Why Ikimi Lost APC Chair

Fri, Jun 20, 2014
By publisher

BREAKING NEWS, Featured, Politics

The ambition of Tom Ikimi, architect and a high-ranking defector from the ruling  Peoples Democratic Party, to lead the opposition All Progressives Congress, crashes at the Abuja national convention owing to general perception within the party hierarchy that he cannot be trusted

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Jun. 30, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

AFTER two previous postponements, the national convention of the All Progressives Congress, APC, finally held on Friday, June 13, at the Eagles Square, Abuja. The convention was initially scheduled for April 26, but was rescheduled for May 24, 2014. As the new date drew closer, the party again announced that due to some issues the convention had been moved to Friday June 13, 2014.

With the announcement of the new date, the party swung into action. Its members in the various parts of the country began to mobilise in preparation for the convention. To ensure a hitch free convention, the party, at its national executive committee, NEC, meeting on May 21, 2014, announced the constitution of a convention planning committee headed by Aliyu Wammako, governor of Sokoto state.

The committee, which immediately sprang into action, later announced the venue, zoning formulas and other modalities to be adopted during the convention. On the day of the convention, Eagles square was a beehive of activities as  members of the party thronged in and out of the venue and security officials battled hard to control the crowd.

Bukola Saraki

Journalists from various media organisations had a tough time getting accreditation from the party’s secretariat. Many of them spent hours only to be turned back by party officials who said the party had “invited all the journalists needed for the convention.”

Other than the challenges of accreditation of journalists and some delegates, the convention was also marred by other logistical problems. Although it was slated to commence by 10am on Friday, it did not start until about 9pm. The delay was the main reason why the convention spilled into the early hours of Saturday June 14, 2014.

The 11-hour delay in the commencement of the convention was not without some intrigues and skirmishes. Delegates from Anambra, Abia and Ebonyi states, where the party has been factionalised, came to fisticuffs and almost disrupted the convention. Trouble started when some delegates from both states stormed the convention committee’s secretariat alleging a plot by some party leaders from their zones to outmanoeuvre by ensuring that only delegates loyal to them were accredited for the convention.

The visibly-angry protesters threw caution to the winds and began attacking party officials. But for the intervention of security officials, the squabbles would have escalated. One of the delegates from Abia State, who identified himself as Uche Emeka, accused Chris Ngige, Rochas Okorocha and Ogbonnaya Onu, former national chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party, and one Mr. Nyerere, interim national vice-chairman of the party for the South-East,  as being responsible for their plight.

According to him: “We were reliably informed that Ngige and Okorocha have instructed that our chairman, who is Fabian Okonkwo, and the rest of us from Abia State should not be accredited.” Another delegate from Ebonyi was reported by a newspaper as saying: “There are two factions of APC in Ebonyi. One is led by Chief Ogbonnaya Onu while the other is led by Senator Julius Ucha and because of that, there seems to be a power tussle between the two of them.”

Cross section of delegates
Cross section of delegates

The wait for the commencement of the convention also provided ample opportunities for supporters of some presidential aspirants on the party’s platform to campaign. The supporters of some presidential hopefuls such as Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, Nuhu Ribadu amongst others, busied themselves by singing and dancing round the venue. They held posters and banners with bold pictures of their candidates.

At about 8pm, leading lights in the party started arriving at the venue. Popular faces like Bola Tinubu, former Lagos state governor, Bisi Akande, the party’s interim national chairman, Bukola Saraki,   Buhari, Atiku and others were cheered by their supporters as they made their ways to their seats.

The convention officially began when Dino Melaye, a former member of the House of Representatives and Abike Dabiri, a serving member of the House, who served as comperes, took to the podium to call the delegates to order.

After the opening prayers and recitation of the national anthem, the convention took off in earnest with ratification of the party’s constitution, its code of ethics and speeches from various leaders.

The motion for the ratification of certain sections of the constitution was moved by Senator Kabiru Gaya and seconded by House of Representatives Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamilla.

The constitution was adopted by a voice vote. This approach also applied to the adoption of the APC code of ethics. Senator Osita Izunaso moved the motion which was seconded by the Deputy Governor of Osun State,  Grace Tomori.

