By Barr. Utum Eteng
The great English Philosopher John Locke in one of his philosophical outings opined that “New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.” Still alluding to the principles of learning from experience, the Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Gustar Jung cautioned: “a man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions, has never overcome them.”
The 2019 election has come and gone, losers and winners have emerged, many reasons have been given and theories propounded. Even those who knew well ahead of time that they would fail still resort to rationalizations to escape blame. The Cross River State All Progressives Congress (APC) experience in this regard can best be juxtaposed with the example of “two men looking out through the same bar, and one sees the mud and the other sees the stars.”
It cannot be contested that, the state APC leadership, going by the intense ego fight among its leaders cautioned itself enough as to realize that the way the party was going, promoting factions, the APC would score low in the 2019 general election. There were clear ominous signs that the party was merely grandstanding and the electorate knew this. There were too many avoidable internal battles, fights and struggles to gain nothing.
Though the lack of trust, which culminated in the genesis of the cracks started from the inception of the party in the State, and one would have thought that after its pioneer State Chairman, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani was appointed Minister with Mr Ochala taking over the mantle in an Acting capacity, the drift would be controlled, but that was not to be. This in truth was the forerunner of the escalated hype and fractionalization in the APC family. There was no love lost among members, with the ruling PDP watching and stoking the inferno from its vantage position.
The old caution that “the safest way to hell (a fall) is the gradual one, with the gentle slope, self underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones and without signposts,” meant nothing to the gladiators, who from their vantage positions also stoked the internal inferno for their selfish interests. It never mattered to them to secure the political grounds first before taking the next step; it was as well not remembered that only he who keeps his eyes fixed on the far horizon will find his right road.
The drift was swift and as the leadership was mesmerized by pockets of false claim of support from the national leadership of the party. The Etim John faction did not come out clean from these claims of support from godfathers in the national executive council and the Presidency.
The death knell was, however, finally sounded when, in the twilight of Chief Oyegun’s National Exco, a state congress was consummated, which pitched late Dr Matthew Archigbe against Hon. Etim John, wherein Hon. Etim John won and sworn-in by the out-going Oyegun National Working Committee. That was not without bitter protests and complaints from the Archive faction of supporters.
Consequent upon the said complaints, the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole National Working Committee that succeeded the Oyegun NWC called for a fresh Congress, which eventually proclaimed the late Dr Archigbe led state exco winner and was inaugurated with the same John Ochala as Deputy State Chairman. It will be recalled that he was Deputy State Chairman at the time Pastor Usani Usani was State Chairman. Upon the demise of Dr Archigbe, he, Ochala resumed for the 2nd time as Acting State Chairman as was the case when Pastor Usani was appointed Minister.
It is important to note that in spite of the inauguration of Dr Archigbe state exco, the Etim John State Exco held on firmly to its position, arguing forcefully that he was legitimately sworn-in by the Oyegun NWC, thus, giving birth to two APC state excos in Cross River State.
The concomitant effect was the endless court actions by both factions and the matter now taken before the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal Calabar judgment.
Two governorship primaries were held, one an internal panel producing Pastor Usani Usani, and the other an external panel set-up by the NWC, which produced Senator John Owan Enoh as the APC governorship candidate.
Amidst this background, the State APC went into the governorship contest with Senator John Enoh and Pastor Usani Usani each claiming to be the authentic candidate up to the election date. Sad enough, both APC members and the electorate were confused as to who the real APC governorship candidate was and as expected, harped on this disunity to go for the PDP candidate.
The political crisis and the follow-up hype in the APC family were traceable to the mutual suspicion, ego, personality clash and inability of the two Abuja-based principal gladiators to appreciate the ephemeral nature of power in the position they held. Suffice it to state that, even the elders of the party were helpless and were forced to take sides as they lost their voices.
That, there is still an appeal of the matter to the Supreme Court point to the fact that the war on fractionalization and legitimacy is still ragging in the state party. It needs to be addressed as it is strange for the national leadership of the APC to watch unconcerned.
