ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS examines how influential politicians appear to be untouchable by their parties despite their brazen involvement in alleged anti-party activities
With one month to the campaigns as prescribed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, political parties have been hit by a gale of defection and anti-party activities. Understandably, some members of the governing All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party seem to be the biggest culprits.
Several party chieftains and ward chairmen have reportedly jumped ship at the grass roots level. Before their recess, some aggrieved members of the House of Representatives and Senate defected to other parties over unmet demands and perceived injustice.
However, there are some influential politicians who are not interested in jumping on the bandwagon but seem content in giving their parties sleepless nights. They also do not show remorse for their perceived anti-party activities.
The examples are many. A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, recently threatened to mobilise northern Christian electorate to vote against their party, APC, for fielding the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had named a fellow Muslim, Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate, a development considered insensitive and unacceptable by several Christian bodies and many prominent politicians like Lawal and Dogara.
Two weeks after Tinubu named Shettima as his running mate, Lawal, Dogara; a former minister of Youths and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung; and Senator Ishaku Abbo (representing Adamawa North), at a gathering of northern Christian leaders said Tinubu made a fatal error by agreeing to run on a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
A livid Lawal, who was the chairman on the occasion, exclaimed that it was a grand conspiracy against northern Christians. A few days after the outburst, he and Dogara held a closed-door meeting with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, at his private residence in Rumueprikom, Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of the state. The visit came barely 24 hours after Wike broke the silence following the disagreement between him and PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The reaction that greeted the meeting was instant as Nigerians raised eyebrows over what many believed was a clear sign of anti-party activity. Reacting to the outrage, Dogara told journalists that the meeting was far from political as alleged.
Lawal also said he and Dogara were free to visit anyone, and that those still nursing grudges over the visit should know that he worked with the governors when he served as the SGF.
When asked to comment on the drama, the Director of Media and Communications, Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Bayo Onanuga, said his principal would not want to take issues with the two, adding that they would rather “leave them to their conscience.”
Onanuga said, “We don’t want to go into that. We are not interested in cautioning anybody. We leave them to their conscience. God has a way of punishing people who are hypocritical and go about telling lies to the people.”
A former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, however, called on the party to expel Dogara over the embarrassment he and the others had caused the party. He however urged the party to reach out to Lawal, whom he said had shown an appreciable loyalty and commitment to the party over the years.
He stated, “Dogara, to me, is a very inconsequential politician. His first address is the PDP; the APC is just his second home. People like him should not be talking because they are political vultures that jump from one party to the other to see what they can benefit. He is only reacting because things didn’t favour him.
“He came to the APC when things didn’t favour him. He left for the PDP when things didn’t go his way and returned to the APC again. He wanted to be national chairman, but it still didn’t favour him. That is to tell you that all he does is for selfish interest. Who brought him from the grass roots? Is he a Christian? He is very inconsequential.”
Nabena added that Dogara only positioned himself with the vain hope that the party would pick him if the pendulum had swung in the direction of a northern Christian.
He stated, “As a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, how many votes can he garner? In the case of Babachir Lawal, I will advise the leadership of the party to find a way to talk to him, because even at the height of his travail, he showed maturity by remaining in the APC.
“When Babachir Lawal had problems with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the party didn’t stand by him but he went through and remained in the party. That’s why I said you can’t compare him with Dogara, who was jumping from one place to the other. He is just seeking an excuse to say the party was unfair to him to be able to move to the PDP. If he wants to leave, let him just go quietly.”
Wike flirts with APC
Meanwhile, Wike is unperturbed over the outrage that greeted his romance with the ruling party. Even at the height of the anger that surrounded his invitation of an APC governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State to inaugurate a project, Wike didn’t give a hoot. This perhaps explained why a socio-political group, PDP New Fora, accused him of anti-party activities and called on the party’s national working committee to suspend him.
