The late soccer legend, Diego Armando Maradona, at the peak of his football career, was a thorn in the flesh of most defenders and goalkeepers. He could dribble an entire team without the ball leaving his feet. He was feared on the field of soccer and respected for his mastery of the round leather game. It is not an exaggeration that he became one of the best players to kick the ball, perhaps, the greatest, maybe, after Pele. Maradona’s vision, passing, ball control and dribbling skills, when combined with his small stature, gave him a low centre of gravity which allowed him to manoeuvre than most other players.
One of the joint winners of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century Award, Maradona won many football laurels for themself and his country, Argentina. But throughout his football playing career, Maradona never scored an own goal. Many players, including goalkeepers, have in the past – especially in a tense situation – mistakenly put the ball at the back of their own net. One of such unlucky goalkeepers is Ascoli’s goalkeeper, Filippo Perucchini. The 27-year-old could only hold his head in his hands in horror after a heavy touch in his own six-yard box helped the ball trickle over his own goal line.
The All Progressive Congress, APC, is neither a football-playing sensation like Maradona nor a goalkeeper in the mold of Perucchini. But the political party has been dribbling many of its members and Nigerians to the extent that if care is not taken, it will soon score an own goal. The political party began the dribbling when Adams Oshiomhole, its former national chairman was sacked from office in June 2020.
Mai Mala Buni, the governor of Yobe State, elected by the people of that state to improve their lot economically, socially and development-wise was hired to organise a convention for the party where National officials will emerge. He was given just six months to accomplish the task. Buni, the chairman, Caretaker and Extra Ordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, could not get the job done within the stipulated six months period. It was obvious that the Buni-led Caretaker Committee was not prepared to leave the stage that early, as there was no plan to conduct a convention and get the party’s National Working Committee in place. The excuse then was that the party needed to carry out a new membership registration, which was not initially part of the mandate of the committee. Another justification was that the party must conclud the reconciliation drive that was already ongoing at the time.
Indeed, there were signs that all was not well in many state chapters of the party. From the South West to the North East and North Central, there was one crisis or the other. State congresses of the party held to pick state officials ended up with two chairmen emerging. There were factions in more than 12 states across the country, and reconciling the warring factions had been very difficult.
As expected, if a student failed an exam, he is most likely asked to repeat the class and that is what happened to Mai Mala Buni and members of his CECPC. Another six months extension was granted to the fine gentleman. Again, there was nothing on ground to show that the party was in the mood for organising a convention at the end of the fresh six months. Now, Buni and his team have been in charge for more than 18 months and yet he is not in a hurry to go.
With the 2023 general elections fast approaching, the party was forced to fix February 26 for its National Convention but few days to the date, there was still nothing on ground to suggest that the party was ready for the convention though it has written to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to supervise the exercise.
On February 23, however, the CECPC issued two different statements, a signal of the intricacies and confusion within the party. While the first statement postponed the February 26 National Convention date indefinitely, another statement came after a seven-hour meeting of the CECPC with governors elected on the platform of the party which eventually settled for March 26 as the new date for the convention. While the Buni led CECPC cannot be entirely blamed for the frequent postponement of the convention as there are several political tendencies within the party that are up in arms against one another in their quest to take full control of the party ahead of the 2023 general elections, from the word go, many state chapters of the party have been enmeshed in crisis which has not been resolved by the various reconciliation committees set up for that purpose and may prove intractable ahead of the poll.
The issue of zoning has also become a thorn in the flesh of the party though it has now been agreed that the national chairman must come from the North. It is expected that the presidential candidate of the party will therefore come from the South. Another issue facing the party is the interest of APC state governors who are determined to play a leading role in the emergence of the party’s Presidential candidate. Many of the APC governors want to ensure that one of them emerges as the party’s presidential candidate or at least, vice president. Some party chieftains have also accused members of the CECPC of nursing inordinate ambitions and that they want to clinch onto power at all cost.
But perhaps the greatest fear facing members of the party and the CECPC, is the fact that there could be an implosion in the party after the convention with the leadership of the APC trying to ensure that aggrieved members do not have enough time to consider leaving the party to form a new party or contest under the banner of one of the registered fringe political parties.
It is not rocket science to many political watchers to discern that the party may indeed implode after the convention. APC, when it was formed in 2014, was an amalgam of different political tendencies. There were members of the CPC, ACN, as well as other smaller groups within the party. The CPC produced President Muhammadu Buhari while the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, produced Chief Bisi Akande as national chairman. With Buhari completing his eight-year tenure, the gentleman agreement between them is for power to shift to the South and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who led the ACN to the merger, has positioned himself for the party’s presidential ticket.
But the body language of the powers that be in Abuja, however, seems not well disposed to a Tinubu presidency and have propped up Vice President Yemi Osinbajo among other aspirants for the plum job. Many of the aspirants have been on a tour of the country to consult while others who are also interested in the race are patiently waiting for the right time to make their intentions known.
Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, his counterpart in Imo State, Rochas Okorocha are among members of the party that have shown interest in picking the APC’s presidential ticket.
With less than a month to the new date for its convention, the party has shown that it has not been able to manage the different diverse groups within it and many of the state chapters are still in tatters. President Buhari, since he is no longer seeking re-election, has remained aloof to the crisis bedeviling the party and has also kept mute on who his preferred candidate to take over the baton of leadership from him is.
INEC is also waiting in the wings, monitoring the situation in the ruling party and may not hesitate to show it the red card if any of its extant laws guiding party conventions are not followed to the letter. The agency did it in Zamfara State, when it declared that the party has no candidate during the governorship election and may also be ready to wield the big stick again even in a presidential contest. Also, the law court is still there as dissatisfied members can challenge the outcome of the convention and the primary that will produce those that will fly the flag of the party in the coming general elections. The Buni-led committee has carried out actions which some believe are beyond its terms of reference and this could be veritable ground for a lawsuit after the convention, if it will eventually hold March 26th.
The opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has been on cloud nine, mocking the ruling party for its inability to organize a convention and get its NWC in place.
Will the APC get it right on March 26th or will there be another dribble that could perhaps lead to an own goal? Your guess is as good as mine.
See you next week.