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Abia State APGA and how not to run a party

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Alex Otti

The election petition tribunal sitting in Umuahia, Abia state, on Tuesday November 3, upheld the April 2015 governorship election of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. For lacking in merit, the tribunal dismissed the petition of Alex Otti [pictured above] of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Delivering judgment, the tribunal chaired by Usman Bwala, held that Otti and his party were not able to prove beyond doubt, their claim to have won the election.

It is preposterous that a party which urged the tribunal to nullify the election by claiming that it was marred with irregularities was the same party asking the tribunal to declare its candidate winner of the same election. This absurd request goes to show that indeed the APGA in Abia is not only disillusioned but manned by highly incompetent officials. Their humiliating loss at the tribunal is replete with lessons of how not to run a political party.

First, ideology should inspire membership of a party, not grievances. It is common knowledge that the APGA in Abia was an obscurely unknown opposition party until many former PDP members, who for selfish reasons decamped and helped swell the ranks of the party. Even when supporters of Otti would claim that it was his entrance that gave weight to APGA, the truth is that Otti’s entrance and emergence as the party’s governorship candidate was the beginning of the end of APGA in Abia state. 

The influx of those former PDP members and Otti to APGA, was a fallout of entrenched grievances harboured towards the PDP and not because they were inspired by APGAs ideology. In clear terms, they hijacked the party to fulfil their selfish aspirations. Their sudden rise in membership gave them a false sense of popularity, even when it should have been obvious that they were standing on a faulty foundation.

Two, a party’s ticket should never be for the highest bidder, let alone a known capitalist whose only interest is to profit himself. It’s puzzling that a few individuals would believe in a man lacking in consistency. Following Otti’s rejection by the PDP and the manner in which, desperate to be governor, he was quick to decamp to APGA shows that joining the opposition was an afterthought. 

It is unfortunate that there remain few gullible supporters still staking their destiny in a man whose several actions reeks of selfishness, and are urging him to appeal the tribunal judgment. The reasonable former supporters of APGA and Otti have long accepted Governor Ikpeazu. If not for the huge financial resources expended, probably Otti himself would have accepted that Governor Ikpeazu is the will of Abians, but the need to recoup his investment confuses him to believe he might have a shot at the appellate court.

Three, a party should field a candidate who’s been tested in public service. This is where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia first got the upper hand against APGA. Supporters of Otti would want you to believe that managing a financial institution is the same as managing a government agency with all its complexities, but the truth is, running a business is different from public service. In business, such as the kind Otti was involved in, the habit is to take from the society, while in public service you give back to the society. Interestingly, there were APGA members who had been tested in small ways through service to the state and were by far more grass rooted and popular across the state than Otti, but the party leaders chose to be swayed by the mint and odour of the naira and forgot that in Nigeria’s political lingo, ‘every politics is local’.

Four, better a truthful chairman than a double-mouthed ‘Reverend’. Haven set on the path of deceit first to themselves that Otti was the right candidate, the only option for the state leadership of the party was to continue to maintain subsequent actions with the oil of propaganda. Their head, a Reverend, became the chief propagandist. Distortion of facts became to them oxygen, without which the party would become extinct. The lesson is simply, a party does not make its chairman a clergyman that shies away from the truth. The humiliating advertorial episode in the life of the party, and how its disgraced chairman would ridicule the party so as to save himself, is a lesson in leadership. Better a chairman who owns up to an action, damns the consequence and takes the fall than one willing to throw the party to the dogs to save himself.

Lastly, feed your members with knowledge, not propaganda. No matter how few they might have been, Abia APGA was supposed to have invested heavily in educating its members, who in turn would have campaigned vigorously for the party, winning new converts. Instead what the party deemed more important was to arm some social media mercenaries to disseminate their propaganda. There are a number of blogs, Facebook pages and twitter handles which are being bankrolled by APGA. 

A few tens of comments, likes and tweets from these accounts and the party along with its disgruntled supporters makes the mistake of thinking those numbers represent the entire Abia State. When those who handle these social media accounts brief the party of what they are doing, they give the leaders the false impression that “Abians are for you”. If it were by these social media comments, some say that probably Otti would have been governor, at best on social media. No wonder he’s comically referred to as the ‘Facebook Governor’ of Abia State. But like they say, elections are not won online, neither by propaganda.

It is unlikely that the APGA in Abia will learn from its loss; another lesson in how not to run a political party. An organisation must be elastic and willing to tell itself the truth. The truth here is that Otti and APGA never had a fighting chance against Governor Ikpeazu and the PDP, and rather than appeal, now is the time to close ranks with a government elected by the people to develop Abia and usher in a new era. This is how a party that aspires to one day lead a state should behave, by putting the state first.

• Maduekwe is Special Assistant on Media to Governor Ikpeazu

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