The national chairman of the Third Republic National Republican Convention (NRC), Chief Tom Ikimi is a former member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but is now in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ikimi in this interview with Vanguard explains why the North should wait till 2019 to come back to power.
He also goes on to point out APC flaws in thinking they would win the forthcoming polls overwhelmingly in the southwest and northwest geo-political zones.
How Nigeria got to this frightening state after avoiding it since 1993.
Following the overthrow of the Shehu Shagari democratically elected government in 1983 by General Muhamadu Buhari, we had ten long years of military rule before the annulled June 12, 1993 election took place.
The build-up to that election, contested by two popular national political parties, the NRC and SDP, saw three northern-born popular presidential candidates, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, and Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi among others summarily disqualified and taken into detention.
In the circumstance, while it may be convenient to characterize the June 12, 1993 election as the freest and fairest, behind that facade rested deep tribal resentment, mostly from the North, of what had occurred. In some other parts of the country, mainly in the South West, protesters, not necessarily confined to the leadership of the SDP, found the Abiola cause a convenient platform on which to organize overt resistance.
In the midst of all this restiveness erupted among southern minority elements, particularly in the Niger Delta area, mostly for reasons of apparent grievances. They commenced challenging what they described as a reckless plundering of the natural resources from their native soil – oil.
The coincidence of the sudden deaths of General Abacha and Chief MKO Abiola did not put the firestorms sparked by these crisis to rest. The emergence of General Obasanjo, on the platform of the PDP in 1999, by virtue of an arrangement conceived and executed by his top military colleagues did not really fulfill the intention of the inventors to assuage the anger of the South West whose leading political figures distanced themselves from Obasanjo’s candidature.
Unfortunately the OBJ personal agenda, which included a plot to position himself for an indefinite presidential reign, rather than work to unite the country, created massive asssault on the peace and orderly progress of the new democratic structure. OBJ was virtually forced out of office. He departed with a vengeance, ceding power to an ailing successor, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, from northern Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan assumed the presidency in the midst of escalating unrest and crisis in his indigenous area, the Niger Delta. Simultaneously, parts of Northern Nigeria was gradually being criss-crossed by Muslim religious fundamentalist, who took advantage of Nigeria’s extensive, porous borders with neighboring Niger ,Chad and Cameroons. The sectarian-fomented crisis in North Africa and parts of the Middle East started sipping through to Nigeria.
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Although President Jonathan successfully brought the Niger Delta crisis to an end, political fortune hunters as well as mischief makers inside and outside the PDP invoked the tribal card as a means of challenging the President’s legitimate second term bid. In the circumstance, the genuine effort by some of us to unite the opposition in order to produce a strong alternative political platform, which should ensure a balanced polity with adequate checks and balances was suddenly hijacked by a crop of desperate political contractors.
On the North and South untalked of presidential arrangement
Nigeria celebrated one hundred years of the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria last year but, since independence in 1960 and the political party elections from 1963, the struggle for ultimate leadership of the country between the North and the South has remained a hard nut to crack. The situation has been complicated not only by the multiplicity of ethnic groups on both sides but the emergence of Islam as the dominant religion in northern Nigeria and Christianity as the dominant religion in southern Nigeria. The formation of alliances has been one way of ensuring that a balance is retained.
However, the PDP, which has retained national power over the past 16 years, operates a system of rotating the presidency between the North and South of Nigeria on a two terms eight year basis. This arrangement never envisaged a President dying in office and so the passing of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua after two years in office has presented controversies over putting back the rotation principle on track.
I am sure the North would certainly be comfortable with the South-South as their long standing reliable ally. In the circumstance, it would make for national peace for President Jonathan from South-Southern to complete his two elected terms so that the presidency may revert to the North in 2019 when hopefully they will field a healthy nationally acceptable candidate.
Tom Ikimi talks about the strenght of the opposition, heading into election week.
The entry of the APC into the nation’s political firmament was received across the nation and beyond with great joy and happiness. We proclaimed a new party with a clarion call of CHANGE as we strongly believed that we had created a party that would pursue democratic principles with an emphatic culture of internal party democracy.