The group’s pro tem leader, Mohammed Adamu, said the governor was ungrateful given his unguarded utterances and for projecting the PDP in a bad light. Adamu also urged the party to caution and punish Wike before his excesses would jeopardise the party’s chances in 2023 elections.
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, in an interview with Saturday APROKOVIBE, said people should not buy the narrative that Wike was planning to dump the party.
He said there was nothing strange in the governor’s recent fraternity with an APC delegation that included Sanwo-Olu; his counterpart from Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu; Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and other chieftains of the ruling party.
The meeting, which took place at Wike’s private residence in Port Harcourt, also had a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, in attendance. Wike’s continued silence after he lost the PDP presidential and running mate tickets to Atiku Abubakar and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, respectively has unsettled the party and pitted his supporters against the chieftains.
He said, “What is disturbing about governors’ meetings? Does it mean governors can’t meet again? They have a progressive forum, so a simple meeting should be turned into something else? I don’t understand.
“Let us concentrate our attention on issues facing Nigeria today; the killings, the insensitivity of Mr President; his lack of capacity and competence, which he himself has admitted to by saying he is disappointed with the security agencies. We can only play politics when there is peace. I am not sure anybody is playing politics today in Ukraine. We all need to step up and do the right thing in this country, which is by voting the APC out of power.”
Ologunagba’s position was re-echoed by his predecessor, Kola Ologbondiyan, who affirmed that the Rivers State governor was free to meet or associate with anyone.
Speaking on Arise Television, the former spokesperson said, “He’s allowed. When Bukola Saraki left the APC and joined the PDP or when Aminu Tambuwal left the APC and joined the PDP, did it just happen? No, you go and consult. No matter the consultation, no matter the discussions, until Governor Wike goes out and picks the membership card of the APC or he goes out to pick the membership card of the Labour Party, there are no issues as far as I am concerned. People can come and see him, they can hold parties, discuss and analyse things. They can discuss all manner of things. He remains a member of the party.”
Amosun, others’ rebellion
On the other side of the divide, disgruntled members of the APC in Ogun and Osun states raised the dust over alleged anti-party activities respectively championed by former governor Ibikunle Amosun and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola. While the Aregbesola group was accused of colluding with the opposition in a move that saw the ruling party lose Osun State to the PDP, Amosun has been labelled a ‘disaster’ waiting to happen in Ogun State.
To avoid what it called an impending danger, a pressure group under the aegis of Ogun Renaissance Movement appealed to the leadership of the APC to expel Amosun, who has been under fire over his recent comment that the 2019 governorship election in the state was rigged in favour of his successor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
Amosun, who spoke at an event in Abeokuta, pledged to work towards removing Abiodun from office (in 2023). The group warned that failure to sanction Amosun would embolden him to carry on with his anti-party activities.
Former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is another APC strongman that stirred the hornets’ nest when he alleged that delegates who voted at the party’s presidential primary were bribed to influence the outcome. He said many of those induced with money had since regretted their action. The former Rivers State governor spoke at an event to mark the 60th birthday of the founder and General Overseer of the Abundant Life Evangelistic Mission, Apostle Eugene Ogu, in Port Harcourt.
Amaechi came second at the APC presidential primary where Tinubu, the winner, defeated Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and 12 others to clinch the ticket.
A number of party supporters and chieftains, including the Director-General of the Asiwaju Tinubu-Shettima Coalition for Good Governance, Adebayo Shittu, found Amaechi’s utterances unbelievable.
Shittu quipped, “Can Amaechi isolate himself from those he claimed induced delegates for votes? He, just like other aspirants at the APC primaries, cannot point fingers at others without implicating themselves. What does he mean by delegates regretting that they collected bribes for votes? Is he indirectly saying the governors who brought them collected bribes and expressing regret too? I wish to have an opportunity to square up with him on this issue.”
