With the All Progressives Congress’ National Convention over and done with, the party has a rare opportunity to start afresh, writes Tobi Soniyi
Before the All Progressives Congress’ National Convention held in Abuja last weekend, many had predicted that the party would implode. Others had argued that even if the party managed to hold the convention, it would split into factions, not less than three.
But to the disappointment of these pundits, this did not happen. Although there were skirmishes during the convention, the event was successful in the final analysis.
How the party was able to whip everyone into line remains a mystery to date. Among those who made it happened, the party’s former National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, is believed to deserve special praise for accepting his fate.
In the true spirit of sportsmanship, he accepted the fact that certain interests within the party no longer wanted him and left quietly. President Muhammadu Buhari, who is considered the only unifying factor in the party, is also being considered for commendation for doing his best to keep warring parties together.
This is because if you take Buhari out of APC today and there will be a crisis. In fact, the president is said to factor this into account in his resolve to seek re-election despite increasing unacceptability. He has continued to pull forces that are opposed to one another together in the interest of the party.
Other members of the party are also believed to deserve some pats on the back for choosing not to resort to litigation to truncate the convention. In the Peoples Democratic Party’s era, many cases would have been filed in the court of law. Perhaps, injunctions would have been procured to stop the convention.
Amidst, the plots and counter-plots that took place before the convention, those who predicted that the convention would split the party believed that the party was too fractured to survive. Whilst they were not wrong, the fact that the party pulled through the challenge does not cancel out the fact that there are issues in the party that must be urgently addressed.
To understand this, it is important to establish that ahead of the convention, there were those who wanted the Odigie-Oyegun-led executives to stay another one year in office, to allow for a smooth re-election of the president. They did all that was within their powers to ensure that the convention did not take place but failed.
When it became clear that the convention would hold, they pushed for affirmation as the method that should be adopted during the convention. Again, this was not to be.
The ward, local government and state congresses which preceded the national convention were largely marred by irregularities. In at least ten states, parallel congresses took place. Lives were also lost during these congresses in other places.
With all these hiccups, no one expected the APC convention to go as smooth as it went. But it did.
Even though the national convention had come and gone, it will amount to naivety on the part of the new leadership and indeed the entire members of the APC to assume that all the disagreements within the party had disappeared with the convention. That’s not correct. Many remain dissatisfied and aggrieved. As a matter of fact, the convention has thrown up new enemies and issues, even as resentment among members remains on the high side.
The first step for the APC under the new leadership of Adams Oshiomhole should be to begin reconciliatory moves aimed at resolving bottled up anger among the party faithful. The new national chairman should not take the civility of members for granted. If he does, that may turn out to be a costly gamble.
The party should encourage aggrieved members to come out and express their grievances so that they can be appeased.
The fall of the PDP in 2015 should be instructive to the APC. Those who contributed to the former’s downfall in the 2015 presidential election are now members of the latter. The PDP national leadership then failed to listen to them. They chose to follow their conscience and abandoned the party when it needed them the most.
A political party is a voluntary organisation with free entry and free exit. Retaining membership of a party is critical to winning an election. Thus, with 2019 elections a few months away, APC needs to retain its base and win more people to its side. It is therefore believed that with the national convention behind it, APC can now begin to look forward to the 2019 elections with hope.
It may be encouraging to party members to learn that a majority of their leaders have confidence in the Oshiomhole leadership to steer the ship of the party better with its many challenges. But even more exciting is the fact that Oshiomhole has a grasp of what the issues are and has promised to address them as urgently as possible.
Whilst he considers Ekiti the first assignment of his executive, Oshiomhole must know that the growing discontent by members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is equally tender and must be addressed immediately. No doubt, a new APC is not impossible. It is however not a tea party.