By JIDE AJANI,Editor (Northern Operations) Emman Ovuakporie
Last Wednesday, in the nation’s capital, Abuja, specifically at the This Day Dome, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), held a colloquium heralding its campaigns for the April general elections. Reminiscent of a political rally but with intellectual content, ACN brought together its candidates for the elections and used the event to launch its manifesto and agenda for Nigeria.
One could feel the scent of optimism for change in the air, as the party’s presidential candidate, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, pointed out. Why not! The party had within three months got judicial victories turning over two states’ governorship over to it in Ekiti and Osun states, bringing the number of states under its belt to four and, thereby, making it the second party in the land and the major opposition to the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
Party’s big wigs at the event included former governors Chris Ngige and Saminu Turaki of Anambra and Jigawa states’ respectively, all gubernatorial candidates of the party, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, Chief Audu Ogbe, Chief Tom Ikimi, Alhaji Yusuf Ali, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Chief Abiye Sekibo, Senator James Kolawole, Alhaji Siedu Malami, all House of Representatives and senatorial candidates.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, was obviously the centre of attraction – he is the undisputed leader of the party, having deployed massive human and financial resources and logistics to the sustenance of the party not only in the Southwest geo-political zone but also across the entire country.
In contemporary politicking in the country, ACN has suddenly become a refuge of sorts for politicians who feel aggrieved at whatever perceived or real injustices received from their former parties. This explains why people like Araraume (from Imo State) and Senator Akpan Udo Uduedeghe (Akwa Ibom State) were also in attendance – they were both formerly of PDP.
On the occasion, Ribadu, the former anti-corruption czar, tasked Nigerians on the importance of “service of restarting the agenda that makes democracy meaningful in the lives of citizens.” He warned that “if we fail to urgently realise the vision of a modern Nigeria, the echoes of currently muted, but potentially destabilising change will soon consume our land.”
Also, former PDP national chairman, Ogbeh; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, his Lagos State counterpart, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, and Tinubu all took turns to express disappointment at the state of the nation, insisting that the PDP administration of the last 12 years had failed Nigerians.
According to Ribadu, “this is a season of change and its sweet scent is in the air.
“Change has come to our doorsteps, the sacrificial lamb is already in revolt and while the other parties cannot grasp the significance of this silent revolution, our party must help advance it to the next logical stage.
“While the citizens of other countries are protesting dictatorship in their countries, in Nigeria let us act sensibly to take advantage of the fact that we have the opportunity to affect change every four years through the ballot.
“In the face of its shoddy report card from over two decades of abysmal failure at governance, PDP can at least be self-respecting to excuse itself from the dignified gathering of true apostles of change. And, from the opposition parties, since the ACN has exhibited evidence of competent leadership in the four states it is administering, we clearly earn the historic responsibility of leading the mission of change.
Our challenge now is to reproduce that example of competent leadership at the centre when we take over the reins of power and form the next government come May 29.
“Unless we actively disable the capacity of corruption to regenerate, through a cocktail of excellent laws, professional enforcement engagements and a vigourous public education on its dangers to our social health, no governance policy will work here, however, excellent in planning and execution”.
Ribadu explained that an ACN administration would ensure that unstable power supply became a thing of the past, just as other sectors and aspects of the Nigerian being would receive a fillip.
Earlier, Ogbeh, who was also a second republic communications minister and chairman of the party’s manifesto committee, explained that the committee was set up six weeks ago and that their party was ready to make life worth living for Nigerians.
Ogbeh then reeled out the areas he described as “very critical for our party: national security and defence; housing, where he said ACN was prepared to give Nigerians one million housing units every year; agriculture and rural integration, education, health, oil and solid minerals, power, public sector reform, fight against corruption, foreign policy, manufacturing and sports.”
Before the ACN manifesto committee chair took the podium, Fayemi said what ACN was attempting to do is to galvanise the people to stand up for their convictions and for the future of Nigeria. He said the party is ruled by the ideology of transformation and not the ideology of transaction. He then took a swipe at President Goodluck Jonathan, saying ACN “is a party of radicals and not one of rascals”.
For Fashola, the PDP does not have the manifesto to galvanise the public service to maximum productivity. He said the success story of Lagos State was largely dependent on the civil service “because I claim no experience in governance apart from my years as Chief of Staff from 2002 till 2006 and a studied demand response of the state which took us round Lagos for 66 days. But, it is not a four-year story but that of 12 years because I was fortunate to have succeeded a visionary leader like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who laid the bridge for the developmental strides the state has recorded so far.”
Speaking later, Tinubu said nobody is dictating to the presidential flagbearer of the party, a reference to reports that there was a rift between him and Ribadu on who should be presidential running-mate in the coming election.
Asked whether the merger talks could still continue, the Asiwaju simply said, “I am here to discuss the manifesto of ACN not any other party, we are here to find solutions to the numerous problems of this country. For instance, 12 million youths are unemployed. How do we get them jobs?
“This is an avenue for us to discuss agriculture, housing problems, the 12 million unemployed youths and how to move the country forward.”
The party can no longer be described as that tiny opposition party that had a one-man standing state government in late 2008 any longer as it now has four states.
Last year, the party wore a new toga by changing from Action Congress (AC), to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), giving it a national look rather than being looked upon as a regional party.
Today, ACN has moved several steps ahead to send a message to PDP that, this time, it is not going to be a push-over in the general elections.
Deputy National Chairman of the party, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the idea of the party’s colloquium “affords us two opportunities; firstly, through it, the party would properly articulate its well-thought policy options as encapsulated in our manifesto and present same to Nigerians against the backdrop of the unprecedented energy crisis, high level insecurity the type this country has never witnessed in all its existence, dilapidated infrastructure, pervasive poverty and collapsed social services, in spite of enhanced earnings.”