After Chief Tom Ikimi's Position On APC Convention, What Next?

Chief Tom Ikimi FNIA, KSG, JP Editor's note :  Chief Tom Ikimi (@ChiefTomIkimi) is an earstwhile Foreign Minister of Nige...





Chief Tom Ikimi FNIA, KSG, JP
Editor's note:  Chief Tom Ikimi (@ChiefTomIkimi) is an earstwhile Foreign Minister of Nigeria, A Nationalist and reformer, A national leader of the alternative party APC. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his.




ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) CONVENTION 13TH JUNE 2014

1. On 1st of May 2014, I wrote to the then APC National Interim Executive Council Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande reporting to him the overwhelming unfavorable report I had received from across the Country on the status of our Party. I informed him that I had spoken to Party members and leaders across the country and that the feeling was unanimous regarding the downward trend of things. I emphasized that the latest problem arose from the Congresses, which were very poorly managed nationwide and suggested to him that the National Interim Executive Council meeting be immediately convened to address the problem. My letter was dispatched to him by email and copied to about twenty-five key leaders across the country. There was a delay in convening the IEC meeting that I requested and during the period of delay my letter got leaked to the press by someone from Ogun State. It was this alarm that I raised that forced the convening by the Governors of a Leadership Caucus meeting and eventually a National Executive Council Meeting that decided on the hosting of an elective Convention. I have since become aware that in initiating the call for an elective convention, a secret plot by some individuals to retain the status quo leadership headed by Chief Bisi Akande in pursuit of some personal agendas had been jolted.

2. I confirm my status as a bona fide member of the All Progressive Congress, a member of the now defunct National Interim Executive Council leader of the Party in Edo State as well as the South South zone and by any stretch of the imagination one of the foremost leaders of the Party nationally. I am compelled to make this statement at this time so as to clarify some issues pertaining to my person as it relates to the APC generally and the recent APC National Convention in particular. I want to correct some information deliberately distorted and misconstrued to the public through deliberate falsehood orchestrated by a section of the press particularly the Nation Newspaper. Finally I want to explain to all our members and sympathizers nationwide the reason for my boycott of the convention.

3. In the build up to the Convention, the Interim National Executive Council approved a National Convention Committee under the chairmanship of Governor Aliyu Wamako of Sokoto State as well as the venue to be Abuja. By this decision a proposal of another Convention Chairman as well as Lagos for the Venue that was preferred by a South West leader was defeated. Hostile reactions towards me as well as hostile comments indicated to me that by my initiating the hosting of a Convention in order to replace the status quo leadership, following up to spearhead the establishment of a neutral Convention Committee leadership and securing Abuja as venue of the event I had no doubt invited the wrath of a powerful group. The National Interim Executive Council was never convened again to approve any of the arrangements before the convention and was never even accorded the courtesy of a valedictory session. All that transpired thereafter leading to the convention happened mostly in secret meetings and caucuses some of which I have since become aware were convened in Europe. The Party was now run as a private property.

4. Former Lagos State Governor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu operated as the core of one of these caucuses whose membership varied from time to time within the realms of his whims and caprice. The other known caucus was the APC Governor's forum. These two groups hijacked power from the National Interim Executive Council, which is the body known to INEC. However, it was from these two caucuses that the idea of zoning the party positions emerged. Zoning is a principle alien to our Party Constitution but if at all it had to be employed at some stage and the process democratically agreed, to assure the equitable distribution of key offices in the Party and Government to the different geo-political zones in the country it was my considered view that the process should be open and transparent and should be approved by the Interim National Executive Council of the Party. Chief Bisi Akande cannot produce any such approval. In addition and in my opinion, I felt strongly that if we were bound to proceed on the basis of zoning that both Party offices as well as key offices in Government such as President, Vice President etc should be put on the table and zoned at the same time. My suggestion was motivated by strong information I had received of plots being hatched to steam role a Muslim Muslim Presidential and Vice Presidential ticket for the APC in the 2015 elections and with specific individuals in mind as the beneficiaries.

