From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the recent courtesy visit it’s presidential and vice presidential candidates, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, paid on the national leadership of the ruling party last week.
The Buhari House, headquarters of the party, had come alive last week, not because of the actualisation of the much-anticipated visit, but the fence-mending measure that doused the tension over the much-touted frosty relationship between the presidential standard bearer and the party’s National Chairman, Abdulahi Adamu.
There has been no love lost between the duo after the conduct of the party’s primary election that produced Tinubu as the presidential candidate.
It was understandable as Adamu did not support Tinubu’s emergence after throwing his weight behind and even announcing Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as the consensus presidential candidate.
Ever since then, cold war has continued to brew and widen the gulf between the two gladiators and their camps, resulting in the delay in the submission of the campaign framework and composition of the members of the much-awaited APC presidential national campaign council.
Members, chieftains, and leaders of the ruling party had been apprehensive over the unproductive attempts to contain the escalating cold war few days to the commencement of the political campaigns at the end of this month.
At the peak of the anomie, the expected planning, strategies, networking, and strenuous efforts to make pragmatic arrangements that will ensure victory for the party in next year’s presidential poll were halted.
But the ruling party finally heaved a sigh of relief last week when the spirited efforts to put the anxieties to the dustbin of history yielded result with the celebrated visit of the presidential and vice presidential candidates to the party’s secretariat.
To underscore the return of unity to the party, Asiwaju had visited with a high-powered delegation, comprising two governors, David Umahi of Ebonyi State, who doubles as the Southeast national coordinator, Campaign Council and Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who is also the director general, Campaign Council.
Others who accompanied them to the meeting that had the National Working Committee (NWC) members in attendance include Speaker, the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon. James Faleke, former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, among others.
Expectedly, the confidence level and infectious smiles on the faces of the two gladiators after spending over an hour in a close-door meeting bore eloquent testimony that peace has finally returned to the party.
Although Adamu consciously did not say much, the audacity and boldness from Asiwaju Tinubu encapsulated the actual outcome of the meeting and the completion of the healing process the ruling had frantically longed for to confront the daunting task of retaining the presidential seat beyond 2023.
Perhaps, out of joy, the former Lagos State governor, spoke enthusiastically in parables and riddles, using banters to downplay the amplified magnitude of the feud with the national chairman before taking a swipe at the other contenders, especially the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respectively to summarise the outcome of the visit.
His said: “We (in APC) are not threatened. We are committed and we are very proud of ourselves, we are orderly mannered, we are committed to democratic principles and values; we are not bickering in any way and you know that. Can you say that of the other parties?
“We are not spewing fake statistics and wrong figures; can you say that of other parties? Well, we are what we are, a progressive party,” while speaking to newsmen on the sidelines after the meeting.
Enumerating his mission and dismissing insinuations of raging feud in the party in his address to the NWC members, Tinubu said: “To the rumour manufacturers, I read in some newspapers about disagreement between the chairman and myself, but that was a very big lie. They didn’t know that we have come a long way. He is the big masquerade that dances not in the cage, but in the market square.
“And that is what Adamu used to be – full of wisdom, we were governors together before God put us together on this project again. He is going to deliver as the chairman of the party for me to become the president of Nigeria. And I am very confident of that.
“They can say whatever they want to say, throw all the jabs that they want, we are a party strongly determined to fulfill our dreams of turning Nigeria into a very progressive, highly developed, prosperous country.
“The meeting is to consult further, the organisation structure for the campaign for us to harmonise any fear and make sure that we have an inclusive all party and all hands on deck to make sure that we are victorious during the election.”
Radiating confidence in the return of peace, the highly elated party chairman opened up when the wife of the party’s presidential candidate, Oluremi Tinubu, followed up the visit the next day, with a delegation of eminent Nigerian women, to see members of his leadership.
He emphasised that though President Muhammadu Buhari will not be on the ballot paper, his spirit and achievements will give the party the needed push to emerge victorious.
Declaring the presidential election as a must win for the APC, Adamu said: “I want to just emphasis one thing to you. There is no option to victory. We must leave no space whatsoever. This government must be returned, by the grace of God. I believe in God and for God to appreciate me and add value to what we are doing.
