The emergence of the ruling party national chairman in Nigeria is often akin to the way Mafia bosses choose their Consigliere (right hand man). The manner of their exit from office is also no different: A nod and a wink from the president and enforcers will handle the rest. That was the way almost a dozen national chairmen were hired and fired by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while in power for 16 years (1999 to 2015). Interestingly, it appears that whatever the PDP could do, the (current) ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) can do even better.
On Monday, Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello emerged at the party’s secretariat to take over as acting chairman of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC). The Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, who had earlier that morning sent out a desperate press statement, looked bewildered in the group photograph that followed the meeting—standing beside his new boss like a weather-beaten chicken. While he may still be huffing and puffing, Akpanudoedehe has enough experience in Nigerian politics to know that he and Governor Mai Mala Buni are effectively now history as far as APC leadership is concerned. And they can only blame themselves. Given an important assignment, both bungled it on the altar of greed and inordinate ambition.
Two weeks ago, I recounted how the CECPC was put together after the controversial dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) by President Muhammadu Buhari in June 2020. I also wrote on how Buni and confederates began their manipulation games. “First, Buni abandoned Yobe and relocated to Abuja, although he once confessed to spending three days in the state every month (apparently to preside over the sharing of Yobe’s allocation from the federation account). Second, he began to crisscross the country, looking for governors from other parties that he could poach into joining the APC. That was how Buni also abandoned his primary assignment in the party. And with a sleight of hand and connivance of other APC kingpins, Buni’s dubious mandate became elastic. Six months stretched to 12 months. And then 18 months. Even when an apparently embarrassed Buhari moved in recently to ask for an end to the farce, the president was practically dribbled. After the national convention was set for 26th February without any plan or venue, it was obvious that Buni and co were playing games. And on Monday, Buni wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), talking about zonal congresses to be held on 26th March! So, effectively, the idea of a national convention had been jettisoned. But confronted by fellow Governors within the party (many of them with their own different agenda), Buni had no new card to play. Seizing the initiative, the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) on Monday night intervened and following a series of meetings, including with the president, APC announced dates of the processes that will ultimately culminate in its national convention on 26th March.”
However, as I learnt after the publication, Buni and Akpanudoedehe still imagined they had additional cards to play. And they were helped by the statement that President Buhari would be traveling to Kenya to participate in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)and thereafter proceed to London for routine medical checks expected to last two weeks. With no plan to hold a convention, Buni and fellow travelers conspired to instigate a legal and political crisis (including the procurement of black market court injunction) that would force the hands of the president when he returned by presenting him with a fait accompli that the only way forward was to conduct the national convention together with the primaries. The idea has always been for Buni to preside over the nomination of APC candidates for all political offices ahead of the 2023 general election.
I understand that Buni has been promising the APC presidential ticket to two gladiators within the party and two prominent citizens who are yet to publicly declare for APC. All the four are southerners. Akpanudoedehe of course wants to be Akwa Ibom governor, a life-long ambition that he believes he could use the CECPC to achieve. These cold calculations were thwarted the moment the president changed his plan by returning to Abuja from Kenya. The last people to see him before he proceeded to London last Sunday were six APC Governors: Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi who chairs the party’s governors’ forum, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna, Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Simon Lalong of Plateau and Sani Bello of Niger. Confronted with a litany of Buni’s undoing backed by damning documentary evidence, the president was said to have ordered the immediate removal of the Yobe governor from the CECPP. But it was also evident the six governors had their plan mapped out. Since Sani Bello was the only remaining governor in CECPP (the other governor-member being Gboyega Oyetola who resigned before the recent Osun State party primaries), the Niger Governor was immediately designated to take over the running of APC. He will conduct the national convention scheduled for 26th March that is already billed as a coronation for the former Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Adamu. As a retired General familiar with coups, President Buhari thereafter gave the necessary approval to the relevant authorities that subsequently aided Sani Bello to seize the APC Secretariat from Buni and his minions. The rest, as they say, is now history!
Meanwhile, as my oga, Festus Eriye wrote in his column on Tuesday (in The Nation), APC is moving surely and steadily from appointing caretakers of doubtful legality to enthroning those who may end up as undertakers in the coming weeks, if care is not taken. But let me also state that things were not better under the PDP. In fact, both seem to be operating from the same rule book. The story of how President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Chief Audu Ogbeh, requested for pounded yam (which he demolished) before asking the then embattled PDP national chairman to append his signature to an already written resignation letter, is well told. The ordeal of Chief Vincent Ogbulafor under President Goodluck Jonathan was no less interesting, as I detailed in my book, ‘Power, Politics and Death’. During the political imbroglio brought about by the illness of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (and the long sojourn in Saudi Arabia hospital), Ogbulafor had aligned with PDP governors who argued that there was no power vacuum. And that Jonathan did not need any letter of power transmission before he could continue to act. On one occasion, Ogbulafor quoted for Jonathan the Biblical Psalm 62:11 (God has spoken once, twice have I heard; power belongs to God) to buttress his point. While Jonathan did not dispute the power of God, Ogbulafor was made to taste a dose of the power that also belongs to Aso Rock: A case filed by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in 2004 about a N104 million campaign donation was exhumed five years later to send Ogbulafor out of office.