5. I have been bewildered by this turn of events that run counter to the vision of our Party. My own vision of creating an alternative Political platform other than the PDP for the Nigerian people which was shared by the 89 of us who worked assiduously on this project for six months, towards establishing a balanced two Party democracy was very well articulated and enunciated in the build up process of unifying the major opposition Political Parties through the unique merger of former ACN, ANPP, CPC and part of APGA. Looking back now and noting that in over ten years several similar attempts had failed, I am proud of the central role I played in that process. Indeed it was my face and that of a number of my faithful colleagues that was associated with the Merger Process and not those of a handful, some of whom never gave us a chance that have since seized the project.

6. I recall that in the terms of reference which I prepared to the Constitution drafting Committee we insisted among other things that the Constitution must design a transparent method of Congresses and Convention which will be in line with our commitment to sound internal Democratic ideals. In that regard I drew experience from my time as National Chairman of the defunct NRC twenty-three years ago and the excellent flawless performance I displayed in January 2003 when I chaired the Presidential Primaries of the PDP. Internal Party Democracy was key to our quest for CHANGE in our Nation's democracy and our proclamation that we would imbibe that principle was one of the cardinal reasons that endeared us to the waiting public.

7. That is why in the very early days of the National Interim Executive Council, I had expressed strong reservations over any tendency of ceding authority of the Party to Governors. While I hold in the highest respect all who are Governors both past and present and acknowledging the immense contributions they are destined to make in any political party in which they are members, I am nonetheless a strong believer in the Supremacy of the Party Authority which should have power to operate freely and fairly in the affairs of the party at all times in order to assure fairness to all its members no matter how low or high, rich or poor. This view which was hotly debated at the Interim EXCO meeting with some of our Governors present, prior to the arrival of the "new PDP" Governors, I am sure dimmed to some extent my relationship with a few of the Governors. However I have since been vindicated noting how difficult it became to establish State Interim Executive Committees and where they were eventually established how difficult it was for them to operate freely. Some Governors who are now in the tail end of their tenure will appreciate my point when they descend from the throne no matter how elaborate their pension may be. With the arrival of the "new PDP" Governors, the group of 16 APC Governors formed perhaps the strongest caucus in the party.

8. However, both the Governors and the Tinubu groups decided on a zoning process that was limited only to Party offices as well as the choice of individuals to fill them. They proceeded in a manner that was neither open nor transparent. Most undemocratic and bizarre procedures then prevailed. The Governors initiated a zoning plan that allocated the National Chairman to the South South. This proposal was reluctantly accepted by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, whose well known preferred option had been to retain Chief Bisi Akande as Chairman forever. Nevertheless he in the circumstance proceeded to draw up a list of his cronies for the entire National Executive all by himself. Very strange as this may sound, it was the reality. Some interested persons who could make contact with him prevailed on him to agree to a negotiation which ended up basically of sharing the offices with the Governors group. Nothing was ever referred to the National Interim Executive Council for approval or even information.

9. This rather illegal and most undemocratic process ended up ceding the position of National Chairman as well as a number of other key offices to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to nominate the beneficiaries.  I am now aware of the back ground horse trading that occurred within the ranks of the Governors that resulted in the National Chairmanship being zoned to the South South, The Governor of Rivers State who secured the position for the South South as he explained in a press interview a few days ago, that it was as compensation for breach of some "agreement" between him and those who lured him into the party. In the end he was not able to install his candidate, Sam Sam Jaja as he had intended. His quest for support from Gov Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, to implement the Sam Sam Jaja option produced very unclear responses. Unaware of this background mess at the time, I naturally emerged as front-runner from my State being endorsed unanimously by the Edo State APC Party leadership. All the same, Bola Tinubu convened a meeting of his secret caucus where he announced his choice of Chief John Oyegun on behalf of Edo State. He threatened fire and brimstone if his choice were to be challenged.

