As George Santayana, renowned American philosopher and man of letters, once posited, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” A saying also goes that “history is the best teacher.”
These aphorisms underscore the importance of history in whatever we do in our lives. Politics is not excluded. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, most politicians are not insightful enough to learn from history. Hence, they find themselves repeating the same mistakes of history.
Recently, a group, Concerned All Progressives Congress (APC) Members, threatened mass protest against the party’s caretaker committee, if it failed to set up a convention committee within 14 days. The group, led by Abdulahi Dauda, issued the ultimatum at a media briefing in Abuja.
In case you have not read the statement by the group, a few lines are reproduced here: “We have watched with amazement and disillusionment the inability of the caretaker committee to provide direction for the party and set up timetable for December elective convention. The committee, led by Mai Mala Buni, was inaugurated to carry out two critical challenges facing our party, one, to reconcile aggrieved members and, second, was to conduct national convention in December 2020. But information reaching us reveals that they are already scheming to extend their tenure by one year.”
For want of space, I will bother readers with details of the statement by the group. However, I will address some of the issues they raised in this piece.
On June 25, the APC National Executive Committee (NEC) dissolved the National Working Committee and appointed Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, as the chairman of the caretaker committee/convention planning committee saddled with the responsibility to organise an elective convention by December. Being a founding member of APC and an officer of the party who knows Governor Buni’s enviable records as former national secretary of APC, it did not come as a surprise to me that he was chosen by the NEC for this crucial assignment of repositioning the party, which had been plagued by intractable crises. By the time he settled down in office, the governorship election in Edo State was about three months away, to be followed by that of Ondo State, a month later.
Without any hesitation, Buni dispatched two committees to reconcile party members in Edo and Ondo states, ahead of the governorship polls. He also constituted national campaign councils for Edo and Ondo states, with the mandate to go and deliver the APC governorship candidates in the two states. At the end of the day, APC lost Edo State and won a landslide victory in Ondo State. When illustrated statistically, APC scored 50 percent in the two elections, which by academic standards, is a pass mark.
It is on this premise that I found the attempt by Dauda and his group to blame Buni for the defeat of APC in Edo State not only unacceptable but also embarrassing to the party. Please, Dauda, answer these questions. One, was Governor Buni the person who drove away the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, from APC to PDP? Two, was Buni the person who called the APC candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a thief and cultist in 2016, when he was the PDP candidate, which made Edo people to vote against him in 2020? For me, any attempt to accuse Buni of engaging in anti-party activities in Edo State under whatever guise is baseless, unfounded and, in fact, impious.
Going further, I would wish to refer Dauda and his co-travellers to the comments that were made by a member of the APC National Campaign Council for Ondo State, Osita Okechukwu. Mr. Okechukwu, the director-general of Voice of Nigeria (VON), while congratulating Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on his victory in the October 10 the Ondo governorship polls, said: “For us in the APC his victory and that of His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, both products of APC in the last four years, have in no small measure defined our ideology-preference of devoting much more resources to physical infrastructural development to stomach infrastructure.
“We had in an earlier press statement stated unequivocally that, “we don’t harbour any fears of APC not winning Ondo State and that Akeredolu and Obaseki share a lot in common. One, they devoted much more resources in the past four years to physical infrastructural development than stomach infrastructure. That this is why some elite are antagonistic to both.”
The bottom-line is that Obaseki won because he performed as an APC governor and not because he ran for re-election on the PDP platform or any other reason. Anybody claiming that Obaseki won because Buni sabotaged APC is either ignorant or engaging in crass mischief. It is worrisome that the so-called Concerned APC Members would be acting on mere hearsay that Buni told members of the caretaker committee not to go to Edo to campaign for APC. People who are truly concerned about their party are expected to act on facts and not hearsay.
Furthermore, their obsession for national convention in December buttresses my observation at the beginning of this write-up that Nigerian politicians do not learn from history. They put the horse before the cart and not the other way round. For now, what is needed in APC is to reconcile all aggrieved members of the party. This is the focus of the Buni-led caretaker committee. When there is peace and harmony in the party, then all other things, including the national convention, shall follow. Like Osita Okechukwu also said, what is important now is to reposition the party and not a national convention.
Otherwise, APC may experience what happened in the former ruling party, PDP, in 2014 when some of its leaders, including governors, walked out of the national convention. PDP never recovered from that implosion until it lost power in 2015 to APC. It is better that such does not happen in APC than to think about an unlikely recovery from an implosion now that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced the date for the 2023 general election.
Moreover, let us also not forget that crisis in the party cost APC four states in 2019 general elections. We lost Benue, Adamawa, Bauchi, Zamfara, Sokoto and mishandled Rivers State. Before the 2019 elections, we controlled 25 states. A few months ago, we lost Edo State because of the power struggle between our former National Chairman, Adams Oshiohmole and Godwin Obaseki, who succeeded him as Governor of the state.
To turn the tide, we need to reconcile all aggrieved members before we talk about convention. A hasty convention could cause further decline in the fortunes of our great party. We still have court cases against our party littered in courts accross the country. The caretaker committee needs time to appease our aggrieved members who filed the cases to see that they are all withdrawn before our national convention.
It is also instructive to note that since Buni took over the leadership of our great party, some of our members who left for other parties are now returning to the fold. Notable among the returnees is former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and Senator Isa Misau. Members of the party are equally delighted that since Buni took charge of the affairs of APC, the state executives have been enjoying unfettered freedom without any form of interference from Abuja.
Finally, I urge members of our party to desist from acts capable of distracting Governor Buni and members of his team. What they need now is the support of all members to ensure that they succeed in the critical assignment given to them by the NEC to reposition our great party. We have by-elections for vacant seats in the national and state assemblies later this month and all hands must be on deck to ensure that the party succeeds. If the committee thinks that membership registration is necessary at this time, so be it. There is no need to mount unnecessary pressure on the caretaker committee to hold a national convention by December. The ultimatum should be withdrawn forthwith in the interest of our great party.
•Mrs. Offor, publicity secretary, APC, Enugu State, writes from Enugu