Weeks after the 2023 general elections, political parties are enmeshed in series of crises, creating instability and unrest among members. DIRISU YAKUBU in this piece, examines the issues at play in Nigeria’s largest political parties
The 2023 general election may have come and gone but the aftermath of the keenly contested polls is still being felt across the land. Winners and losers emerged in the process even as some contestants doubting the credibility of the electioneering exercise have since filed petitions before the election petition tribunals across the country.
Of the 18 political parties certified by the Independent National Electoral Commission to enter the contest, only a handful justified their registration status in terms of their electioneering outings.
Expectedly, the governing All Progressives Congress, the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party won many Assembly seats, House of Representatives and Senatorial seats in addition to the impressive outings in the governorship election. Apart from the big three, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Young Progressives Party and the African Democratic Congress also made some impact.
However, a few weeks after the elections, some of the parties have been enmeshed in different crises. Some are as deep as threatening to tear the parties apart.
One would have expected that having won the presidential election, the APC will simply focus on uniting the party and rallying support for it, especially with the task of governance ahead given the promises it made to the people.
Shortly after its presidential candidate and President-elect, Bola Tinubu, was declared the winner of the poll, calls for resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, intensified, even from some members of the National Working Committee, which he chairs.
Barely a week after the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, the National Vice Chairman (North-West) of the APC, Salihu Lukman, joined the calls for Adamu’s resignation, hinging his demand on the need for religious balance in the power sharing equation.
Lukman, whom many have described as fearless, said the APC could not defend allegations of bias against Christians if the President-elect, vice president-elect and the National Chairman of the party are Muslims. To pave the way for a sense of balance, he argued that Adamu should resign to give way for a Christian from his North-Central zone to take over.
The crisis within the APC goes beyond Adamu. Earlier in the week, the National Vice Chairman (South-South) of the party, Victor Giadom, and the zonal secretary, Ita Udosen, were suspended by the South-South zonal committee after a vote of no confidence was passed on them.
The PUNCH reported Giadom’s removal after five zonal officers of the party at a special meeting in Port Harcourt moved against him and Udosen, accusing them of running the zone like their personal fiefdom, failure to call for meetings, among others.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, the Zonal Organizing Secretary, Blessing Agbomhere, alleged that Giadom, working in sync with former Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, frustrated genuine effort of the party to win enough votes for its presidential candidate in the zone.
Agbomhere stated, “The ex-zonal chairman (Giadom) never mobilised for our party, the APC, in the general election. He never supported our candidate. Before the election, Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima took out time to come to them knowing that Rotimi Amaechi contested the primary election and failed, and that Giadom is his lieutenant.
“They were begged to join hands with party members to ensure that they were voted for. Amaechi and Giadom did not work for the party. We consider this a great disservice to our party because the APC has done everything for Amaechi.”
He specifically condemned the comment made by the former minister when he claimed during the election that INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, was appointed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), following a recommendation by a member of Tinubu’s camp.
“Amaechi made an indicting statement against our party and our candidate, Bola Tinubu, by saying that it was Tinubu cabal that nominated the INEC chairman. Do you know what such statement could cost the party the election? By that statement, he was ready to incite Nigerians against the candidacy and election of Bola Tinubu,” he added.
Justifying the decision to sack Giadom, Agbomhere added, “The zonal officers of the South-South had their extra ordinary meeting, and, in that meeting, we are eight officers in the zone, all of us were present. The constitution requires that we call for a zonal meeting at least once in every quarter, and for almost six months, he (Giadom) has not called for a meeting. He has been running the party alone and doing whatever he likes with the party. Every attempt to make the secretary call for a meeting also failed. He and the secretary are running the party together, without carrying along the other six executive members of the zone.
“Even after the elections were over, there have been a series of petitions and suspensions from across the states in the region. The zone is supposed to set up a committee that would receive these petitions, do fact-finding to find out what is wrong and find ways to resolve these issues in the zone but Giadom allowed the zone to be enveloped in internal disputes because he does not care.
“Giadom abandoned the duties of the chairman in the zone and was busy campaigning for the emergence of Atiku in the zone. He called meetings and told people that we were wasting our time and personal resources and that Asiwaju would not win. He even said that even if Asiwaju wins, he would not be sworn in. That is the zonal chairman!”
Apart from these, the Enugu State chairman of the APC also suspended key members of the party in the state. The chapter suspended the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, while it expelled a former governor of the state, Sullivan Chime. While the party at the national level has nullified the actions of the state chapter, the issue does not seem to have been fully resolved.
Like the APC, the PDP is dealing with its internal squabbles, and the first place of interest is Wadata Plaza, the party’s national headquarters.