When asked if Amaechi’s outburst was a testament to the noticeable cracks and divisions among Tinubu’s co-aspirants and APC chieftains as witnessed in the case of Aregbesola, Amosun and Osinbajo, who have since gone silent after the convention, Shittu said no group or political party would claim that it did not experience infighting during negotiation among members
“Is there a party where people don’t disagree over issues or during negotiations? The good thing is that none of those people you mentioned insinuated that there was rigging during the APC presidential primary. Is anybody saying that? Amaechi’s outburst, just like those of a few other noticeable ones, was obviously done out of frustration. I understand that when one loses an election, one is bound to hold grudges. You can’t rule that out, after all, we are human beings and Nigerians,” Shittu added.
No sanctions – APC
The APC National Vice-Chairman (North-West), Mallam Salihu Lukman, declined commenting on the allegations of anti-party activities by some members of the party. He insisted that the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, was in a better position to speak on the matter.
However, Morka explained to Saturday APROKOVIBE that he was unmoved by pressure from APC supporters and pressure groups, saying expulsion or punitive measures for recalcitrant party members were not the solution. He disclosed that the party was instead looking to reconcile every aggrieved member ahead of the 2023 elections.
He said, “What is anti-party activity in people expressing their opinions? This is democracy. Even party members are entitled to their opinions. I mean everything people say in the realm of their individual liberty does not have to amount to anti-party activity. The APC is more interested in reconciling people who are aggrieved and have reasons to be dissatisfied with one another. We are not looking to remove people from the party. We are trying to unite the party and make it stronger. That’s our priority as we go forward.”
On whether Amosun, who is also threatening to remove his successor from office, would be left off the hook, Morka said the aim was to carry everybody along without grudges.
“I am not interested in discussing any individual case. As a party, even when you believe that someone is not getting along well with another person for one reason or the other, our goal is to bring our leaders together. Whatever we do on that score, we do it internally. We have a mechanism that we are trusting can help us bring the people back to the path of loyalty to the party, rather than dwell on why they need to be penalised,” he stated.
However, while some members of the APC and the PDP had at one time or the other been suspended or expelled for their involvement in acts detrimental to the progress of their political parties, the bigwigs who have also fallen short of expectation in terms of their conduct within and outside their associations appear to have gone unscathed.
Axed for anti-party
On December 16, 2020, three members of the Lagos PDP were axed by the State Executive Committee for alleged anti-party activities. The affected members are Secretary of the party, Muiz Shodipe; Publicity Secretary, Taofik Gani; and ex-officio member, Nurudeen Adewale.
The chairman of the party, Adedeji Doherty, told journalists that the trio was suspended for “consistently and flagrantly breaching major provisions of the party’s constitution and had been found to have involved themselves in anti-party activities, which could cause disunity among the party faithful.”
In Kwara State, the leadership of the state PDP clamped down heavily on nine party members on December 30, 2021, expelling four and suspending five for similar offences in the Adewole Ward of the Ilorin West Local Government Area.
The ‘fantastic four’ kicked out by the party were Nureni Omoyooba, Yakubu Agodi, Alao Hakeem and Tunde Muhibudeen, while the five suspended members were Musbau Agodi, Tunde Odo, Tunde Khalifa, Alagbon Fatimoh and Moshood Elere.
The party leaders announced that the victims were tried at the ward level and found guilty of gross misconduct, and making crude and disparaging commentaries against the party, especially on several radio stations.
In a related development, the membership card of Mohammed Kumalia was withdrawn on August 10, 2022 by the Borno State Chapter of the ruling APC following an allegation of anti-party activities.
Also, a ward chairman of the APC in Umudomi area of the Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, John Ogboji, was expelled on August 15, 2022 after he was said to have been found guilty of alleged anti-party activities.
His ward members claimed that he was expelled for his alleged disagreement with the party leadership over the purported expulsion of an aspirant, Mrs Ann Agom-Eze, who is laying claim to the senatorial ticket of the party for the Ebonyi South zone.