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PEPT’s judgment resets APC

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From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

The President Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) judgment last week in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, President Bola Tinubu, has provided the much-desired healing balm and the reprieve desperately desired in the party.

Before the PEPT verdict, APC was practically a house of commotion and an embodiment of hostile warlords fighting several endless leadership battles on many fronts.

Several crises threatened to cripple the ruling party, including the attacks from some party members in the North Central geopolitical zone still nursing the injury inflicted on them by the party’s leaders that short-changed them with the position of the National Chairman.

Also being managed before the tribunal judgment was the furiously aggrieved gladiators protesting and determined to stop the inauguration of the six newly appointed members of the National Working Committee (NWC) that grounded activities at the headquarters for almost 42 hours a fortnight ago.

Led by the resolute and battle-ready governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, and hundreds of protesters from the Cross River state chapter of the party, both camps, wounded over the nominees for the positions of Deputy National Publicity Secretary and National Women Leader, displayed ugly incidents that left a sour taste in the mouth of many political watchers and members of the party.

And when the ruling party was still struggling to recover from the fallout of those nasty incidents involving the new members of the NWC, the mistaken or deliberate inclusion of former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike in the list of the National Campaign Council for Bayelsa State governorship election, further unsettled the peace of the ruling party.

In fact, the PEPT judgment actually provided the needed reprieve for the troubled party still labouring to manage the fallout of the cold war between members of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) and the presidency over who should rightly control the structure and activities of the party.

It was equally a relieving judgment that came at the right time for a party sitting on a time bomb of uncertainty from aggrieved members protesting the religious insensitivity in the organogram of the three leadership echelon of the party comprising the National chairman, National Secretary, and the Deputy National chairman, all of the same Muslim faith.

Beyond these crises within the party, the national chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, had continued to frantically battle for legitimacy using the endless number of dignitaries paying courtesy visits on him to shore up his image, acceptability, and legitimacy.

The party boss, apparently fighting on so many fronts, was equally intensifying and escalating the physical and cold war with his former boss, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and on the home front in Kano with the governor of his state, Abba Kabir, over the execution of certain projects.

With all these rumblings heightening the tension in the governing party, many pundits believed that the PEPT judgment would not have come at a better time than last week to cushion and calm the raging storm and restore at least a semblance of peace of a graveyard in the hitherto troubled party.

In fact, to underscore the validity, veracity, and importance of the judgment to the ruling party, activities at its national secretariat were practically shut down as all the party’s political eggheads, chieftains and members of the national leadership had emptied into the courtroom during the legal proceedings that lasted for more than 13 hours.

From Vice President, Kashim Shettima, Ministers, all NWC members prominently led by the party’s boss, Ganduje, chieftains, and leaders to the governors, the courtroom was actually the meeting point and gathering of who is who in the ruling party.

As minutes rolled into hours, many of them were completely fagged, and stressed out to the point of dosing off after spending that long hours but they were left with no other option than to endure the 13-hour wait. Their endurance was a worthwhile one that every loyal party leader and chieftain was happy to religiously abide by and identify with.

While many applauded the verdict as a legal victory to calm the frayed nerves of certain aggrieved persons, some party members saw it as a pyrrhic victory obtained through suspicious circumstances at the expense of the party.

Congratulatory visits and advertorial messages that came in torrents to the leadership of the party, including the courtesy visits by the forum of state secretaries of the party and all other manners of group associations were equally a bold attestation that temporal peace is gradually returning to the party.

Reacting to the positive impact the verdict conferred on the party, a leader confirmed in a chat with Daily Sun that it really averted an unimaginable impending implosion in the party should the verdict have gone the other way round.

The leader said: “Yes, we still have the option of heading to the Supreme Court to remedy whatever judgment if it had gone against our candidate. But, it would have sent a wrong and negative signal that might further widen the cracks in our party.

“Struggling to manage one crisis after the other ever since we won the election, any judgment on the contrary would have amplified the tension in our party. We all know that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not live up to the expectations of many Nigerians but for the presidential tribunal to confirm the anger of Nigerians in refusing to endorse the result by the commission would have affected our party negatively.

“You may not know what the favourable judgment did to our party ahead of the three off-season governorship elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states. It goes a long way to confirm that our chances of winning the states are still very bright. No matter the angle you look at it, many would interpret the judgment as an endorsement of rigging and a signal to the governors that election manipulation is still possible despite the much-touted deployment of technology.

“The tribunal has also endorsed that the much-acclaimed reliance on Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing (IReV) Portal are of no consequence and that it can be circumvented despite the huge amount of money spent on the technology and the promises the commission repeatedly made to Nigerians.

“Be sure that we are going to see worst cases of electoral fraud during the off-season governorship elections. Just watch out for the dimension the manipulations of the governorship elections will take because the tribunal verdict has emboldened them.

“The verdict was a tactically manipulated legal exercise but since my party is the beneficiary I can only talk in secret for security reasons and fear of victimisation,” the party leader noted on condition of anonymity.

