Submission by Dr Philip Idaewor: 20.2.2020
In interrogating the challenges facing the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress, APC, we will need to go through a process of looking at the leaders who providence gave the mantle of being the chairpersons of the first envisioned truly welfarist and social democratic party with a truly national spread in Nigeria’s political history. This is important in order for all party members to see how they may have contributed to the distortion of a patriotic vision for Nigeria with the looming possible implosion of this great achievement in national political engineering and the implications that hold for Nigeria.
In this my contribution to the debate I will focus my assessment on the place of our President who gained ascendancy to the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of our party, the APC.
Mr President: Those who insist that the Mr President’s relationship with the party has a lot to do with where our party is are right in my view. I agree with their conclusions, that Mr President not carrying party members with him into government has had a deleterious impact on the party and the country. But from the very beginning, Mr President did not hide his preference for the party to govern herself whilst he focused on governing the country. The challenge in my view remained to find that balance that brings the moral authority of the President who ultimately is the leader of the party in our form of government to bear on how the party is managed and matures. Our party is still relatively young – Don’t forget APC is only about 5 years old as a political party. The refusal and/or failure of Mr President to step in once it was clear that the party was stuttering is where I hold him accountable for our troubles as a political party. Also, I do not think that a President in our chosen form of government can divorce him/herself from his party and party members, and expect all to go well especially in an evolving democracy such as ours. Sustainable development of a political party include bringing your party members into government and ensuring they constitute the majority of your government leadership across all the MDAs, and in a young party like ours, through a deliberate policy of interactive sessions to encourage, nurture hope and for someone like Mr President impart what I call the integrity quotient and character as part of his legacy gift to the party and country.
Office of the National Chairman: Capacity, strength and character of our party chairmen – past and present.
Our party’s constitution gives a lot of powers to the national chairman. In my view this is good and I believe that the framers of our party’s constitution were mindful of historical precedents. I will give my opinion on our national chairmen; past and present.
Chief Bisi Akande: Our first chairman – Chief Bisi Akande for me epitomises the definition of a truely effective, incorruptible and egalitarian party leader. Baba’s background probably has something to do with it; trained and rose to experienced managerial level in the private sector, he was also very actively involved in his community politics. Starting out as a councillor, he became deputy governor and later governor at different times in Nigeria’s political history. How many times does anyone recall Baba talking or answering to all the abuses thrown at his person during the AD days? With all the virtually weekly newspaper name-calling by the Chief Akinfenwa’s faction of the AD, you never heard him engaging himself with them in public. Baba was totally focused on his job/assignment. And like a master builder, he grew the party through AC, to ACN and successfully led the party to merge with other progressive orientated parties to form the APC. He became our first Chairman, albeit as the interim chairman of our party. Baba has no overloaded ego, it doesn’t matter your station in the party, if you had an appointment with the old man, you will get full attention. For me, he is the political party leader per excellence! Not easily perturbed, respectful of all, disciplined, incorruptible and ideologically driven.
Chief John Odigie-Oyegun: Our second Chairman, but first elected national chairman. A trained economist and in the best and finest traditions of Nigeria’s civil service. Retired permanent secretary, former state governor, Deputy National Chairman of a Nigerian political party, former Vice Presidential candidate on the platform of the ANPP and former Secretary of NADECO Abroad. Like Baba Akande, not given to verbosity, thoroughly respectful of all regardless of the age difference. An attentive leader who makes you comfortable in his presence. In my view, his weakness and ultimately his undoing was his hard-nosed insistence on the evidence-based decision-making process, his self-respect/pride to protect the sanctity of the office of the national chairman of the party by not “begging” for access and the fact he is not from the Tripod of Nigeria’s national political equation. Some murmuring of his actions with regard to the party’s decisions regarding Kogi and Ondo elections became the albatross for money changing hand allegations against him. On the whole, he ensured that our party’s national secretariat was upgraded, functional and was a constant beehive of activities.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole: Our current national chairman. A veteran of the Labour union movement and successful former state governor. Trained in the art of negotiations in disputes and a hero in the eyes of the Nigerian worker. Clearly streetwise in the wisdom and art of confrontational politics, I suspect that comrade’s Oshiomhole ascension to the office of the national chairman of the party was meant to provide the strong and radical leadership for our party to claim all grounds of being the party in power and government. Our party has however suffered an unending haemorrhage of goodwill both among party members and Nigerians. His first major job as party chairman since coming into office was his superintending of the party’s 2019 elections project which has been a nearly unmitigated disaster in view of the many negative outcomes across the country.
Considering Comrade Oshiomhole’s background as a radical leftist Labour leader, and the current state of Nigeria’s politics at all levels, he was considered uniquely endowed and placed to mobilise our party members for the ultimate push to help President Buhari’s government find the mojo for a truly unstoppable march to Nigeria’s resolution of our political contradictions and finally attain the reality of the much mouthed “giant of Africa” status.
Instead of the above, the party has suffered from unending conflicts at all levels resulting from poorly handled institutional conflict resolution mechanisms. At the heart of these fundamentally are the following: In my view, Comrade Oshiomhole’s main undermining weakness is his lack of respect for party members and institutions of the party, he appears to possess a peculiar serpentine and Machiavellian attitude to personal and political relationships. In a political environment such as we have in Nigeria; a particularly toxic display of abuse of official status and political power, it was/is inevitable that personal animosities leading to the present cesspool of instability within our party will arise with such attitude.
However, even at this seeming late stage, our honourable national chairman can still reclaim the honours and aura in the exalted office of the national chairman and bring sanity, stability, renewed hope and energy back in our party. But he must accept help, must reach out to key players and be willing to learn a thing or two from our former national chairmen; these two distinguished leaders hold the keys to helping him and our party regain balance. They are calm, respected and possess encyclopaedic knowledge and wisdom of the slippery terrain of our politics.
All views are the personal opinion of the author and apologise for any mischaracterisation.
Dr Philip Idaewor is the current chairman APC UK Chapter. He was a founding member of AD Edo state, a long-standing member of the late chief Enahoro founded Movement for National Reformation, chairing its European branch with active participation in all her pro-democracy involvement in the past and he is the founding chairman of PRONACO Europe.
*He is committed to seeing APC become a fully operationalised centre left, welfarist/social democratic party at the heart of driving a pro-Nigeria and people-centred agenda for National reconciliation, national reconstruction and the patriotic reawakening of Nigerians. This remains his lasting desire.