisive tendencies which led to the PDP downfall now reign supreme in the APC. According to him, the aforementioned vices were being promoted by a few self-centred leaders of the party and admonished Buhari to start playing politics so that the APC would not suffer the PDP’s fate.
He also expressed reservation over the ways and manners the ruling party is being run, noting that this has resulted in APC losing in many of the states where rerun elections had taken place.
He warned that if care is not taken, the “PDP may take over the control of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
“There are many distractions. President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has brighter idea on how to turn around the fortune of Nigeria, but a lot of things went wrong before APC came in as the ruling party. Most of the distractions were created by APC itself. For instance, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki who heads an important arm of government is not getting the necessary support from the party because a few people think they are more important than others.
“What led to the factionalisation of PDP is gradually creeping into APC, the dragon of impunity is creeping into the party. President Buhari should shine his eyes and should be wary of these people. He should start to play politics now to consolidate on the gains of APC seizing power from the PDP.”
Though, Baraje clarified that he was not aware of any plan by some politicians to form a new party, he added that “politicians will always move from one platform to another until their aspiration is met. This is not selfishness but a matter of principle. For instance what will I be doing in any party where the prosperity of my people is not guaranteed?” he said.
‘The Plot Is Real’
When Independent sought the opinion of Alhaji Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media, he debunked the claim, saying that his principal has forever pledged his allegiance to the APC.
“It is a stupid claim by some unscrupulous elements to link the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki with the plot to form a new political party. He has pledged his allegiance to the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and nothing is going to change that” he said.
However, national officer of the APC, who spoke to Independent on condition of anonymity, said the plot by some elements in the party to form a new political party ahead of 2019 is real, adding that it is a matter of time before the issue becomes public.
“The issue of formation of a new political party has been on for some time. At this stage, if anybody says it is a lie, that person is just deceiving himself. The moves began following the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively”.
“The group loyal to Saraki and Dogara then had vowed that if the Presidency and the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) continue their hostility towards the duo, they may be forced to move out en masse out of the APC to form a new party. There were even speculations then that they had decided to christen the new party as ‘Young Nigerians Peoples Party (YNPP)”.
“Also, the PDP is also regrouping and it is already in the public domain that they are making overtures to Rabiu Kwankwanso, former Kano state governor to become their presidential candidate in 2019 so as to present a stronger Northern challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari if he decides to seek re-election in 2019. The new party is one of the game that is being considered. The only obstacle against it is if the PDP remains a strong, indivisible party. The case of Nigeria has always been one ruling party and one strong opposition. So, If the PDP is strong and the APC too, by virtue of its being the party in control of the presidency remains intact, the new party will not make any headway” he said.
Tinubu Restrategises In The South West
Another group in APC that may consider opting out of the party is the South- West caucus loyal to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. This group, according to our source is miffed by the way the former Lagos state governor is being sidelined in the present arrangement.
While Tinubu has always told journalists that all is well in the APC and that he is on the same page with president Buhari, Independent has learnt that the two leaders who played significant roles in the formation of APC “actually went their separate ways towards the end of 2015” owing to what has been attributed to power play especially between their loyalists.
According to our credible source, Tinubu is not only angry with the president over the various appointments made especially in the selection of ministers, he is particularly angry over the role played by President Buhari in the Kogi political crisis where the national leadership of the party ignored Tinubu’s protégé , James Faleke and gave its ticket to the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello.
Though, the president has made overtures to Tinubu and he is back into the fold, Independent learnt that the Jagaban as he is being called by his supporters may align with some forces and leave the APC for Buhari and his men if the ill-treatment towards him continue.
To set his plans in motion, it was learnt that was the major reason Tinubu led prominent party men to the home of Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba, a former governor of Ogun state who left the party in the build-up to the 2015 general elections. Given the significant role Osoba played in the formation of the APC, Tinubu believes he will be of great assistance if the need to form a new political party arises.
“ There is clearly a power tussle between President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu. It began shortly after the victory of the APC in the presidential election. You will remember that the then National Publicity Secretary of the APC, now Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed went on national television where he said President Buhari is NOT the leader of the party. His claim was later countered by the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu on the same television station, who said Buhari by virtue of his position as President is the national leader of the party” said our source.
Continuing he said “Earlier on, when president Buhari was sworn in, and the issue of appointments and power sharing began, some Northern elements in APC moved against Tinubu and tried to relegate him to the background. Any little thing and they will say ‘Why must it be Tinubu alone’? ‘Is Tinubu planning to pocket the presidency just as he did in Lagos?’. To some extent, President Buhari begin to listen to his people”.
“They did all that to the ministerial level to the extent that Tinubu cannot point to one single minister as his own even from his base, the Southwest. It is public knowledge that Tinubu had no say in Babatunde Fashola’s appointment as Minister . The same can also be said of Kayode Fayemi, Isaac Adewole or even Kemi Adeosun. Tinubu had no input in these appointments at all. In fact, his choices were rejected by the president himself”.
“At that point, Tinubu recoiled and decided to adopt the ‘siddon look’ approach. The president’s advisers also made him believe he can pilot the affairs of the nation without Tinubu’s contribution. But that was to be their greatest undoing as the party lost virtually all its election cases at the Supreme Court. They themselves know that if Tinubu was with them, there is no way APC will lose those key states”.
“That was when President Buhari realised his mistake and know that there is no way he can manage the affairs of the party without Tinubu’s input. He then approached Papa Bisi Akande asking him to make overtures to Tinubu. At first, Tinubu declined any invitation by the presidency, wondering why they are calling him. He said they have asked him to keep quiet and he has done that. But later, he accepted in the interest of the party and the nation. There was a particular period he (Tinubu) and Akande visited the president at Aso Villa. It was part of the peace moves then”.
“Presently, Tinubu is back but he still very careful. But his own people too are telling him to be wary of the President and his advisers. They told him they only wanted to use him and dump him after achieving their aim. That was why recently, he interfered in the fuel scarcity situation in the country by calling the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu to order for saying that he is not a magician . That really helped the APC a great deal. Had it not been for the overtures by the president, Tinubu could have decided to look the other way and not say a word”.
“ If Tinubu continues to feel marginalised in the APC, he may decide to leave the APC for Buhari and his men. Presently, we believe he is trying to mobilise team in the Southwest, which explained the reconciliation with Osoba recently. But I believe with what has happened, President Buhari will not want to lose him. They all know that he is a master strategist who can decide either make or mar the chances of the APC in the 2019 general elections” he said.