The stage is set for a titanic battle for the position of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The election of a new chairman to replace outgoing chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, will take place at the party's national congress on 23rd June. The leading contenders for the chairmanship position are former governors, Chief Clement Ebri of Cross River State and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.
Last Wednesday, Ebri formally declared his intention to vie for the position at a packed town hall meeting that took place at Transcorp Hotel, Calabar. Everybody that spoke about Ebri at the event vouched for his integrity and impeccable credentials, saying he's the best man for the job.
Setting the ball rolling was the chairman of the occasion and Secretary General of PENGASSN, Comrade Adamu Song, who said President Muhammadu Buhari was a man of integrity and should be paired with a man with unquestionable integrity such as Ebri.
“APC should not make the mistake of mismatching Buhari with the opposite. Ebri has unquestionable integrity as Buhari. He has been tested and tried. We must pray and fast to ensure Ebri emerges chairman.
“He was the shining light of integrity when he was governor. APC needs him more than he needs the party. He will speak the truth. APC doesn't need a clown, a hypocrite, a double-faced person, a dishonest person.”
Song described Ebri as integrity personified, saying “I will stake everything I have to ensure Ebri emerges chairman. It is either Ebri or no one else. We should collectively go and market Ebri and 2019 will be over. God will give Buhari a capable National Chairman.”
Before Ebri read his declaration speech in which he outlined his 11-point issues he said “would make his candidacy credible and generate stature and momentum for our party as we approach the general elections next year,” he was presented to the town hall gathering by former Secretary to the state government, Ernest Irek. Irek read Ebri's citation entitled 'A Veteran Returns To The Battle Ground'
Ebri, a former national chairman of Progressive People's Alliance (PPA) said “as National Chairman of the APC, I will in conjunction with other officers and members make APC's existing organs, all 30 of them to function at optimal levels.
“All the organs of the party should communicate effectively. They must not be allowed to exist in silos and operate as lone rangers. The power and effectiveness of the party depends, in part, on a strong network of its community of party organs.”
He raised the issue of lack of internal democracy in a party, saying it was capable of hurting a party during elections.
“Across the length and breadth of the nation and at different platforms and levels of the party organisation, there is visible evidence of poorly handled, unresolved and lingering intra-party crises which have potentials to derail stakeholders from the primary goal for which the party was established. As National Chairman of APC I will design rapid response mechanism to petitions and complaints.
“I will encourage activities at local party levels such as cooperatives, empowerment programmes, group lending schemes and awareness programmes. All these and others will help along with a verifiable culture of internal democracy, transparency and accountability to encourage commitment to the party by all members,” he said.
As part of his agenda to win elections, he said, “I will advance the idea that the ability of our party to recruit the best candidates that will win elections will be the root of its further victories. We must make adequate provisions to offer our party's candidates functional training and support. More than this, we must not only help those who need to raise funds, but we must do our best to turn out voters on Election Day.
“As national chairman of the APC, I will also promote the significance of skilled information Management. Right from the level of the wards, information should be made to percolate up through the networks to the centre.
“As national chairman of the APC, I will pursue a policy of constructive outreach to all sections of the country and all sectors of the economy and the business world as well as to major stakeholders and traditional leaders all over the country.”
Ebri further stated that “the party will invest in a party newspaper to provide a forum for sharing positions on national issues as well as place for members to share opinions. I will also organize periodic meetings with government officials to monitor consistency in the implementation of party platforms.
“As I have stated elsewhere before, no party can give democracy to the people except it demonstrates democracy in the running of its own affairs. This will be the lesson of the forthcoming National Convention. It is to this cause – the need to achieve internal democracy within the APC as a means of delivering development to our people- that I am at this moment dedicating my life.”
The town hall meeting was attended by party stalwarts within and outside Cross River State, persons across various strata of the society including the physically challenged persons, market women, leaders of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba communities, youths, civil society organisations among many others. They all pledged their support for Ebri to emerge as the next national chairman of the APC.