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Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors’ Forum wednesday expressed concern over the frosty relationship between the executive, National Assembly and the ruling party, saying: “It is never too late to make amends where possible.”
Speaking during a visit to Senate President Bukola Saraki in the National Assembly, which was apparently a follow up to a meeting held between APC governors and President Muhammadu Buhari last week, the chairman of the forum and Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, harped on the need for unity within the party.
Okorocha, who said he was visiting the National Assembly in his capacity as the chairman of the forum, lamented the festering crisis in the ruling party, which he said had defied resolution, describing APC as the architect of its misfortune.
He appealed to the Senate President to deploy wisdom in handling the crisis with a view to promoting peace and unity in the party.
“This is the very first time I am coming to your office and I am here because I am concerned. I am here because I am a stakeholder. I am here as the chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum – your friends and colleagues in the struggle.
“Mr. Senate President, leaders of these great Senate, you may recall a few years ago that we were all in the trenches, in battle, asking for change in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I recall vividly the role most of you played in that very struggle.
“We became a government when no one gave us a chance to be so. And shortly, Nigerians believed in us and entrusted us with the responsibility of leading this nation. But one year and several months after, we have not been able to manage this God-given victory very well and it is very worrisome, Mr. Senate President.
“That Nigerians expect so much from us but yet we seem to be in crisis with ourselves. Not a crisis made by the opposition parties but a crisis created by ourselves for ourselves and which has kept us in a totally difficult position, so we are not making the headway we need to make as a party.
“One wonders then what went wrong. Where did we get it wrong? And after these troubles and after the much hope we have given to Nigerians, we still cannot work together as a party, as a family.
“And I noticed particularly that there is so much bitterness in the system – from the party, from the legislature, from the executive, from the governors – and it seems to me like there is no more platform for us to chant those old songs which we used to sing in the days of the struggle for change.
“One wonders was this what we were asking for, or was this the change we were asking for? I think Nigerians expect so much from us and at the end of it all, Nigerians will not ask us, how many of each other we have been able to destroy or how many we have been able to bring down?
“They will ask us how many plates of food have we put on the table of the common man who elected us? So I am here Mr. President of the Senate to call for unity among us and our party. And to sheathe our swords in whatever from the anger that has gotten to us.
“We noticed and we know that we are a party with the majority at the National Assembly and we are a party with the majority in terms of the number of governors, as well as state houses of assembly.
“But we noticed that there is no cordial relationship between the governors, the executive and the legislature. And let me re-emphasise that in all these arms of government, it is only the legislature and the executive that are the elected members, not the judiciary.
“And Nigerians will hold us responsible as the executive and legislative arms of government. So we must act quickly to ensure peace reigns among us. I have discussed with the party – that was my first point of call – to seek what we must do to forge a way forward.
“The governors recently met with the president all in a bid to move this party forward and bring about unity. Today, I am before you, the Senate President, number three citizen of this country and I ask you to use your wisdom to bring peace in our party.
“We need to enjoy that very vibrancy for which the National Assembly has been known. We need to enjoy those things that the opposition PDP used to enjoy when they were the majority in the National Assembly.
“The APC government must see you as holding the majority in the National Assembly, not minority in the House. My Senate President, my Senate President, my Senate President, to whom much is given, much is expected and two wrongs can never make a right.
“It takes one arm of a relationship to make good the other. I liken my situation to what I see in my own government, that it is difficult to succeed as an executive if you do not have the proper support of the legislature.
“I will appeal that we make amends where possible to ensure the smooth running of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And we intend again, to hold a meeting between the executive, the legislature and the governors and the presidency as soon as possible.
“May I suggest that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, has also agreed to address the leadership of our party very soon. But before that, I think all the rough edges must be smoothened, so we can truly tell the world that we are the government in power, as our government is in the majority.
“Again, I want to thank you for the time taken to receive me and pray that this very visit would mark a new beginning in our relationship. Thank you,” the Imo State governor said.
Responding, Saraki said Okorocha had raised vital issues that the APC National Assembly Caucus would look into, assuring him that the Senate would work in synergy with the executive to deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians who voted APC into power.
