By Collins Opurozor
Nigeria’s political lexicon was enriched with a new concept in Nkwerre; great things happen when great people gather. The participation of the charismatic National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Victor Ike Oye, at the sensitisation rally organised by the Imo State Chapter of the Party in Nkwerre LGA will never be forgotten. The pronouncements made by this political titan have come to be known as ‘the Nkwerre Declaration’, the substance of which constitutes the fulcrum of this piece.
Nearly five decades after the Civil War, the political fortunes of the Igbo nation remain enmeshed in a myriad of perplexities and labyrinth of uncertainties. Very many still see Nigeria as an alien, even an alienating, idea that appears to them as an illegitimate hegemony that exercises suzerainty instead of sovereignty. Yet, a dearth of cohesion subsists among the Igbo, even with their seeming homogeneity, a vital attribute of an ethnic nationality, making it hard to chart a trajectory for their political future.
Many seem to have no illusions about the almost infeasibility of a Nigerian President of the Igbo extraction. All the expectations to that effect keep going south day after day, year after year. And the centrifugal tendencies of neo-Biafranism have further fed the suspicion of the other ethnic groups about the faithlessness of the Igbo in the Nigeria project. These are realities we shy away from only at our own peril.
At Nkwerre, however, the Igbo nation was availed with a new political direction which has in the main addressed the pangs of the people. It’s about unity in party identification. It’s about steadfastness in pursuit of goals. It’s about commitment to institution-building. And it’s about fidelity to refined political ethos. To be sure, the current national leadership of APGA is abundantly infused with these attributes which explain the dizzying successes being recorded by the party under the watch of Dr. Victor Ike Oye.
It is tempting to highlight that for almost sixteen years of its existence APGA never produced a senator from Anambra State. This never happened even with the presence of the irreplaceable icon, Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu. Also, never before in the history of Nigeria did it happen that a party won in all the polling units for a senatorial election nor had it occurred that a party won in all the council areas of a state in a gubernatorial election. But these seemingly impossible feats have been accomplished by APGA in view of the character of its leadership, the wisdom of Dr. Oye and the growing consciousness among the Igbo for an endogenous political identity.
At Nkwerre, therefore, the agenda for replicating the political miracles of APGA in Anambra State throughout the South East was set.
APGA has not had a pleasant history in Imo State. Between 2003 and 2015 the following scenarios obtained: the Party was popular in 2003 and Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu was acceptable to the electorate but the prevailing political order orchestrated a simulated landslide in favour of the PDP. In 2007, the Party was already on its way to victory with Chief Martin Agbaso before the whole thing was aborted. In 2011, the Party won with Chief Anayo Okorocha who later personalised the victory, disappointed everybody, dumped the Party and even declared it dead in the State. In 2015, the Party had a very poor outing with Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho owing chiefly to lack of internal party democracy and flawed nomination processes that bred disaffection and apathy within the party. The party now has 2019 to correct all the mistakes of the past.
What are the mistakes? To be sure, winning an election is not entirely a political party affair, neither is it realized singly by the personality of the candidate. Civil society groups, faith-based organizations and cultural associations play very essential roles. These areas were never given the desired attention by the Party in 2003. Rather, the whole euphoria was built around the personality of Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu. The most virile campaigns are done in people’s minds, their hearts, their souls. Propagating political ideologies on the platforms of religion, culture, class and ethnicity has proven to be more effective than any other means in post-colonial societies. Cloaking political messages with their veils makes receptivity almost magical. APGA’s potentials in these areas are enormous and must now be properly harnessed.
Again, mass mobilization for mandate protection is a vital role of a political party. It is not enough to ask the electorate to vote. The mechanism for protecting those votes by ensuring that they are counted and that they count must be in place. APGA was not sufficiently equipped for this in 2007, and it lost a mandate so willingly given by the Imo electorate.
Further, institution-building is inescapably necessary to a political party that hopes to win and retain state power. A political party that hands out its tickets to people who run to it only when aspiring to offices is not building an institution. An institution is built when the party faithful are confident that their consistence, loyalty, steadfastness and contributions to the growth of the Party will be rewarded. In 2011, APGA made this mistake by choosing a passerby named Anayo Okorocha. Even though the man won, APGA lost out before long. This logic will play out a thousand times if the mistake is repeated a thousand times.
Furthermore, no party can win an election when aspirants are schemed out, their supporters harassed, delegates assaulted and the mainstream party members feeling genuinely aggrieved. With the 2015 gubernatorial experience, the Party in Imo State has a lot to frown at for a better outing in 2019.
It is exciting to note that the Nkwerre Declaration also embodies a correction to all of these. The Party, said Dr. Oye, will reward those that have shown faith and rebuilt it, and a basic assessment bar for all aspirants will, among other things, be the extent of their contributions and sacrifices to the overall welfare of the Party.
It is in view of the foregoing that Mr. Okey Ezeh stands out as a stellar, inimitable and generally revered governorship aspirant of the Party in Imo State. Through his visionary politics at which heart is an unflinching belief in the APGA ideology, Mr. Okey Ezeh can rightly be described as the face of APGA the State. He, it seems clear to me, has refused to see politics as a totally different sphere of life governed by certain ammoral considerations and the calculus of raw power. Politics to him is instead an opportunity to practise sincerity, render service, heal injuries, wipe tears, extend benevolence, touch lives, and, in short, bring to the fore all the cherished values by which his life and personal accomplishments are defined.
With Mr. Okey Ezeh nominated as the APGA gubernatorial flag bearer in Imo State, the loyalty of the members of the Party will increase by leaps and bounds. Everyone will pick themselves up, fold their sleeves up and get to work for the victory of the Party, because they see him as one of them and his victory shall truly and ultimately be theirs.
Again, his nomination will initiate a process of institution-building in APGA which gains are enormous. New members will grow confident in the certainty of their political future. The gale of defections from the Party will end, a reward system established and a bright future created for everyone in the Party.
We have a great opportunity to fulfill the expectations of the Nkwerre Declaration, take APGA to greater heights and make Imo great again. Imo Rebirth is Now!