By Leonard Shilgba
We must carry this message around our state and nation that now is the time for us, the people, to arise and build this broken wall of our society. In the past, we have each walked in our small world, minding and massaging our small interests. But what gain have we found? I am certain that the harvest of our collective actions and inactions is the gradual but sure transformation of our young and old into beggars on our streets, which is to our shame. No society survives when the majority live in absolute squalor and poverty while a finger count few simply don’t know how to spend their wild and mad wealth. This ocean of material poverty with loose interruptions of islands of stupendous wealth threatens to drown us all.
The recent emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party is a love story worthy to be told. It is a story of how self interests were sacrificed to pave way for common interests of the Nigerian masses. This is a story that must be the story of each of us that seeks for a Nigeria that works for us all and not only for a few. This story is an experiment that we must all participate in to bring about a satisfactory cure of a terrible malady that has for too long plagued the Nigerian kind of democracy where the votes and choices of the people simply do not matter and would not count. But then, what is the convincing difference between a forceful take-over of political power through the gun and the lynching of the people’s will through rigging of the ballot? The only difference I can find is in the weapons on use.
Ideology is a system of ideas and ideals that forms the basis for economic and political theory or policy. What is the ideology of the All Progressives Congress? The All Progressives Congress believes in public participation in, and where necessary, control of the major means of production, distribution and exchange. We believe the country should not exist for only the rich; but the poor must have a fair shake. For instance, in public electricity supply, the APC would not do what the PDP-led national government has done, which is to sell off public electricity assets at a pittance to a few beneficiaries of the government of the rich, and then turn into apologists for the buyers who obviously were not prepared enough. The APC government would not contemplate selling of public-owned refineries to cronies of the government who are already pre-determined while making outrageous claims in the name of fuel subsidy.
The APC believes in the African principle of public ownership without discouraging private enterprise. We believe that the private sector is not the engine of economic growth as some claim, but an efficient public sector is the guarantee for the thriving of the private sector. Let the economic crisis of the USA in 2008 and the role the Main Street (public sector) played to rescue and bail out the Wall Street (private sector) teach us a vital economic lesson. Is public entrepreneurship antithetical to private enterprise? The APC believes not.
The APC must live true to the story they want to tell Nigerians. The party must put day light between it and the status quo that has been quite unfair to the Nigerian these past 14 years. We in the APC, irrespective of our positions within the party, cannot afford to take upon us the body of Esau and yet sound the same way that has provoked this new story in the first place. We must not be false converts; we must not be professed disciples of the new way and yet refuse to leave our pharisaic ways; it just can’t work! Specifically, all APC family members in Benue State must refuse to take sides with lawlessness and impunity that we profess to be running away from. The damage that any of you here or not here today can inflict on this new party is to say, “Let the old music play on even though we are in a new age and time.” You can say this by your silence. You can say this by perching so comfortably on the fence. I must warn you; that fence may just be an electric one.
A chieftain of the PDP and 2015 gubernatorial aspirant in Benue State said this against any contemplated opposition to the status quo in Nigerian politics: “And who are the owners of these political parties? The peasant farmers or traders or truck pushers on the streets? No! The owners are the capitalists who have excess of money gotten from whatever source to arrange the logistics of the party. They have the INEC registration certificate in custody and can call anybody’s bluff.” This cannot be what APC believes in. Certainly, APC has regard for the peasant farmers, traders, truck pushers and the common man on the street. APC cannot afford to be another PDP, with only a new moniker otherwise what “Change” can we claim to bring to our politics and people? We reject the status quo; we affirm a new kind of politics where every member counts and is important even as each vote does.
Accordingly, the APC promotes and upholds the practice of internal democracy at all levels of the party’s organization where there is no imposition of candidates or overwhelming influence of the godfathers (Article 7 (vii) & (ix)). This is intended to eliminate the triangle of separation where a thick band of godfathers is situated between elected public officials, who are at the very top end and the masses at the wide base.
APC is resolute in its conviction that worker’s productivity only reflects how they are treated by the society that measures their labor. But the kind of society we produce, like the vessel out of clay, depends on the skill and disposition of the potter. The APC therefore stands for a better deal for the Nigerian worker and their participation in the Nigerian enterprise. The APC stands for activation of the second chapter of the Nigerian constitution, entitled Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. The weak must be cared for by a strong society; but a weak and failed society is weak in affection towards her disabled, women and children (Article 7 (vii)).
