•With a common enemy defeated, will entrenched interest stop the dance

By Austin Oboh, Akinwunmi King, Tunde Opeseitan and William Igenegbai

APC, Change! That was the proclamation to Nigerians and the battle cry of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s new ruling party, when it emerged on February 6, 2013.Tinubu .Buhari .Onu

Slowly, it built its political character and initially received more sympathy than support. Not many commentators and observers believed it would not crash like previous efforts.

Their argument: It was an amalgam of different parties and people that did not seem to have much in common. But the next few months were to see it grow in strength and membership, and before long it had started to poach key members of the ruling PDP.

Today – almost two years after its formation – it bestrides the Nigerian political space like a colossus. The APC has swiftly transited from a fusion of regional parties to Nigeria’s ruling party, come May 29.

From the Federal to the states, the party seems set to dominate affairs after trouncing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 28 and April 11 elections that secured majority slots for it in most state Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly.

But in the euphoria of victory, there lies ahead the issue of managing success. Will the party be able to manage its newfound strength, or will it be threatened by it? As it appears, the answer may not be far-fetched, going emerging trends in the polity.

Scheming for positions

With elections in the country successfully concluded, it is apparent that scheming for the most important positions have commenced in earnest. The major offices are those of the President, Vice President, Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

However, since the offices of the President and Vice President have naturally been zoned to the North and South respectively, with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo elected on March 28, the offices of the Senate President (number three) and Speaker of the House of Representatives (number four) are now up for grabs.

Immediately after the Presidential and National Assembly elections, there were speculations that since the South East, which naturally should have taken the Senate Presidency, has voted itself out of the contest, the position would now go to either Edo State (South-South) or Kwara State (North Central). While these states are eying this position, a group in the North East, which calls itself National Coalition of North East Concerned Elders, on Monday, took a full-paged advertorial in a national daily, to demand the office of the Senate President.

They gave, as major reasons for this demand, the quantity of votes the APC garnered in the six North Eastern states, and the devastation the zone has suffered in the hands of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

By unanimity, they argued, “the young and older generation of leaders that cut across the political divide passionately appeals that the zone be given the position of the Senate President.”

With Edo not having a ranking Senator from the APC, Senator Bukola Saraki – the strong man of Kwara politics, is all poised to grab the slot. For the South-East to take the slot, it was speculated that current Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP, was being wooed to defect to APC for the zone to have a grab of the position. He has swiftly denied any such move.

Consideration for the office of the House of Representatives Speaker appears to be another thorny issue for the party. With a dilemma already presenting itself in the absence of senators, save for one, and very few Representatives on its platform from the South-south and South-east, there is a clear danger of marginalising the two regions. This poses a serious headache for the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) that meets today to work out modalities for zoning these two and other key positions. But there is the speculation that since then APC chairman, Chief John Oyegun, is from the South-south, the zone could be sidelined in the equation. The battle to ensure that all sides agree with the decision is key to the survival of the party, according to observers.

Jostle for cabinet positions

With transition committees set up by the outgoing President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and the President-elect, Buhari, the stage is getting set for the handover on May 29, when the President-elect will assume office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

But as this is ongoing there is no doubt that, there will be scheming for positions in the incoming government. This was confirmed recently when the General Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, during a recent sermon, said he was already getting Curriculum Vitae from people, wanting him to help them lobby Buhari for ministerial appointment. The appointment of cabinet ministers is, however, more of a party affair than the president’s personal decision.

There is no doubt that such jostling will be intensified as the handover date gets closer. There will be consideration for those who laboured for the party on one hand and the need to strike a balance with credibility and the need for performance on the other hand. But Nigerian politicians known for more of self-service than a commitment to country, will have Buhari running at loggerhead with vested interests in the party over the choice of who becomes what in his cabinet.

In this lie crises that would most likely rock the party within the shortest of time, given the integrity and personality of the President-elect. Power blocs will emerge to dictate who gets what. Lest we forget, there is also the underlining factor that APC is an amalgamation of parties that came together with the sole purpose of wresting power from PDP at the centre.

The Tinubu factor

It is apparent that all manner of politicians and professionals have been doing their utmost best to attract the attention of APC’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Since the party’s victory, many who are seeking to be a part of the decision-makers in the incoming administration have turned Tinubu’s home on Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, into a Mecca of sorts. But the man is reputed to be difficult and hard to engage. In short, many analysts are predicting an estrangement of the present relationship between him and Buhari when the chips are down. How well the party is able to manage him will determine its survival beyond the coming months.

Give it to the former two-term Lagos governor. Those who know, say he is a shrewd politician, but a man of wits. It is therefore not surprising that from traditional rulers, religious leaders to major stakeholders in the corporate world, Tinubu is considered a critical factor in decision making when the new administration comes on stream. While it cannot be said that he owns the APC, it is widely believed that he wields significant influence, given his larger-than-life image in the nation’s political landscape. This is yet another factor that may also pose problem to the party.

Gale of defection

Victory sure has many relations and that is the story of APC as could be clearly seen. There has been a gale of defections from the ruling PDP to the APC in the aftermath of the elections. The defections have been so enormous that many concerned Nigerians are already afraid that Nigeria may soon slide into a one-party state lacking robust opposition to put the new government on its toes.

But that may not necessary be a problem. The problem for APC is, how best to manage these defectors. Already, Buhari and Odigie-Oyegun has warned that the defectors would have to wait for their time to come. But this certainly is not the spirit with which they joined the party – they have to chop.

There is the likelihood that those who are defecting from other parties as a result of their loss in the Presidential election may want relevance in the new administration. But that is left for the President-elect, and his party. Keeping this constituency may also constitute some problems.

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