The All Progressives Congress (APC) participated in the 2015 general elections in Delta State without making impact in the state. It recorded no single electoral victory and failed to win any local government area in the gubernatorial election. Not even the 25 percent mark required in the presidential election was achieved. It was a colossal failure.
Given this drubbing, one would have expected that Delta APC would have by now reorganised itself from the losing party of 2015 to a party that can win future elections, but there is no sign of that yet.
Instead, what we have is intra-party bickering among factions that are wrestling for the control of the soul of the party.
A cursory look at the 2015 electoral map shows that the party lacked political base. The other reason was that it was bedeviled by leadership crisis.
Since then, natural realignment of political forces has reshaped the political landscape in such a way that APC now has a political base in Delta Central. In particular, Chief Great Ogboru, the gubernatorial candidate of Labour Party in 2015, who won four local governments, said that only a united opposition was capable of freeing Delta from the grip of the PDP and joined APC with his supporters in Delta Central, the hotbed of opposition politics in Delta.
Sadly, APC has done nothing to capitalise on the changing dynamics and consolidate on these gains. Rather than welcome the new members with open hands and give them a sense of belonging, the party has been lukewarm and, in the process, created barriers for full integration of new members who undoubtedly are now in majority. The welcome party that was promised never happened and all efforts to reorganise the party have been thwarted by some forces ahead of a possible 2019 run.
But progressives must know that Delta Central only provides APC the keys to success in 2019. They can get there if only they could find the right vehicle and a capable chauffeur to take them there. In other words, Delta Central is just a base, from which to launch an attack. APC should use its new political base to expand the map into Delta North and South. But that is not happening yet because of the crisis in the party.
Only a united party would take APC to the finish line ahead of PDP. But fraying party unity has complicated the prospects of growing the party further. And after two recent attempts, one by the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir David Lawal, and the other by the National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, progressives are no closer to resolving an issue that’s splintering the Delta APC.
The in-fighting has nothing to do with growing the party to win. Rather, it is a battle for who controls the party infrastructure for personal aggrandizement. And leaving the party in the hands of those who can’t deliver victory but too strong to eliminate in the 2019 primary because of their hold on the party structure could result yet again in another disappointment for the rank and file of the party who are so desperate for victory.
For a party that truly wants to win Delta, this crisis should have been long resolved. Instead, what used to be a fight for the soul of the party between winners and losers of the 2014 state congress, has now left the party fractured by self-interest and political cowardice. At the last count, there are five contending groups.
On the one hand, we have the Olorogun Otega Emerhor faction with Prophet Jones Erhue as Chairman, the Delta Elders and Leaders faction led by the late Senator Francis Okpozo, the former Action Congress faction led by Chief Adolor Okotie-Ebor. On the other hand, we have the new entrants into the party – the Light of Labour led by Chief Great Ogboru and the Accord/PDP group led by Chief Victor Ochei and Chief Emami Ayiri.
In the middle of the pack are the non-aligned members, notable among them are Prof. Pat Utomi, a pioneer member of APC and Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum. These divisions will be hard to overcome the longer they are allowed to persist. And doubling down on the errors of the past will surely make it harder, if not impossible for APC to win Delta in 2019. It is hard to see how this crisis resolves itself peacefully. The courts aren’t likely to resolve it satisfactorily too. And whether or not Jones Erhue wins the court cases — his backers, both at the state and national levels, clearly need to understand that they are doing a serious disservice to the party by prolonging this crisis. APC has two clear choices: maintain status quo structure and prop the court to declare illegal the State Executive Council or do the right thing, obey the subsisting court order, open its doors and welcome into the party more people.
Holding on to the court declared illegal Prophet Jones Exco is a road to nowhere. So where does this leave the party?
Because,it is so important to rebuild the party from the ground for the challenge of taking over Delta, it is imperative that new members are treated with fairness and the respect they deserve. As a consequence, APC must first win back it’s soul by dissolving the unrepresentative State Executive Committee and replacing it with a harmonised Caretaker Committee that truly represents the current membership structure of the party. As the highest ranking progressive in government in Delta and one who is non-aligned in the crisis, Kachikwu is well positioned to secure the soul of Delta APC. Kachikwu should take up the challenge without any further delay if he hopes to justify his membership of the Federal Executive Council and deliver Delta to APC and President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.