By Jerry Wright
As Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), gets set to elect a new set of leaders in June to run its affairs for the next four years, all eyes are on the party’s highest office, the position of national chairman. Already, names of possible contenders for the post are already being bandied around among different interest groups in the party.
Among those who have been mentioned in the race is the current national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who is eligible to seek another four years in office, the former governor of Edo state Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Cross River state in the Third Republic, Clement Ebri and an ex-minister of petroleum under General Sani Abacha’s regime, Don Etiebet.
78-years Oyegun, was a former executive governor of Edo State between 1992 and 1993, during the aborted Nigerian Third Republic. He emerged the chairman of the party on June 14, 2014 as a consensus candidate for most of the senior chieftains of the party.
After he led the party to victory in the 2015 presidential election, analysts said Oyegun began to make certain moves that further polarized a party that was already struggling with various interests due to its merger before the elections. Activities in the last few months in the party, shows that Oyegun has lost the confidence of most members of the party and might be shown the way out of the party in June.
On his part, 66-years old Oshiomole, the immediate past governor of Edo state, is seen as a candidate of a certain bloc in the party. Critics say Oshiomole will only do the bidding of his sponsors if he gets the position. The former Edo state governor has also been described as one who hardly accepts criticisms, especially when they directly affect him.
For Ebri, he is seen generally as an unknown figure within the party and its structures nationally. Critics say he does not have the required national spread to appeal to the various political blocs within the ruling party. The question regarding his popularity and visibility nationwide is said to be a major obstacle to his ambition
As for Etiebet, his lack of consistency in terms of party loyalty might be his greatest undoing. He is also not in the thick of things in his home state of Akwa Ibom. Critics say Etiebet cannot be trusted with such a position even though he is said to be a close friend to the president. Many are of the opinion that, the president and other leaders of the party need someone who will tell them the truth to their faces.
One person whose name continues to spring up in this direction is the outgoing deputy national publicity secretary of the party, Comrade Timi Frank. Comrade Frank has been a consistent voice in the party, calling the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari and other national leaders to some of the injustices he had seen even before they became public knowledge. He has also cautioned the party severally on some moves that later backfired and came back to haunt its image.
A young but very experienced politician, Comrade Frank has seen it all in Nigeria’s politics having been a youth leader for the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for years. His experience in politicking spans almost two decades, and he has the ears of most political leaders spread across the six geo-political zones of the country.
In the last two years, there has been intense clamour from young Nigerians to occupy very senior political positions in the country. Comrade Frank is a perfect representation of this generational shift that young Nigerians seek to take them out of the present political quagmire across the country, that not only affect them presently, but also affects their future.
Comrade Frank’s disposition towards political party supremacy is also key to taking the party to the next level. Over time, political parties’ leaders in the country are not respected, and by extension the party’s rules. The ruling APC needs a leader with the political will to insist on doing things right, especially as the 2019 general elections draws near.
His insistence on standing by the truth at all times no matter whose ox is gored, is also a reminder for the APC delegates that will be part of the fortcoming national convention to key into the aspiration of the Bayelsa-born politician who have been on both sides of the divide and have constant interaction with members of the public. Indeed, politicians of his like are rare in these times.
It is good to note that Comrade Frank acceptability is not limited to young stakeholders of the party, he has been seen also to be acceptable even to the elderly. He has wined and dine with all category of people and will surely harmonise the currently divided interest in the APC if given opportunity.
Comrade Frank has always stood on the side of the Nigerian people at all times even at the expense of hurting his own party. It is to his credit that the outgoing APC leadership has been kept on their toes to ensure financial transparency in the party affairs, respect for rule of law, discipline of party members, respect for party elders and the need to shun imposition through his constant but constructive criticisms. This is the kind of character the ruling party needs to sail its ship especially as we approach an election year.
Jerry Wright, is an Abuja based multimedia Journalist