I thought we had finally broken loose the shackles of tribal, regional and religious politics unlike the NNA of 1960s that was founded on the premise of securing national electoral power through a coalition of fundamentally ethnic-based parties involving the intrinsically “North for northerners”, Hausa-dominated NPC and the essentially schismatic Yoruba party, the NNDP. That assumption which seemed feasible under the regionalist Independence Constitution was that this sectionalist alliance as a formidable political party would win federal power.
Those who hijacked the APC dwelt on that erroneous assumption based on the archaic 1960 theory that a Yoruba South West and a Hausa-Fulani North West Nigeria alliance will produce electoral victory. The APC democratic credentials were put to test in its very first convention where the self-styled “leader of the party” successfully plotted and executed the installation of cronies as the party’s National Executive. In a desperate effort to build a team that was solely designed to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan, PDP break away governors were recruited.
It should be noted, as it is already evident, that the assumption of automatic and unanimous votes from the two zones, the North West and South West, for the APC is not realizable. Today, the hold of the APC over the South West has been dented in states such as Ekiti and Ondo; its hold has crashed in Ogun State – due to the soaring profile of the SDP and PDP in that state; in Oyo – due to the PDP and ACCORD, while in Lagos, a major break through has been secured by the PDP, not only because of the very diverse electorate, the charismatic PDP governorship candidate – Jimi Agbaje, but the total rejection of the Lion of Bourdillon.
President Jonathan has an airtight support in the South-South and South-East where Buhari would not secure the mandatory 25%. President Jonathan will secure more than 60% of the votes in the North Central and not lass than 50% in the North East and North West. His return as President of Nigeria for a second term is assured.
APC's Choice of Buhari as candidate and why he was chosen by the party
General Muhamadu Buhari, contesting the presidency for the fourth time, was in office as Head of State some 32 years ago when he dethroned the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari.He is remembered as the ruthless military leader who seized power and would not entertain anyone discuss any plan to return the country to civil democratic rule. Politicians remember him, how aggressively he hunted down key politicians across the length and breadth of the country.
This hunt was selective as he manipulated the escape of selected tribal friends. He was the author of the infamous Decree 2, an instrument used to muzzle the press. Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, among others were imprisoned. Death sentences were recklessly passed on civilians through the instrumentality of a hurriedly enacted decree back dated! Plea for mercy from inside and outside Nigeria on some of the condemned civilians, including a woman, was ignored. He ordered the selective trial of politicians for alleged corruption and jailed those from a part of the country to ridiculous terms of hundreds of years each.
Buhari has failed to make the presidency three times. After the 2011 elections, he wept publicly and announced that he was not going to present himself again in contest for the presidency. It is true that over the past 16 years, he has managed to acquire a good crowd of die hard followers from a number of his homeland constituencies.
Political contractors from southern Nigeria, particularly from a South West state, cashing in on the North-South political rivalry, the religious issue and the insecurity in north eastern Nigeria, have virtually recruited the general and persuaded him to recant on his 2011 proclamation not to contest again. These political contractors see Buhari’s candidature as the convenient route for them to grab Nigeria.
Those parading Buhari, singing a song of CHANGE, have now been challenged by many to define the change they are really talking about and whether they are talking of moving Nigeria from the digital age of today back to the analog age of 1983. The media is now awash with the Transformation projects executed by President Jonathan and many are arguing that those successful projects are indeed the change that you can see.
The GMB handlers, who advised the general to steer clear of an open debate with Jonathan, have tried hard to formulate a platform for their man creating a false image of him as an anti-corruption man. This is pure balderdash!! My first assignment as adviser to government in 1994/95 was to prepare the memo on which basis the PTF – Petroleum Trust Fund-was created. As Chairman of this juicy portfolio over which the general enjoyed unfettered control, the PTF was funded with a total of around 180 billion Naira between 1994 and 1999.
