Addressing the people of Ekiti State, the state governor, Kayode Fayemi speaks on the imperative of the successful merger of opposition parties in the country
Today is a great day of historic import. We are here to celebrate the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) following the successful merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and some of our kindred from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
It is worth pointing out that there have been other progressive coalitions in our history. During the First Republic, the United Progressive Grand Alliance was ranged against the ruling Nigerian National Alliance. During the Second Republic, there was the Progressive Peoples’ Alliance, a coalition of opposition parties that was marshaled against the ruling National Party of Nigeria.
Perhaps, if not for chronic interruptions of these democratic dispensations by ambitious soldiers, a two-party system would have evolved naturally on our shores. The APC is a result of the very first successful merger of political parties in the history of our great country Nigeria, and is the first real opportunity for opposition parties to mount a viable challenge for power at the national level.
In the previous instances, progressive alliances failed for a number of reasons. The most obvious may be the readiness of the ruling parties to employ all means at their disposal including chicanery, thuggery and outright violence to preserve their grip on power – this they popularly called the ‘federal might’. Arguably, this tendency to monopolise power at any and all costs led to the collapse of the First Republic after the contentious 1964 elections and the Second Republic after the NPN’s infamous “moonslide” victory. Military interventions occurred in both cases to seal widespread post-election discontent.
On the other hand, let us look inwards. Previous progressive efforts also failed because of internal problems. All too often, opposition figures proved simply unable or unwilling to work together. Their alliances were subverted by chronic infighting and personality clashes. Even in the Fourth Republic, there have been opposition party alliances that failed on account of their protagonists’ inability to subsume their egos in the service of a common goal. Issues of poor organisation, internal incoherence and financial deficiency have been recurrent negative indicators. Against this background, observers are perfectly entitled to ask what exactly is different about the current progressive coalition and what our chances are. This is a fair question.
One of the most frequent criticisms leveled against Nigerian political parties is the lack of internal democracy; the fact that crucial decisions affecting the party are taken by a select minority to the exclusion of the vast majority. While this is particularly true of the ruling PDP, no one can deny that some of these tendencies were evident in the legacy parties that formed the APC. This further fuelled apathy in our people who chose rather to observe from the sidelines than participate actively in partisan politics that was seen as a game for morally deficient people.
Before I attempt addressing these concerns, it is important to first of all dissuade our minds from the popular perception of political parties as merely platforms for a group of people to get to power. The APC is different. While we can’t hide our excitement at our very viable prospects of dislodging the ruling People Democratic Party from power, it is pertinent to note that our aspirations transcend the ascension to power. Indeed, many individuals and their parties unfortunately get to power in Nigeria without having any definite agenda. This is the tragedy of accidental leadership currently bedeviling our nation.
The APC would be engaging the status quo headlong with pro-active and agenda-setting critiques aimed at redeeming the desolation of our land and generation. We would be addressing the moral deficit that has led to the breakdown of our values system leading to the hydra-headed symptoms such as corruption, crass incompetence and ethno-religious bigotry that has kept our great nation underdeveloped in spite of our vast resources.
We would be reaching out to like minds, the critical mass of people who are fed up with business as usual, and who believe that change is possible. We would be continuing in the tradition of our Progressive forebears who were characterised by their commitment to intellectual rigour; to aggressively setting forth their ideas and winning hearts and minds. They, of course, understood and fully participated in the typical pageantry of Nigerian politics but never lost their firm grasp on the ideological substance – a set of core ideas that made them distinct from the ruling party.
Progressives of the anti-colonial nationalist era, the First Republic and the Second Republic, deployed a wide range of weapons – the media, discussion forums, pamphlets, books etc – in championing their cause. Progressive luminaries like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Aminu Kano, were accomplished intellectuals and prolific writers. They were as comfortable discussing ideas as they were engaging the public.
During the Second Republic, a conclave of scholars at the University of Ife (later named the Obafemi Awolowo University) helped draft the manifesto of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). The strength of our youth has to be re-directed to such patriotic exertions, away from short-termism that has become the order of the day. It is this intellectual orientation that the APC must recover. Its appeal must reach not only hearts but also minds. Therein lies our chances; therein lies the possibilities. Our ability to connect with the critical mass of our people who want positive change would be the game changer.