Wammako, who chaired the convention planning committee, thawed the ice by announcing the intentions of the APC as a political party. According to him, the party was borne out a desire to rescue Nigeria from the hands of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has been in power since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999. “We are on a rescue mission and we are destined to bring Nigeria out of the woes it has been dragged into by the PDP”, he said.

Lai Mohammed

While giving his own speech, Atiku Abubakar, former vice president, said he was ready to lead a revolution that would end the PDP’s era. He urged Nigerians to vote out the government “that is corrupt, a government that is inept and a government that has no clue.”

Atiku, however, warned APC members against emulating the PDP in its intra-party affairs. He said what brought them together as a party is the Nigerian project and not religion  or tribe.

On his part, Buhari described next year’s election as a watershed and urged Nigerians to make use of it by voting out the PDP. Buhari said: “No matter what you have, if you cannot sleep in your N100 million mansions with both eyes closed, what is the need for the money? If your children cannot go to school and come back to the house safely, what is the use of life itself? If you cannot go home during Christmas and New Year because you can be abducted and money demanded of you, what is the use of such a government? A government is supposed to secure and manage our resources. This government has failed and the fundamental objective of the APC is to secure and manage this country.”

Bisi Akande, the outgoing interim national chairman of the party expressed confidence that the APC would win  next year’s general elections. In his farewell address, Akande recalled the circumstance that gave birth to the party and said he was optimistic that the party would outfox the ruling party.

He lamented the failure of the federal government to arrest the menace of insecurity and recalled with nostalgia how Nigeria that used to send its military to keep peace on the global scene, and lamented that the country was now playing host to others who were coming to help its military end insurgency and  free the abducted Chibok schoolgirls from their captors.

In his own remark, Governor Rocha Okorochas noted that APC means change and that change must come. He paid tributes to the founding fathers of the party. Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, on his part, asked for the vigilance of the party supporters to prevent manipulation of next year’s general elections, reminding them that the ruling party would not let go of power easily.

Odigie Oyegun

In their separate remarks, Ogbonnaya Onu and Ali Modu Sheriff also reminded the party faithfuls to remain one and work for the success of the party, beginning with Ekiti and Osun States, where gubernatorial elections are scheduled to hold in June and August this year.

While other speakers gave humdrum speeches that sent some delegates into quick naps, Tinubu lifted their spirits with his speech which centred on “the broom revolution”. The former Lagos state helmsman declared that APC’s broom revolution was ready to sweep the ruling PDP out of power in 2015. The change, he told the teeming supporters, has become necessary because of the manifest ineptitude and weakness of the PDP-led government. Tinubu said a government that cannot protect its citizens has no business being in power.

“We have every reason to congratulate ourselves not only for the history we have made, but for showing that we are capable and ready to bring that which Nigerians desire. They have attempted to brand us a religious party, yet they failed. They should know that poverty knows no religion. We are making history today and assure that we are one and we must remain united”, he said.

Done with the speeches, attention shifted to the main business of the day which was the election of party officials to fill various positions. There were many vacant positions but the one that generated so much interest from delegates and observers was the position of the national chairman.

Weeks before the convention, there were lots of politicking and scheming  about who should occupy the office. Some critics had already concluded that  electing a chairman to pilot its affairs would lead to the eventual collapse of the APC. It was even reported in some sections of the media, that the tussle for the chairmanship position had sparked off a cold war between governors on the party’s platform and some prominent faces in the party.

When the convention committee eventually announced that the chairmanship position had been allocated to the south-south geo-political zone, four names were flying as potential chairman of the APC.

Party leaders
Party leaders

Tom Ikimi, a former minister of foreign affairs, John Odigie-Oyegun, a former governor of Edo state, Timpre Sylva, a former governor of Bayelsa state and Sam Jaja, former deputy chairman of the PDP, were all listed as contenders for the position.

Two days before the convention, there were unconfirmed reports that the party’s hierarchy was rooting for Odigie-Oyegun to clinch the position while some governors, especially those who defected from the PDP to the APC last year, were pushing for Ikimi or Sylva.

