This is not the best of times for Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. The man failed, to his utter disbelief, to have his son-in-law succeed him as governor. Anybody who came close to Rochas in the last two or three years will readily acknowledge the fact that the man was sure that he would produce his successor in the person of his son-in-law. The man meant business and he threw his heart into the ring.
I need not remind anybody here of the fact that the plot failed. Rochas, at present, is licking his wounds. But his woes are compounded by the running battle he is having with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The commission has refused to recognize him as the duly elected senator for Imo West senatorial district. His Certificate of Return is being withheld. And Rochas has his fate hanging in the balance.
Regardless of these hangups, Rochas has been able to put himself together. He can still think clearly. That was why he was able to carry out a dispassionate analysis of the Nigerian polity as it is at the moment. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which was recently pronounced as the winner of the February 23 presidential election is getting ready to form a new government. At moment, the focus is on the National Assembly. The party is working towards selecting the leadership of the national legislature. So far, there is no indication that the party is putting the south east zone of the country into consideration. It appears set to annoint the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives without any representation from the south east.
The reason for APC’s planned action is simple. The party had a poor showing in the presidential and national assembly elections in the zone. And if what the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said a few days ago is anything to go by, the south east will be blacked out in APC’s choice of the leadership of the national legislature. Oshiomhole said the party would adopt the winner takes all approach this time. He said the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will not be allowed to have any say or stake in the choice of the leadership of the national assembly. In other words, the south east which produced an overwhelming majority of its national legislators from the PDP will have no place in the choice that is being made.
So far, the party has been living up to the pronouncement of Oshiomhole. It is considering those of its members who will lead the senate and the House of Representatives. In all of this, the north east, north central and south west zones are being talked about. The party has even adopted some legislators from some of these zones to take over the leadership of the national legislature. In all of this, the south has conveniently been left out. The same is true of the south south, another zone that voted overwhelmingly for the PDP. But the consolation of the south south is that it, at least, occupies the position of the national chairman of the party.
After taking a cold, hard look at the emerging scenario, Rochas Okorocha, as embattled as he is, has decided to tell the APC the home truth. It has advised the party to factor in the south east in its calculations. He has reminded the party that the south east is a critical segment of the country which the party can only ignore at its own peril. He has warned the APC that it could slide into a sectional and minority party in the foreseeable future if it does not purge itself of regionalism and parochialism. This is the message from Rochas. I commend it to those who own APC. It is a practical manual for the party’s survival.
Even those who do not like Rochas and his ways will admit the fact that he struck the right note here. He has told the APC what it has chosen to ignore. From the jostling that is going on, we have seen a Femi Gbajabiamila from the south west, aspiring to be the speaker of the House of Representatives. This is regardless of the fact that the zone produced the vice president. In other words, we are being foisted with a set-up where the south west will produce both the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives while the south east will produce none. If this is not mischief, I do not know what else to call it. By its planned action, the APC is brow-beating the south east. It is trying to punish the zone for not supporting it.
But it will be cheap and impolitic if that is what the APC is plotting. We know that the ultimate aim of any political party is to win elections and form a government. Any political party that climbs to this height must commend itself for a good job. To be able to remain relevant and acceptable by the people at that level, the party must build bridges of understanding. It must open its doors to accommodate people from the opposite end of the spectrum. It does so in order to form a broad-based government which will minister to the wishes and aspirations of the generality of the people. In other words, while a political party concerns itself principally with what suits its members, a government must look beyond party and build a coalition that will minister to one and all. By choosing the leadership of the national legislature, the APC is about to set up a government. At this stage, it must eschew vendetta and pettiness and strive to put in place an arrangement that will accommodate all.
By seeking to exclude the south east therefore, the APC is playing destructive politics. It will boomerang in the long run. The party, if it wishes to endure as an organization, should work towards succeeding where it failed today. That is openness. That is large-heartedness. If it does this, it will be in a position to acquire more territories in the years to come. A closed-door, discriminatory politics will not help its cause.
Besides, a political party should not be seen to be making itself an enemy of a zone. Doing so will not improve the fortunes of the party. Rather, it will stifle its growth and impede its acceptance as a national party. That was why Rochas cautioned the APC against reducing itself to a sectional party. The advice from Rochas, regardless of his less than cordial relationship with the party at moment, should be considered on its own merit. If the party takes a dispassionate look at it, it will recognise the fact that the winner takes all disposition of Oshiomhole is not good for the party. It is primitive through and through.
Perhaps, the APC under Oshiomhole is still smarting from its misfortune in the eighth National Assembly where the PDP as an opposition party got more than its fair share of the distribution of party offices. In responding to that, the APC should not throw away the baby with the bath water. It must also remember that Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, has assured Nigerians that he will run an inclusive government this time around. The APC must not negate the good intentions of the president. Seeking to exclude an entire zone from the leadership of the National Assembly is a suicide mission by APC. It should retrace its steps now.