Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole
By Vincent Obia and Chuks Okocha
Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole was fully involved in the process leading to the formation of the opposition coalition party, All Progressives Congress, and is fully committed to its execution.
The governor's Special Adviser, Media, Prince Kassim Afegbua, who stated this, however, explained that Oshiomhole could not attend the meeting in Lagos last week by the opposition parties’ governors, where the merger was finally agreed, because of flight problems in Benin City.
Some opposition parties, namely, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), had come together last week in Abuja to proclaim the birth of APC.
But the governors produced by the opposition parties, numbering 10, including All Progressive Grand Alliance’s Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, had earlier in the week met in Lagos to pledge the backing of their various parties for the merger. Both Oshiomhole and Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, who was elected on the APGA platform, were not at the meeting in Lagos.
The two governors were reported to have sent their goodwill messages to the merger promoters and expressed their commitment to the opposition alliance. But while Oshiomhole said he could not make the APC formation meeting in Lagos due to flight hitches, it emerged at the weekend that Obi had deliberately stayed away from the event.
Afegbua told THISDAY, “The Comrade Governor’s inability to attend the unveiling of the merger in Lagos was occasioned by the poor weather condition which made it impossible for flights to operate for two days in Benin City. That was the only reason that prevented him from attending the event.
“But he did speak with his Lagos State counterpart on the day of the unveiling to register his unflinching support for an initiative that will fully strengthen the pillars of competitive democracy in Nigeria
“It is the belief of the Comrade Governor that opposition forms an integral part of any healthy democracy, and especially so to the extent that the electorate are presented with viable alternatives in making their informed electoral choices.”
He said, “This merger is a wakeup call to all Nigerians who are desirous of seeing better approach to governance. It is an effort that symbolises the resolve of the people to take their destinies in their own hands, and move away from the culture of lamentation as a result of PDP misrule.
“The resolve by the opposition to put behind them their individual and collective aspirations, and midwife a platform that is all-embracing, presents to all lovers of democracy food for thought. It is commendable and admirable.
“Governor Oshiomhole will join others across the socio-political spectrum of the country to pursue the noble objectives for which the merger was consummated in the first place.”
But Obi, a founding member of APGA, said Saturday that neither he nor APGA was in favour of the opposition parties’ merger deal, which led to the formation of APC in Abuja last week. He expressed shock at media reports about what he termed a purported merger of APGA with other opposition parties in the country.
APGA is yet to come out of a factional crisis that has torn it apart for some time now. The crisis assumed another dimension over the weekend with the sack of the party’s national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, by an Enugu High Court.
Speaking with THISDAY Saturday by telephone, shortly before he left for South Africa as part of the federal government’s delegation to cheer up the Super Eagles in today’s African Cup of Nations final against Burkina Faso, Obi said he was not aware of APGA’s involvement in the opposition merger.
“As far as APGA faithful are concerned, there is no merger because, ab initio, APGA has not even discussed such a matter, not to talk of consummating the process,” he said.
The governor, who was speaking for the first time since the announcement of the birth of APC, said he had refrained from making a spontaneous comment as a leader of the party intent on reaching out to the APGA family to know if any consensus was reached without his knowledge.
Obi said: “I consulted widely on the matter. I called the party leadership and they said they heard it in the media. I called notable foundation members one after the other. When I got the Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, Bianca Ojukwu, who is the wife of our late leader and hero, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and who from the onset was part of the entire process, she expressed outrage at the development.
“I called the only Board of Trustees member of APGA (BoT), Dr. Tim Menakaya, who said he was not aware. I called the Nigerian Ambassador to Burundi, Odi Nwosu, who was the closest person to Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who also expressed shock. I called other notable foundation members of APGA and they expressed the same sentiments.
“I also decided to call our recent notable members, namely, Senator Chris Anyanwu; former Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili; former Ambassador and ex-Minister of Culture and Tourism, Frank Ogbuewu; some other National Assembly members, namely, Hons. Uche Ekwunife, Eddie Mbadiwe, Chris Azubogu, Emeke Nwogbo, Victor Ogene and Cyril Egwuatu. I also called Chief Reagan Ufomba, a former governorship candidate in Abia State; Chief Chuma Nzeribe, a former House of Representatives member as well as senatorial candidate, among other members and they all said they were not aware of the development that led to the so called merger.”
The governor decried a situation where “those that had not stayed up to three years in APGA and in some cases, non-members are the ones bringing the party into disrepute.”
He said it was unfortunate that foundation members who contributed in nurturing the party through great personal sacrifices and had not in any way undermined its integrity and stability were the ones being hounded in the party.
Obi recalled how he had sustained APGA for many years and was in court for three years fighting for his mandate and how he fought his impeachment and removal, pointing out that but for those victories there would not be a party called APGA today.
However, Imo State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Chinedu Offor, said it was the progressive segment of APGA that was involved in the merger. He lashed out at critics of APGA’s involvement in the opposition coalition as PDP moles.
Offor said, “For us in APGA, we are happy to join other progressive-minded people to wrest power from the PDP. Nigeria is not a one-party state, so it is a healthy development to have an alternative.”
But the merger has received commendation from the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), the grouping of political associates of the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua.
PDM appealed to the opposition parties in the country to close ranks so as to help provide Nigerians with a clear choice between conservative and progressive ideologies.
The associates of the late Yar’Adua, at a meeting on February 5 at the Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, elected new officers to run the affairs of the group.
In a statement signed by its Director of Research and Planning, Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim; Director of Organisation, Prince Tonye Princewill; and Director of Youth Affairs, Murtala Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the group said concerning the opposition merger, “While we are gladdened by the development, we implore the opposition to define its own identity based on progressive ideology, with clear and contrasting policies and programmes capable of pulling Nigeria out of the current state of despoliation, despair and debasement.
“Telling Nigerians how bad things are simply won’t suffice. Clear and practical solutions are what Nigerians need. PDM is developing a clear roadmap for the entrenchment of profound national social, political and economic reforms, which will lead to creating jobs, steady power supply, improved security, transparent and credible elections and bring corruption in all its manifestations to an end.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has debunked reports that some of its state governors were planning to join the yet-to-be registered APC. Describing the reports as false and intended to deceive Nigerians, PDP said all of its governors were working with the party’s leadership and the president. It said there was no cause for anyone of them to contemplate leaving the ruling party for APC that is yet to have an operable structure.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement, said the fact that the party congratulated the opposition on the formation of APC did not cover the new party's inadequacies and its destined disintegration in no distant time.
Metuh said, “Nobody leaves a moving train to join an inoperable one. That the PDP took the high moral ground of decency that we are known for, to congratulate the opposition parties on the formation of their new party does not cover its inherent inadequacies.
“So there is no PDP governor that will leave a stable and national party such as the PDP to join the APC. All our governors are working with the national chairman, the National Working Committee and the president and there is no reason for anyone of them to contemplate leaving PDP for APC.”
The PDP also dismissed claims by the opposition that there was disunity in its ranks.