APC believes that freedom of speech makes better citizens and that affordable and quality education produces in the citizens intelligent and informed discussions on common causes for better promotion of society.
APC approves of friendly and reciprocal relations with other countries and that external or international strength and respect spring from the well maintained oasis of internal respect for citizens.
APC affirms devolution of power to the federating units without necessarily weakening the center.
We refuse to accept that we are not capable of forging a much better society. We can do that; but first, we must create a political arrangement that is fairly predictable—an arrangement that agrees with our party laws:
- We all affirm that no party member shall impose any leader or group of leaders on us the people. The process of emergence of party leadership at all levels must be through the secret ballot as our party laws stipulate. Your duty is to mark those that cause divisions and offences contrary to our laws and avoid them.
- The party candidate for any election must emerge through a primary process devoid of anger and sense of injustice. This is one change that shall strengthen the party and give it credence before Nigerians and non-Nigerians.
- The party must create and enforce strong party codes of conduct without respect of persons. Accordingly, the national leadership must take urgent steps to convince all family members of APC that it is a just judge and not one that desecrates the temple of justice for lustful convenience. With this, we shall all be assured that change has come into our politics.
- If we are not careful we shall be found to encourage the dividing of the baby between two disagreeable ladies. The half body of the baby in your hand is not living but dead. I should think the live whole baby is what we want and deserve in Benue state. Those whose unlawful walk threatens this new baby must be cautioned by the king. We the people are the king!
As you go back to your local government areas, wards, and cities, go forth with a strong hope that you are part of a worthy undertaking. Go with warmth in your heart that it is all in your hands to build a party that works for the people; a party where social status does not count but your choice does. Tell it to the people that they are only a thump print away from the center of power. You matter; the people matter. We are determined to attract the best into our politics. For years we have been told a lie. They told us that politics was for the wicked and mean. They said politics was a dirty game where the liar wins over the truth teller. They informed us that good people must stay away from politics. We cannot fall for those lies any more. Football is not a dirty game simply because a few players have landed hard tackles and ended the playing career of a player. Teaching is not a dirty game only because of the teacher that raped his student, nor is medicine a dirty game only because a doctor administered wrong therapy.
It is time that good men and women took active part in the politics of their society; after all politics is about gaining influence to allocate resources fairly for the welfare and security of society. For too long they put a police uniform on a mad man and made us believe that was how a real police man should behave. The disguise is now revealed. It is more difficult to become a true politician than to become a pastor. God may forgive the past criminal life of the pastor but society may not trust him to manage their common welfare and security. Politics is certainly not for the immoral man and woman who yet glory in their shame. A political leader must be sober and thoughtful. The APC must carefully screen her members before trusting them with leadership. This is one change that is necessary if the party will not fall into too many scandals. The private and public life of politicians is fast coming under more public scrutiny these days. Careful leadership recruitment must be made a mission.
Any people that refuse to invest in good governance should not expect a harvest thereof. We are fellow laborers. While some plant, others should water. The task of building the APC in Benue state is for you the party volunteer, who works not as a hireling but as one that shall reap after harvest. As you prepare for registration with the party, know that you have also started the task of renewing our state and nation. I don’t need to tell you how the past 14 years have been a long season of loss of our commonwealth through dubious privatization of our national assets and investments. Our children’s education is scaled down from the list of priorities of our state and country; what better testimony of this than the maltreatment of teachers in Benue state. To Benue teachers, we can only advise you to punish the party that has dehumanized you and your family. You workers of Benue state, are you better off today than you were 14 years ago? Fellow citizens who are under the siege of attacks on your land by cattle herders, make a choice against the party that has shown complete incompetence to protect you, your children, and wives. A party that has no clue.
If there is any warning we must make at this time it is that no trick must be used to compromise the choices of the electorate in any future elections in our state and nation. The 180-day trap will not be allowed to be used this time against the people.
Let us arise and build the broken walls of our destiny. We are not Tiv, Idoma, Igede or Etulo; we are the united people of Benue state. No sentiments must be used to divide us. We are all victims of bad governance. That is why we are here to re-affirm our commitment to the change we have adopted. Get out the people to register for the APC party; get out the people to register with INEC to vote. Get out to the field. Work and fight for your children, your wives, and your future. Let us arise. Thank you!