In my column last week, ’100 Crucial Days in Nigeria’, the first in a series I intend to run throughout this period, I reminded stakeholders that our country is so challenged on all fronts that Nigerians expect that political parties and those who seek power would begin to put forward practical ideas on how to resolve contradictions that have for long held back our country. As if the problems on ground are not enough, the rage of nature is making life difficult with oppressive weather that renders air-conditioners useless, for those who can still get electricity to power theirs. The current load shedding and outage being experienced nationwide is because of low power generation by the Generation Companies (GenCos), according to the latest megawatts of excuses to which we are often treated by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). In addition to all these, hours at fuel stations do not guarantee anybody the commodity at a time the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has skyrocketed the pump price of both diesel and PMS.
Overall, political parties in Nigeria should play their role in the enthronement of democracy that promotes people’s welfare. But in the real sense, we do not have political parties. What we have are vehicles for hijacking power. This then brings me to the final point that a democracy anchored on a ritualistic and mechanical conception of elections that are not issue-based will only empower people who neither understand the rudiments of governance nor can advance the public good. And it will ultimately run into trouble.
In APC, Buni, Akpanudoedehe and confederates may have been wrestled to the ground. But that could just be the close of a sordid chapter rather than the end of the book for the ruling party that is now troubled by how to hold a national convention and thereafter nominate candidates, including for the presidency. The situation in the PDP is perhaps even worse, though I will come to that in the coming weeks. In fact, the main opposition party seems to have learnt nothing from its defeat seven years ago. Yet, for our democracy to develop and thrive, political parties in Nigeria must move beyond intrigues to developing relevant programmes and policies capable of addressing the concerns of citizens. And there is no better time to start doing that than now!
▪︎ Bestial Murder on the BRT
The late Miss Bamise Ayanwole could not have made a more rational choice in settling for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicle while returning to Ota from Ajah on 26th February this year. But as it turned out, the public vehicle she boarded was more than the usual ‘One Chance’ where people are dispossessed of their property. This one would rob her of life in a most vicious manner. As we are now learning, Bamise may have fallen into the hands of ritual killers operating from a Lagos-owned public transport.
With so many ‘influencers’ on pulpits and social media selling the message that wealth and work do not have to go together and that money (however ill-gotten) is everything, human ritual has become the latest industry in Nigeria. Superstition, ignorance, and debased values have combined to make many young Nigerians believe they can harvest money through human parts.
Last weekend in Ogbe-Ani, Ubulu-Uku community, Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State, there was a tragic drama during the burial of a woman whose remains were brought by her husband. According to the report in THE PUNCH newspaper, pandemonium erupted when the family of the deceased discovered the corpse was without eyes, tongue, and other vital organs. The ongoing trial at the Osun State High Court, Osogbo of the proprietor of Hilton Hotel and Resort, Chief Rahmon Adedoyin and six staff over the alleged murder of a postgraduate student of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, provides another gory example.
However, I am more concerned about Bamise’s case because of the implications for public transportation in a city like Lagos. Disturbing for me is the video of the BRT driver, Nice Andrew Omininikoron, speaking after arrest. “I picked her from Chevron, and the other three guys at …when those guys show me his weapon as I was inside, I can’t be myself anymore,” said the driver who looked very fresh and unruffled. “Fears have come in, so, whatever the man with the gun told me, I do. I followed that Carter Bridge, that overhead bridge, they ordered me to stop there, they say I should open the door, when I open the door, then when they come down, they now start dragging her, when I saw that she was crying for help, I was helpless.”
Beyond the gaping holes in his narrative, distrust of the police to which the case has been handed and emerging social media reports that the driver could be a serial rapist, there are critical issues to consider in this tragedy. But for now, let me make only three points. One, it is in the public interest that this case be thoroughly investigated with all the culprits arrested and brought to justice. Two, there is need for the Lagos State government to pay restitution to the family of the deceased. Three, measures should be put in place to ensure that this kind of tragedy does not recur on BRT. It must never happen again!
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