The All Progressives Congress should address the growing disaffection among its members instead of attacking the Peoples Democratic Party, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Since the advent of the All Progressives Congress (APC) national leadership under President Muhammadu Buhari, the government has had relative peace because the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was unable to give the government the kind of fight it got from the APC while it was in opposition.
The reasons are not far-fetched. While most PDP members who held one public office or the other in the last administration are facing corruption allegations and charges, the leadership crisis that engulfed the party also held the party back.
After the resolution of the leadership crisis, well-meaning Nigerians have been calling on the former ruling party to get its acts together and fill the vacuum it created by effectively putting the APC on its toes, particularly with meaningful criticisms and well researched suggestions on better ways of doing things.
Within six months, the caretaker committee put in place by the leadership of the party was able to stabilise the party. The party was able to cap it up with the elective convention held in Abuja on Saturday August 9th, 2017
From the words of former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and other PDP loyalists, the successful conduct of the convention was a step in the right direction for the party to relaunch itselt in national politics.
After the convention, Jonathan said: “I reiterate that the only way to prove that this is victory for the PDP and all our members is for the new leaders to be magnanimous and aim to carry everybody along, for we cannot achieve our mission and aspirations unless we unite as a family.
“To the rest of us, let us make sacrifices, put our differences behind us and accept this as a new dawn that will take our party to greater height.”
In his acceptance speech which was mainly centred on returning the PDP to power at the federal level come 2019, Uche Secondus, the new national chairman of the party acknowledged that the mandate given him and his team is to return the PDP to power come 2019.
“As herculean as this mandate seems, I know it’s achievable. My campaign pillars for this election are to rebuild, reposition and regain. Let me assure you great members and leaders of our party, that by the grace of God and with all hands on deck, the brief tenancy of the APC in Aso Rock Villa expires on May 28, 2019. By this, we serve them a quit notice,” he said.
Rather than congratulate the PDP for holding a successful convention, the APC chose to throw jibes at the party. The party condemned the PDP national convention and tagged it as a ruse.
Here is a party that has not been able to muster the courage to hold it national convention as it shifted its mid term non-elective convention, three times in 2017 alone. This has left many of the party loyalists dissatisfied with the leadership.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, apparently making jest of the opposition PDP after its convention, said the PDP had not departed from its evil ways, especially due to its constant resort to using money to sway electoral support.
“In reacting to revelations of how money-for-votes and systematic rigging was brazenly perpetuated during the National Convention of the PDP, the APC is mindful of the popular axiom: A leopard cannot change its spot”, Abdullahi said.
He said further that “The abnormalities that trailed the PDP national convention have further exposed the PDP as a party not ready and willing to change. Indeed, the PDP has once again displayed itself to the generality of Nigerians that it is a party with corruption deeply rooted in its DNA”.
Playing up the sentiment of one of the contestant for the PDP chairmanship, Chief Olabode George, Abdulahi said: “Again, it is tragic that the PDP which used to pride itself as ‘the biggest political Party in Africa’ has now been reduced to a regional party. By frustrating South-west chairmanship candidates, it is unfortunate that the PDP has decided to punish the South-west for not voting for the party in 2015.
“We urge members of the PDP that can pass the integrity test to join the APC so that we can together bring about the much-needed Change the country deserves.”
Firing back at the APC and describing the vituperative statement by Abdulahi as unwarranted attack, the newly elected PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan drew inference from how the ruling party had flagrantly flouted the provisions of its constitution as regards the conduct of national convention.
“Perhaps, APC leaders have never read Article 25 (A)(i) of their party’s constitution which stipulates that ‘the national convention of the party shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee (NWC) and approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC), subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and at least 14 days notice given to members eligible to attend.’
“What impunity could be higher than APC violating its constitution? It is strange that APC can be moralising on the principles of social justice, whereas its actions against Nigerians are a complete departure from the norm,” Ologbodiyan noted.
He said the successful conduct of the PDP national convention had sent jitters down the spine of the ruling party because the PDP had succeeded in uniting on all fronts by conducting a very credible elective convention.
“It is laughable that the APC which has roundly failed in not only managing the affairs of the country but also its own internal issues, would recourse to panic mode just because the PDP has succeeded in uniting its fronts by conducting a very credible elective national convention.
“We were very much aware of the plot by the APC to scuttle the convention and failing in that, it has resorted to a failed attempt to discredit an elective convention that has been adjudged as credible, novel and laudable by political stakeholders and lovers of democracy across the nation.
“Is it not disgusting, reprehensible and embarrassing that the APC that has repeatedly failed to hold meetings, congresses and a convention in the last three years and has flagrantly continued to violate its own constitution is questioning our party’s right to perform her legitimate and constitutional obligation?” he added.
For a fact, a lot of APC supporters, well-wishers and observers have waited endlessly for the party to conduct its mid-term elective national convention. The unofficial reason for the continued shifting of the date has been that the subtle disunity among the major power blocks in the party will escalate into major crisis when the convention holds.
Since its maiden convention in 2014, the APC has not held another one. It had shifted its convention three times in 2017 alone, having initially slated the exercise for April, then August, later November and now till next year.
Now that the PDP has put its house in order, many expect the party to begin to play its role as an opposition party. Similarly, the APC must be prepared to do what is right and be mature enough to accept criticisms in good faith.
Importantly, it is expected that in their many exchanges as will be seen in the days ahead, both parties will show maturity, civility, keen understanding of issues as well as set good examples in their bid to outdo each other.
That much was acknowledged by the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun when he challenged the newly elected PDP National Chairman to ensure a balance between partisan and national interests as he called for robust engagement with the party.
If the PDP will get over the acrimony that trailed the convention by genuinely pacifying aggrieved members, it may live up to the expectation of Nigerians who have urged it to fill the opposition gap.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had noted in October that Nigeria needed a strong ruling and opposition parties for democracy to thrive in the country. His position came less than a week after former Head of State; General Abdulsalami Abubakar told the PDP that it was not playing its opposition role effectively.
“I have said that publicly before and I will say it again: for our democracy to thrive and continue to be strong, we need strong party in government and strong party in the opposition,” Abdulsalami said.
As it is today, not a few Nigerians are waiting for the PDP to take its rightful place in national politics.