The Weekly Trust of Saturday 4th March 2017 (Page 39) carried an interview with Chief Okoi Obono-Obla in which several misleading accusations bordering on my political convictions and engagements in the formation of the All Progressives Congress were made against my person. Chief Obla made the claims in his bid to promote his new book titled: “All Progressives Congress: The making of a Change Agent.” Chief Obla is at the moment Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Prosecutions. Prior to that, he was first Interim National Legal Adviser, Deputy National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change and finally a member of the Merger Committee of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change.
I am convinced that it is necessary to list these damaging allegations and also present the true sequence of events to guide stakeholders and the public for better understanding of issues relating to our different roles in the extant political dispensation in Nigeria.
In the above-mentioned interview, Chief Obono-Obla levelled the following four specific accusations against my person:
That Buba Galadima was opposed to the APC merger because the merger was not going to be in the interest of the North and that he was not going to be influential after the merger.
That Buba Galadima was also opposed to the merger because he was not appointed as the Chairman or Secretary of the CPC merger committee.
That the appointment of Alhaji Muahammad Garba Gadi as Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change Merger Committee, was the beginning of the face-off between President Buhari and Buba Galadima.
That the Board of Trustees Committee, under the Chairmanship of Alhaji Sule Yahaya Hamma and Barrister Obla as Secretary set up by the defunct CPC to review the draft APC constitution was aborted by Barrister Obla and Abubakar Malami (SAN) because he felt that the committee was purportedly set up to frustrate the registration of APC.
The facts of recorded history
1. It is not true that I was against the merger of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) with other parties, for personal, regional or political purposes. In fact, the decision for merger in 2013 by our great party was based on the recommendations of a report titled “The Way Forward for APC” which was produced by the Strategy Committee of our party. The Strategy Committee was commissioned by our party to manage the 2011 elections. Based on the recommendations of the report and additional compelling reasons, I wrote a Memo recommending the merger of the defunct CPC with other parties. This memo was adopted by the National Working Committee and approved at our Board of Trustees meeting on 7th November 2012. If anything, I think I deserve credit for my role as a tireless campaigner and key instigator of merger between the CPC and other political parties. I believed this was the only way the opposition could defeat the ruling party in Nigeria.
2. It is not true that I was opposed to the merger because I was not appointed the Chairman or Secretary of the Merger Committee of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). At no time did I seek participation in the merger talks. In fact, I wrote the Memo recommending the inclusion of the following persons, among others, in the merger committee:
Chief Okoi Obono-Obla representing the South-South
Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba representing South-East
Barriater Adebayo Shittu representing South-West
General Buba Marwa representing the North-East
Dr. Hassan Lawal representing North Central
Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari representing North West
Alhaji Sule Yahaya Hamma as Leader of delegation.
3. It is also not true that the appointment of Alhaji Muhammad Garba Gadi as Chairman of the CPC’s Merger Committee was the beginning of the face-off between my humble self and President Muhammadu Buhari. For the umpteenth time and for posterity, I want to state once again that there was no face-off between our respected leader and us bordering on disrespect in the whole period covering our political sojourn that commenced in 2002. To refresh our memory, a batch of technocrats, scholars and experienced politicians who engaged in a popular political struggle to oppose creeping dictatorship under President Olusegun Obasanjo chose strategically to align with then General Muhammadu Buhari as arrowhead and symbol of the values of the struggle. The overall purpose was to promote transparency, credible elections and accountability in governance. While this struggle lasted through its evolution i.e. from Project Nigeria to TBO, APP, ANPP, CPC and now APC, there was always the delicate strategic tension of managing a delicate relationship between our leader and the party.
By 2002, General Muhammadu Buhari was already a statesman and soldier before he accepted to be partisan politician to give symbolic leadership to this struggle. As a mentor, he always appeared non-partisan, shy and shunned controversy. However, the democratic processes of party politics were often acrimonious, entailing constant engagements, disputes and consultation to generate consensus as the basis for decision making. More critical was the additional burden the mobilization and support base of our politics carried. Our campaign model was anchored on the spirit of volunteerism and personal participation to create ownership and strong belief imbued with optimism. This made party men and sympathizers to own the political movement and become de facto stakeholders in the compelling and emotional desire to rescue Nigeria. Oftentimes, therefore, the demands of this popular politics and the posture of our revered and respected leader created a very complex intersection that was difficult to manage.
While our leader appeared avuncular and stayed above the fray oftentimes, party leaders traded in promises, assurances and undertakings. Therefore, many opportunists, sycophants and interlopers who had access, cashed in on this critical gap to misinterpret the demands of party politics characterized by robust discussions, compliance to due process and consensus building, as rudeness and disloyalty to our leader or the party. It was this critical gap that was exploited by newcomers who crossed from the other side with their heavy war chests, recruited some opportunists among us including some of our close friends, used them against us and took control of events through falsehood and propaganda.
