Internal crises rock political parties after general elections

MAJOR opposition political parties in Nigeria are experiencing internal crises  following the conclusion of the 2023 general elections.

The two major opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP) are facing crises characterised by leadership tussles, suspensions, expulsions and court cases.

The crisis in the PDP has its root in the outcome of the party’s presidential primary election, where Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, lost to the former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar. After the primary, Atiku picked Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election, against the recommendation of a committee chaired by Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, which reportedly recommended Wike as the PDP vice presidential candidate. The Rivers governor would later lead four other PDP governors to demand the resignation of the party’s chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, as one of the conditions for backing Atiku’s presidential ambition.

All efforts to resolve the crisis, including the resignation of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Walid Jibrin, were rebuffed by the G5 governors.

Just before the elections, the party moved to suspend some members believed to be loyal to former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, who is also Wike’s ally, for anti-party activities in Ekiti. The party also suspended a former Enugu State governor, Chimaraoke Nnamani, who was openly working for APC presidential candidate Bola Tinubu.

Wike failed to support Atiku during the general elections and, instead, worked for Tinubu, who was declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the presidential poll. But Wike did not stop asking for Ayu’s resignation even after the general elections.

Following the conclusion of the general elections, the PDP leadership moved to suspend Fayose. The Ayu-led PDP leadership also directed Ortom to face a disciplinary committee. The Benue governor swore that he will not appear before the panel.

The crisis took a new dimension when, in a move that appeared similar to circumstances surrounding the removal of former PDP national chairman Uche Secondus, Ayu was suspended by his ward for anti-party activities. Ayu was ordered by Justice W. I. Kpochi of the Benue State High Court to stop parading himself as the party’s chairman.

In the meantime, the Deputy National Chairman (North), Ambassador Umar Damagum, is the acting national chairman of the party, following Ayu’s removal by the National Working Committee (NWC) in compliance with the court ruling.

The Labour Party (LP) is also facing a similar crisis. The crisis started after the general election when the party’s national chairman, Julius Abure, was suspended by his ward in Edo State for anti-party activities. Although the party’s leadership dismissed the suspension, Abure and Farouk Ibrahim, were ordered by an Abuja Federal High Court to stop parading themselves as the party’s chairman and secretary, respectively.

The court also stopped the party’s National Organising Secretary, Clement Ojukwu, and the Treasurer, Oluchi Opara, from parading themselves as the party’s national officers.

The court, presided by Justice Hamza Muazu, ruled the the officials should remain suspended, pending the hearing and determination of a suit challenging their continued stay in office over allegations of corruption brought against them. The court also revised the suspension of some national officers that had been previously suspended due to alleged anti-party activities by the Abure-led party leadership.

Following the court order, the party’s South-West chairman, Lamidi Apapa, announced himself as the acting national chairman of the party. He also announced Saleh Lawan is the acting national secretary.

However, the crisis took another turn on Wednesday, April 12, when some state chairmen of the party clashed with the Lamidi Apapa-led faction. In the wake of the development, the LP state chairmen in the 36 states disowned Apapa and threw their weight behind Abure as the party’s leader.

Speaking to journalists, Kehinde Rotimi, state chairman of LP in Kwara State, narrated what transpired during the clash with the Apapa-led faction at the party secretariat. Rotimi said trouble started when the state chairmen arrived for a meeting but were locked out of the secretariat.

“We have been here for quite some days now for screening of some of our gubernatorial candidates for the forthcoming election in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states. We were at the screening, yesterday, when we learnt that some people brought themselves to this office to do screening for candidates, when we heard that, we said that that is an aberration because they do not have the locus standi to do that.

“I am a member of the screening committee where we screened so many candidates yesterday, so I do not know how they manipulated one or two candidates to come here yesterday and impersonated some of the candidates. So that’s why we came here. On getting to our secretariat, we wanted to hold a meeting and we discovered it was under lock and key.

“So we met some DSS men and some vigilantes groups, some thugs and miscreants and they said they asked them to lock the secretariat. So in the course of discussing, the legal committee led by Apapa came around and were trying to engage us, and their thugs were almost attacking us and we resisted every temptation to cause commotion and crisis because we know the case is in court.

“Anything in court you don’t discuss it and we don’t want to commit contempt of court and that’s why we now said okay, what do we do? Let’s stay here. So they could not enter, we too, could not enter.”

Although the APC has denied interference in the party’s crisis, the LP believes that its ongoing ordeal is part of several plots by the ruling party to frustrate its petition at the Presidential Election Tribunal (PET), where it’s presidential candidate Peter Obi is challenging the outcome of the February 25 election.

Crises could jeopardise election petitions — Political analysts 

Political analysts believe that if the ongoing crises within the main opposition parties are not resolved, they could jeopardise their chances at the tribunals.

A professor of Political Science at the Federal University Oye Ekiti, (FUOYE), Shola Omotola, blamed the crises in the two main opposition parties on lack of internal democracy and discipline.

In an interview with The ICIR, Omotola said that the crisis could lead to a loss of support from their their supporters, who may see the parties as unstable and lacking in direction if the controversies are not quickly managed.

He noted that the ongoing crises could tarnish the image of the parties, as it could lead to negative media coverage and portray them as lacking in discipline and leadership.

He said that this could impact the parties’ ability to attract new members and supporters, and also focus on the various elections petitions.

“The leadership of the parties must be proactive in addressing the crisis. They must listen to the grievances of all parties involved and seek to find common ground,” he said.

“The party must promote internal democracy, where every member has an equal opportunity to contribute to the party’s growth and development. The parties need to promote democratic processes that promote fairness and transparency in the selection of candidates and party officials, avoiding the imposition of candidates or the use of violence.






     

     

    “They need to enforce discipline within their ranks, promoting a culture of accountability and punishing members who act against the party’s interest.”

    Omotola believe that the two parties need strong and decisive leaderships that can take charge of the situation and unify all interest groups.

    Similarly, Rotimi Fashakin, a political analyst in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, believes that the solution to the crises lies in the promotion of democratic principles within the party.

    According to him, “The party must promote democratic processes, including free and fair primaries, to select candidates for elections. This will promote inclusivity and ensure that every member has a stake in the party’s success.”

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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