In 1991, the late revolutionary singer, Sonny Okosun recorded the song, ‘Wind of Change’. In 1983, some years before that song was released, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had predicted that the progressive elements in the North and South would someday work together to salvage the country. Neither men was able to state with precision when the expected change would occur, but 30 years later, that prediction came to pass when political gladiators from different sections of the country united and formed what became a successful opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which brought to an end, the 16-year rule of the once dominant ruling political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). OLAOLU BILAU looks back at the evolution of the APC and how it was able to bring about the ‘Tsunami’ called change…
Muhammadu Buhari, Bola Tinubu, Tony Momoh, Bisi Akande, Ogbonaiya Onu, Audu Ogbeh, Bello Masari and Rochas Okorocha were the arrowheads of the political movement that saw the merger of the four now defunct regional political parties: Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, Congress for Progressive Change and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance that eventually transformed to become what is today known as the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Rough road to merger
Another political party, African Peoples Congress contested the use of the acronym, APC with the All Progressives Congress, leading to a legal battle that ended in favour of the progressive party. The entire episode was largely viewed by many as an alleged attempt by some individuals to frustrate the emergence of a virile opposition. The whole idea, according to some people was to make the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to accept the name APC and to force the party to adopt another name. But the merging parties crossed that hurdle.
Yet, upon its registration by INEC, many never saw the new political conglomeration work out. Not just a few of the critics said the ‘APC was dead on arrival’, insisting that its founders were strange bed fellows and won’t be able to work together harmoniously.
APC leaders proved skeptics wrong
But, putting aside personal interests, allowing party supremacy take precedence and without wasting time, the party successfully put in place an interim national executive committee to pilot its affairs. It later held a mini convention, where the current national leadership was elected in line with the zoning arrangement agreed upon. And much to the chagrin of those who thought the party would implode, it went ahead to elect its presidential flag bearer with little or no rancour.
Though, in some states, the ward, local government and state congresses of the party were marred in crisis, leading to the defection of some of the pioneer members to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other parties. Those who left include Chief Tom Ikimi, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and Chief Olusegun Osoba among others.
PDP’s loss, APC’s gain
How much of a threat the PDP considered the APC to be may not be clear, but the ruling party became rattled, when in one fell swoop five of the governors elected on its platform defected to the opposition party. It also lost 37 House of Representatives lawmakers, some senators and then the Speaker of the lower chamber, Aminu Tambuwal.
Legal battles were fought over the defections, the security detail of the speaker was withdrawn by the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba and there was even, a violent skirmish at the National Assembly between the Police and lawmakers loyal to the speaker. The APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari also got dragged into a messy and controversial secondary school certificate saga just as President Goodluck Jonathan had court actions slammed against him on his eligibility to contest.
Then, the build up to the 2015 general election began and it became what late Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo would call Roforofo fight as officials of the two political parties engaged one another in mudslinging and all manner of character assassination. This generated tension right into the February 14 election date that was shifted and even, till March 28 when the Presidential and National Assembly election held.
Historic change of power at the Centre in 16 years
And then, the unprecedented happened; the new opposition party took over power, winning the presidency and majority seats in the Senate and House of Representatives, in addition to 21 out of the 36 states in the governorship election.
It was a resounding victory for the progressives and a heavy blow to the conservative PDP, which some years back had boasted to rule the country for the next 60 years.
But as it turned out courtesy of the ‘Tsunami’ called Change, power changed hands 16 years before the three scores PDP envisaged.