The object message in this discourse therefore is about locating and navigating the honest and proper way forward, guided by the wisdom of old again that “a house divided against itself can never stand” and also by the caution of the late Egyptian President, Anwar al-Sadat that “there can only be hope for a society which acts as one big family and not as many separate ones.” The standing of any political party in a civilized democracy is measured in terms of the numbers of seats won in an election, hence the saying that, “for the political tactician, the end of an election is the beginning of the planning of strategies for the next election.” Could this apply in APC CRS?
In the last general election, 117,000 votes were secured for the President, and out of 36 other elective positions contested for, the APC won only the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency seat by Dr Alex Egbonna. Hon. Alex Ogbonnaya was set howbeit to win the seat on the platform of any other political party given his grassroots appeal. Hence he may play a role in this search of the true way forward.
It remains to be understood why a political party of the progressives, like the APC, would prefer its leadership to be in the hands of an Acting State Chairman for nearly 4 years even when it is obvious that the party has registered no positive results within the period.
Without equivocation, if the state APC after more than 4 years has made no mark, whether, by the legitimate/authentic/illegitimate, faction, it is common sense that both factions should be disbanded by the NWC and call for an improved and a fresh beginning with a carefully selected caretaker outfit. The leadership of a political organization is not cut for celebrations in failures, as real celebrations come after victory at the polls. This is the ultimate and APC CRS must follow the trend. If Battalion A fails to win the war, then a replacement with Battalion B becomes imperative, because, the essence of warfare is to win the battle.
The decision to disband may be painful, especially to those who hold positions in either of the two factions, but if the APC is desirous to be effectively functional and result oriented in Cross River State, then no sacrifice should be spared in the overall interest of the party. After all, an inaugurated State Exco by the Chief Oyegun NWC was allegedly disbanded by the Comrade Oshiomole’s led NWC sometimes ago, the heavens did not fall. Many of our youths are desirous of food on their tables.
Assuming for purposes of arguments that the late Dr Archigbe Exco is the legitimate one going by the last Court of Appeal, Calabar Division judgment, the mind-boggling question is; what has he said exco achieved since its inception? As can be admitted by the ordinary APC members, the said exco only exists in the air and on the pages of newspaper rebuttals. It is important to observe that nearly all its gladiators, failed to deliver their PUs/wards to the APC in the last election. Why would a prophet not be honoured at home if he is really a true prophet of God?
A serious-minded and well organized political party with a vision and a mission like the APC would not depend on an Acting leadership capacity to run its affairs for too long. Hence, this passionate appeal to redirect the affairs of APC in Cross River State into the heads of a carefully chosen Caretaker Committee that will bring people from both sides of the divide to make a result oriented whole. Harmonization into a single entity has no substitute/alternative.
A few, out of ignorance of the new trend in justice delivery vide the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), do not know that even at the Supreme Court level, parties can resolve their conflicts in matters pending before the Supreme Court in the interest of lasting peace. A matter resolved by ADR method creates a feeling of a no victor no vanquished and that is what the APC needs now in CRS.
The APC national leadership must set aside all extraneous interest, and take the bull by the horns to redeem, re-enact the motto and supremacy of the APC pursuant to Article 2 of the APC constitution, if the level of suspicion, bad blood and individualism between members of the two factions is to be contained. Time is of the essence as we are getting set for 2023. A harmonized Caretaker Committee charged with the task of bringing everybody together to consolidate the party for a given period of time is the only viable option.
If truly, the end of one election (2019) is the beginning of the proper planning for another election (2023), then there can be no better strategy now than to be guided by the wisdom expressed above by the former Egyptian President, Anwar Al-Sadat when said that “there can only be hope for a society which acts as one big family and not as many separate ones”. Thus a large number of APC members seeking to be nominated into the Federal Executive Council is a clear manifestation of the true state of the State APC in the State.
I know I am bound to be misunderstood and vilified by a few for personal reasons, I do not mind. The party is bigger than any individual or group.
- Eteng, a Private Legal Practitioner, is a member of APC, Calabar, Cross River State