The crisis, which has since culminated in the suspension of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, has literally created a division within the National Working Committee as loyalists of Ayu are insisting that he was elected for a fixed period of four years. They have also vowed to resist any attempt to push him away through the back door.
The anti-Ayu NWC members blame him for the party’s performance in the presidential election, which it lost to the APC. They argued that the party’s inability to win any of the states led by the aggrieved governors was due to his refusal to step aside as requested by the Nyesom Wike-led group.
Ayu is in court to challenge the ex parte order stopping him from parading himself as the national chairman of the party. Shortly after the court asked him to vacate office, the acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, reversed some of the decisions taken by Ayu, including the nullification of the suspension earlier slammed on party chieftains such as Ayodele Fayose, Anyim Pius Anyim, Ibrahim Shema as well as the referral of the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, to the party’s disciplinary committee.
Another emerging issue in the party is the outcome of its governorship primary in Kogi State.
A stakeholder group led by the former chairman of Olamaboro Local Government, Faruk Adejo, alleged that the NWC, acting on the directive of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, imposed Senator Dino Melaye on the party as a compensation for his artful display during the February 25 presidential election. Unless a fresh primary holds, the group vowed to work against the party’s interest in the November 11 election.
As it is with the big parties, the Labour Party has its layers of issues to deal with. While it has yet to finish celebrating its performance, especially in the presidential and National Assembly elections, the party is almost now a shadow of its former self.
Its suspended National Chairman, Julius Abure, is fighting to reclaim his seat just as its suspended National Youth Leader, Anslem Eragbe, is calling for the probe of Abure and a few others. Abure insists that his suspension by his Edo State ward is a nullity because those behind it “are unknown faces who assembled in one room in Abuja,” to plot the scheme.
Also, during the governorship primary in Imo State, the party had about three parallel primaries, with different candidates laying claim to the ticket.
In Kogi State, the ADC had parallel governorship primaries in April. Leke Abejide emerged as a candidate in one primary while Dele Williams also emerged in the congress held by the Acting National Secretary, Kennedy Odion. There are internal grumblings from both sides over the issue.
From findings, these internal crises have distracted the parties from focusing on important things, which triggers the question; what do the crises portend for the polity?
Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, said the rise in internal crisis in political parties shortly after elections derives in part from the fact that post-election period is the time for “loot sharing.”
He stated, “There are usually more quarrels after a general election because it is time for the sharing of spoils of war. After all, every election in Nigeria is a war. Bones are broken, heads are smashed, blood is spilled, houses are burnt. In other instances, entire ethnic groups are profiled for elimination and discrimination. This is when everyone comes out to position themselves for offices and appointments – the genuine ones, the pretenders, the turncoats; the perennial defectors; the scammers and party owners.
“Nigerian politics is ‘amala politics’, a come-and-chop brand of politics. Ours is politics and democracy of the stomach. Politicians don’t practice democracy here. All they look out for is how to have their hands in the till. They do not care about the welfare of the people, or development of the country. This is a summary of what is happening in the parties today.”
In his contribution, former Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, attributed the fight within political parties to what he called the lack of ideological disposition.
He stated, “The crises in the political parties underscore the fact that they are not ideologically-based but exist just to win elections for exercise of power and to hold the parties together. That is why the APC which has won the election has less of a crisis compared to the opposition parties. But now that the elections have come and gone, there is nothing to hold the political parties together anymore. This is why there are more crises in opposition parties than the ruling APC.”
For Haruna Abdullahi, a civil society campaigner, those instigating crises in the parties are out for personal gains and gratifications.
He said, “Political explosion is happening barely a few weeks after the generation election because those who found themselves in these parties weren’t tied by ideologies but by exigencies of the time. They were motivated by certain interests predicated on perceived displacement from their former parties or the inordinate quest to be on the ballot papers at all costs. So, the in-fighting that has culminated in political crises isn’t unexpected. This happens when you find strange bedfellows frolicking in the same political parties.
“Empirically, it is not uncommon for political parties to experience internal conflicts and disagreements, especially when there are diverse interests and agenda among party members. In some cases, individuals may join a particular party based on personal ambition or expediency, rather than a shared ideological or policy agenda. When such individuals come together, it can lead to factionalism and in-fighting, as each group tries to assert its influence and interests within the party.
“However, it is important to note that not all political crises are a result of personal ambitions or opportunism. Other factors such as differing views on policy or leadership styles can also contribute to internal conflicts within political parties. In any case, it is important for political parties to have strong structures and mechanisms for resolving internal conflicts and promoting unity among members.”
While there are internal conflict resolution mechanisms in the constitutions of these political parties, it remains worrisome that the court has become their go-to place, as party organs now find it difficult to broker peace among warring interests.