Oshiomhole Promises to Rebrand APC, Says Nobody Can Use Him

  • National convention slated for June 2
  • NWC aloof over NPDP’s ultimatum
  • Party members fret, warn threat should not be taken lightly

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The former governor of Edo State and an aspirant for the post of national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has said that he would rebrand and reposition the party if elected.

Oshiomhole, who disclosed this Thursday when he offered himself for election to the post at the national convention of the party, also said he was not capable of being used by anyone, in an apparent effort to discountenance suggestions that his candidacy enjoys the support of the presidency and several leaders and governors of the APC.

He equally said that he would operate an all-inclusive administration if elected chairman of the APC.

Oshiomhole’s mission statement came just as the party informed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in a letter that its convention will now hold on June 2.

APC had initially slated the convention for May 23, but moved the date due to the Ramadan fast starting on May 16.

The decision to hold the convention on June 2, THISDAY gathered, was taken in the transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi’s residence recently to avert litigation in the event the convention was held after June 13 when the tenure of the incumbent national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and other National Working Committee (NWC) members would have expired.

With their exit imminent, THISDAY also learnt that the NWC may have scaled down its interventions in disputes rocking the party, in anticipation of the emergence of a new leadership at the convention.

This, according to party sources, stemmed from the aloofness the party leadership has projected since receiving the petition of the New PDP (NPDP) members, who complained about maltreatment and marginalisation, and gave the APC leadership including President Muhammadu Buhari, seven days to address their complaints.

Speaking Thursday during his formal declaration to contest for the APC chairmanship seat, the former governor of Edo State said he would also strive to build a cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature.

Regarding the 2019 elections and Buhari’s reelection bid, Oshiomhole said: “The starting point is that the president is not a thief and we expect the same from all other ex- this, and ex- that on what character they must possess.

“My task this afternoon is simply straightforward, to announce my desire to contest for the national chairmanship position of APC and work to rebrand the ruling party, making amends where necessary.

“It is my hope that if and when elected as national chairman of the party, we will reposition and reorganise the party based on its philosophy of social democracy, which basically means a people-oriented, membership-driven and mass-based political organisation.”

He said though his ambition to become chairman had been an open secret, he still felt it was right to formally make the declaration.

He said he was not a reluctant aspirant to the office of APC national chairman, recalling that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did everything humanly possible to scuttle the formation of the APC during its formation.

He also conveyed his appreciation to the contributions of Oyegun for driving the party to the first ever victory of an opposition party over the then ruling party in the 2015 elections.

Elaborating on why he was contesting, he said: “I am contesting not because there is a leadership vacuum, but because it is in line with democratic tenets to allow for competitiveness in our affairs.”

He said the APC was unique going by its name “progressive” unlike the PDP.

Among other goals, Oshiomhole said he hoped to change the APC, if given the mandate, and to ensure that a credible members’ register is in place, there is collective decision-making, and a good interface between party members and those elected on its platform.

“Under our leadership, we will naturally have to do a couple of things differently in the day to day management of the party, while interfacing with all those elected on the platform of the party at all levels.

“For me, it is fundamental to be able to have a membership driven party grounded at the grassroots. Accordingly, it is important that we must ensure that we have an authentic and verifiable membership register that can be checked and verified by members and even non-members of the party.

“For us to become a political party that is membership driven, the irreducible minimum is that we must have a membership register that captures accurately the membership of the party,” he noted.

He said having a credible membership register was very necessary and then accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of destroying the membership register of the APC by ordering security agents to invade the party’s facility in Lagos where its register was being collated in 2014.

Oshiomhole also promised to create a platform that would ensure that members of the party interfaced with those elected on the APC platform so as to understand what they are doing.

The former governor also spoke on the need for party supremacy, pointing out that no one can talk of party supremacy without the party organs functioning as they should.

He said when there is inclusiveness in the way the party is run, everyone will be able to own the decisions reached by the party.

On the role of the party in brokering a harmonious working relationship between the executive and legislature, Oshiomhole said the APC as a governing party must find a way of negotiating and persuading the two arms of government currently under APC control to operate with a sense of collectivity.

“The party must have seasoned parliamentarians including non-serving Senators and House members to monitor the National Assembly on a daily basis and advice the party leadership on engagement with the National Assembly,” he said.

On the presence of NLC president, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, at his declaration and what this may portend in terms of neutrality for Nigeria’s main labour union, Oshiomhole was of the view that to be neutral did not mean that Wabba had to be politically aloof.

Also speaking at Oshiomhole’s declaration to contest for the chairmanship post of the APC, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, who said he was not officially invited to the function, noted that he had no doubt that when elected, Oshiomhole will show the way forward for the party.

He also predicted that Oshiomhole’s emergence as chairman will be bad news for the opposition.

