Obiano And The Challenge Of Growing APGA
It is remarkable that in the course of the recent bashing of the All Progressives Grand Alliance by some defecting, notable members of the party and other sundry detractors, Anambra State Governor and by extension, leader of the party, Chief Willie Obiano, largely stood aloof from the fray. It seemed the case that Obiano chose not to utter a word over the altercations in recognition of the need to play the statesman and diffuse the gathering tension.
With the benefit of hindsight however, there can be little doubt that aside from prudence, and the business of delivering good governance, the Governor was rather preoccupied with how to grow the party and take it to higher levels. As the foremost public office holder elected on the ticket of the party, it naturally devolved on him to take the lead in harnessing the potentials of the organization.
This resolve to assume the historic responsibility of fulfilling the mission of APGA is evident in certain occurrences in the party. The recent declaration for the party by the immediate past Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc, Dr Alex Otti is a significant development.
Coming at a time critics have been unrelenting in their negative portrayal of the party, the decision of Otti to join APGA just like the earlier case of Emmanuel Iheanacho, former Minister of Interior, indicates that the public perception of APGA has not changed despite the spirited attempts to run down its image.
With people of such stature as Otti and Iheanacho embracing APGA at times like this, it means that the defining values of the party are still intact and perhaps, being better nourished. Whichever way we look at it, increasing party membership, more so, of the enlightened and elite cadre at a supposed time of crisis, connotes a vote of confidence on the leadership of the party.
The rapport between the Governor and the party apparatchik represented by the party chairman, Victor Umeh is believed to be a factor in the unity of the party leadership. Deriving from this strength of oneness, firmness and purpose, the party has been able to stay focused. The solidarity of the two offices invariably lent the party the armour to withstand the spate of subversions against it; and further availing Governor Obiano the climate for realising good governance.
A political party is supposed to be an association of persons sharing similar philosophies for organizing the state and utilizing its resources for the welfare of the citizens. To this extent, political parties are 'ideological' movements such that members' commitment to the principles of the 'ideology' becomes the staying force of a party irrespective of the extent of territory it controls in a polity. Unfortunately, many Nigerians have been misled into the erroneous impression that the worth of a political party is measured by the number of power centres it acquires from elections. Recall the subsisting legal challenge to the plot to deregister political parties in Nigeria for inability to win stipulated legislative /executive seats in elections.
General Ibrahim Babangida made a misguided attempt at creating two 'ideological' parties in 1990. The parties were artificial and constricted by the fact of their imposition. Worse, they were to operate in an environment that was the very antithesis of the sanity they were supposed to engender. Military rule had long bred a milieu of corruption in the country. But the regime's unwritten policy of 'settlement' in particular dealt a mortal blow to party loyalty. Again, recall the quicksand of shifting interests in the SDP and NRC over the June 12 election saga, from the annulment through the Interim National Government to Abacha's coup.
Whereas many political parties of the Fourth Republic are considered directionless and fragile, some are at a loss understanding the cohesion of APGA. The party rates as one of the most brutalized, yet resilient opposition parties. APGA has kept afloat in the stormy waters of Nigerian government and politics principally because of the interwoven fortunes of its mission and leadership. It had been registered in 2002 to aggregate progressive tendencies in national politics and offer a geo – balance to other regional – based parties. As a movement, APGA is concerned about giving a voice to the voiceless; revisiting the plight of the marginalized; and charting an inclusive process for forging a stable political union in the country.
Governor Obiano has been mindful enough not to abandon the party faithful that helped him come to power. It is not necessary to alienate party supporters from the system just to prove that government is a serious business. By rallying members of the party and giving them a sense of belonging, Obiano has struck the fine balance to hold government and party together. Even while not a politician until last year, it is noteworthy that the Governor recognizes the place of party caucuses and their input in decision – making.
In the light of APGA's historical and policy perspectives then, membership longevity, as desirable as it is, does not weigh as much as personal commitment in impacting on the fortunes of the party. Thus, it is easy to see how Willie Obiano, though a relatively newcomer in APGA is already leaving his imprint in the repositioning of the party for a greater role in national affairs.
Reconstruction of the APGA machinery had become imperative for similar reasons that necessitated the recreation of Anambra's economy and society. In tandem with the demand of charity, it is only natural that the rebuilding of APGA should commence in the zone where the party first sprouted.
Otti had hinted at this inspiration on the occasion of his courtesy visit at Government House, Awka, on November 12, 2014. Explaining the rationale behind his pitching tent with APGA, Otti remarked he was swayed by Obiano's commendable footsteps in private and public office. A high profile corporate player as Obiano himself, Otti was as much impressed by the Governor's smooth transition from the boardroom to politics as by his laudable strides in office in so short a time. APGA has further become attractive as a party without a dictator – godfather standing in the way of participatory democracy and development.
With Obiano beginning to transform Anambra State in the critical areas of governance, it would be a super story if Otti and Iheanacho, accomplished professionals who also share the APGA spirit, realize their governorship aspirations in Abia and Imo States respectively. For the challenge before Nigeria's political parties today is to assume relevance by giving vent to the people's needs.
Ifeanyi Afuba, a member of APGA, wrote from Nimo, Anambra State.