What Does APGA Bring to the Presidential Race? -By Ifeanyi Afuba

Filed under: Political Issues |

The 2019 presidential election would be the third presidential poll the All Progressives Grand Alliance is contesting since the party’s registration in 2002 and it looks set to be her finest outing yet.

With the benefit of hindsight, the decision not to vie in the 2011 and 2015 presidential poll was an error of judgment. The political interests that APGA supported on the two occasions never reciprocated the gesture but saw it as the perfect opportunity to swallow APGA. Those abstentions from the presidential race stunted the growth of the party and helped to foster the misleading impression of a provincial movement.

However, two developments since 2015 have combined to brighten APGA’s prospects in the coming 2019 elections. The first is the vibrancy that Governor Willie Obiano’s leadership has infused into the party. Doubtless, the recent mishandling of party primaries in some constituencies introduced drawbacks but indications are that leadership resilience is acting to heal the wounds. The second factor that has upped the ante for APGA is the choice of a presidential flagbearer with glittering credentials.

 

Ifeanyi Afuba

 

As a doctorate degree holder, Rtd Maj Gen John Gbor stands out among the three leading presidential contenders. At 70, he is the youngest of the frontline candidates and Nigerians have good reasons to take note of the age factor in deciding who to entrust with the exhausting job of President. A Christian from Benue State, the APGA’s John Gbor has no baggage of indictment, incompetence or allegations of misconduct from either 35 years of military service or political appointments. Aside job creation and educational development, Gbor has laid emphasis on fairness through restructuring of the federation in a way that resonates with progressive minded Nigerians.

But it appears the political ascendancy inherent in APGA’s keen contest of the 2019 presidential poll is causing unease in some political quarters. And to the extent that APGA’s responsibility of fielding candidates for elections is deliberately being misinterpreted. The conspiracy theory blandly alleges that the APGA would be going into the presidential contest to divide the south east votes.
Divide the south east votes with who? But for the coercive rigging machinery deployed into electoral contests in the first sixteen years of the fourth republic, APGA would be in control of at least four out of the five south eastern states today. In the period under reference, the APGA was consistently ripped of its victories and taunted to go to the tribunal in a conservative setting where the odds were heavily stacked against the petitioner.

The APGA’s Ugochukwu Agballa and Ezekiel Izuogu were widely believed to have won the Enugu and Imo states governorships respectively in the 2003 general elections. Ugochukwu Agballah was on the way to recovering his mandate when the establishment disbanded the tribunal which had admitted damning evidence of fraud. Sadly for democracy, the new tribunal proceeded to reject the same vital evidence. In 2014, the APGA lost its hard – won Imo State 2011 governorship mandate to a self centred defection agenda. Was it not before our very eyes that Alex Otti’s victory in Abia State in 2015 was appropriated with a cocktail of intrigues? When the APGA recorded these feats, was it based on a contract with which political party? Need we mention Anambra State where the APGA has consistently been winning elections since 2003!

The uncomfortable truth which the proponents of this smear campaign are shying away from is that APGA continues to increase its winning margin in the south east with every new election. The Anambra State 2017 governorship election in which the APGA swept all the 21 local council areas of the State illustrates the trend effectively.

And it is not only in the south east that the party has been waxing strong. In the FCT Abuja, Nassarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, APGA remains the party to beat in any free and fair election. It is a contender in the south west and south south regions where significant inroads continue to be made. And with rtd General John Gbor leading the APGA presidential march, his home state of Benue becomes another support base. Consequently, anyone who drums the propaganda that APGA is in the race to serve the interest of another party presents himself as partisan, unintelligent or compromised.

Surprises have been pulled before in elections and will continue to be pulled. Donald Trump was expected to suffer crashing defeat in the United States 2016 presidential election but he proved the bookmakers wrong. Balarabe Musa was considered the underdog in the Kaduna State 1979 governorship election but he won comfortably in a State the opposition NPN had two third majority in the State House of Assembly. By whatever acts of omission or commission, Michael Otedola of the NRC clinched the Lagos State governorship in 1991 in SDP’s comfort zone.

And in the event that no winner emerges in the first ballot – and this is not a far – fetched scenario considering the comparative strength of the party categories – APGA will become a courted bride. The APGA will be there to negotiate the disadvantaged parts of Nigeria into a fairer deal. Not winning a presidential election does not mean the end or irrelevance of a party. Coalitions and alliances remain a popular way of forming governments, sharing power and engendering stability even in advanced democracies.

APGA’s is a powerful brand with long – lasting appeal. The APGA has a credible programme for restructuring of the Nigerian state arising from its founding vision. This historical and ideological content is far superior to the gallery playing of restructuring which some ambitious presidential candidates recently latched on to. Where is the commitment to restructuring in this overnight political correctness? As we say in Igbo, you can always tell the difference between the waters of rainfall and that poured on the ground by hand.

The APGA is in the race to protect the interests of minorities and marginalised sections. It is going into the presidential election to deepen democracy, present wider choices to the electorate and to grow and strengthen the party. The APGA will contest the 2019 presidential poll most keenly. She will not be blackmailed into taking the election as a picnic.

Afuba is editor of Anambra Times magazine.

 

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