For the second time in one year, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, stirred the hornet’s nest when he spoke against perceived ills in the party.
Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa, examines the antics of the non conformist spokesman and the emerging cracks in the ruling party.
ON Friday, Comrade Timi Frank, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), hit the bull’s eye with a story that was not too palatable to his party. He is supposed to be the Acting National spokesman of the party following the departure of the pioneer spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. But his position on Friday was clearly against the grain of established opinion in the party. Frank had toed the same line in May during the build up to the election of principal officers of the National Assembly. His party had adopted a zoning formula at the last minute, in a plot aimed at scheming out the likes of Senator Bukola Saraki and Honourable Yakubu Dogara from the race for presiding officers. Frank deviated from the position of his party and objected to the outcome of the primaries conducted at that time.
Perhaps, such an antecedent had cast Frank in the mould of an outsider within the party and when it was time for him to take over the job of spokesman of the APC, even in acting capacity, the structures of the party schemed him out. Rather than allow him to take over the structures left by Lai Mohammed, the APC appointed an administrative officer in charge of the media, while empowering the national chairman and National Secretary as accredited spokesmen. Last week, Frank jolted the generality of APC followers, when he issued a statement chastising the APC for keeping silent in the face of alleged persecution of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in relation to his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). In the statement, he accused the APC of “rewarding good with evil” by refusing to speak on the trial of the Senate President at the CCT. The statement read: “I sincerely hold that the current trial of Saraki is not only underserved, but amounts to paying a good man with evil. I also want to say that the leaders of our great party have unfortunately remained quiet in the face of evil. I don’t believe we have forgotten that the victory of the APC during the last general elections could not have been possible without courageous strategists like Saraki who lent their political weight in favour of the APC at the risk of their own lives send personal survival.
“I don’t think we have forgotten how Saraki as a senator in the 7th Senate brought the attention of Nigerians to the fraud allegedly perpetrated by the last administration in the name of fuel subsidy. I don’t think we have forgotten so soon how Saraki led five other governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into the APC – a development that successfully turned the political tide against the PDP and eventually tipped the electoral scale against them during the 2015 general elections. I don’t think we have forgotten how Saraki led scores of senators to cross over to the APC on the floor of the Senate.
“I don’t think we have also forgotten what he gave of his time, personal resources and energy to ensure that the APC emerged victorious both at the National, State and Local Government level. The question is: Why is the case of Saraki being treated differently at the CCT than it was in 2011, when this same tribunal struck out the case against one of our national leaders because he was not given the opportunity to deny or admit the alleged discrepancies in his asset declaration forms in line with Section 3(d) of the CCB/CCT Act? Why is this case unlike the 11 other ex-governors who had similar cases of irregularities thus, the charges were subsequently dropped by the CCB after they were invited by the agency?
“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 3(d) of the CCB/CCT Act which has been so undermined by the CCT in its Thursday ruling states that the CCB shall: “Receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau (not the AGF or EFCC) considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by Section 20 of this Act in accordance with the provisions of Sections 20 to 25 of this Act: provided that where the concerned makes a written admission of such breach or non-compliance, no reference to the Tribunal shall be necessary.
“It is pertinent to mention that when this section of the Act was pleaded in the defence of one of the leaders of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011, the same Justice Danladi Umar struck out the case for lack of jurisdiction to entertain the suit when he ruled that that “…On Section 3(d), I feel compelled by the argument of the learned SAN for the accused. It is a condition precedent for referring a charge to this Tribunal that the Accused ought to have been invited to either deny or admit the allegations against him. This is missing in this case as the Complainant has no such evidence of a prior invitation. It would be proper for me at this stage to simply decline further exercise of jurisdiction having held that the co diction precedent to the instituting of charges against the Accused has not been complied with. I hereby resolve this issue in favour of the Accused…”
He added: “It is based on the above precedent that I want to ask why Saraki’s case is different? Why is the judiciary suddenly giving in to apparent blackmail from a section of the media by refusing to do their job as required by law? Already, the Senate President has told the world that the trial has nothing to do with corruption but that he is being persecuted for emerging as the Senate President. To me, the ominous silence of our leaders since the day he was arraigned uphill now serves to validate the claims of the Senate President that he is being persecuted. Or where else in the world will the number three citizen of a country be hulled before a tribunal over alleged irregularities in his asset declaration forms 13 years ago, and the hierarchy of the ruling to which he is a bonafide member will not come out to show solidarity or defend him?
“If it is true that the trial of the Senate President is not borne out of genuine desire to fight corruption but is being carried out for selfish political ends, then who is next? I think the party need to be courageous enough to speak out against this unwholesome trend whose outcome will definitely not augur well for the overall development of our party and by extension the country at this hour.
“Saraki paid his dues at a time it was suicidal for anybody to stand up against to the then ruling PDP. I believe it is time for all of us to act to save our party. It is time to rally round our generals who have fought valiantly and led us to victory. To abandon Saraki is to abandon a worthy comrade.”
Though the APC hierarchy has not directly reacted to Frank’s statement, the outburst of the spokesman is clearly a sign of the times for the ruling party, as some analysts are already linking the development to the emerging gulf in the ranks of the APC. Some observers say that Frank’s “marginalisation” in the structure of the ruling party might have influenced his non conformist outlook, but also added that the frustrations he has twice expressed are deeper than his personal standing. Some who have analysed the Saraki scenario as purely a political issue have accused the APC of practically taking vengeance further than death. Some Senators for instance have said that Saraki had, since emerging as Senate President against the wish of the APC, bent over backwards to accommodate the party.
Though he refused to announce the list containing the anointed Majority Leaders of the APC, he had since helped the President to clear all his ministerial nominees, refused to raise eyebrows about the president’s decision to name appointees into positions before Senate confirmation, and assisted in managing the budget 2016 debacle. Those who believed that Saraki has paid his dues believed that his conduct and mien so far should have confirmed to the party that the man was willing to work with them. Thus, they see the continued trial at the CCT as a form of persecution.
Beside the political coloration of the trial, the situation in the party also provides a launch pad for the outbursts of Frank. Many have said that the man has not been allowed space in the running of the party because he belongs to the camp of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, which is well disposed to Senate President Bukola Saraki. The Atiku camp is one of the camps contending for control of the APC alongside other legacy parties, including the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). It is believed that stakeholders in the main legacy parties (ACN, CPC and ANPP) are of the view that yielding the position of spokesman to a non-core legacy structure like that of Atiku could lead to a situation where the control of the levers of the party would slip off their grip.