A sad reality was our lot yesterday, October 2, 2023, as our party and members hopes were completely dashed, when the three-member Tribunal Panel, in unanimous judgments, dismissed the petition filed by Arc. Pastor Dele Cole (hand-picked Governorship candidate of my dear party, APC Rivers). Was it really a dream that exploded or withered or is deferred?
Let us critically examine the following dispositions and mindsets:
THE DISCERNING MINDS:
For this category of persons (I belong here), filing a petition against the returns of an election that, as a party, we knew we performed abysmally, amounted to undertaking a “voyage to nowhere” ab initio. It was therefore a similitude of a “wild goose chase.”
Of course, we were not beaten hollow by the well-considered unanimous opinions espoused by the three wise men sitting in judgment as a Tribunal. How could anyone imagine the possibility of “putting something on nothing and expect it to stand”?
How can one expect a different result when the processes and procedures adopted repeatedly are the same? How does a dispassionate and critical mind believe that a party, markedly decimated by its internal contradictions, can achieve positive results in an election? As a friend was wont to say, “Are we small children?”
APC Rivers had operated on fractured legs since 2017 effectively, though the signs and indicators of a divided house showed immediately after the tactless handpicking of the party’s gubernatorial candidate for the 2015 Governorship election in Rivers State. Nerves were frayed, yet no genuine attempt was made at reconciliation. “The heart of a man is desperately wicked” ~Holy book.
Different party members acted in subterfuge and decoy. Chicanery and hoax played out conspicuously. The fabric of the party started to wear off. It dovetailed to its crescendo in 2019 when, due to the party’s indiscretions, actions, and inactions, it was estopped by the court from fielding candidates for the general election in Rivers State.
Did that ugly scenario of 2019, which reduced a political party to the status and trappings of a social club, teach any bitter lessons going forward? No!
Yet in 2022, the worst move was made, imposing a negative fait accompli on an already disunited and drowning party. Still, no sense of collectivism was relevant. Rather, crass impunities dotted the APC Rivers firmament even more. “Know All and Do All” attitudes became a choiceless embroidery and reality.
Alas! the cookies crumbled after ferocious legal fireworks, going back and forth. The result was that the faction that finally lost in the legal battle found succour in a fringe party in the state, the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Some others, though few, adopted a non-aligned policy, fixated on the larger picture beyond the already hopeless shores of Rivers State.
Thus, a once robust house that sprang up strongly and formidably in 2014 was reduced to a lame duck. So in 2023, a once united party ran on the misnomer of three legs: one in APC, another in SDP, and the other disinterested in both but focused on forging an alignment with any group, intra or interparty, for the realization of a wider picture. Yours truly and those christened “Renewed Hope/Amalgamated Support Groups for Tinubu/Shettima” proudly belonged here. Tactically, we threw in our drag nets and caught the biggest fishes in the Rivers State political landscape at present. Our calculations were right. We won.
Those in category A (Moribund APC) fell spectacularly. Those in category B (those who joined the fringe party, SDP) somersaulted and crashed irredeemably.
To hide from the self-inflicted shame, both A and B rushed to the Election Petition Tribunal and made weighty claims as to why the tribunal must not sit in Rivers State. They advanced false sentiments around pseudo insecurity, harassment, and intimidation of the panel and opposition parties by the ruling party and its membership in the state. Although false, their request to relocate the tribunal sitting venue to Abuja was granted.
Party B, SDP, on clear self-conviction that their petition before the Election Tribunal was weak and had no grounds, elected to save the court some time by withdrawing their petition. Party A (Moribund APC faction), like a typical slave master, saw her petition through to the end, even when ab intra, the National Secretariat of the APC, considered it a waste of time and resources to continue a legal journey that leads to nowhere. They withdrew as a necessary party to the case.
I didn’t have to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria or a compendium of knowledge of the law, nor a soothsayer, to discern that upon the withdrawal of the APC Nigeria from the case of Rivers APC, in a matter where she is a necessary party, the case suffered a stillbirth.
The Nigerian political system hasn’t adopted independent candidacy yet. Every candidate for an election is sponsored by a political party. When APC Nigeria withdrew from Tonye Cole’s Tribunal Petition, they pulled the rug out from under his feet. The matter was bound to fail. It must fail, and it failed woefully.
GULLIBLE PARTY SUPPORTERS:
This category of party members suffers the brunt of leadership’s indiscretions. They are expected to accept hook, line, and sinker, whatever is said to be the leadership decision. In this case, this category was taught the negative side of party loyalty. They were bamboozled into believing in the whimsical and capricious decisions of a totalitarian leader. Total submission, eye service, and grandstanding were therefore the only acceptable standards. Anything less was arrant disloyalty.
So, the pendency of the Tribunal Petition was a consolation and veritable succour for this most deceived category of persons in a political party. They were only privileged to hear what the “Slave Master” briefed. Such briefings were always couched in the phrase “light at the end of the tunnel,” “We will reclaim our stolen mandate,” and “Victory is in the pipeline.”
Such a monotonous rhythm of the Paternoster reverberated even as sounds of broken records, with the intent to create false hope and psychologize them to docility.
Now that, as consistent with lies, always fitted on short legs, the short distance it can only travel is reached, WHAT IS NEXT?
Maybe another strand of “Don’t worry! The Tribunal was compromised. We shall get victory at the Appeal Tribunal” will resonate.
Can we stop fooling our people, particularly the helpless, gullible supporters of our party, APC Rivers?
Is it still fashionable for the visionless leadership of our party to continue streaming into Abuja and heading to Blantyre Street, only to ask for compensation for leadership from a turf they should have played on but rejected? Shouldn’t we be deeply engaged in a post-mortem to uncover the sources of our follies, mistakes, and pitfalls, and offer plausible solutions to make us more formidable in future elections?
What kind of reconciliation are we seeking in Abuja? Does our target audience reside there?
Are we in some kind of quarrel with the party at the national level, which is why we are making frantic efforts to go and settle?
We are on the precipice. We need to reignite hope in our ever-willing supporters, who are reluctantly emptying into the winning party in the state.
We must stop this mortifying “Kitikiti” “katakata” to Abuja.
We must stop taking the counsel of Ahitopel because it is no longer in tune with present-day political realities.
Until we are circumspect and have the serenity of mind to confront our fears of the ominous and palpable signs of failure, we will keep faltering.
We must move on to a new page of party and confidence rebuilding.
I offer these two quotes, “pro bono,” as my valuable contributions to my party, APC Rivers.
“An unexamined life is not worth living.”
“Life is like a bicycle; to keep the balance, it must keep moving.”
-Chief Tony C. Okocha KSC, DSSRS, JP, is the Leader of Amalgamated Support Groups for Tinubu/Shettima and Rivers State Mainstream APC.