Against the backdrop of the allegation that the All Progressives Congress, APC, is mulling a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket in the 2015 general elections, the first executive governor of Abia State and one of APC’s national leaders, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, has said the issue is a sensitive one that when taken, must reflect the feelings of Nigerians and the current mood in the country.
Onu, who made this known in a chat with LEADERSHIP Sunday in Abuja, said even though the issue has never been formally discussed in the party, if it eventually comes up, they would look at it based on the sensitivity and peculiarity of the Nigerian populace so that the best combination for the country would be made.
He added that the need to tread with caution on the all-Muslims presidential ticket is made even more serious when considering the fact that the APC as an opposition party that is desirous of taking over the government from the PDP, must be seen to be sensitive to the feelings of Nigerians.
The APC chieftain also revealed yesterday how he singlehandedly initiated the process of bringing together the three ‘legacy’ parties that gave birth to APC.
Dr Onu, who was national chairman of the now defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, one of the legacy parties that makes up the APC, stated that the emergence of the mega-opposition party has changed the political landscape of Nigeria. He also stressed that he was challenged to pursue the formation of the APC when the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, boasted that it will continue ruling Nigeria for the next 60 years.
The two other parties that came together to form the APC are the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Other groups from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Democratic People’s Party (DPP) also coalesced into the APC.
While speaking on a myriad of topical issues including the Muslim-Muslim ticket, the defection of Malam Ibrahim Shakarau to the PDP and the outcome of the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti state, he said “on the 12th of December, 2004, the then governor of Lagos state invited me to speak to the house of assembly and that lecture was on the need for opposition parties to come together. The opposition had seven states then. However, I had earlier spoken to the caucus of the APP in the National Assembly on same issue.
“I tried to highlight the importance of being together because then the PDP had said they will rule for 60years and it was challenging. So I gave reason why it cannot work. I gave reason why the opposition must come together. As soon as I became national chairman in 2010, I now requested from the leadership of the ACN that we needed to talk and in Lagos House here in Abuja, they invited me and I went there and told them on the need for all of us to work together. By that time, the ACN had only two governors. It was in October that Governor Fayemi was sworn in. It was after that address that we formed a committee”, he said.
On the defection of former governor of Kano State, Shekarau to the PDP, Mr. Onu said he felt really bad when he left despite efforts to make him stay.
“I felt very bad when they left because all of them made very important contributions to getting APC to where we are right now. When the party was being formed, we knew that there would be problems. For a political party that wants to win elections, you should know that there are those who will not be happy with some of the changes. We have our party constitution and manifesto, we talked and I did everything I could within my limit to convince all of them to stay back, but there are certain things that are personal. I feel very concerned”.
He also said the formation of the APC has altered the structures of existing parties including the PDP.
“The emergence of the APC has done a number of things. PDP has always had crises but the people didn’t have a place to go to. They looked at ANPP for example: we had three states and if they join ANPP, can they help them chase the federal government? When I became chairman, ACN, had only two and, after the election, Ogun and Oyo state came in. Now, if you have problem with the PDP, will you go to a party that has only two states? But when APC was registered against prediction made by so many people, APC had 11 governors and they were so spread that every zone had one and this made it a national party. There was no zone that you could not find APC, which was why it was easy for those with progressive credentials to join them. Even if you were born from the same mother, you cannot have the same values, so those who feel the APC had what they wanted, they came over”.
Proffering solution to the current security challenges in the country, Onu said the solution lies in the country’s security organs improving on their intelligence gathering. By so doing, he said, the country can detect and apprehend the criminals that bomb and kill at will in the country.
While commenting on the effect of the just concluded national convention of the party and the purported disenchantment of some leaders like Chief Tom Ikimi and Gov. Rotimi Amaechi, Onu said there is no way a convention with such high number of people can be conducted without some ripple effects.
“I want you to look at APC from the reality on ground. APC is a young party, even though made up of old politicians who were controlling about 16 states until October 16 of last year. There is no way you can conduct a convention with such a large number of people and you won’t hear such reports, but the two persons you mentioned are very important members of the party, also very prominent Nigerians. When they have misgiving or concern, I believe that the party is taking it seriously. Everything must be done to ensure that they are happy. It will be the interest of the party to carry all its members along. This journey is not an easy one to defeat an incumbent. We have to start with unity before we can go on. I am very confident that we will be able to solve this problem”.
The former governor concluded by saying the problem of Nigeria stems from the quality of leadership it has been getting and that APC, which is “an incoming government”, will correct the defect.