Fellow compatriots, honourable people of Ekiti State, you would have observed that in keeping with my activist antecedents and in giving expression to the true Ekiti instincts in me, I have played a modest role in the emergence of the APC at the national level. I have also been one of the intellectual drivers of the form and character that our new party is evolving into.
Comrades and compatriots, I know that you are proud that providence has imbued your son with the grace to represent Ekiti creditably in the arena of the contestation of ideas on how to move our country forward. It is a historic responsibility that I am grateful to God for the grace He has given me to take up in this movement for positive change in our great country.
As my beloved people, I must however sound a note of warning; as the saying goes “eternal vigilance is the price for our freedom”. We must be careful of wolves in sheep’s clothing; emergency democrats who want to take advantage of our collective aspirations for change to infiltrate our ranks. These ones have no ideological grounding and as skilled political astrologers, they have seen the signs and can tell that the night of bad leadership in Nigeria is upon us, and the New Dawn of Positive Change is coming. The APC represents this New Dawn of Change.
We must define who owns the party by setting aside our apathy and participate actively in building a great party that is owned by all of us. In order to create a national momentum for change; we must aim for new levels of organisational and inspirational acumen. There is a widespread dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the status quo and these are sentiments that we can tap into. But we cannot simply rely on popular annoyance. We have to make our case for change intelligently, courteously and consistently and avoid telegraphing any haughty entitlement to power.
We have to mobilise a corps of operatives, activists and volunteers to function on several fronts ranging from our rural and urban communities to the vibrant online communes populated by Nigerians. Our aim should be the creation of a febrile movement of progressive ideas and citizens rather than an election machine hastily cobbled together for election-day dramatics. This is the imperative that is upon us. We must promote a bottom-top approach; we must organise from the grassroots.
Fellow compatriots, honourable people of Ekiti State, as I conclude, it is important that we note for posterity the role that certain individuals are playing in their attempt to balkanise our compact family of progressives. Their ambitions without consideration of the greater good have beclouded their judgment. Isn’t it interesting that at such a time as this, when we are supposed to be strengthening our family, some amongst us are gathering and organising with a view to testing their strength against the popular will of the people.
As it is commonly said, “birds of the same feather flock together”; indeed, like-minded people have a way of finding each other out. These ones who have obstinately refused to learn from history are on the verge of repeating history and would soon be relegated to the dustbins of history. The Yoruba people especially we Ekiti hate treachery – the natural course of justice would take its course.
On this great day, I encourage all and sundry to gear up for the work ahead. We would soon be welcoming input from all Nigerians into the development of a truly inclusive Manifesto – this is your opportunity to be heard. We would also shortly commence the process of Party Membership Registration across the country. Please come out in your numbers, male, female, young and old; come out to be counted and registered as bonafide members of the party, and show up on the right side of history.
We are witnessing the fulfillment of the promise and dream of our late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who placed upon us the historic necessity for the progressives of the North to merge with the progressives of the South to form a united progressives’ party, to ensure freedom for all and a life more abundant for our people. That time is now and the party is APC.
I welcome all and sundry to this New Dawn – Our pathway to positive change. On this epoch making day, the honourable people of Ekiti have welcomed the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Broom as our symbol. The Broom remains the most effective tool for sweeping every nook and cranny clean of stubborn stains and dirt; the mission to cleanse our country of all ills has begun.
Today, we start-off on a clean slate, leveraging the goodwill of our people earned by the demonstration of good governance, accountability, transparency and inclusiveness by the various governments in APC controlled states. This New Dawn also offers us the opportunity to correct our shortcomings of the past and be better positioned to positively change the course of history. The tide of change will become unstoppable if we all accept the responsibility to be authors of progressive change and not wait for just us leaders.
This is precisely what the APC represents – an opportunity to serve as a vehicle of genuine transformation. It is thus incumbent on all of us who hunger to alter the course of Nigerian history to own this party. The time is now! The Party is APC!