Obi’s exit from the APGA will continue to be interrogated for a long time because of its historical significance. It was from political obscurity that APGA brought Obi to political limelight
Governor Willie Obiano’s quest to take the APGA to the front row of the fourth republic’s political parties, would for now depend partially on the election tribunals where the party is prosecuting several high profile petitions from Abia to as far north as Zamfara states. Added to other recent events in Anambra State, the present political climate had left some disheartened or bewildered or both. The parting of ways between Governor Willie Obiano and his predecessor Peter Obi was a political thunderbolt of note. As many tried to make sense of the brewing storm, the ambush of the 2015 presidential and national assembly polls happened; leaving in its wake the swirling dust of the godfather syndrome that had presumably long ended in the state. You were left to wonder, in this season of the eighth and ninth wonders of the world, as communist Raul Castro contemplates conversion to Catholicism, if Anambra State was cursed or the actors are cussed.
Obi’s exit from the APGA will continue to be interrogated for a long time because of its historical significance. It was from political obscurity that APGA brought Obi to political limelight. His selection as the party’s governorship candidate in 2003 was purely on the recommendation of a flourishing business career and Christian background, not on the basis of any political or leadership antecedents. Obi’s stature as a political leader today derived from the campaign to retrieve his 2003 mandate and his achievements in office. It is to be borne in mind that these twin pillars of his fame rested on the foundation of opposition politics. The perception of an underdog battling valiantly against the intimidating machinery of a ruling power, the PDP, went a long way in shaping Obi’s public image. This condition persisted all through his first term in office; marked by a jungle impeachment; Andy Ubah’s frantic flights to reverse the Supreme Court’s landmark, 2007 tenure judgment; and the intrigues of a PDP – dominated House of Assembly.
These formed the crucial elements on which the Anambra struggle was waged at the time. At each phase of the struggle, APGA, led by Dim Emeka Ojukwu and Victor Umeh was in the frontline. For its value as the effective vehicle of the movement, the containment strategies were extended to include the very subversion of the party itself. And so began a grueling eight year campaign to destabilize the party during which the Maurice Iwu–led INEC applied every instrument within its reach towards foisting an expelled member of the party on members as the national chairman. It was on the solidarity of the APGA faithful that this machination failed. It was on the resonance of the mission to expand the democratic space and content and launch the state on the path of development that the struggle took hold among the people. And it was on these terms that the transition to another APGA – led government on March 17, 2014 was realized. The issue therefore is not a contest of Peter Obi’s right to join any political party of his choice at any point in time. The questions that arise at this juncture are threefold.
One, whether by his resignation from the party, Obi has turned his back on the struggle? Two, whether membership of a political party other than APGA forestalls contributions to the struggle? And three, whether the struggle has lost steam or even reached a dead end? Given the affinity of the first and second questions, it should be more rewarding to take them together. A struggle for the institution of a socio – political order necessarily transcends boundaries of party politics and other compartmentalization. A struggle worth its name is either a mass movement or seeks to be so. To this extent, it is correct to say that actors though operating on different political platforms could still share the same societal vision and unite under this common purpose. However, it could also be the case that there is a dominant platform for the struggle which by its history, ideology, leadership and power structures makes it the most suitable route for actualizing the set goal.
The ascendancy of such a platform is not forced but determined by the people on whose interest the campaign is being waged; so that sooner than later, the fortunes of this foremost organization converge with those of the struggle. In such a situation, activists outside the durable and recognized entity would be operating from the fringe and by extension offering a tinge to the struggle. APGA had come into being in 2002 against the preferred position of the ruling establishment.
The PDP led by Barnabas Gemade at this time was averse to the emergence of new political parties to share power with it and it had taken a landmark Supreme Court judgment for APGA and two other parties to be registered by the INEC. APGA as a progressive movement is, among other things, concerned with giving voice to the voiceless; revisiting the plight of the marginalized and minorities in a skewed federation; and charting an inclusive course for forging a stable political union in the country. Commitment to this set of core principles has necessitated caution on the part of APGA on the issue of coalition and explains why it declined the merger invitation that eventually produced the APC.
\Note that even when the party adopted the candidature of Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election, it continued to emphasize that APGA had not entered into alliance with the PDP. The PDP as a party has not been forthcoming on the restructuring agenda being canvassed by the APGA. If anything, the PDP’s exercise of presidential power for 16 years either glossed over or renewed the imbalance that has kept national unity rocking periodically. The 2014 national conference, which report partly influenced APGA’s decision to support Jonathan’s candidature, was a personal initiative of Jonathan, not an agenda of the PDP. Ideologically, some distance separates the two parties.
APGA’s activist orientation in government also contrasts with the PDP’s palace mentality of power. In the light of the foregoing, it would be unrealistic, to say the least, to suggest that the APGA mission and the Anambra journey which had found convergence 12 years ago can be furthered from without – as Obi has presumptuously claimed. But has the Anambra struggle been weakened by Obi’s exit and the outcome of the March 28, 2015 National Assembly polls in which APGA won only two out of 14 seats? Hardly. The conduct of the said election was widely viewed as flawed; a pattern that has characterized Nigerian elections superintended by electoral bodies vulnerable to the executive’s appointment and funding control.
Modern democracy is defined in large part by transparent elections conducted by autonomous electoral bodies. This puts Nigeria’s democracy on the analogue stage, thus, vindicating the principle of the Anambra struggle as crusade for credible and participatory democracy. The single most critical factor in this political equation is the man who holds the extant mandate of the people to pilot the affairs of the state.
Mercifully, Governor Obiano has demonstrated the will to sustain the momentum of the new Anambra. Economically, the state’s economy is witnessing diversification in an unprecedented investment boom. Socially, citizen needs are being cushioned with welfarist schemes. With the recent defection of 21 PDP former state assembly candidates in Anambra to APGA, Obiano has made one of the most powerful political statements in the country this year. Such political consciousness signals that APGA will be working more actively to deepen multi party democracy in this dispensation. •Afuba wrote from Nimo, Anambra State.