He said the crisis was surmountable, regretting, however, that the leadership of the APC had not deemed it fit in the last 16 months to visit its members in the National Assembly.
He said with synergy between the party, the executive and legislature, the interest of the common man would be maintained.
Senators in the meeting were the Senate Leader Ali Ndume, Dino Melaye, Rafiu Ibrahim, Isa Misau and Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
Okorocha’s meeting with the Senate president and other senators of the APC came on the heels of an earlier meeting yesterday between the Imo governor and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC at its national secretariat in Abuja.
Speaking to journalists yesterday shortly after his meeting with the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and members of the party’s NWC, Okorocha said that Buhari had promised to come and address the party on the way forward and resolve the issues that have torn the it apart.
“I came to commend them for their understanding, patience and the sacrifices they made especially during our elections. The president, who is the leader of our party, will be addressing the party leadership very soon. In fact, within the next two months and from there, we shall take it up to ensure unity of our party,” he said.
Okorocha, who drove to the party secretariat straight from the Presidential Villa after consulting with the president, said that Buhari was also desirous of getting all disputes within the party resolved so that the ruling party could march forward with the administration to deliver on promises made to Nigerians ahead of 2019.
Regarding the problem arising from the selection of the party’s candidate for the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State, Okorocha said the governors had resolved to seek the understanding of all concerned in rallying support for the party’s candidate, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu.
Okorocha, who also spoke of the need to restructure the party, however, tried to calm nerves, assuring the Oyegun-led NWC that no one would be bullied out of office.
“The restructuring we envisage in the party is not in terms of who comes in or goes out, but in every human organisation, there comes a time when there is need for restructuring. It could be to add more people, it could be to strengthen the party at all levels.
“Of course, you know that these people are duly elected people whose tenure will expire in 2018.
“But where there is need for restructuring, we will do so because I have come to reassure them, because sometimes if you have the fear or worry that you are not stable, you will begin to react in a negative form. But if you know that you are comfortable you put in our best,” he said.
The APC Governors’ Forum chairman said that he and his colleagues are worried about the brewing crisis in the party, which if not arrested in good time may affect the party’s continued unity.
He urged all those aggrieved over the choice of the party’s governorship candidate in Ondo State to bury the hatchet and rally behind the party to ensure that it wins the election.
“We also discussed the issue of Ondo election and we have said that as a party, we must show our strength and visibility in Ondo and I have made appeals to the NWC to relocate their office to Ondo to show support and the governors will do so equally to ensure that APC wins Ondo.
“Anambra is fast coming and we have said that we must start early to show strength in Anambra State, so that APC can also capture the state.
“The system that brought President Buhari as president of Nigeria is the same system that we want to practise at all levels.
“We also discussed the issue of funding of the party and we want to make sure that every stakeholder will be part of it; it is just a question of whether the governors will sponsor the party or the president. Every member of the APC will also sponsor the party.
“I was here to meet with members of the NWC and deliberated on what we must do to ensure unity in the party. We noticed that there is so much bitterness among the ranks and members of our party and there is need for communication and dialogue because where there is no communication and dialogue, war is inevitable.
“So I came here for a call for unity and the governors are willing to show leadership in this regard by making sure that all the National Working Committee and the APC governors and members of the National Assembly work to ensure unity in our party.
“You may recall that it was the same NWC and these party leaders that saw us through during the last elections. What that means is that these people were good enough. I want to assure them that no one will bully them out or hush them up.
“But there is need to make amendments, which is natural with any human organisation. So the party will be restructured for the purpose of making it stronger and to move it forward as a people and as a party.
“Our party is a united party and a strong party and we must take advantage of the moment especially with the visible crisis in the PDP. Many good people in PDP want to join APC, but they are still watching because they have not seen us show that which we are known for.
“We were so united before elections and there is no reason why we cannot manage this victory. So APC must manage this victory,” he said.
Okorocha’s meeting with the party leadership which started at about 2.15 p.m. had most members of the NWC in attendance.