On August 27, the news media widely published the press statement issued by Chief Tom Ikimi announcing his resignation from the All Progressive Congress – APC. In the statement, Chief Ikimi chronicled his stewardship in the APC and his hard work towards the formation of the party. He further discussed his ambition to be the Chairman of the party and the reasons why he failed.
In the process, he accused the governors of the All Progress Congress, prominent members of the party and its current chairman Chief Oyegun of conspiracy to thwart his ambition to become the chairman of the party. He further accused the party elders of being cowards in not being able to confront Asiwaju Tinubu about his so – called domineering posture in the party.
It should be conceded that Chief Ikimi has the right to aspire to any office in the land especially when in his opinion he has worked hard for it. Furthermore, he has a right to be frustrated and to express such frustration in whatever way he liked for failing to achieve his objective. However, he does not have the right to discredit respectable Nigerians just because he could not achieve his ambition.
Ikimi’s letter is a validation of why he could not be elected Chairman of the All Progressive Congress despite his supposed hard work. An examination of the contents of the letter may reveal the reasons why Ikimi could not become chairman of the APC in a free and fair election devoid of imposition. Reading from Ikimi’s letter and an unbiased review of the membership structure of the APC, one can identify at least five power centers; The Buhari bloc, Atiku bloc, Tinubu bloc, the Governors’ bloc and others. None of these voting blocks in the party acting alone has the capacity to dominate the others. Decisions like the appointment/election of the party chairman and other party executives will require the consent of all the voting blocs or majority of them to be successful. In the absence of executive presidential powers as in the PDP, Tinubu has to be a superman/magician to be able to coerce the other four voting blocks to impose any candidate or decision on the party.
It is therefore self-evident that the victory of Chief Oyegun and other members of his executive committee, could only have derived from their popularity and acceptance by all or majority of the stakeholder groups of the APC.
Party politics and election usually involve negotiations and horse trading. This is a legitimate component of the political process and to characterize such as conspiracy against an aspirant to any office is suggestive of ignorance of the political process and tyrannical arrogance by Chief Ikimi. It ought to be recalled that Chief Ikimi has not won any electoral contest since the beginning of the current civilian democratic dispensation. His appointment as the chairman of the NRC during the military transition program could be attributed to the influence of his high military contacts at the time.
Chief Tom Ikimi has by his own admission accepted that he has a personality trait that others perceive as arrogance which consequently repels people from him. If he knows this about himself, then he should work to change that perception rather than attribute his failure in an electoral contest to a phantom conspiracy theory. He might be a very successful worker but he needs to be popular to be accepted by voters whether in a general election or party election. It does not require a seer to know that in a political contest between Chief Oyegun and Tom Ikimi the victor will be Oyegun because Oyegun has a more amiable personality. A historical match-up of the past electoral contest between Oyegun and Ikimi shows Oyegun to be the better of the two. Oyegun as the gubernatorial candidate of the SDP defeated Ikimi locally in Edo State and also beat Ikimi nationally when Oyegun’s candidate M K O Abiola won the presidential election by beating Ikimi’s NRC.
Chief Oyegun and Ikimi are both independent and objective in their views but while Ikimi is militant and combative tending towards arrogance, Oyegun is persuasive and amiable.
It is a sad commentary on the Nigerian political elite that Chief Ikimi is leaving APC not because of any major ideological or policy disagreement but rather because he did not emerge as chairman of the party. What a myopic arrogant and selfish proposition. In the course of his lengthy letter, Chief Ikimi exhibited deliberate amnesia or propagated unqualified falsehood when he stated that he had been in the ACN, AC, and APC for 13 years struggling to form a credible opposition platform. He forgot his days in the APP, then the PDP where we can all remember the Eagle square “Obasanjo, Obasanjo, obasanjo and obasanjo.” spectacle. Perhaps if Obasanjo had rewarded him with a plum ministerial appointment after the Eagle Square performance, the “hard work” for a credible opposition platform would not have been necessary.
Ikimi was the Chairman of a major political party that participated in the ill-fated third republic, yet he was very comfortable to serve as a high officer in a government that derailed that republic. He defended the judicial murder of the late Ken Saro Wiwa a fellow south southerner. At the commencement of the current democratic dispensation he joined the APP, perhaps because of the erroneous misconception of many of the southern elites that a northern leaning party will always win federal elections, rather than the Pan Nigeria leaning PDP as it then was.
In contrast Chief John Oyegun has been a consistent advocate of progressive governance. He is an independent minded public servant who voluntarily retired as a federal permanent secretary and was elected the first civilian governor of Edo state in a popular contest in which the people acknowledged his humility and service credentials. Upon the overthrow of the legimate democratic order, Oyegun joined with others including Tinubu to form NADECO the platform that was used to resist the military autocracy of Abacha. Meanwhile Ikimi was luxuriating in the enjoyment of the loot of office as Minister of Foreign Affairs globetrotting and looking for friends as a result of the universal isolation of Nigeria. It is therefore laughable to suggest that leading a trade mission to China was a high achievement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A director or any other such officer of government could have successfully led the trade mission and at less cost. The trade mission was foisted upon us because we were isolated and looking for friends. We can ask today what the benefits of that trip are.
The point of this write up is that Chief Tom Ikimi should learn to be a democrat. A political contest is not a do or die matter in which failure to win an election should lead to the denigration of erstwhile colleagues. For about seven years as stated in his letter, Ikimi had been in the same party with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the ACN, AC and APC without any major quarrel until his failure to be elected as APC chairman. He had exchanged visits with Chief Oyegun many times over the years and unsuccessfully wooed him to join the PDP. During these years, Chief Oyegun was nobody’s stooge but because Chief Oyegun beat him in a political contest, Oyegun has suddenly become the servant of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who is at least 10 years younger than Oyegun. This is heresy and an abomination in our culture.
The record is clear that Tom Ikimi is a serial “decamper” always willing to join any government in power and gives the impression that he will rather rule in hell than serve in paradise.
At 70 years one expects more from the high chief of Igueben.
Politics and ambition should be made of sterner stuff. Ikimi should articulate and pursue a vision of a brighter rewarding future for Nigerians rather than drag us into the politics of frustration, rumour mongering and vendetta as clearly evident in his epistle of frustration.
Edwin Ikhinmwin lives in Lagos. Kindly reach him via eikhinmwin@aol.com