Monday, 29 September 2008

A Party In Discord

The All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, and its former presidential candidate, General Mohammadu Buhari continue to trade worlds on grounds of principles

By Onu Okorie

To have emerged the flag bearer of a party as big as the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, should ordinarily elicit a sense of pride. But for the former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, who flew the banner of that party at the 2007 presidential elections on two occasions, it has been a time of travails.

The recent revelations and intra party squabble in ANPP did not only portray it as a party in disarray but it also indicates that there is no love lost between the chairman, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke and the presidential candidate, General Buhari.

Trouble started when the President Musa Yar'Adua dangled a carrot before ANPP to participate in the Government of National Unity, GNU, which the PDP used to douse the tension generated by the allegation that it rigged itself into power. The ANPP leadership grabbed the offer with two hands, but Buhari condemned it.

Buhari was quoted as saying that the mainstream of the party, which is the National Working Committee was not carried along in the process of engaging in the GNU. “When Yerima of Bakura, the former governor of Zamfara state went and signed that understanding to enter the GNU with the PDP, the party process was not taken into consideration. The national working committee, which is supposed to run the party on a day-to-day basis was supposed to have developed an agenda to discuss it, the minutes of the caucus should deliberate on the issue because this is a very serious issue” Buhari had stated.
He also contended that his party did not get its worth in the deal that relinquished their right as the main opposition party to Action Congress, AC despite the credible performance of ANPP in the polls.

According to Buhari, “As the main opposition party, with five governors, senators, house of representative members, council chairmen, you just walk across and submit yourself to the opposition party that rigged itself into power and withdraw your case against presidential and other elections, leaving your candidates that participated from chairmen of local governments, house of assembly to representatives to the Governors, Senators on their own. “This is what Yerima and Ume-Ezeoke and the secretary of the party did on their own and they accepted a one-and-a half ministerial post; that is why you can't hear anything from ANPP”.

Other issues that has formed the bone of contention between Buhari and the other leaders of ANPP is the way the party had handled the case instituted against the PDP on the irregularities that trailed the presidential election. Buhari’s position suggest that he was hoodwinked into going to court by the ANPP leaders only for them to withdraw the case without Buhari's consent and neither did they adhere to the laid down party process needed to withdraw the case. That no doubt smacked off betrayal of trust in the party.

“My case survived only because I raised a parallel legal team. Now, these are the same type of people, who did not go through the process, I mentioned already to withdraw from the court and go into the government for one and a half ministerial positions, though we don't know the number of contracts or what extra immunity vis-à-vis what they have done in their states so that they would not be prosecuted. So when you are dealing with such corrupt people, there is hardly anything you can do. That is why I am ready to be a lone ranger if the need arises,” Buhari reasserted.

But Chief Ume-Ezeoke, who was Buhari's running mate at the polls believes that Buhari is merely being “high-headed” and not toeing the party's line of thought. He posited that though there were areas of disagreement, the recent move to reconcile aggrieved members provided a good opportunity to hear the side of Buhari but it is unfortunate that he rebuffed the reconciliation committee. Although, he admitted that the major quarrel between them is on the decision by the party to participate in the GNU but to him it was done in the best interest of the country.
But since the issue had created a wound that has refused to be healed, the party had no option than to raise a reconciliatory team headed by Alhaji Bashir Tofa. The team had on several occasions approached Buhari but he had consistently refused to give them audience, “Buhari is a great member of our party, we love him, but he must be a loyal party member. We will never expel anybody, if he does not like what we are doing, let him walk away. No man is greater than his party, no matter how great he or she is,” noted Ume-Ezeoke.

Political pundits, who spoke with this magazine said the development in ANPP may have a far-reaching negative consequence. The National Publicity Secretary, Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, Mr. Osita Okechukwu told Newsworld that the action of the leadership of ANPP is a betrayal of the trust Nigerians place on them. And that it is the beginning of the end of democracy because what it shows is that there is no democracy yet in Nigeria. He disclosed that as a result of the crises, many strong members of ANPP had left the party. For instance, Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu has left the party with his massive number of followers. According to Osita, “In a nutshell, Ume-Ezeoke and his cohort betrayed Gen. Buhari, ANPP as a party and the Nigerian democracy because anybody, who is working towards what PDP wants, that is a one party state is not a friend to the Nigerian people because a one-party state cannot be approximated in any term to be called a democracy”.

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