For those of us ardent and desirous of embracing the change in the manifesto of the All Progressive Congress, it is not early to begin to x-ray our performance in the general elections of 2015. In spite of the enthusiasm and euphoria with which Cross Riverians, welcomed the merger and registration of the All Progressive Congress, APC, leading to massive registration of members into it, our performance in the last elections, was indeed below all our expectations. We did not anticipate the colossal and overbearing acts of arrogance of power, the enthronement of invidious impunity and electoral manipulations, displayed by PDP Chief Executives in the South-South geo-political zone. To obviate such negative influences on our future electoral performance, the party in Cross River State, must plan. We must plan because, it is trite that you can only harvest or reap after you have sown. And there is always a wide gap between the time of sowing and the time of harvest. It is therefore never too early to plan.
Since 1999, Cross River State, has progressively become a one party state, groaning under the tyranny of the variegated umbrella, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Helped by our docile, servile and laid-back disposition, a few young opportunists, whose only credentials are the names of their fathers, used the platform of the PDP to ‘capture’ power in our state. They have since then fed like leech on the public till, to the consternation of all and sundry. In Cross River and some other PDP states, 2014, ended in a season of anomie, of perfidy and despair. Our State was politically, socially and economically in chaos. For instance, our judiciary is under lock and key, salary and pension payments of our only viable industry, the state civil service, is in arrears and as reported on page 40 of The Nation, Thursday, April 16, 2015,Crutech, our only state tertiary institution, is on strike and closed, since November, 2014, for unpaid salaries. His Excellency, Gov. Imoke, rules and reigns with impunity. It was in such a situation of utter deprivation and despair, that the 2015 General Elections were held in Cross River State.
In view of the pervading absence of good governance, our hopes were exceedingly, high that the PDP will be voted out of power in the State. This hope was further anchored on the progressive tendencies of our political forebears. We remember with nostalgia, the enviable roles the Dr. Okoi Arikpo’s of our area, played in the progressive or opposition politics of the 1960’s. Their selfless progressive politics, dove-tailed into the agitation for the creation of states to liberate us, the Eastern Minorities from Igbo hegemony. General Gowon later lapped up these agitations, with the creation of South Eastern and Rivers States, ostensibly, to remove the wind from the sail of the Biafran revolt. Specifically, Dr. Arikpo was in the Action Group and tenaciously, fought with Chief Awolowo, to redress the perceived marginalisation of our peoples. We therefore considered ourselves lucky to replant and nurture the seed of progressive politics on their extant foundations. Regrettably, corruption and the 16 years of the locust, under PDP misrule had perverted all our values. When faced with the manipulative, coercive and shameless display of money and executive impunity, we easily capitulated, compromised and gave our tormentors a free ride to the State INEC Office to collect their certificates of Return.
In spite of the early progressive credentials of opposition politics of our people and the fertile environment provided by the inept and clueless administration of the PDP, under Gov. Imoke, several factors militated against our success. Amongst these are the bitter struggle for the leadership of the APC in the state, the prevailing ethnic and religious sentiments arising from the GMB candidacy, the influence of money in politics, violence, incumbency and also the inexperience of some of our aspirants. Other challenges encountered during the elections, include the activities of our party agents and security personnel deployed for election duties.
With the registration of the APC, came the responsibility to establish structures and elect executives in all states of the Federation and Abuja. As to be expected in human affairs, the effort to elect our Exco, unfortunately, led to bitter and internecine struggles. The contest for the post of the Chairman, inexorably, led to an implosion, from which we have not fully recovered. Petitions, from the sublime to the ridiculous, some authored, others fake inundated the State Secretariat and the party Headquarters, in Abuja and this may have contributed in impeding our fortunes at the recent polls. It is unfortunate but true, that the party in our state has many members in its ranks, who see or have mercantilist motives as the gravamen of their membership. To this group, it is either leadership or nothing. It is also regrettably, noted that the APC in our state, has in its fold members enjoying the patronage of other parties. These members were easily swayed by the spending spree of PDP 2 (Labour) adherents. When we add to the mix, the grouse of members who detest and denigrate the enviable and stabilising intervention of Gov. Rotimi Amaechi to midwife a viable structure in the state, the ingredients for chaos are complete. It is to the credit of the state leadership and staunch support and understanding of the National Headquarters of the party, that we remained united, to make the modest achievements recorded at the recent general elections.
Members of the party in Cross River State need heed and learn lessons from the fall of the PDP behemoth. Those opposed to the Chairman and responsible for the relentless, faceless petitions, like the USANI MUST GO GROUP, should unmask themselves and embrace meaningful dialogue. Positions in the State Executive of the party, are tenured, not permanent. We therefore need to close ranks, cooperate and work assiduously, together, if we are to promote and improve the fortunes of our party and effectively, contest the next Local Government Elections in the State. It is a universal truth, that as humans, no one person has monopoly of righteousness and all others, devils incarnate. We are stronger and achieve more when we are able to moderate and aggregate our heart desires within the collective.
