Dr Ralph Okey Nwosu, the national chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), was the co-chairman of the Inter-party Advisory Committee (IPAC), the umbrella body of registered political parties in Nigeria, election committee in 2016. In this interview by KUNLE ODEREMI, the scholar speaks on the incursion of former military leaders into politics and how Obasanjo’s Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) eventually resolved to dissolve into the ADC, among others.
HOW has the journey been for the ADC founded more than 10 years ago?
The African Democratic Congress started as Alliance for Democratic Change in 2005. It started as a movement. Our first few meetings were held in Awka, Anambra State. Our members in Edo State hosted our constitution formalisation meeting. We unveiled the constitution in Kano, and the manifestoes in Lagos. We started with all these rituals because our aim was to build a political party with values, clear direction, and a great purpose.
Before we went to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for formal registration, we held meetings in the different geopolitical zones: Jos, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). We considered this ritual essential to solicit buy-in, and root our cause in the different parts of the country.
We received our first baptism of fire, when we applied for registration; INEC rejected our name. They said that our name was similar to the Alliance for Democracy (AD). We protested, but could not get them to change their mind. We held a symbolic retreat at Awka, after a series of presentations and brainstorming sessions, we decided on African Democratic Congress, with the same acronym (ADC). We prayed for Nigeria, Africa and the world, and asked God to use the ADC to privilege our country and Africa. The party was formally registered in 2006.
How has it been? I can tell you it has been a struggle. Except for the missionary spirit of some of us that have been on this journey for almost 14years, we could have given up. The Nigerian systems really need serious re-jigging but, I leave that for another day.
ADC is not left out of the ongoing realignment of forces by different groups and individuals ahead the 2019 general election. What difference is the fusion of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), formed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, with your party going to make, especially on the issue of compatibility of members and collective ideals, principles of internal democracy and collective bargaining?
Well, I would say after 20 years of democracy in Nigeria, the time has come for well-meaning leaders to make a statement; otherwise the entire system will crumble. Former President Obasanjo and his colleagues in the CNM are aware of the very dire state our country is in. They did a very thorough background checks before they opted for ADC. I hope you don’t think that it is only CNM or the Obasanjo group that has fused with ADC, we have many other very resilient organisations and parties involved. OBJ and these people have seen systems that work and the ones that do not work. So, the decision was based on a political party that has character and values that are endearing and they would not want to change that. OBJ told me that was the attraction. After their due diligence check of over 60 political parties and their leaderships, it was the principles, and ideals of ADC that won us their approval. So, I do not entertain fear that the same people will try to dilute or diminish the ADC ethos.
With CNM, there is no such fear. But you know that the political party is a public trust. The door is quite open for everyone. As you have noticed, the fusion may appear to have made ADC the darling of the moment, but one thing I must assure you of is that, we have the structures and character to keep us as the darling at all times. As a public trust, I understand that some opportunists may want to flood the party now. Our system of discipline, habits and character will reform such people or they will fizzle out within a short time. For a country to take a major leap, you need frontline political leaders that are missionaries. I have always preached this and I am glad to be working with a man that has so much passion and commitment for the country.
Some people believe OBJ is acting the script of a powerful cabal comprising former military top brass that has consistently determined the power locus and equation of Nigeria since 1999. Hence the group is out to hijack ADC for that purpose this time round? How prepared is the party to resist that agenda, and the cabal in particular?
Who are these cabals? Maybe you are referring to Generals Yakubu Gowon; Obasanjo; TY. Danjuma; Ibrahim Babangida; Abdulsalami Abubakar; Domkat Bali; Joshua Dogonyaro, Ishaya Bamayi, Colonel Abubakar Umar, and so on. Yes, I know these people while in service and out of service. But, I ask you at their ages of seventies and eighties, what do you think the priorities of these persons will be? No one is perfect, but passion, patriotism, and commitment to the Nigerian project, you cannot deny these men. At sunset, people try to put their home in order.