“President Buhari is not just a president, he is a leader. Why we are supporting Adams Oshiomole is to see that there is strong party chairman that will be behind him.

“You must, as a matter of urgency, tell everybody that Buhari should be supported. For all my colleagues, the governors of APC, Oshiomhole is our project.

“He understands us, we understand him. I came in here to show my support and endorsement. PDP is making so much noise now and they need to be silenced, and the only silencer is Adams Oshiomhole,” he said.

Okorocha described Oshiomhole as a dogged fighter, adding that he will help to strengthen the party in the South-south and South-east.

He said in the North there may be no need for excessive campaigning, but in the South, it would require more than the ordinary for APC candidates to win in the region.

But as Oshiomhole formally indicated his interest in becoming the chairman of the APC, there were feelers Thursday that the looming crisis threatening to tear the ruling party apart may not abate anytime soon.

THISDAY gathered from reliable sources that the party might not meet the demands of its NPDP wing, which gave a seven-day ultimatum to the APC leadership to address its grievances.

A party source, who spoke to THISDAY, said based on the mood of the Oyegun-led NWC, the party may not do much to assuage the feelings of the aggrieved former PDP members who defected from the former ruling party to join the APC in 2013.

According to a source close to Oyegun, the party chairman was of the firm belief that the Abubukar Kawu Baraje-led group had given up on the APC and whatever was done now cannot change their resolve to leave the ruling party.

Baraje on Wednesday led a delegation on behalf of the NPDP block to protest what he described as “maltreatment and exclusion” of his members in the scheme of things by the leadership of the APC.

However, the party source said Oyegun might not consider initiating any major attempt to address the grievances of the NPDP members of the APC, because as far as the incumbent chairman was concerned, he (Oyegun) was on his last leg as chairman of the party.

“I think Oyegun believes that the NPDP group has made up their minds and since they are certain that Oshiomhole is going to be installed as the next chairman of the APC, their interest cannot be protected,” he said.

In spite of the NWC’s seeming aloofness, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank, Thursday warned his party and the president not to treat the seven-day ultimatum given by the NPDP members with levity.

Frank said if nothing was done to address the grievances of the NPDP members, this would give the impression that “we are no longer needed in the APC”.

Frank was one of several members of the PDP faction that defected to the APC in 2013.

Frank said Baraje spoke the mind of the group, adding that it will be dangerous for Buhari and the leadership of the APC to turn a deaf ear to “our grievances”.

According to Frank, what the group was asking for was to be given fair hearing and equal stake in the “change” project as it was given to other groups.

“Apart from being sidelined, our people are also the most harassed within the party, from the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Senator Dino Melaye, to myself and many others. These and other reasons call for round-table renegotiations.

“Since the APC came into power in 2015, there have been deliberate efforts by the government at the center and the national leadership of the party to sideline members of the NPDP, compared to other blocks comprising the CPC, ACN and ANPP which made up APC,” he said.

While stressing the need to heed the seven-day ultimatum given by the group, Frank said since APC came into power, only the Minister of Transport Rotimi Ameachi and Minister of Women Affairs Aisha Alhassan, were given appointments among the NPDP members, despite their unquantifiable contributions to bring APC to power.

“If President Buhari must be fair to all groups and blocks of the APC, we expect him to urgently call for an emergency meeting where the grievances will be resolved, that is, if he still cares about the interest of the oppressed.

“The meeting we are calling for at this point is important, as it will enable us to renegotiate our interest within the APC and decide whether we can continue to bear the maltreatment or not,” Frank stated.

Also, another chieftain of the party, Chief Ray Murphy, cautioned against underrating the threat posed by the ultimatum given by the NPDP bloc of the APC.

He warned that if the APC bungled the opportunity offered by the outcry by members of the former PDP faction, the party could end up being engulfed in a crisis.

Murphy, who is a close ally of Oyegun, said the views expressed in the petition were germane.

He said the present power sharing equation in the party was tilted towards only two of the legacy parties that formed the APC.

According to Murphy, who spoke to journalists Thursday at the party’s national secretariat, APC was moving into murky waters, adding that if the concerns raised by the NPDP members are not quickly addressed before the convention, things may get worse for the party.

“My view is that it is targeted at the fact that one segment of the party is getting virtually everything in the party. The fact of the matter is that the NPDP feels that it has not gotten its fair share.

“Two of the legacy parties have taken over everything. The head of government is CPC, the second is ACN, and many other positions are occupied by the members of the defunct ACN. So the NPDP was very truthful and their grievances should be quickly looked into within the seven-day ultimatum.

“I am a foremost member of APC and I want the success of the party. Negative things have occurred that de-market our party and have affected us. I think when those things are properly handled, the party will be much stronger,” he said.

Speaking on the forthcoming convention of the APC, Murphy said the timing of the NPDP letter was timely, as it would afford the party the opportunity to heal the wounds and correct the anomalies.