Battle of Wits over Campaign Council Unsettles APC

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The list of members of the Presidential Campaign Council of the All Progressives Congress has generated controversy following a battle of wits between the leaders of the party and the close allies of its presidential candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu.  Adedayo Akinwale writes that if the disagreement is not properly handled, it could tear the party apart

The schedule of campaign activities of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) scheduled to kick -start last Wednesday was put off indefinitely following the controversy that trailed the unveiling of  the 422 -member Presidential Campaign Council of the party.  This also means that the flagg-off of the party’s campaign in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on October 10 may also be affected.

Initially, it was the non-inclusion of some prominent members of the party, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; and the Minister of Communication, Lai Mohammed, that first set tongues wagging, before APC governors and some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) also expressed their displeasure over the list. However, the non-inclusion of Dogara and Lawal was understandable as the duo has since launched campaign against the Muslim-muslim ticket of the party.

During a recent visit of the presidential candidate of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, to the party’s secretariat, he  told the NWC to thinker with the campaign list submitted to the national leadership of the party.

“On behalf of myself, the team of the presidential campaign council, let me commend the DG and Secretary of the campaign that have worked very hard to bring this report about the organisation structure. If they (report) need panel -beating, you do so. It is not a red card that we brought. We are bent on bringing brighter hope and confidence to the country,” Tinubu had said.

THISDAY gathered hat there was a disagreement over the list submitted by Tinubu because the NWC felt it was not all-inclusive and certain interests were not accommodated in the initial list.

It was against this background that  the first harmonisation meeting was held. A three-man committee of the party, comprising the National Legal Adviser, the National Organising Secretary and Deputy Women Leader,  realised that the campaign council was populated by the camp of the presidential candidate, while the names of the proposed national officers to be included in the list were allegedly reduced to mere membership positions.

It was gathered that during one of the NWC meetings, the National Chairman, Senator Abdulahi Adamu had informed members about the request for inclusion of  the two Deputy National Chairmen (North and South), National Secretary, National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Organising Secretary, National Publicity Secretary, National Woman Leader, National Youth Leader, and the National Leader on Persons with Disabilities, as minimal requirement.

The point of disagreement, it was gathered, was that while Tinubu’s camp stuck to their original list, the NWC insisted on their inclusion with specific responsibilities in the campaign council.

But indications of a major rift in the party emerged when some members of the party’s NWC disowned the list released by the council.

A member of the NWC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity while disowning the list, said the fact that it was the Presidential Campaign Council and not the party’s leadership that released it showed that something was wrong.

THISDAY learnt that Tinubu might have fuelled the new crisis in his PCC when he allegedly  ignored  President Muhammadu Buhari, his party leadership and the progressive governors, in the composition of the council.

It was gathered that the council, though a tripartite institution, structured around the presidential candidate, the party and the president, was originally designed to be driven by the governors, since they were expected to lead the campaigns in their respective states.

According to sources, Tinubu, the party and the progressive governors, had perfected the composition of an- inclusive campaign council, before it was agreed amongst them that the list should be taken to the president for his input as a mark of respect.

Unfortunately, a few days after the president had made his input, Tinubu, without recourse to any of the other parties, including Buhari, allegedly reviewed the list, particularly, tampering with some critical areas that the president and the governors had indicated interests and agreed with him.

For example, Buhari was said to have indicated interest in Mrs. Margaret Okadigbo, wife of a former Senate President, whom he wanted as the regional coordinator for the South-east, apparently deferring to his late friend and former running mate, Senator Chuba Okadigbo.

But Tinubu allegedly removed Mrs. Okadigbo’s name. In her place, he put the sole female presidential aspirant of the party, Uju Ken Ohanenye, who stood down for him at the presidential primary in Abuja. This raised concerns amongst other stakeholders.

Again, in the South-west, the governors were said to have considered the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, as the PCC coordinator for the zone, but Tinubu opposed his choice and settled for the Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN).

However, sensing what was playing out, sources said, Fayemi had immediately stepped in, saying since Akeredolu was the Chairman of the South-west APC governors, he was a better choice and quietly acceded to the choice of the presidential candidate.

But there was a particular one that eventually undid the campaign council and it was the choice of Hon. James Faleke, a member of the House of Representatives, from Ikeja in Lagos State, as  the Secretary of the campaign council.

The position of secretary of the council, sources told THISDAY, was reserved for the North-central, as part of moves to pacify the minority north. But because the Director-General of the PCC, Governor Simon Lalong, was from Plateau State, it was agreed that the secretary should be taken to Benue State, being a critical state in the Middle Belt.

Besides, with the controversy so far generated by the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the party, stakeholders believed that picking a Christian from Benue State, would go a long way to quell the staggering opposition to the same faith ticket of the party.

Consequently, one of the governors from the North-central states, was allegedly detailed to reach out to a former governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, to send in two names and their Curriculum Vitae, for Tinubu’s consideration for the position, which he allegedly did.

But Tinubu, again, allegedly turned down the two names from Benue and claimed that since Kogi was part of North-central, he would rather settle for Faleke, a man representing Lagos State in the lower chamber of the National Assembly. The former Lagos State took the decision without seeking the consent of other stakeholders, listed him as the secretary of the PCC.

These developments, it was gathered, had angered Lalong, to the extent that he threatened to quit as DG of the PCC, but for the interventions of some people in the party, including a former deputy governor of Nasarawa State and other stakeholders, who appealed to him, not to throw the party into crisis by making such move at this time.

In addition, Tinubu was accused by the members of the party of allegedly appointing a handful of persons, either as directors or assistant directors to different sections of the council, without consulting other stakeholders. Many believed his action  was intentional to create some form of control at the campaign secretariat, especially, with Faleke’s choice as the secretary

While the president has refused to speak on the matter, other stakeholders were said to have resolved to allow Tinubu take the final decisions l, since the input of the others did not matter to him or the cause they collectively sought.

Besides, the non-inclusion of a lot of the big names in the council to the shock of many people, THISDAY was reliably informed, was deliberate as those concerned claimed they would be unable to defend a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Even more disturbing for the prospect of the campaign is that a majority of northern governors seem inconsolable over the way and manner Tinubu had managed things since he emerged the as candidate, especially, with the allegations that a former chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole and Faleke, were being used to pursue an undosclosed southern agenda, undermine Lalong, and by extension, the governors as a body.

There are also reports on how Faleke has been allegedly running the secretariat like a sole administrator,  implementing  actions and giving instructions without formal communication with the relevant governors. It was alleged that on many occasions, he declined to answer the governors’ calls.

For instance, while the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, is the chairman of progressive governors, Faleke allegedly shunned those on the list he submitted on behalf of the governors, and allegedly told Tinubu that the governors didn’t forward the list to him.

The battle of wits between Tinubu and his allies on one hand, and the leaders of APC on the other, got to a peak, when a few days to the proposed launch of the campaign, the governors had not been properly notified apart from the announcement flying around on different media platforms, particularly, with regards to the much-publicised “Prayer Walk.”

It was these unsavoury situations that were believed to have informed the cancellation of the campaign launch, even though a majority of the APC members believed the move was rather face-saving. Tinubu’s sudden trip to London with his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima was also said to have contributed largely to the cancellation of the proposed event.

A member of the national leadership who pleaded anonymity said the suspension of the campaign council list was not enough.

Indeed, there is a need for the campaign council to act fast to assuage the anger of the governors and critical stakeholders of the party over the campaign list if the ruling party still wants to be in power beyond 2023.

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