10. I am informed that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is not comfortable with my independent mindedness and he holds the view that I cannot be controlled. He prefers someone that he believes will do his biddings and as they openly declared the preferred person should have links with the defunct NADECO as well as the defunct SDP. That I was formerly in PDP is an argument, which is both foolish and mischievous. For those who may not know, I was one of the two persons who in 2006 created the now defunct AC (Action Congress) party. The core members of that party were basically a strong breakaway group from the then PDP, including HE Atiku Abubakar, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Late Abubakar Rimi, Alhaji Gali Naaba,  Alhaji Lawal Kaita,  Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, Ambassador Kwande, Otunba Fashawe, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, Ms Funke Adedoyin, Sen Ben Obi, Chief Dubem Onyia, Chief Tom Ikimi etc and a break away from AD including all former AD Governors who lost out to PDP in the 2003 General Elections. As Bola Tinubu was the only sitting Governor in the South West at the time he became for them their rallying point.  Today we have "new PDP" Governors among us . Are they going to suffer such prejudices too because they came from the PDP? Therefore those who are either mischievous or do not know should be informed that I was in the core of the creation of AC (Action Congress), ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria) and APC created in my Abuja residence. I did NOT go to join APC. In which case those who are suggesting that I return to the PDP must equally ask Bola Tinubu to return to AD.

11. I have nothing personal against Chief John Oyegun who is now 75 same age as Chief Bisi Akande. I recall admitting him into the APP in 1999 and recently into the ACN in Benin City after his problems with the ANPP. Nevertheless I believe strongly that all the thirty-six states as well as the six geopolitical zones should be left to assume their own destiny. We in Edo State, core of the former Midwestern Nigeria and Bendel will not forget the history of our creation that by popular vote in a plebiscite conducted in 1963 our people overwhelmingly voted for self determination to depart from Western Nigeria and take our destiny in our own hands. Today we are proud members of the South South zone. I cannot be party to any arrangement 51 years later that a purported leader of the South West zone, Bola Tinubu would arrogate to himself the right to decide for us. We never chose for him any of the candidates in the South West zone nor did we interfere in the outcome in any of the other zones.

12. I have read in some News Papers, notably in the Nation, descriptions of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the Leader of the APC sometimes owner of the APC. That is ridiculous as no such position exists in the party and no one has been so coronated. Those who claim they are wealthy and wish to contribute to political parties must await their compensation in the Party's roll of honor. My idea of raising Party finances is to receive fair contributions from all our members nationwide who in turn must have equal rights in the Party.
Flying across the country with an entourage of a few chosen individuals and proclaiming yourself leader of the party has been one of the major drawbacks of the APC. Some have therefore tried to justify his unilateral appointment of Chief John Oyegun as National Chairman as a concession done to him as the Leader. I am amazed by this development.

13. At the successful ending of the Merger talks, when I announced the birth of APC, among other things, I said " At no other time in our National life has radical change become more urgent and to meet the challenge of that change we the following Progressive Parties, namely ACN, ANPP, CPC and part of APGA have resolved to merge forthwith and become the All Progressive Congress and offer our beleaguered people a recipe for prosperity." I emphasized on behalf of the 89 of us who had met continuously for six months in my house in Abuja to put together the Merger that our Party the APC would derive its power from sound democratic ideals, which will deepen our Nation's democracy as we were determined to ensure a thriving Internal Party Democracy. Regrettably, all that has transpired recently leading up to and including the first National Convention of the APC runs counter to this commitment. Let me in this statement and circumstances extend my warmest felicitations to all those 89 delegates for their dedication and hard work.