“I want to use the privilege of your coming to emphasise that we just have to work for victory. There is no option whatsoever and don’t be ashamed of saying so. We are not working to end up in the tribunal, but working to end up in the Aso Rock Villa. Those who have ears should hear.”
Adamu went ahead to make stark revelation on the plan of the party to bank on Buhari’s electoral value despite the speculations that he won’t throw his weight behind Tinubu based on sentiments.
His words: “I believe strongly in the people who are leading this campaign and we are looking forward to see the value our president and vice president will add to where President Buhari will leave, and consolidate on the legacies President Buhari will be working on by the time he disengages.
“President Buhari will not be on the ticket, but his spirit, driving leadership and progressiveness in all he does, will continue to add value to what we are doing to win the elections. As far as the leadership of the APC is concerned, President Buhari is very much on the ticket.
“We will not see his picture, but his spirit will drive the efforts. He has done so much under trying situations. And he is polling the fortune of this country to everybody’s surprise.”
Consolidating on his message of assurance to deploy every machinery in motion to ensure victory for the party, the former governor of Nasarawa State, assured that “we have promised to stand shoulder to shoulder with both the presidential candidate and his running mate. So, to that extent, you can be rest assured that we will be together in this race. Whatever you need us to do we will willingly do it to ensure success of this effort.”
But despite these assurances, subsequent events have proved that what pervaded in the party was just peace of the graveyard, as fresh controversy seems to be brewing in the party over the same presidential campaign council list.
Tinubu had during his courtesy visit on the Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC urged the party’s leadership to panel beat the framework for the campaign council list, stressing that the campaign report he submitted was not a red card.
According to him, “on behalf of myself, the team of the Presidential Campaign Council, let me commend the DG and Secretary of the campaign that have worked very hard to bring this report about the organisation structure. If they (report) need panel beating, you do so. It is not a red card that we brought. We are bent on bringing brighter hope and confidence to the country.”
However, the music and dance steps seem to have changed during the first harmonisation meeting held by the three-man committee of the party, when the leadership realised to their surprise that the council, populated by the camp of the presidential candidate, has relegated the names of the proposed national officers to be included in the list to just inconsequential membership positions.
Explaining the point of disagreement, our source said: “You are aware that the NWC set up a three-man committee headed by the National Legal Adviser, National Organising Secretary, and Deputy Women Leader, to meet with the DG of the Campaign Council and come up with a list that will be acceptable to both parties.
“That committee had their first meeting last week Thursday, but they could not agree on anything. It appeared that the Tinubu camp is bent on populating the whole directorate with their people, offering just a pittance to the party’s leadership.
“There have been concerns over the audacity of the camp of the presidential candidate concerning the list. During a NWC meeting, the National Chairman informed members about the request for the inclusion of the following persons into the council.
“They are the two Deputy National Chairmen (North and South), National Secretary, National Organizing Secretary, Deputy National Organising Secretary, National Publicity Secretary, National Woman Leader, National Youth Leader, and the National Leader on People with Disabilities, as minimal requirement.
“They also insisted on their inclusion with specific responsibilities, but those that went for the harmonisation meeting were surprised that the Tinubu camp did not only populate the list, but also took up all the directorates. The point of disagreement, if you ask me, is that they want to involve the NWC members in a capacity of just ordinary members of the Campaign Council. However, the meeting will continue on Monday.”
Apart from the disagreement over the composition of the Campaign Council list, the party is yet to resolve the protracted anger of the aggrieved presidential aspirants, bent on pulling the party in the opposite direction with their disturbing silence since the conclusion of the party primary a few months ago.
Not done yet in their search to navigate to victory under one united house, and like a broom bound to sweep clean, the party will this week commence the zonal reconciliation mission to pacify the aggrieved members of the party aimed at achieving permanent healing process.
“As from Wednesday this week, the leadership of the party will embark on zonal dialogue and reconciliation with aggrieved party members to pacify them. It will start from Kano and Maiduguri, Borno State before taking it to other zones.
“We hope to accomplish the task of reconciliation before the commencement of the political campaign. What I cannot guarantee is the level of receptivity of the presidential aspirants. We have reached out to some of them secretly, but we cannot go to the bank with the promises.”