The anger in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) continued to boil Thursday as Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, said members in the state were tired of the party, hinting that the time had come for them to move elsewhere.
The governor spoke at the party’s stakeholders’ forum in Ilorin, capital of the state, and said there was no more hope for redress in the APC ahead of the 2019 general election.
Ahmed’s complaint reechoed in Abuja with the senator representing Kaduna Central, Senator Shehu Sani, saying the internal revolt in the party was motivated by large scale iniquity and injustice that had bedevilled it for so long.
Sani spoke to journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday night after a fire-fighting meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari who gathered APC senators for a fence-mending session.
But the effort of the president at pacifying the federal legislators, who are at the forefront of the ongoing revolt, almost hit the rocks Thursday when the party’s National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, firmly rejected their demand for automatic ticket as panacea for the gale of defections in two chambers of the National Assembly, contending that the field would be open to everyone to play.
In Ilorin, Ahmed continued to stoke the ember of defection, telling APC stakeholders that enough was enough. “We are only waiting for our leader, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to give us the new direction and hope so as to move forward,” he told his angry audience.
According to him, “It is disheartening to note that all our expectations and aspirations that made us to defect to the APC from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2014 are not met.”
Ahmed, who said the stakeholders’ meeting was convened for all of them to discuss the way forward, argued that the APC could not take them to anywhere again.
He said: “We want all of you to make contributions so as to agree in unity on which party that we will move into without any hindrance.”
The governor, who lauded the leadership style of the Senate president, said: “We are only waiting for him to come home now and we will inform him of our decision; and then ask him to lead us to a new land of hope.”
However, all the speakers at the meeting supported the view of the governor on the new agenda to quit the APC.
One of the youth leaders at the meeting, Alhaji Ali Baba, said that they belonged to the Saraki political structure and not to any idealism or ideology of any political party in the state, adding that they were ready to move to another party he would lead them to.
“Please take us to where our welfare will be guaranteed and our expectations will be met,” Baba said.
Also speaking, the leader of the market women in the state, Alhaja Ramat Oganija, said the people were tired of the ruling APC government at the federal level.
“We expressed joy and happiness when our leader, Saraki, led us into the APC, not knowing that they are featherweight and unreliable. We are not afraid to leave APC for any other party. We are eagerly waiting for you to show us our next destination. Whenever Saraki leaves the APC, it would be depleted,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sani while speaking after 42 APC senators met with Buhari following the defection of 14 of them to the PDP on Tuesday, said he had opted to attend the meeting not because his grievances had been addressed but rather because the new party leadership had shown the political will to resolve the matter.
He said he had chosen to attend the meeting because he believed in the new leadership of the party as well as the personality of Buhari.
The senator also pointed out that he believed that there was no problem that couldn’t be resolved.
He said: “I’m here as a member of the APC caucus in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and my presence here does not mean that my issues have been solved 100 per cent but I am of the belief that we have a leader in the party who is doing everything possible to see that the problems that we have that led to a situation of revolt against the system of iniquity and injustice are resolved.
“So, I am here because I believe in the leadership of the party and I believe also in the leadership of President Buhari, and I’m also of the belief that there is no issue that we cannot solve as human beings, as men of conscience and conviction.”
Also speaking after the meeting, Oshiomhole said the senators came in large numbers to the meeting to show that APC still had the largest number of senators and members of the House of Representatives.
According to him, APC remained focused on its goals to provide good governance to Nigerians.
He said the meeting was initiated by the senators in expression of their solidarity for both the president and his administration.
He said: “The senators have come in huge numbers to prove that the APC remains the party with the largest number of senators as well as members in the House of Representatives; also to prove that we still have what it takes to continue to provide good governance for Nigeria.
“We have agreed that going forward, the APC cannot be intimidated, and the government will not be intimidated or distracted. We remain focused and committed to addressing the critical challenges that confront our country, namely: security, economy and fight against corruption.”
In his own submission, the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said their visit to the Villa was meant to brief Buhari on the episode, which led to the defection of 14 senators to opposition parties on Tuesday.
Echoing Oshiomhole, Lawan, who said APC still had majority membership in the Senate, claimed that some of those who left had expressed their willingness to return.
He said: “We have come to pay a courtesy call on our leader, the president of this country and then inform him about what happened yesterday (Tuesday) in the Senate and indeed the National Assembly; the defection by some of our colleagues from the APC to the PDP and various political parties. We informed the president of how we stand in the Senate.
“As at today, the APC caucus in the Senate is 53 in number, followed by the largest minority party the PDP with 48 senators and then the ADC with two senators, APGA has two senators. We have two vacant seats, which were occupied by APC senators who are late now. By the grace of God, there will be election into those two seats on August 11 and hopefully the APC will clinch both and our number of senators will swell to 55.”
In a related development, the Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, urged the party to give automatic tickets to members in the green chamber ahead of the 2019 election.
The lawmaker, who led other colleagues to a meeting with the leadership of the APC at the Secretariat in Abuja Thursday, asked the party to consider giving them automatic tickets as reward for their loyalty.
Gbajabiamila said the move would act as incentive for the incumbent members who have displayed loyalty, tenacity and commitment to the party in the face of the poaching by the PDP.
Speaking on the outcome of the meeting with the party, Gbajabiamila said that they used the opportunity to express solidarity with the party and the president in view of the recent defection that hit the ruling party.
He explained that their own concept of automatic ticket was about making the party to have an “establishment candidate” without necessarily shutting out others.
He said that the period of recess by the National Assembly would be a hunting period for the PDP, which he said had turned members to commodities that could be purchased.
He, therefore, challenged the party leader to keep a communication line with members while the break lasts.
Responding, Oshiomhole said he was not bothered by the frantic moves of PDP to win more members to their fold.
Regarding the lawmaker’s demand for special consideration in the run-up to the next year’s general election, Oshiomhole said the issue of automatic ticket does not arise since it was against democratic tenets.
He, however, assured the party members of the commitment of the new party leadership to ensuring level playing field for all.
He said he believed that association with political parties must be based on ideology and service to the people.
The House of Representatives members and the party hierarchy had a closed-door session before they departed.
The crisis in the party worsened on Tuesday when 14 senators and 32 representatives switched to the PDP. Five other representatives also resigned with four crossing carpet to the African Democratic Congress (ADC) while the other simply resigned without signifying his next destination.