The crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is far from over after the two crucial meetings by the party’s major stakeholders failed to address the several outstanding issues impeding the kick-off of its presidential campaign.
Recall that APC recently suspended its campaign indefinitely with the rumours that Bola Tinubu, the party’s candidate is sick.
The APC National Working Committee (NWC), the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) and the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) leadership and by extension the presidential and vice presidential candidates, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, have been involved in closed-door meetings to sort out their differences in order to commence their campaign.
What dominated the agenda of the crucial meetings, it was gathered, included the controversy surrounding the composition of the campaign council list, the deliberate departure or paradigm shift from the manifesto of the party, perhaps the frosty relationship between the party’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and the presidential candidate, Tinubu, particularly the rift over who will control the campaign funds.
While observers blamed the deadlock of the first meeting held at the party’s national secretariat on the absence of the presidential candidate, who was away in the UK then, and his running mate, the second meeting lamentably failed to produce the desired results despite Tinubu’s presence.
Although the PCC spokesperson, Festus Keyamo, had defended the delay in the APC kick-starting its much-awaited campaign, hinging it on factoring the diary of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is understandably the chairman of the campaign, some concerned party members, however, believe it is the irreconcilable differences among the gladiators in the ruling party that are actually causing the problem.
Keyamo, while defending the delay in the resumption of the campaign, said: “We have also agreed on all the basic issues. We just want to carry along the leader of the party, Mr. President, and hit the street,” adding that “as for the PDP starting campaign, APC will allow the little boys to continue, the big boys are coming behind.”
But political watchers have argued that if it were the diary of Mr. President that is delaying the kick-off of the APC campaign, could it also be responsible for the endless delay in releasing the comprehensive campaign list and inaugurating the council members too?
Commenting on the situation, a member of the APC NWC told Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity that there is more to it than meets the eye in the continued delay in kick-starting the presidential campaign.
“I think we may have been economical with the truth by putting the whole blame for the delay in the commencement of our campaign on the availability of President Buhari. I am sure that Mr. President is freer than our candidate now. I want to believe that the failure to resolve certain issues already in the public domain cannot be wished away.
“I don’t think the issue of the disagreement over the campaign list has been sorted out finally. If it has been resolved, the comprehensive list would have definitely been released to the public to confirm our seriousness like other political parties have done. One can also curiously ask whether it is the same schedule of Mr President that could also be delaying the release and inauguration of the campaign council, which is an integral part of our campaign activities.
“The good thing, however, is that we still have enough time. I want to assure party members and supportive Nigerians that APC will come out with a bang when we sort out all these grey areas. Nigerians will hear us loud and clear when we roll out the drums,” the member of the party’s leadership assured.
Apart from the reasons the PCC spokesperson advanced for the delay in the commencement of the campaign, another encumbrance to the ruling party ahead of the campaign is the disagreement in the manifesto presented by the candidate of the party.
One of the strongest points of disagreement, according to sources at the tripartite meeting held last week, was the stiff opposition and objection from the major stakeholders to the manifesto the presidential candidate presented to them.
Although the PCC spokesperson argued that the manifesto received 90 per cent endorsement from the stakeholders, two issues, sources claimed, became a source of disagreement during the meeting last week.
First was the claim that Tinubu dominated the manifesto with Lagos affairs, relegating the little achievements recorded by the President Buhari-led administration to an inconsequential level.
And the second reason was the strong objection by most governors and some members of the party’s leadership to the manifesto due to lack of deliberate attempt to align it with the documented party’s own, which resulted in setting up a harmonisation committee to reconcile the differences.
“All we did during the meeting was to review the draft of our manifesto,” the PCC spokesperson, Keyamo noted, explaining that “our candidate is not the type that operates on his own.
“He carries everybody along. He presented the draft of the manifesto to all the stakeholders to look at it. And guess what; almost all the stakeholders gave that draft more than 90 per cent pass mark.
“We can’t give you the content because we are not going to take it away from our candidate. He is going to present it himself before Nigerians on a particular date and occasion. We have set up a small committee charged with the responsibility of reducing the manifesto documents to major highlights in message form we can sell to even the market women, and street traders in the most simple language. We don’t want to present to Nigerians a very complicated document that they cannot understand in simple terms,” he said.
Allying with the spokesperson in dismissing the insinuations that Tinubu presented a manifesto dominated with Lagos content not the achievements of the Buhari-led APC administration, another PCC member argued in a chat with Sunday Sun that the stakeholders would not have endorsed it if there were any bias against it.
“There is no iota of truth in such claims that Asiwaju presented a draft of the manifesto with Lagos content. It is baseless. I can confirm to you that the governors and NWC graciously approved the manifesto,” he said.
If Tinubu handlers managed to wriggle out of the controversy over the discrepancies in the manifesto, the disagreement over campaign funds between the party’s leadership and the campaign council has remained insoluble.
Felix Moaka said the discussion over campaign funding has been left in abeyance, stressing that; “the issue of campaign fund is a matter that is still in progress. Our campaign financing is really important because without it you can’t do a whole lot, but that is a subject that we will discuss in due course.”
A member of the PCC claimed that the party should not even ridicule itself struggling over who controls the campaign fund but must do the needful.
He insisted: “I want to ask if the leadership does not want to support the candidates, what will they be using the money they raked in through the sale of nomination forms for?
“The money is running into billions of Naira, yet they are claiming that they won’t support the candidates. It is wrong. Even if they claim that they are wrongly using it to renovate the national secretariat, the renovation cannot gulp the entire billions they collected from the aspirants. The ideal thing is that the party must support the candidates no matter how small, especially candidates in the states our party does not have a governor.”
Beyond the controversies, the conspicuous absence of the national chairman of the party, Adamu, during last week’s crucial meeting, has equally heightened the curiosity over the soiled relationship between him and the party’s candidate, Bola Tinubu.
Morka argued that Adamu who was ably represented did not shun the meeting, and that he was in touch almost all through the meeting.
“The national chairman was not missing in action; he was adequately represented by the Deputy National Chairman, North, and his counterpart in the South. He was in touch with every stakeholder who was in the meeting. He did inform the candidate of his inability to be at the meeting, but he was effectively represented,” Morka defended.
Denying that the delay in the take off of campaigns on the health status of the presidential candidate, the PCC said it was purely a logistic issue and and not about Tinubu’s health.
“We are planning because what is the essence of rolling out campaign drums only to suspend it like what the opposition party, still battling internal crisis, did. We want to dot all the i’s and cross all our t’s before starting.
“Asiwaju’s health has nothing to do with the delay in the commencement of our campaign. It is purely logistics. It is not also right to claim that he has not been attending serious functions due to his health. He was there at the launch of the APC women campaign council at the State House. He will be attending a function in Kaduna early this week.
“On Thursday, last week, he held a series of review meetings with relevant stakeholders to fine-tune his campaign manifesto. Our campaign is not going to be dictated by external forces or the pressure from the media,” the PCC member said.