APC must be repositioned ahead of 2023 – Ogbonnia

Dr. SKC Ogbonnia was a presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2019 general election. He speaks in this interview on recent developments in the party and the race for the 2013 presidency. FELIX NWANERI reports



What do you make of the recent botched move to oust the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole?

It did not come as a surprise that Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole would survive the latest move to sack him as the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). His opponents have been hitting the tail instead of the head. The gist is that Oshiomhole’s tenure of crisis cannot be divorced from the overbearing ambition of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to rule Nigeria at all costs. Therefore, instead of chasing shadows, it has become imperative to muster the courage and go all out to tame the former Lagos State governor.

Why do you think that Tinubu should be tamed, when he has not officially declared for the 2023 presidential election?

Make no mistake: Tinubu, the National Leader of APC, has every right to seek the presidency. More essentially, his role in the Nigerian democracy can never be belittled. This informs why I had to admonish President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in his first tenure for alienating Asiwaju. I asserted then and still believe that if dynamic opposition is the life-wire of a democracy, it is very fitting then to name Tinubu the saviour of Nigeria’s current democratic journey.

What has changed that informed your position that the APC national leader should be tamed?

Regrettably, the manner Tinubu has been pursuing his presidential ambition is not only becoming an existential threat to APC as a party, but also to the same democracy he helped to save.

How did Tinubu got it wrong that informed that belief?

The problem is rooted in Tinubu’s naked godfatherism. The canker began to grow when the Asiwaju was made to believe that he solely influenced the nomination of Buhari. Further, after his failed bid to grab the vice-presidential ticket, Tinubu was allowed to handpick his longtime ally for the position, so that peace could reign. Worst still, the former Lagos State governor would retain the titular title of National Leader, thereby creating an impression of two captains in one ship.

As if that was not enough, he attempted to also dictate the leadership of the legislature but failed. This failure, remember, led to the first major crisis in the party and the mass decampment that followed before the 2019 general election. The most mystifying, however, is that, despite the fact that his primary fiefdom, Lagos, is constantly ranked as one of the worst estates on earth, it has not deterred Tinubu from the morbid desperation to rule other Nigerian states by proxy.

The more troubling is his do-or-die approach. For instance, the next major crisis after the National Assembly debacle was his plot to hijack the 2016 Ondo State governorship primary election against the rightful winner, the current governor, Rotimi Akeredolu. The outcome was the nasty fallout between the Asiwaju on one side and both the then national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun and President Buhari on the other side. In attempt to restore a sense of normalcy before the 2019 elections, Buhari had to go out of his way to appease Tinubu by easing out Oyegun.

What is the link between the 2023 presidential race and the plot to remove Oshiomhole as APC national chairman?

President Buhari misread Oshionhole as a simplistic khaki-wearing independent-minded party man who could contain Tinubu, but Oshiomhole was understandably desperate for attention after leaving office as Edo State governor and did not want to end the Oyegun way. The then new chairman quickly accepted to function as a mere lackey. Oshiomhole’s main function, therefore, has been to perfect Tinubu’s plot to install his cronies across the country towards a presidential bid.

Not surprisingly, the APC would go on to suffer the most crisis-ridden party primary exercise in the national history. Every APC structure, from the states to the federal, including the legislature, and President Buhari and his cabinet, had a bitter taste of the crisis. Only Coronavirus could have been as toxic and widespread. The saving grace for the APC in the 2019 electoral cycle was that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, fielded a deeply flawed presidential candidate in Atiku Abubakar.

There have been pockets of endorsements for Tinubu ahead of the 2023 presidential election on the basis of his capacity and leadership style even when he is yet to say he will run or not, but you seem to have a different perception. What informed your position? 

Tinubu’s style of godfatherism is a threat to national unity and has worsened since Buhari won a second term. Recall how the Asiwaju cornered all the important positions zoned to the South to himself or his cronies from Western Nigeria, as if somehow the APC in the South is a one-man show. Lest we forget, the APC came into being as an amalgamation of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) led by Buhari; Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by Tinubu; All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) led by Ogbonnaya Onu; a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Rochas Okorocha, and the new PDP led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje. Needless to mention the powerful roles of Southern Igbo, such as Pat Utomi, Chibuike Amaechi, Osita Okechukwu, Chris Ngige, Annie Okonkwo and Joe Igbokwe, among others.

Today, there is no meaningful office holder within the APC as a party or its government in the entire South-East, besides statutory ministerial appointments no thanks to Tinubu’s strategy of divide and conquer. In short, at no time in post war Nigeria has a region suffered this type of political blackmail. The height of the hypocrisy is that Tinubu, in terms of shrewd godfatherism and shadiness is even far worse than his targets in the East, Rochas Okorocha not excluded.

Now, consider that Tinubu believes that he has successfully humbled the East with a montage of opportunistic politics. Combine that notion with the assumption that the North is now under his palm, especially given the fact that he dictated the content and the character of the current government from the leadership of the ruling party to both the executive and the legislative arms of power.

Visualize such political oddity with the reality that the former Lagos governor is now zeroing in on his potential 2023 opponents in the West, as can be gleaned from the current crisis blazing through Edo and already rearing its ugly head into Ondo. There and then emerges the danger inherent in Tinubu’s role within APC and beyond. Even Vladimir Putin of Russia Republic has not shown this type of pestilent appetite for power.

What do you suggest as the way out for the APC?

This is a perfect time for Tinubu to step aside. He no longer has the credibility to grandstand as the face of the APC. His exit as a National Leader will solve two fundamental problems. First, it will effortlessly sweep off Oshiomhole’s tenure of unending crisis. Second, it will not only reposition the party leadership with men and women of impeccable character, but also in line with true democratic ideals, particularly a level playing ground for electoral offices, including the presidency.

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