President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are working round the clock towards ensuring that Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State; Rabiu Kwankwaso, senator representing Kano Central, their loyalists and other bigwigs of the ruling party do not decamp to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to party sources, this necessitated the setting up of the APC Reconciliation Committee by President Buhari.
With dwindling goodwill from the six geo-political zones of the country, if President Buhari is seeking reelection in 2019 he must arrest the drift of many chieftains of the party who are being wooed by the opposition parties, especially the PDP, analysts said.
In a chat on Wednesday, a member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) said the president decided to act fast to forestall a mass defection to the major opposition party by setting up the reconciliation committee headed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the party and former governor of Lagos State.
Given the influence of Saraki at the National Assembly and in Kwara State and also considering Kwankwaso’s influence in Kano, our source said “the president and the party feel there is an urgent need to move in and pacify the aggrieved members from leaving the party either for the PDP or the various coalitions springing up in the country.”
He cited a recent poll by an online news medium where many respondents voted that both Saraki and Kwankwaso are on their way out of the APC.
Our source said “after considering this report and the body languages of the aforementioned politicians, the president and his team felt there is a need to meet with aggrieved politicians, iron things out and bring them to the level they were before the 2015 presidential election”.
“Already the opposition is latching on to the face-off between Kwankwaso and Ganduje in Kano and daily they are telling the senator that he should dump the APC and return to the PDP. They keep telling him the APC is an ungrateful party that didn’t appreciate the massive votes he delivered in the 2015 election. We know all these and even though Kwankwaso himself has denied plans to join the PDP, we do not want to take things for granted.
“On the part of the Senate president, we are also aware that a lot of people are trying to drag him away from the APC. First, is his original party, the PDP. They have been on his neck since his ordeal began following his emergence in 2015. They later intensified their efforts after the Supreme Court judgment that settled the two years crisis within their party and they became emboldened that Saraki will join them after their national convention in December.
“While we believe the Senate president who has repeatedly said he will not dump the APC, we are, however, surprised reading the comment of one of his men, that is Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, who recently said they are ready to join the PDP once the people of the state give them the go-ahead.
“To us in the APC, we believe it is a clear signal that all the rumours about Saraki and his supporters rejoining the PDP may be real after all. Also, if you consider the protest by the youths and leaders of Kwara PDP that Saraki may hijack the party’s structures if he returns, then you will know that the plot is real and that is why the president and the party leadership decided to act fast by setting up the reconciliation committee. We believe all will be fine at the end of the day”.
Another source of worry for the president and the ruling party is the likely defection of Governor Samuel Ortom, who was a chieftain of the PDP until December, 2014, when he left to join the APC where he secured the governorship ticket to win the 2015 election as the governor of Benue State.
Since the new year killings of 73 people in Benue State by suspected Fulani herdsmen, the governor had being at loggerheads with the Federal Government and security agencies, particularly the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
Even though Governor Ortom visited Aso Rock alongside some prominent Benue elders and met with President Muhammadu Buhari recently, observers say the relationship between the duo may be worsening.
Governor Ortom is simply saying that those who attacked and killed Benue people are known and must be arrested and prosecuted. He pointedly accused Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, a Fulani group, of being the brain behind the attacks and killings in the state.
The governor, while organising mass burial for the victims of the killings, lambasted the Federal Government for failing to protect lives and property in Benue State. In addition, he had at several fora, called for the resignation of the Inspector General of Police.
The continued altercation between Governor Ortom and the Federal Government has provided an opportunity for the opposition PDP to exploit the situation to its advantage. So far governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, had visited Benue and donated N200 million to support the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Wike, who also visited the grave site where 73 persons are buried, advised Ortom to return home.
The same appeal was also made to Ortom by Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti who asked his counterpart to join the PDP since his party (APC) has abandoned him to his fate.
Addressing a cross-section of Benue people in Makurdi, Fayose urged Ortom to move to another party.
“If you enter a vehicle and it broke down on the way and it could no longer carry you again, please, come out of it and look for another vehicle so that you will certainly reach your destination. God has even made it very easy such that we have Toyota, Nissan and different other vehicles. So you just enter the one you like. You are a sitting governor and have the first offer of refusal,” the Ekiti governor said.
Responding, Ortom said, “I am a member of the APC and about the issue of joining another vehicle, Benue people are here and they are hearing you. I cannot decide for Benue people, the people will decide, it is what they want that I will want. Anything Benue people say I should do, I will do.”
On whether the committee can dissuade Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Allhassan, from leaving the party, our source said, “That seems impossible. The woman made it clear that Atiku Abubakar is her political godfather and she will follow him wherever he goes. So, we believe her joining her godfather in PDP is just a matter of time”, he said.
On the reports that President Buhari did not consult the national leadership of the APC before announcing Tinubu’s appointment, our source said, “That is a lie. It is decision we all took together. First we believe Tinubu has what it takes to unite members of the party given his influence and wealth of experience. Two, we also believe it will put paid to those spreading rumours that he may work against APC’s interest or join another party ahead of 2019” .
“If we are not comfortable with his appointment, of course we would have voiced out and that will further compound the party’s problems. We are very much aware and that is why he (Tinubu) has visited the national secretariat of the party today” (Wednesday).
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday said it had issued a query to Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai for alleged anti-party activities.
A statement by the party’s acting state Chairman, Danladi Wada, said the decision was taken after full investigation and consultation with stakeholders and elders of the party.
“His Excellency, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has been queried and we are expecting him to answer the query within 48 hours. Failure to do that, the state working committee will sit down and deliberate.
“We queried Mallam Nasir el-Rufai for his anti-party activities and anti-human activities.”
Wada also announced the suspension of the Special Adviser to the governor on Political Matters, Uba Sani; the Commissioner for Finance, Audu Kwari, and the party’s Acting Secretary, Yahaya Baba-Pate.
He explained that the three allies of the governor were suspended for 18 months.
“The letters would be delivered to these personalities today (Thursday),” the acting APC chairman said.
Meanwhile, Nasir el-Rufai has described as a “sham” the query which a faction of the APC in the state issued to him.
Reacting, el-Rufai said the query is part of “attention-seeking gambits of desperate politicians who have steadily been demystified”.
In a statement issued by Samuel Aruwan, his spokesman, the governor said he is not deterred by the development and that his government “appreciates the support it has received from the party in executing policies that stand up for the right of ordinary people to equal opportunity.
“The APC government of Kaduna State has boldly lived up to its manifesto commitments and principles to the people,” the statement reads.
“In this work, it continues to enjoy the firm support of the APC state executive which is united, and committed to the hard work of bringing sustainable change.
“Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai is proud of his record in achieving unprecedented levels of capital spending in the state, direct job creation, doubling school enrolment and doubling internally-generated revenue.”
He also took a swipe at Suleiman Hunkuyi, senator representing Kaduna North, over the senator’s claim that he will unseat him in 2019.
According to him, “The desperate senator is seeking a lifeline, in the vain belief that ratcheting up rascally actions will bring him attention and relief from the mooted national reconciliation efforts.
“Senator Hunkuyi has failed to understand that you cannot create party executives at your whim. It is the party’s prerogative to consider appropriate responses to this breach of discipline.”
The APC in Kaduna has three factions.