Forget the Generals, go and find out from my Eze Uzu in Awka, or Obi of Onitsha, Emir of Kano, our Obas, including the Sultan if they feel comfortable with the present state of things in Nigeria. I was so depressed at a time that I openly invited the Emir of Kano to come and be our presidential candidate. So, let us forget all the speculations and focus on the realities and urgencies of the moment. Religious leaders: Christians, Muslims, and indigenous religion practitioners, are not happy with the spate of killings in Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Plateau states, etc. They are sad over the nepotistic posture of the APC government. The youths are without jobs; our farmlands are under attack; the economy is in a shambles, and various state institutions and structures are in worst of shapes and officers are experiencing the worst degree of heart ache and emotional torture. So, I must say if all these men and women are working with the ADC, the Nigerian nation is blessed. I do not panic and I do not expect the media to orchestrate anything other than realities of the moment. The ADC has a role – modelling leadership philosophy that is highly infectious. Our political leaders must model how they want the constituents to behave, and not dish out orders. Leaders must inspire followers by their own characters of hard work and integrity. The problem with Nigeria is leadership; with quality leadership, every other thing will follow. So, I beg you people to forget putting Nigerians in such moulds as cabals of ex-military top brass. This is 20 years of democracy; this is time enough for the real democrats to show up. The ADC extends its hands for warm embrace and handshake, so that we can pull together, for Nigeria, Africa and humanity.
With incumbency factor, don’t you think victory is certain for the APC as is being said in certain quarters and going by the experience of PDP before the Jonathan era? Besides, can ADC go it alone in the 2019 elections and create an upset, especially with the OBJ group in the party and why?
APC propaganda is over. The façade of a mystic and magic man is over. Reality has set in; the results are glaring. No amount of lies and deception can change the despair that has overtaken the country. The stench of victimisation and squalor of poverty has made the atmosphere uncomfortable for everyone. Even the president’s own medical tours scandalise the administration. People tell me APC will use the state structures to crush the opposition. But I can assure they will fail. I am least concerned about that. The people of Nigeria in Gusau in Zamfara State; Awka, Abeokuta, Biu, you can name them all, have had enough. ADChas come to the rescue. God bless Nigeria. But my real concern is strengthen the structures, systems, and refining the core values of the party to maintain its elasticity and resilience at all times.
Politicians with military backgrounds currently occupy the front seat in Nigeria. As a politician with a strong and rich academic background, isn’t the trend a slap in the wrist of a principled segment of the civilian political class that led the painful and bitter struggle culminating in civilian rule in the first place?
Not necessarily; there is no need for such schism. If you remove the culture of coups that overtook the military in Nigeria at a point, the military is supposed to be the most patriotic in the nation. When young adults sign into the army, they submit to defend the country with their lives when it calls for it. Their training, factor that in. No other training prepares you for loyalty to state and constituted authority than the military’s. In a democracy, we must accord the military their right of place. Part of my angst against this government, and the current political governance is not using the rich resources we have in the military. The current APC government is destroying the norms that keep morale high. Bright officers are dying in silence because of the system. This is the situation in the military, police, and other security and intelligence organs. The era of military coup is over. I have high regards for men in uniform, but I can see APC trying to polarise and politicise these establishment. This has its own omen.
Some critics claim your party is only craving for relevance, that it lacks strong and widespread structures of a PDP or an APC?
People are entitled to their opinions. The ADC [members] have stood their ground and weathered the storm for the last 12 years. I can also tell you that we have won many elections except that our electoral and governance systems are rotten. We have won seats in the Senate, House of Representatives, and House of Assembly. But for the corrupt systems, we are able to keep only one seat. To God be the glory; the APC government would have sought to deregister us because of the challenge we now pose. But, we cannot be deregistered. The ADC has deep thinking missionary-minded men and women. We are very resilient. We knew that this day will come.
How did the ADC arrive at the decision to zone its presidential ticket to the North, Vice-President to the South-East and the post of national chairman to the South-West?
We have not told you that yet. Decision making in the ADC goes through multiple and well-layered structures. Let us not jump the gun. We are thinking what is best for every Nigerian.
Then, how was the actual structure of the general power-sharing formula adopted by the party ahead the elections, and why is it so?
Don’t worry, we are going to address the press soon on the way forward for our party and country.
What kind of presidential candidate does the ADC have in mind: is it the one with a military background or one of the likely prominent defectors from the APC or PDP, or even the ones that have been jumping from the PDP to the APC?
Stop imagining things. We are committed to a better Nigeria. Our candidate will be a fine soul with a large heart, and definitely not nepotistic. A president that will be accountable to the people and respect all tiers and arms of government. We must allow the National and State Houses of Assembly to develop and become effective arms of our democracy.
How will an ADC government treat the stewardship or tenure of the current APC federal administration; will it be based on consolidation, since governance is required to be a continuum?
When our elected ADC president gets sworn in May 29th 2019, you will hear from her, or him. Why are you laughing? Our ticket is open. Who knows; we may even elect the first female president. In the ADC, one resolution that is clear is that 30 per cent positions will go to women 30 per cent to youths, and 40 per cent will be shared among others.
The post How ADC, Obasanjo’s CNM deal was sealed —Nwosu, national chairman appeared first on Tribune.