By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Citing his inability to coexist with those he described as petty-minded people or condone what he claimed to be the domineering influence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Tom Ikimi, yesterday, withdrew his membership of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
While expressing pain in pulling away from a party he played a crucial role in forming, Ikimi said the “reckless self-aggrandisement demonstrated” by Tinubu who he claimed gave himself the national leader of the party and forced a weak leadership on the party made his exit from the party inevitable.
Ikimi who was national chairman of the National Republican Convention, NRC in the Third Republic, alleged a conspiracy against fellow conservatives that has led to the exit of several party leaders. Among those he claimed to have been hounded out of the party were former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, and former military governor of Lagos and Borno States, Brig-Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd.).
Ikimi’s assertions contained in a treatise entitled, ‘My Reflections’ followed the cleavage in his relationship with the party leadership following his observations on internal wrangling ahead of the party’s June national convention where he aimed to vie for the office of national chairman.
Ikimi said that he refrained from vying on the basis of what he alleged as the attempt by Tinubu to foist a weak leadership on the party for his own agenda.
He also faulted the APC’s inclination towards a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket which he said arose from Tinubu’s perception that the Northwest and Southwest could, through their population, win the 2015 presidential election. He said that inclination had helped to move people away from the party.
Ikimi also accused Tinubu of doctoring the party’s constitution to extend the tenure of the Bisi Akande interim leadership of the party. He was, however, not clear on his next political direction even as he admitted he was still critically appraising the other major political party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the party had not been notified of the development when contacted on the imminent withdrawal of Ikimi from the party.
However, former APC chieftain, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode welcomed the development in a tweet, yesterday, where he said: “I congratulate my leader and my chairman Chief Tom Ikimi on his historic decision to leave the APC. He has shown immense courage.”
While noting his role as chairman of the merger committee of the four political parties that collapsed into the APC, Ikimi said that his problems with Tinubu were despite entreaties from stakeholders on Tinubu’s goodwill to the APC. He said,“I was always told that the man was the overwhelming financier of the party.
While I disagree stoutly with this bluff it is true that the particular individual constantly boasted of his wealth and of his funding of the party. I on the other hand could recall that this was a man I knew who was an easily forgettable character in the 1990s when I was national party chairman and when my candidate Sir Michael Otedola of blessed memory, won the Governorship of Lagos State.
“To further bolster his image it was also frequently said that Tinubu has control of all the votes from South Western Nigeria which, as has been currently touted, when added to the votes of North Western Nigeria would guarantee victory for the APC in the upcoming Presidential election.
This reckless and arrogant self-aggrandizement paved the way for the imposition of a strange leadership on the APC in July 2013 when the party obtained registration from INEC.
Those of us who had worked so hard towards the successful merger and creation of the APC were manipulated out of the scheme of things. In the bizarre struggle to seize control of the party we were even openly accused by the self-proclaimed owners of the party, of wanting to steal “their” party.
”Many of us in the party as well as keen observers outside frowned at the skewed leadership image of the party that was being paraded. An image that blatantly ignored national sensitivities.
The draft constitution prepared by the Merger Committee included an exit clause, which provided a time limit of six months for the Interim Management of the Party.
That clause mysteriously disappeared from the version of the constitution that was smuggled into INEC records. Chief Bisi Akande’s National Chairmanship was therefore primed to stay on in power ad infinitum! Asiwaju Bola Tinubu frantically constituted a group of friends and cronies which he proclaimed to be the APC Leadership.”
“Rather than freely open up critical issues to free debate at the Interim Executive Council for democratic decisions to emerge, positions plotted at the notorious Asokoro parlor were being desperately foisted on the party for execution.”
A handful of us constantly challenged this trend with little success. Gradually, the direction of the Party assumed a focus on the contest for the Presidency. Then the images of presumed Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates as well as a privately cooked up Permanent Chairman for the party started emerging signalling a Muslim/Muslim Presidential and Vice Presidential ticket.
The details of this issue I have sufficiently dealt with in my previous statement. However let me state again that their calculation that the Presidency in the 2015 General elections will be won by the APC through votes from the North West and South West Nigeria became an obsession.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who passionately believed in this theory and who arrogantly claimed custody of all South West votes already picked an aspirant from North Western Nigeria who will run as Presidential candidate with him as Vice Presidential candidate. The National image of the party immediately plummeted.”
“There is no provision for anyone to be named as the Party Leader. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu having paraded himself both at home and abroad as The Leader of Opposition and of the APC had great difficulty in descending from the fictitious throne. In order to continue manipulating the party from his parlors in Abuja and Lagos he struggled to retain Chief Bisi Akande as Chairman.
He was further troubled by the growing influence of the Governors and panicked at the realization that he and his South West select caucus were loosing their grip on “their” party to the Governors.
His last minute efforts to rally a South West Leadership support for his absolute power over the party failed and chances of retaining Chief Bisi Akande as National Chairman also evaporated. In the circumstance as the only option was to find a successor National Chairman as well as other National Officers, an illegal process of horse trading between the Governors and Tinubu was initiated.
The Interim Executive Council had no knowledge of all these processes. Chief John Oyegun a Tinubu plan B project said to be favored for his NADECO and SDP credentials and also as one who could be controlled now featured, came into the picture.”
Ikimi also pointed at the emergence of new power points outside Tinubu as he cited the governors and the club of presidential aspirants in the party.
Ikimi also faulted how according to him Tinubu sought to diminish his, Ikimi’s role in the crystallisation of the party.
“On the 7th of March 2014 the APC staged a National Summit at the Hilton Hotel in Abuja which was an elaborate event choreographed to officially unveil the new party.
An extensive presentation was displayed to showcase how the party was formed. Most fair-minded persons who attended the event were shocked to observe that not even a word was mentioned of me as one of those who contributed to the creation of the APC.
Film clips were shown of Bola Tinubu, Muhamadu Buhari, Bisi Akande, Ogbonnaya Onu and a few selected others who in most cases gave distorted accounts of the merger process. Surprisingly it was Senator Ali Modu Sherriff who became so disgusted by the deliberate distortion of the facts that he had the courage to take the microphone and openly berated the injustice.
Some were obviously embarrassed but it turned out that those who prepared the presentation, many of them high ranking members of the party, were working on the instructions of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
For his noteworthy and courageous public intervention on this matter, Senator Sherriff was now marked down by Bola Tinubu as having opposed him so much so that shortly after the event both men almost engaged in physical combat at an expanded National Exco meeting in Abuja.”
“Senator Ali Modu Sherriff may be a friend and long time political ally but he is certainly not my sponsor. I read several newspaper fictional stories that said Senator Sherriff was sponsoring me for National Chairman. That is not true.”
He also accused Tinubu of causing the frictions that led to the exit of Bafarawa, Shekarau and other national leaders who helped in the formation of the party.
“It is not a coincidence to me that the prominent members of APC targeted by Bola Tinubu such as Alhaji Atahiru Bafarawa, Sen Ali Modu Sherriff and myself are former NRC members or those perceived as Conservatives.”
Concluding, he said:
“Notwithstanding my enormous contributions over the past 12 years or so to building the alternative platform, after very deep thought and the widest consultations I have made the decision to withdraw my membership from the All Progressives Congress (APC) from today, Wednesday 27th August 2014.”