By John E. K. Odigie-Oyegun (CON)
When we decided in 2012 to build a political coalition of progressives, we were driven by a deep sense of patriotism to rescue our country and a strong commitment to salvage our democracy.
We believed at the time that the ship of our country was headed for the rocks. Therefore, the significant progressive opposition parties and indeed all men and women of goodwill joined forces, not only to bring it back on course but also to set it on a completely different trajectory that would restore the hopes of our people and make every Nigerian proud of this great country again.
We approached Nigerians with the promise of change that resonated widely across the country. Based on our promise of change, the people voted against the ruling party in a collective political action that was unprecedented in our nation’s history.
Never before had our people’s hopes been so raised. It is my fervent prayers that in a few years from now, we do not look back and say never before have a people’s hope been so dashed.
As former National Chairman of the party, I remain proud of the great strides of our government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, I am afraid to note that the legacy of a government is defined mostly by its politics rather than its achievements in other areas, no matter how lofty those achievements are.
Our recent history bears enough testimony to this reality. The military government of President Ibrahim Babangida is today remembered mainly for the June 12, 1993 elections and its aftermath.
Our own political party, the APC, is fast becoming the single most dangerous threat to the legacy of our government and our President.
In the last few months we have watched how the party has brazenly subverted its own principles of internal democracy and flagrant violation of every rule of decent political engagement in a manner that makes everyone associated with its promise of change liable to be accused of either hypocrisy or apostasy.
We must therefore remember that our victory in the 2015 Presidential elections and the peaceful transfer of power that followed was a major testament of progress in our nation’s journey towards real democracy.
This unprecedented democratic achievement has since inspired progressive forces all over Africa and has become a standard by which democracy is measured in the rest of the continent.
Unfortunately, it appears that while other countries around us have marched ahead in the democratic journey, we have largely regressed.
Because we were the political party that benefitted from a system that offered the opposition a chance, everyone expected us to show unwavering dedication to broaden the democratic space for everyone; to ensure that equity and justice take precedence over all other considerations and to ensure that our party truly functions as the vehicle for aggregating and managing contending political interests.
Unfortunately, what we have witnessed from our party is the steady erosion of even the very basic tenets of democratic principles in a manner that could turn our watershed victory of 2015 to the waterloo of our hard won democracy.
As a major stakeholder and as a founding member of the All Progressives Congress, I have made various efforts to add my voice to those of several other well-meaning leaders of the party, in ensuring that the ideals and principles that we fought for are not completely thrown overboard.
However, I have come to realise that those who feel more entitled to the party are no longer capable of hearing alternative viewpoints other than those counselled by their ego and their self-serving interests, which they have promoted over all other considerations, including that of common decency.
Yet, no political party will survive for long, which is unwilling to accommodate competing ideas and provide the space for healthy debates.
This statement is therefore a clarion call to leaders of the party, particularly the Governors and Mr. President to urgently bring a stop to the disgraceful and humiliating charade occurring within the National Secretariat of our great party.
There is a most urgent need for the party NEC to meet and institute for the party a Caretaker Committee (even if we have to invoke the doctrine of necessity), whose main responsibility will be to arrange for a special National Convention.
The All Progressives Congress was built on the blood and sweat of Nigerians, young and old, too numerous to count, who were willing to give everything in the service of progressive politics. We must not allow their great sacrifices to go in vain.
Today, almost every member of the party feels a deep sense of alienation and dissatisfaction with the state of the party.
It hurts deeply to see how hollow it now rings to mention our party and “change” together. The time to act is now, before it is too late.
John E. K. Odigie-Oyegun (CON)
Immediate Past APC National Chairman