14. Those hired writers and hatchet men who for paltry fees have launched a campaign of calumny against me should find something better to do. The often-made reference to late Gen Sani Abacha's government is now a non-issue. I only wish the man like his other colleagues, was around to answer for himself. My first achievement in that Government was to initiate the creation of the highly successful Petroleum Trust Fund -PTF. Former head of State General Muhamadu Buhari headed the fund also successfully. I believe that his performance in the PTF and Abacha Government has not diminished his status. Those who are still deaf and have not heard the true situation regarding my tenure as Foreign Minister as it does not in any way relate to the unfortunate occurrences regarding Ken Saro Wiwa are advised to watch my 70th birthday documentary still being run on the AIT television. I am prepared to donate free copies.

15. I have strongly opposed the option of a Muslim Muslim or Christian Christian Presidential ticket for our party in the 2015 elections. I am a proud Roman Catholic Christian who has a lot of respect for our Muslim countrymen. I studied Architecture for five years at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and am known to have a lot of committed personal friends who are muslims. But we must not ignore the realities of the moment or be insensitive to the Religious question in our country. In any case both Christians and Muslims abound in both Northern and Southern Nigeria who can contest the Presidency. In fact the choice of Presidential Candidate should be open to the whole country. Those who imagine that the now notorious secret caucus would succeed in producing a Muslim Muslim Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates for APC for the 2015 election and if that is why this mess of owning the National Executive Council is all about they must be living in cuckoo land.

16. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu may recall that mostly for the same reasons I opposed his desire to run as Vice Presidential Candidate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar under the AC Action Congress banner in 2007. We settled for Sen Ben Obi from Eastern Nigeria. I know he nurses a grudge against me for the position I took which was strongly supported by leaders from five zones apart from the South West. I have no regrets whatsoever for my courage to stand up against oppression or dictatorship. No matter what any one might say against the PDP, no individual claims ownership of that party. They in their wisdom may bestow on any sitting President leader of their party. A wise President in those circumstances who chooses competent aides and advisers will surely succeed. Two balanced and strong political parties APC and PDP do not in any way signal a call to arms and war between two dangerous enemies. We are all Nigerians! As National Chairman of the NRC I had excellent relations with the National Chairman of the SDP Amb. Babagana Kingibe. We are friends to this day. Today I hold in the highest regard and respect personal friends who are eminent leaders of the PDP such as Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion,   Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Senator Ben Obi, Amb. Hassan Adamu, Chief Stephen Lawani, Dr Doyin Okupe etc. We on our part have not yet gained National power so we cannot say for certain what we will do should we win the Presidency but in my projection from current experiences indicate a rather frightening prospect. May the Good Lord spare us the regime of any tyrant!!



17.   In conclusion. I did not attend nor participate in the charade of a Convention. I paid N250, 000 for the forms to contest for the National Chairmanship on the basis of the overwhelming support I received from my State - Edo State. The forms are still with me, which I will return and ask for a refund of my money. I did NOT step down for anybody. When it became clear to me and many others including my supporters that the outcome of the contest would not be determined by a free and fair vote at the convention most of the delegates tired and weary after waiting for more than twenty four hours for accreditation and all day at Eagle Square departed. The venue was now over run by all manner of people who broke through the barriers.
If the procedures of admitting delegates were properly organized and was free and fair, accreditation done on time, the National Interim Executive Council left to run the event unfettered, the arena well secured to hold only statutory delegates, the independence of States and the Six Geopolitical Zones respected I would have participated leaving my fate then to the judgment of the people. I understand one of the leaders was moving from stand to stand with a so-called agreed list as well as cash to the delegates. What a Shame!! I was the only Independent candidate in the chairmanship contest running on my own credentials. I was not a Governor cartel candidate or the lapdog of any "Leader". The APC needed a strong and fearless independent mind to lead it at this time. That is what I was offering. I am now reflecting on the situation and consulting widely on my next line of action.  Meanwhile I have read fictitious reports particularly by the Nation Newspaper of actions they allege I am now contemplating or taking.











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