Concerned about the series of crisis that have threatened the unity of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in recent times, governors of the party have expressed support for its current leadership.
The governors, under the aegis of the Progressive Governors Forum, yesterday pledged to ensure that the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and other members of its National Working Committee (NWC) are not bullied out of office before the expiration of their tenure in 2018.
The progressive governors also held that every party member must be involved in funding it, and promised to work with the party’s leadership to ensure that areas of conflict are sorted out.
Chairman of the forum and Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, made this known after a meeting with the leadership of the APC at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, yesterday.
He disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari would be addressing the party leadership soon.
“I am here at our party’s headquarters to meet with the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and (for us) to deliberate on what we must do to ensure the unity of our party.
“We have noticed that there is so much bitterness among the ranks of our party. There is need for communication and dialogue because where there is no deliberation and dialogue, war is inevitable,” Okorocha said.
The Imo State governor wondered the reason for the crisis, pointing out that it was the same NWC that led the party to win the last general election, and as such, they should be honoured rather than maltreated in any form.
He continued: “And I want to assure them (NWC members) that no one would bully them out or hush them, but there is need to make amendments where possible, which is natural with any human organisation.
“So, the party will be restructured for the purpose of making it stronger and (for us) to move forward as a people and as a party.
“Again, very important, I came to commend the members of the NWC for their understanding, patience and sacrifices they made during the period of election. Mr President and commander-in-chief, who is the leader of the party, would be addressing the party leadership very soon – in a couple of weeks or before the next two months – and from there we would take it up, but our party is united and strong.
“And we must take advantage of the moment, especially with the visible crisis in the PDP. Many good people in the PDP want to join APC but they are still watching because they have not seen us show that which we were known for before the election, and there is no reason why we cannot manage this victory.”
On the issue of funding the party, he said: “The issue was also discussed and every stakeholder would be part of it. It is not about a person or the president; every member of APC would sponsor the party.”
Governor Okorocha also held separate meetings with principal officers of the APC in the two chambers of the National Assembly behind closed doors.
Although there were speculations that the meetings were premised on President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for the National Assembly’s approval for his administration to secure a loan of $29.6 billion, Okorocha insisted that his visit was to ensure a cordial relationship between the executive and the legislative arm of government.
“My visit has nothing to do with the $30 billion loan, but what is important is that if there is a good relationship, things will move well,” he said, adding that the friction witnessed in the polity resulted from a lapse in communication.
“Everyone has done well, but sometimes we have communication gap. The moment this communication gap is bridged, we will have a re-branded party,” the governor added.
Okorocha, who told Senate President Bukola Saraki that he was visiting in his capacity as the chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, said, “This is the very first time I am coming to your office and I am here because I am concerned.
He said: “I am here because I am a stakeholder. I am here as the chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum – your friends and colleagues in the struggle. Mr Senate President, leaders of this great Senate, you may recall a few years ago that we were all in the trenches, in battle, asking for change in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I recall vividly the role most of you played in that very struggle.
“We became a government when no one gave us a chance to be so. And shortly, Nigerians believed in us and entrusted us with the responsibility of leading this nation. But one year and several months after, we have not been able to manage this God-given victory very well.
“And it is very worrisome, Mr Senate President, that Nigerians expect so much from us, yet we seem to be in crisis within ourselves; not crisis made by the opposition parties but crisis created by ourselves for ourselves and which has kept us in a totally difficult position (such) that we are not making the headway we need to make as a party.”
Okorocha wondered what had derailed a party that gave so much hope to their countrymen, saying, “And I noticed particularly that there is so much bitterness in the system – from the party, from the legislature, from the executive, from the governors – and it seems to me like there are no more platforms for us to chant those old songs which we used to sing in the days of struggle for change. One wonders, was this the change we were asking for? Nigerians expect so much from us.”
He reminded his hosts that the people are not interested in their party’s squabbles but in how the party has been able to improve their lot.
“Nigerians will not ask us how many of each other we have been able to destroy or how many we have been able to bring down. But they will ask us how many plates of food we have put on the table of the common man who elected us.
“So, I am here, Mr President of the Senate, to call for unity among us and our party and to sheathe our swords in whatever form anger has gotten to us.”
The governor noted that among the three arms of government, only the legislature and the executive are elected, not the judiciary, and Nigerians will hold them responsible if the administration fails to deliver the goods.
“So, we must act quickly to ensure (that) peace reigns among us. I have discussed with the party – that was my first port of call – to seek what we must do to forge a way forward.
“The APC government must see you as majority in the National Assembly, not minority in the House. My Senate President, to whom much is given, much is expected and two wrongs can never make a right. It takes one arm of a relationship to make good the other,” he said.
In his response, Saraki told Okorocha that he (the governor) had raised vital issues that the APC National Assembly Caucus would look into, and assured him that the Senate would work in collaboration with other arms of government to deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians that voted the APC into power.
He noted the crisis in the party was surmountable and said that the doors of the National Assembly were open to the party.
Saraki, however, expressed surprise that the leadership of the APC had not deemed it fit to visit and meet with their members in the National Assembly in the last 16 months.
He maintained that with synergy among the party, the executive and legislature, the interest of the common man would be maintained.
Saraki was accompanied by Senate leader Ali Ndume, Senators Dino Melaye, Rafiu Ibrahim, Hama Isa Misau and Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi in receiving Okorocha.
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, described Okorocha’s visit as a means to fashion out ways to deliver good governance to Nigerians.
“We had a discussion with him. We sat on a round table, the type of table you sit on when you are discussing family matters. We have discussed at length; one common decimal in our discussion, as politicians who have been elected into positions of authority, is that we should put the interest of our people first. It therefore means that whenever we sit together, we should be able to find a common position,” Dogara said.