Chuks Okocha writes on the need for the All Progressives’ Congress to focus on experience, character, charm and charisma in the choice of its next national chairman
The ruling All Progressives’ Congress (APC) is yet to set a date for its national convention to elect national officers to steer the affairs of the largest party in Africa. These officers are members of the National Working Committee (NWC), the highest decision-making organ of the party after the National convention and National Executive Committee (NEC).
Also, no word has yet come from the party on where the respective NWC officers would come from. But there is a good chance of the zoning formula coming to play.
Given the consensus that President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 should come from the South, it is expected, naturally, that the next APC National Chairman should come from the North. And all eyes appear riveted to the North-central, a zone which hasn’t much to show for overwhelmingly supporting the party in 2015 and in 2019.
Aside zoning, APC leaders and supoorters are uncertain about what to look out for in electing a new national chairman. There are those who believe that “experience in administration” should count; that any aspirant to the office of the national chairman should have a proven record as a great administrator of men and resources.
Such an aspirant, this school of thought believes, must have held a noteworthy political office – like that of a governor or its equivalent.
On the other hand, there are those who believe that APC, a party that rode to power on the mantra of change, should break from its tradition of electing only ex-political office holders as national chairman.
They argue that no experience as a former political office holder can compare to leading a robust party like APC, adding that “fresh waters” begets fresh ideas.
They also believe that the current challenges of the party demand a contemporary approach that only the literary “fresh waters” can allow to thrive.
Proponents of this ideology are also quick to point to three successive former governors – Chiefs Bisi Akande, John Oyegun, and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who did their best in advancing the APC cause but could have done more.
Chief Bisi Akande was a Second Republic deputy governor. Between 1999 and 2003, he served as Governor of Osun State. Chief Oyegun was Edo State Governor in the truncated Third Republic. On his part, immediate past National Chairman Oshiomhole spent eight years as
Governor of Edo State.
All along, the problem had been the interplay of centrifugal and centripetal political forces between the old and new “brigades” in APC. For instance, in the build-up to the 2019 general election, APC stalwarts, especially the forum of Progressive Governors led by former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, felt that Chairman Oyegun, whom they said was amiable, deserved a tenure extension.
However, Okorocha’s position was stoutly opposed by some founding fathers of the party, who contended that the party needed a gritty character to counter the grating opposition mounted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Thus, at the 2018 APC National Convention, tough-talking Oshiomhole was drafted to take over from Oyegun. But years later, it would emerge that the “strong man” in Oshiomhole despite his laudable achievement of successfully leading the party to the presidential poll, brought a set back to APC.
The Oshiomhole Chairmanship is blamed for the party’s loss of Benue, Oyo and Zamfara states to the PDP. This was also worsened by his irreconcilable differences with the Governor of his home state Godwin Obaseki. Edo State inevitably went the PDP way.
It is interesting that certain stakeholders, worried about the future of APC after the Buhari presidency, are demanding a break from a tradition of selecting National Chairmen fron among the pool of former governors.
Political observers are also quick to recall the history of the opposition PDP as a lesson to the ruling APC. They argued that PDP had the best of times under the leadership of non-governors. They cite the current stability PDP is enjoying under Prince Uche Secondus, who was never a governor. They also point to persons like Chief Audu Ogbeh, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, Barnabas Gemade, and Dr. Ahmadu Ali, who were not former governors, yet led the PDP well.
On the other hand, they argued that the only time the PDP had major challenges was when the likes of Senator Ali Modu-Sherif and Ahmed Makarfi led the party as National Chairmen. They are also quick to mention the tumultuous period of former Governor Adamu Muazu of Bauchi State.
“Only foolish persons wait to learn from their own mistakes. Wise people learn from the mistakes of others. Look at the harm PDP suffered under the chairmanship of the ex-governors. Look at what ex-governors did to APC. We have to look outside of this vicious circle if the party wants to progress,” submitted Hon. Mohammed Adamu, a Nasarawa-based political analyst and chieftain of the APC in the state.
Another party chieftain that believes in this school of thought is Pastor Ezekiel Alonge, a former National Financial Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC).
Alonge believes that the APC should never repeat what he described as the “mistakes of the past.”
“We shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that we made mistakes in APC. What we need at this point is to correct them. What we need at this point in APC is an amiable, cool-headed, listening administrator, with the capacity and experience to heal the party,” the APC scribe said in a recent interview in Lagos.
He continued: “We should resist the temptation of selecting people with known history of abandoning their party when it suits. We need committed persons, whose loyalty is to the APC and to the APC alone. We need men of character, not just anybody.”
“The contest this time would not be a contest of title but of ideas on how to use politics, progressives politics, to better the lot of the country. In other words, it is not about weather you are a former this or former that but about experience, about untainted loyalty and about strong political leadership that is capable of lining up behind the present and next government for national transformation.”
Whether it is next month as being speculated or later in the year, whenever the National Convention of the APC is fixed the person who emerges as the next party chair will determine whether the party will remain united or not. Both Messrs Adamu and Alonge agree.