4. It is also not true that the Draft APC Constitution Review Committee set up by the Board of Trustees of our defunct party, CPC under the Chairmanship of Alhaji Sule Yahaya Hamma to invite party leaders nationwide to interface on the APC draft constitution was aimed at subverting the merger. Nothing can be farther from the truth. There was a continuing tradition of periodic interface with stakeholders, which was part of the populist tradition in our party. Indeed, the Board of Trustees of CPC under the Chairmanship of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, approved and created the committee, which Chief Obla claimed he and Abubakar Malami (SAN) sabotaged. Suffice to say the APC Constitution still carries many unworkable provisions that had been identified earlier, which still need to be reviewed for the party to perform optimally. This observation was confirmed by the inability of many organs of the party to meet. A committee has since been set up by the party to review the constitution and a convention scheduled to approve the suggested changes.
Previous merger efforts
It may be pertinent to state here for the records the chequered history of our desire to forge a merger or a broader national platform to oppose dictatorship and electoral fraud in the country.
In 2002, some concerned and brilliant Nigerian academics, technocrats and politicians, whose names cannot be mentioned here, came together under the acronym: “Project Nigeria” to articulate a strong and national popular democratic opposition in the country. This platform later metamorphosed into “The Buhari Organisation”.
In 2003, soon after the general elections, our group the TBO spearheaded the formation of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties with political giants like Chief Emeka Ojukwu, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Alhaji Balarable Musa, Chief Olu Falae and Chief Tunji Braithwaite and others. This led to the famous ‘Mass Action’ in 2004 termed: “Stolen Mandate,” which led to my arrest and incarceration and subsequent trial for treason.
After the 2007 elections, we forged another effort at merger under the name National Democratic Initiative, with notable leaders such as General Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Olu Falae, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa and Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. This movement later transformed into the National Democratic Movement, with a view to forming a single national political party.
Equally too, before the 2011 elections, the Congress for Progressive Change made strong effort in January 2011 to merge with the Action Congress of Nigeria. A three-man team with Alhaji Sule Yahaya Hamma, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and Buba Galadima was empanelled jointly by the two parties to pursue the task. The merger decision had to be abandoned because of the time limit imposed by the Independent National Electoral Commission requiring parties merge six months before general elections. Later, an alliance option was pursued between the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Congress for Progressive Change with the recommendation for adoption of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as Vice Presidential Candidate of the Alliance. This too, as events unfolded rapidly, could not materialize due to organizational reasons at party level in both parties.
These efforts by our group, with I as one of the arrowheads, at merger in our recent democratic history showed the relentless desire to forge a broad-based political party to challenge the suffocating and repugnant grip of the Peoples Democratic Party on the nation. How can we then be accused of being opposed to merger with these efforts known to all active political elites today?
Chief Obono-Obla’s political journey
It is unfortunate that Chief Okoi Obono-Obla who had no knowledge of the background of this long struggle chose to go public with partial or incomplete information for reasons best known to him. The records show that:
Chief Obla joined the Congress for Progressive Change as interim National Legal Adviser in 2011 on the recommendations of our late friend the Obong of Calabar, Comrade Bassey Ekpo Bassey.
Chief Obla was elected Deputy National Secretary of the Congress for Progressives Change again in 2011. Noteworthy here is that we paid the fees and campaigned for him to win the elections in his absence.
Chief Obla was also recommended by my humble self as a member of the Merger Committee of the Congress for Progressives Change.
Finally, having admitted to subverting and stalling the committee set up by our Board of Trustees to review the APC draft constitution, where is Chief Okoi Obono-Obla’s report and return of funds released to him by the Congress for Progressives Change for the operations of the committee? And yet Chief Okoi Obla is presently engaged in assisting Mr. President to prosecute corrupt people and other offenders.
In all modesty, therefore I wonder how Chief Okoi Obla who joined this movement in 2011, and had no sufficient historical knowledge of this movement that started in 2002 could give a fair account of people and events leading to the birth and evolution of this movement.
At this point I want to state that as a foundation member of this struggle against dictatorship, whether brutal, benevolent, feudal or benign, and having suffered its debilitating consequences, losses, including death, we cannot undermine a cause we fought to build. Regardless of our role or position in the APC government, founded on the crest of this 13-year struggle, we stand proud to have contributed to this effort. But more fundamentally, we remain satisfied with our modest contributions towards deepening the cause of democracy and promoting credible elections.
In conclusion, I would like to advice that Chief Obla’s book should not be published in its present form and content because it has many gaps, distortions, falsehoods, misrepresentations and wild imaginations of which cannot stand legal scrutiny.
Moreover, being a proud member of the National Caucus and Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Congress at the moment, I remain loyal, undaunted and pray and hope that our great party move ahead quickly to consolidate the gains of the merger and its subsequent victory.
. Engr. Galadima is a former National Secretary of the defunct CPC; Member, National Caucus, APC; and Member, Board of Trustees, APC.