To further confirm that the judgment provided the soothing balm of Gilead to the party, several celebratory events were activated ahead and after the judgment, including a planned get-together with a venue already set up to be held inside the secretariat compound.

Press statements, equally prepared ahead of the court pronouncement, were issued after the ruling. Sponsored pro-Tinubu protesters boldly and illegally occupied strategic Federal Secretariat roads under the protection of several gun-wielding security and paramilitary agencies.

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Although they were not too enthusiastic about joining the celebration party, many of the secretariat staff were in a jubilant mood understandably for the favourable judgment which will ensure that the party headquarters continues to bubble.

The verdict, according to many observers, sincerely provided the much-desired relief and life-changing experience to redirect the fortune of the party, its staff, and teeming members.

In the press statement he personally signed, Ganduje, former governor of Kano state, admittedly heaved a sigh of relief and thanked the teeming APC supporters for standing solidly by the party through thick and thin.

Apparently trying to avoid overheating the polity, the APC boss had pleaded with the opposition parties to accept the outcome of the tribunal verdict in good faith as it was in tandem with the tenets of democracy and the rule of law.

“The judgment attests to the fact that the rule of law would always reign supreme, and our hard-earned democracy would further continue to blossom beyond limits.

“For the opposition, I urge you to accept the verdict of the tribunal. There would always be another round of elections where you can test your popularity and acceptability from the electorates. Once more, I congratulate President Tinubu, our teeming supporters who stood by the party through thick and thin.”

The party, in its official post-judgment press conference spearheaded by the National Secretary, Ajibola Basiru, also commended party members for their resilience. He noted that; “as we soldier on in the business of governance, the APC will stay focused and resolute in fostering unity and improving the quality of life of all Nigerians as enshrined in the eight-point agenda of this administration.”

But beyond the verdict bringing succour to the confines of the party’s headquarters and to its leadership, the judgment would not have come at the right time to the party than a few months ahead of the three off-season governorship elections in states.

If for no other thing, according to political watchers, it has not only brightened the chances of the party in the states with off-season governorship elections but has also emboldened and conferred some edges on them above other political parties.

To them, with the party still in control of the government at the centre, victory during the election will almost be guaranteed. Little wonder the governors and state leaders of the party abandoned their state functions and other activities and sat conspicuously in the courtroom throughout the long hours the judgment lasted.

They are sure that victory for the party at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal will equally translate into a glimmer of hope for victory in their states during the election.

Already boasting during the inauguration of Kogi Governorship Campaign Council, Governor Bello said: “This election is a landslide victory. Nobody tries GYB with violence and goes scot-free. Go out and cast your vote. This election shall be a landslide victory for our party.”

On his part, his Imo state counterpart, Uzodinma may have assured of a non-violent victory, however only time will tell if he will leave up to the promises he gave.

His words: “We don’t need to employ tactics, subterfuge, propaganda, and deceitful politics to achieve re-election. That belongs to the opposition who have nothing concrete to say.”

But for the former National Secretary of the party, Waziri Bulama, the ruling party may have won the battle but not yet entirely the war, considering similar litigations at the tribunal going on in several states for governorship, National and State Assembly elections.

“There is no doubt that there will be calm in the party for now after the verdict. It is expected because any contrary judgment would have destabilised the peace which was gradually returning to the party.

“However, we should not also forget that there are many other pending verdicts coming up in the states. We still await the rulings for governorship and national and State Assemblies this week and next.

“And curiously, the way elections were managed across the states of the federation, South East, South South, South West and the entire zones in the North, there is every possibility that some of the governors and legislators might lose their positions.

“Electoral system has improved and there is no longer a guarantee to the governors that their seats are secured. Anybody can lose an election anytime and anywhere especially now that votes are counted and results transmitted in real-time through the applications of technology. They have little or no interference even with their financial powers. Elections have changed,” he noted.

But for those still living in self-delusion thatan everlasting peace has returned to the party, hear the views of Dr George Moghalu, former National Auditor of the party.

“The high turnover of the party’s chairmen goes to show that it is a human organisation where interests will certainly clash because there are developments that may require a change in the way we are.

“Party members are not carvings or fixed at a particular position, and that might have been what happened on the issue of the turnover of chairmen of APC,” Moghalu, the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) told Daily Sun.

On the expected implosion of the party due to religious insensitivity, Moghalu argued that; “the party is sensitive, but it is not about the sensitivity of the party now. When the party fielded Muslim-Muslim ticket for the presidential election, Nigerians ignored that to choose competence, and capacity to deliver. Yes, a Muslim-Muslim ticket was presented but it did not override the other benefits.

“The party’s choice of same faith organogram in the leadership was circumstantial. In the case of the chairman, naturally and for political expediency, once the presidency is from the South, the party chairman has to come from the North.

“Truth be told, we have more Muslims than Christians in the North, just as we have more Christians in the South than in the North. I wouldn’t be surprised that the person who emerged from the North is a Muslim.”

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