When the convention did not start at the slated time, rumours were going round at the venue that leaders of the party were meeting with delegates to ensure that Odigie-Oyegun was elected the chairman.

There were also rumours that the convention was a charade as some party leaders entered the convention with a ready-made list of candidates for the various positions and that Odigie-Oyegun was top on that list.

A party member, who did not want his name mentioned, hinted that the consensus arrangement was likely to throw up Odigie-Oyegun, who is believed to be the choice of Tinubu and some other party arrowheads.

They were not sure that Odigie-Oyegun could defeat Ikimi and Sylva if delegates were allowed to vote. Tinubu and some other party leaders were not comfortable with Ikimi. They felt he would sell out to the PDP if he got the chance. So they felt it was better to neutralise him before the convention by settling for a consensus candidate.

Party officials collating results
Party officials collating results

“As for Sylva, he has too much baggage to deal with and it is clear that the party will be sending out the wrong signal if he wins. You know he still has issues to settle with the EFCC,” he said.

True to the party member’s words, Odigie-Oyegun, eventually emerged as the party’s chairman without going through the ballot process as contestants for the position stepped down for him.

In a statement shortly before the commencement of voting at the convention, Sylva said he was withdrawing from the contest in the interest of the party. He consequently threw his weight behind Odigie Oyegun.

Other than Sylva, there was no word about other chairmanship aspirants. Ikimi, one of the strongest contenders, was not seen at the venue while, Jaja sat quietly on his seat all through the convention.

It was later gathered that Ikimi decided to boycott the convention when he got wind of plans by some party leaders to ensure that Odigie-Oyegun emerged as chairman. A day after the convention, Ikimi was reported as saying: “I was not at the convention venue, I bought the chairmanship form, but I did not fill it when I found out what they wanted to do.”

“I still have the forms with me. I never stepped down for anybody. I did not participate in the exercise; I boycotted it. I will come up with a statement soon in which I will explain what transpired.”

As the convention progressed, it was gathered that Tinubu was indisputably the major force behind the ascension of Odigie-Oyegun. He successfully marketed him through Senator Bukola Saraki to the northern caucus of the party.

Tinubu, Akande and Atiku
Tinubu, Akande and Atiku

Akande, who also strongly backed Odigie-Oyegun to emerge as his successor, was said to have seriously canvassed his “ideological purity” as he said that those, who had in the past been the face of the PDP, should not become the new leaders of the APC.

Other elected officials were Segun Oni, former governor of Ekiti State, who emerged unopposed as deputy national chairman, South. Lawal Shuaibu, former national secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, was also returned unopposed as deputy national chairman, north.

The interim spokesperson of the party, Lai Mohammed, the interim national publicity secretary of the party, was also returned unopposed. Others who emerged at the convention were Zakare Ede, national vice-chairman for north-central; Hajia Ramatu, national woman leader,  Jock Alamba, deputy welfare secretary, Hajia Hassan, north-central zonal woman leader.

In his acceptance speech, the new chairman said: “Tonight, I say to Nigerians: Your wait is over. Your prayers have not been in vain. Help is on the way”. The APC is here! In 2015, Nigerians will finally have the opportunity to kick out a long-ruling party that has, among other things, failed to provide them with a stable power supply, failed to provide them with security that will enable them sleep peacefully on their beds at night, failed to provide employment for millions of Nigerian youths, and failed to stem the tide of corruption that is robbing Nigeria’s children of their future.

Party supporters at the gate
Party supporters at the gate

“In 2015, the All Progressives Congress will provide Nigerians with a visionary, dedicated and people-oriented leadership that will liberate the nation from PDP’s rule of poverty and oppression. Under the stewardship of the APC, Nigeria will progress and Nigerians will thrive. This is our sacred pledge to Nigerians tonight.”

The APC convention may have come and gone, but it appears that the task of building a party capable of wrestling power from the PDP has just begun. And it is not going to be as easy as the party’s leaders and supporters think especially going by the culture of imposition at the convention. Already, some observers are predicting mass defections by aggrieved members to other political parties beckoning on them. It remains to be seen if the party will be able to put its house in order before the elections which are slated to take place in February 2015.