from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – THE internal strife plaguing the country’s main parties, including the opposition simultaneously united and divided by a court showdown over the allegedly rigged general elections, adds a new dimension to the edgy political atmosphere in Nigeria.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and most recently, the Labour Party (LP), are all beset by infighting over different issues, some which reflect the decades-long saga of ethnicism hijacking of politics in Africa’s biggest country by population.
Factionalism is a new phenomenon in the LP but is not anything new in the APC and the PDP, a ruling party from the advent of democracy in 1999 to 2015.
Only in February, LP performed admirably in the presidential election, with its candidate, Peter Obi, coming third in the poll, whose outcome he is contesting in court, citing irregularities and vote rigging. PDP is also challenging the results.
The New Nigeria People’s Party, led by former PDP governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, also rejected the outcome but did not challenge it in court.
A majority in the West African country’s estimated population of 220 million people are youth. Obi’s election campaign resonated with the younger voters, who constitute most of his following, dubbed The Obidients.
But obedience is anonymous with LP lately. It has been degenerated into turmoil in recent days amid factional fights, which are playing out in court.
The party has been torn into different camps, majorly the one led by chairman, Julius Abure, who the other faction led by his deputy, Lamidi Bashir Apapa, considers sacked by the party.
Obi is in the Abure camp, which has also suspended the Apapa faction.
The May 29 presidential election is presently the source of divisions.
The Apapa camp is accused of working against the presidential ambition of Obi.
They are accused of a plot to withdraw the cases filed by some LP candidates in the election tribunals.
While former PDP governor, Obi, is challenging the swearing in of Tinubu, the Apapa faction is against the Obi stance and his reported calls for an interim government to resolve the nation’s political crisis.
The faction argues the failure to swear in Tinubu, to succeed Muhamadu Buhari, would create a power vacuum.
APC, whose candidate Bla Tinubu was announced the winner of the presidential poll, is allegedly behind the infighting in the LP. The ruling party has denied infiltrating the smaller party and subsequent skirmishes.
State security personnel are also accused of siding with the Apapa faction who invaded the party’s headquarters in the capital, Abuja.
The faction is accused of attacking the property, pulling down the fences, burglaries, doors and windows to have access.
Workers and party members were sacked.
Files were allegedly taken and bottles of wine and other gifts reportedly cart away.
“In fact, they stripped the office bare,” Obiora Ifoh, LP Acting National Publicity Secretary, stated.
The Apapa faction has filed a court challenge accusing Abure of forging court documents, which the party allegedly used to sideline candidates in the general elections. Thus, the party has struggled to heal from the fissures caused by its primary elections.
The High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FTC) is handling the matter and has ordered Abure to restrain from parading himself as the chairman.
LP has appealed the ruling.
The Conference Of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), the umbrella of all parties in the country has weighed in and called on the warring factions in the ongoing leadership crisis to “find common ground and sustain its new position as a third force in the current national politics.”
“There is nothing unusual about a political party having a leadership tussle or any form of disagreement but its ability to close ranks and make compromises in the interest of the party is paramount,” Willy Ezugwu, CNPP Secretary General, said.
“If Labour Party leaders allow external forces to control its internal affairs, the party will be the loser, especially with its newfound love with the majority of the Nigerian youth population,” Ezugwu said.
He noted that in the buildup to the 2023 general elections, the PDP experienced such internal crisis, which eventually affected its outcome in the last general elections very negatively.
A faction of the PDP was against the emergence of former Nigeria Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as the presidential candidate, arguing the candidature ought to go to an individual from the largely Christian South.
Abubakar is from the Muslim North.
The PDP is struggling to regain unity.
APC is currently entangled in its own clash of interests over what certain interests in the party see as arbitrary micro-zoning of elective positions in the 10th National Assembly to individuals.
In the zoning arrangement, said to have been approved by president-elect Tinubu, the South-south geo-political zone is to provide the senate president. The deputy is to come from the North-west.
The North-west is to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The South-east is to provide the deputy speaker.
Critics within the party argue the arrangement favours the North-west while the North-central would not have an official in leadership, despite its loyalty to the ruling party.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, which constitutes the Presidential Elections Tribunal, continues proceedings to hear the challenges brought against the declaration of Tinubu as the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The factionalism afflicting the parties is thus a sideshow.
This week, the United States announced it had taken steps to impose visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process during Nigeria’s 2023 elections cycle.
It did not disclose the identity of the individuals but accused them of involvement in intimidation of voters through threats and physical violence, the manipulation of vote results and “other activity that undermines Nigeria’s democratic process.”
“The decision to take steps to impose visa restrictions reflects the continued commitment of the United States to support Nigerian aspirations to strengthen democracy and the rule of law,” said Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State in a release made available to CAJ News.
– CAJ News