The general failed to curb stinking corruption in the organization but authorized more than 70% of the funds to be spent in his own part of the country. An Interim Management Committee, headed by his own kinsman, Haroun Adamu, discovered that over 25 billion Naira was stolen under GMB watch in PTF. I suppose this fact is recorded in the OBJ watch since he set up the Haroun Adamu Interim Chairmanship. GMB cannot claim to be an example of anti-corruption.
As Federal Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, it was discovered that $2.8 billion of Nigeria’s oil money was withdrawn from the Midland Bank London and the funds lodged into an account in a bank where it generated interest amounting then to over 400 million pounds which vanished into private pockets.
The entire anti-corruption and integrity campaign has collapsed and the final nail on the coffin of that campaign was the airing of The Lion Of Bourdillon. As for the issue of security as it pertains to the menace of Boko Haram ravaging the North East, it is now also clear who really were supporters of the Muslim fundamentalist attacks on Nigeria but mischievously turned around to blame President Jonathan. President Jonathan was left to equip a military, army, air force and navy, over night. He has done a yeoman’s job that during the last four weeks the insurgents have been virtually cleared from Nigerian soil.
The overwhelming opinion across the country at this time has swung in favor of President Jonathan and it is obvious that the overall peace and stability of Nigeria will be guaranteed by his election.
On whether he regrets his decison to leave the APC to join the PDP
It was an experience of great joy and satisfaction for me to host and lead the process that gave birth in February 2013, at my Abuja residence, to the All Progressive Congress (APC) with the successful unification of the major opposition parties – ACN, ANPP, CPC and a part of APGA.
Several failed attempts had been made by various people since 1999, to strengthen the opposition by uniting a number of the opposition parties. This had not been successful for a number of reasons prominent among which was always personal interest and ambition. Consequently, most well known leaders, particularly in the ranks of the former ACN, never thought it would be possible to achieve the unification. As soon as it became apparent that we would succeed, a number of them, notably the current self proclaimed leader of the party moved in to seize control of the party and has since employed every means to retain his hold.
Tinubu-newIt became clear to me that an agenda was brewing as the main objective of the new party. This included a move to install General Muhamadu Buhari as President with Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Vice President notwithstanding the facts that both men are Muslims with credentials I do not agree with. Most of my colleagues in the top leadership of the party also became aware of this trend. They merely grumbled about it but seemed not able to muster the courage to openly fight against it.
The first National Convention was an abysmal failure. The event was a mere charade at which a cabal succeeded in installing a group of cronies as the party National Executive. Core leaders of the legacy parties found themselves trapped in this arrangement, which turned out to be the construction of a framework dedicated to just one objective, which was to bring down President Goodluck Jonathan and install Buhari and Tinubu.
Notwithstanding Tinubu’s failure to make the ticket recently for this election, I am convinced that Professor Osinbajo has only been brought in as a stepping-stone and much has been spoken about this already. I observed the negotiations between ACN and CPC in 2011 at which Tinubu insisted that Pastor Bakare, who was already picked as running mate to Buhari by CPC, should provide an undated letter of resignation as Vice President. The pastor refused and so the negotiations broke down.
My quest for an alternative political platform in the country was not motivated towards fulfilling any personal ambition to contest for executive power but I hold firmly that it is in the best interest of our country to have a credible structure of two strong political parties that would guarantee the necessary checks and balances in the system. Notwithstanding the negative trends exhibited by the APC at this time, I believe a robust political contest has, at last, arrived. But this is not the time to cede government to a desperate upstart commanding a vengeful army of flatterers all with a mission of stampeding an illusory enemy.
In conclusion, I have no regrets at all leaving the APC as I have always viewed a political party as a congregation of like-minded persons who become welded together in a close-knit brotherhood in a manner beyond mere friendship. I find the APC now a collection of strange bedfellows of very ambitious people of diverse interests all constantly plotting against each other.
Tom Ikimi's move from the APC to the PDP took the nation by surprise but he has given his full support to President Goodluck Jonathan.