THERE are fears that two power blocs within the All Progressives Congress (APC) are now engaged in a fierce battle for the soul of the ruling party.
ENCOMIUM Weekly learnt that the fight to control the party led by Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, played out during last week’s National Assembly leadership elections.
APC’s preferred candidates in both the Senate and the House of Representatives were defeated by party members who contested the elections against the wishes of the party.
The battle for supremacy between the two power blocs actually led to the emergence of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, as the Deputy Senate President.
It was gathered that both Atiku and Tinubu were desperate to have maximum control over the party structure so that party decisions could favour them at all times.
In fact, the two blocs wanted their candidates to emerge principal officers of the National Assembly since that would automatically qualify their candidates to become members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) which is the highest decision arm of the party.
Former Kwara state Governor Senator Bukola Saraki emerged the President of the Senate at a time when leading figures of the party including Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande and APC Senators, as well as members of the House of Representatives were waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari at the International Conference Centre for a crucial meeting in connection with the election.
The party’s NWC earlier held a mock election where Senators Ahmad Lawan and George Akume emerged as the party’s candidates for Senate President and Deputy Senate President, respectively. The party also endorsed Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos as Speaker.
Interestingly, Atiku was said to secretly opposed the shadow election believed to be spearheaded by the APC National Leader. The reason being that the former Vice President was bent on breaking Tinubu’s influence on the party’s NWC. As things are now, most of the current members of the APC’s NWC are Tinubu’s loyalists.
But with the outcome of the National Assembly leadership elections, political analysts are of the opinion that the Tinubu camp, which many agree, boasts of the likes of Lawan and Akume, are not prepared to allow Atiku have his way.
Sources said the Tinubu camp, though still jolted by its initial defeat would likely spring a surprise in no distant time.
It was further gathered that members of the Senators Unity Forum, who supported the party’s candidates are still loyal to Tinubu and are likely to continue to do so in the days to come.
Atiku is believed to have supported Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara to promote internal democracy in APC in protest against the prevailing regime of imposition.
Atiku’s closeness to the new National Assembly leadership became clearer after Senator Saraki paid him a courtesy visit shortly after his controversial election. And to amplify the high power play at work, Atiku was also the first APC chieftain to congratulate the duo after they emerged Senate President and House of Reps Speaker.
It would also be recalled that Saraki-led Like Minds Senators, the platform he relied upon to coast to victory, paid a courtesy to Atiku at his Asokoro, Abuja residence weeks before the election proper.
Atiku has every cause to feel on top of the world: by virtue of their new positions as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Saraki and Dogara, have become automatic members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) the highest decision making body of the party.
Their positions also confer on them automatic membership of the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT).
With the shake-up in APC power equation, party decisions at NEC from now on will be keenly contested by the two power blocs.
Pundits say the outcome of the National Assembly elections would likely affect decisions to be taken on ministerial nominees as some of the candidates in Tinubu’s camp may be rejected during screening by the Saraki/Atiku group.
“The source of power in APC is now diverse. It’s no longer a Tinubu affair. And this is the beauty of democracy. The way things are, Atiku would have a say in who becomes a minister. The National Assembly can stop Tinubu’s loyalists from becoming Ministers if it’s not in the overall interest of the party or the nation at large. This is what it should be like,” Hon. Thomas Nkoro, member representing Obingwa West Federal constituency told ENCOMIUM Weekly.
A founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party before he defected to the APC, Atiku was a presidential aspirant in the party in the 2015 presidential election. He was not, however, supported by Tinubu who used his political structure to deliver former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari,who defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP.
Apparently embittered by the outcome of the APC primaries, Atiku didn’t fully participate in Buhari’s presidential campaigns across the states. He claimed back then he wasn’t carried along.
But the popular politician has been quite visible since the emergence of Buhari as President. He is said to have the ear of the president whom he has represented at various fora since his inauguration on Friday, May 29, 2015.
Atiku, a leading Northern politician is expected to play more prominent role in the Buhari regime. Some say he’s also nursing presidential ambition.
A former Senator of the Federal Republic and two- term Governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu is perhaps the most influential politician in the country at the moment. Jagaban, as he is fondly called, has been acknowledged as the first opposition figure who effortlessly wrestled power from a sitting president. And highly respected as a power broker, his desire to control the ruling party as well as the President is however, seriously being challenged by his political rivals, especially some key party figures.
Contacted for comments, the Director-General of the Atiku Media Office, Mazi Paul Ibe said, Atiku did not orchestrate the emergence of the new leadership in the National Assembly and insinuating that amounts to nothing but political mischief, as he had refused to leave the party or work for the PDP even when the then President Jonathan was desperate for Atiku’s support.
“The visits of politicians and APC leaders including that of the Senate President are common political rituals in Atiku’s Asokoro residence. For the purposes of emphasis, the President has confidence in him and that explains why he had drafted him as an envoy of sorts in the race leading up to the emergence of a Nigerian President of African Development Bank.
“It is baseless and unfounded to suggest that Atiku conspired with the PDP or Saraki to ‘sabotage’ the APC. He would have congratulated Senator Ahmed Lawan (or any other leader) if he had won. It is simplistic to attribute conspiratorial agenda to an innocuous congratulatory visit.
“Atiku’s loyalty to his party is indisputable. He remains a loyal party member. He, in fact, threw his political assets behind the Buhari presidential campaign. Any suggestion that he conspired with Saraki or anybody is the figment of someone’s imagination.”
On Monday, June 15, 2015, ENCOMIUM Weekly also reached out to Tinubu’s spokesperson, Mr. Sunday Dare who didn’t pick our repeated calls.
In fact, calls to his mobile phone at 1:30 pm and at 2:30 pm were neither picked nor returned. A response to a text message we forwarded to him was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Muhammed also shunned our calls and SMS.
“Sir, ENCOMIUM Weekly wants your reaction to the story making the rounds that Asiwaju Tinubu and Atiku are fighting for the soul of the APC,” our SMS read.
– UCHE OLEHI