Nigeria: Ikimi and PDP's Electoral Prospects- Daily Independent

Harcourt — "We were the cooks who cooked the meal. But these people came and stole the meal away. They stole the pot. They stole th...

Harcourt — "We were the cooks who cooked the meal. But these people came and stole the meal away. They stole the pot. They stole the stove. They stole the plates and they stole the spoons. They stole everything away. But now we are ready to cook another meal. We will cook a better and more delicious meal this time around."

The above elegy was the heart-pouring of Chief Tom Ikimi, a former chieftain of the All Progressive Congress, APC, who defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at the south-south unity rally held at the Samuel Ogbemudia sports stadium in Benin City, the Edo State capital penultimate Saturday.

Ikimi who was in his right element on that day regretted that the leadership of the APC with Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos state as the arrowhead was not a party that would take Nigeria to the envisaged glorious heights. He relished how he worked "hard" to make the defunct All Congress of Nigeria, ACN, a formidable party that provided the platform for the Edo state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole to win the 2007 and 2011 elections.

Ikimi has been telling those who care to listen that he would not hesitate to turn the tide against the APC in the forthcoming election. It was on the strength of Ikimi's boast that President Goodluck Jonathan vowed that PDP would take over Rivers and Edo states in the 2015 election.

Whether this will be true or not is left for Nigerians to see as the count-down for the next general elections has just started and is ticking very fast indeed.

Those who know Ikimi's political verve and savvy would rather pretend to argue in the negative that the veteran politician has "never won election even in his ward". These critics claim that defecting to the ruling PDP, Ikimi does not have "anything to contribute to the success of the PDP in the 2015 election". He is, according to them, a paper tiger who knows how bark but has no teeth to actually bite when necessary.

They will argue further that some prominent politicians from his place had since left other parties to join APC not by the working of Ikimi but because they were convinced by the achievements of governor Oshiomole's government.

According to Ikimi: "APC in Edo is clinically dead", Ikimi had enthused. "I believe in the course of the south-south. South-South is 100% behind President Jonathan. We must queue behind him. After this time, south-south may not have this opportunity again. We must not gamble with the future of this country. PDP will win the next election. But I am not here to seek for political office. I am here to contribute my own quota to the development of this country," he stressed.

But looking at the political record of the former national chairman of the defunct National Republican Congress, NRC, one could argue that Ikimi has an intimidating personality that is capable of turning the tide in any election. But such compelling profile only leaves an informed mind to wonder whether this can really translate into winning an election when it matters most.

It is on record that the political juggernaut was a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1988/89 and he was elected the first National Chairman of the National Republican Convention Party (NRC) in July 1990. He served in that capacity for more than two years.

As a National Chairman, he established the Party nationwide and won democratic free and fair elections which enabled the installation of the NRC Governments in over 200 of the then 589 Local Government Areas in the Country. The Party also established 16 State Governments under NRC Governors in 16 of the 30 States that existed in the Federation in 1991.

Ikimi led his Party to contest the Presidential Elections in 1992 but all that effort was interrupted by the surprise dissolution of the Party leadership of both Parties in October 1992 by General Ibrahim Babangida's the Military junta.

Following the complications arising from the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Elections, Chief Ikimi was made a member of the National Committee that prepared the peace plan which produced the Interim National Government headed by Chief Earnest Shonekan in August 1993.

Chief Tom Ikimi was appointed Special Adviser to the Head of State, Commander-in-Chief, General Sani Abacha in February 1994. He became Foreign Affairs Minister in March 1995 and retained the portfolio until the Federal Executive Council became dissolved on 8 July 1998.

A foundation Member of the APP - All Peoples Party - and a member of its Board of Trustees in 1999, Ikimi's quest for politically stable Nigeria continued to push him to seek for greater heights. The Party's performance in that year's General Election was impressive and if it were sustained the emergence of two strong political Parties providing balanced alternative options for all Nigerians would have been guaranteed and achieved by now.

In the build up to the 2003 General Elections, he was persuaded by some internal forces in his home State - Edo State to join the PDP - Peoples Democratic Party. His performance as the Party's Chairman of its Electoral Committee, in conducting the Party's Presidential primaries for the 2003 Elections remains legendary.

PDP won that election which gave an open cheque to former President Olusegun Obasanjo to take charge of the affairs of Nigeria for another four years. This was largely in line with the performance of Ikimi's contribution.

He was one of the many prominent Nigerian politicians deregistered from the PDP by General Olusegun Obasanjo and his cronies, in a strange and unusual process designed to eliminate any opposition within the Party. It later became clear to all that the process was designed essentially to facilitate the self succession plan of President Obasanjo.

In the circumstance, Chief Tom Ikimi collaborated with some trusted friends to form the MRDD - Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy. This was a rallying platform through which the self succession plan of General Obasanjo was foiled.

It could be rightly said that Ikimi and like-minds, such as Chief Ayo Opadokun, facilitated the registration of the Action Congress (AC) in 2006. The Action Congress became so strong that it was able to win elections not just in Edo but also in all the South-West states and some northern states.

One of the foundation leaders of the Action Congress and specifically the Party's South-South geopolitical zone leader, he led the Party to victory in 2007 general elections in Edo State. To further prove his political clout, Ikimi pulled out of the APC with other key officers of the party who can also hold their own when it matters most. One of such influential officers is the former national youth leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Hon. Miriki Ebikibina who has already given a graphical explanation of what led to his recent decision to dump a party he toiled to establish to join the ruling peoples democratic party, PDP.

Miriki explained that though he had spent a greater part of his political career serving the opposition parties since the advent of the present democracy in Nigeria, it was time to join the mainstream party, PDP to build a "virile and united" country irrespective of the nation's cultural, political and religious diversities.

Miriki said: "I have come to the stark reality that PDP has provided steady, progressive and tested governance for Nigerians. I have been in the opposition party in all my political life. I have never been a card carrying member of the ruling PDP. I started as the Bayelsa state secretary of the United Nigeria Peoples Party, UNPP, state secretary Action Congress, AC, state chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, National Youth Leader ACN, interim National Youth Leader, APC and lately National Ex-officio member, ACN in south-south. With the above profile, I think I am politically experienced enough to know that it is rather important to join a party that has an agenda of building a united Nigeria than being at where some privileged people will lay claim to the ownership of a political party. Nigeria is bigger than one individual person. I have seen in PDP that no one individual person can claim the ownership of the party. This is the difference I have seen between the ruling party and the others including my former party, APC."

The former chairman of the conference of Nigerian political parties, CNPP, Bayelsa state chapter, used the opportunity of the Benin rally to call on Nigerians to support the President Goodluck Jonathan administration in fighting terrorism that is unleashing mayhem on Nigerians in the north eastern states of the country.

The emergence of a Presidential candidate on the platform of the APC is certainly going to pose a big problem to the PDP. This explains why the ruling party has been working round the clock to ensure that every aggrieved member of the party is brought back to the umbrella. But the presence of Ikimi in a joint force with the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Aneni, will certainly prove a lethal team for the APC to handle in Edo state. This will be made possible following the defection of some of the prominent members of the APC now in the PDP.

Many people are of the opinion that Ikimi's decision to dump APC was to "punish" the leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who the former had publicly accused of running the opposition party as his private estate. But beyond rigging, can PDP really take over Edo and Rivers states as vowed by President Goodluck Jonathan? The next round of elections in the state will definitely provide answer to this.

- Daniel Abia


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