The fortunes of the APC in our state was also adversely, affected by the candidacy of General Muhammadu Buhari, on the primordial sentiments of ethnicity and religion. While these sentiments found sustenance in the prevailing illiteracy and ghetto worldview of the electorate, the Jonathan administration’s hate campaign, gave them potency. All efforts to disabuse the falsehood in the blackmail of Islamisation of Nigeria, fell on deaf ears. It will take time to douse these sentiments. However, I fervently believe that an APC beneficent administration under Gen. Buhari, holds the ace to eradicate such ethnic and religious fears and fallacies.
The place and influence of money in Nigerian politics and especially, elections cannot be over emphasised. In a country with corrupted values and compromised institutions, money is alter ego. And the PDP that for 16 years presided in the corruption of Nigerians, knew our worth. Pronto, the party raised over 21 billion election war chest, with which, the Nigerian electorate were “mobilised” to the hilt. In contrast was the APC, a new born, with a patriotic desire to change our corrupt ways and therefore unwilling to raise money through dubious ways. The lack of funds at the centre and the states was both thorough and debilitating. The overall victory at the Presidential polls exemplified the desperation of Nigerians to change the infamy of the 16 years of PDP misrule. The APC in Cross River State was adversely impacted by the lack of funds. Without any money bag or rich member in its ranks, to assist bankroll some of its activities, the APC was like an orphan, helpless. The conditions, dispositions, inexperience and expectations, of most of our aspirants did not help matters. The party was victim to the dominance of money in Nigeria politics, to violence and the impunity of incumbency.
In the South-South, electoral violence was the norm. Violence is a real threat to democracy in our zone. In every stable democratic society, elections, a leadership recruitment process, remains the essential ingredient of transiting from one administration to another. Elections therefore constitute a core component of democracy. The conduct of free, fair and credible elections, is central to the survival of democracy. The pervasive violence experienced during the recent elections militates against the nurturing and growth of democracy. Such violence includes harm or threat aimed at any person or property involved in the election process or at disrupting any part of the electoral process during the election period. Evidence of violence in most states of the South-South are copiously reported by the media. For instance, in The Nation Newspaper of Sunday, April 12, 2015, we have several reports of violence. According to Timipreye Sylva, “APC members in the zone were faced with a choice between winning the election and protecting its members when they were being attacked”. In Akwa Ibom that posted a canvas of several murders to the world, Ita Enang noted that “while the people prepared for elections, the institutions of state, led by the government prepared for war”. While the mayhem and murders in Rivers State are legion, Mrs. Thelma Iremiren, the INEC National Commissioner for Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, was only able to report two deaths, among the several killed here. Hear her “the two deaths recorded in Mkpani, Yakurr Local Government of Cross River State occurred when thugs attempted to snatch election materials meant for Mkpani and Agoi Wards”. We in the APC in the South-South were serially intimidated. Democracy cannot sustain or thrive in a landscape of violence or threat to life and property.
Even though it is common knowledge that power is transient and given by God to whom He pleases, the impunity or lawlessness of most state Governors belies, the above axiom. In Cross River State, the government and security agencies, rode rough-shod over the opposition, to promote the fortunes of the PDP and their anointed candidates. With the level of impunity of the governor, the collusion, violence and compromise experienced, there was no way the APC could win, in the circumstance. It is therefore attractive to suggest, a review of the immunity clause and control of the security agencies by incumbent governors during elections, to provide a level playing ground for all contestants.
Another challenge experienced and which, unfortunately, also impacted on our performance, is the fraudulent behaviour of some of our party agents. I regret the level of sabotage and compromise exhibited on election duties at the polling units. Some collected their agent allowance but went home, while those more desperate for money, also became agents of other parties in the same unit. In our season of corruption and denial, such conduct is to be expected. It is therefore our responsibility to be more discreet in the engagement, training and monitoring of our agents in future.
Equally worth consideration is a conscious policy to depoliticise the security agencies. The performance of most of our security agencies, during the recent elections was shameful and subverted their oaths of office and the constitution. Training with emphasis on discipline and their roles in a democracy, as core contents, need to be emphasised. An APC Federal Government with a strong regime of discipline, strict application of the rule of law, especially in the war against corruption¸ prosecution of offenders and reform of the rot in the judiciary, will act as lode-star to guide Nigerians to rectitude.
It is not possible to exhaust the roadmap to the success of the APC in Cross River State, in future elections. Several dynamics rapidly interface in our lives, that constantly throw up new challenges. Therefore, the leadership of the party, needs to be proactive and pragmatic to solve emerging realities. From the roles played by the state and Federal PDP political appointees, roles which enhanced their victory, it is imperative, to suggest that the APC Federal Government, consider and appoint more political appointees, in states where we do not have the privilege of incumbency. There is also the imperative of appealing to our party’s government at the Federal level for empowerment of our members, who have over the years, been relegated to untold deprivation for playing opposition politics.
Patrick O. Ubi mni
Asst. Comptroller Gen. (Rtd)