ADC presidential candidate Dumebi Kachikwu
• Post-straw poll burden stirs party
When the African Democratic Congress (ADC) announced the expulsion of its presidential candidate from the party, it was the culmination of its many missteps in the buildup to next year’s general elections.
Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu’s emergence as the ADC presidential standard bearer came as an anti-climax given the general common expectation that the ticket was Prof. Kingsley Moghalu’s to lose. Apart from losing the party’s presidential nomination, Prof. Moghalu resigned his membership of ADC. In his letter of resignation, the former Deputy Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor complained about the hanky-panky that trailed the June 4 presidential primary, stressing that he would not want to associate with a corrupt process.
Barely 48 hours after his resignation from the party, ADC witnessed a cascade of defections, losing close to 100, 000 members in a space of two weeks. It was apparent that the outcome of the presidential primary election went against the grain of public thinking, even as allegations of insider collusion raged.
Perhaps, in what came as the major blow to the party was the decision of the members of the National Youth Council to move out en masse from ADC. Numbering more than 1, 000, the youths had joined ADC in answer to Prof. Moghalu’s call for a new politics with youth participation to build, innovate and grow the country.
In a letter to ADC national chairman, Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, the Director of New Media, Salihu Abdulkadir, said their decision to quit became inevitable as a response to “the poor handling of the party’s presidential primary election.”
While expressing regrets that the defections were trailing Dumebi Kachikwu’s defeat of Prof. Moghalu, Abdulkadir remarked, “This decision was taken as a result of the failed promises and lack of transparency to ADC Youth Council. Our problem is handling of the party primary. ADC primary is the worst primary. APC’s own was better.”
He disclosed that careful evaluation of the poll outcome raised doubts that the party wanted to win the 2023 presidential election, stressing: “After due consultation with various stakeholders and more than 30 affiliate Youth Groups, the National Working Committee on behalf of all its members and the said affiliated groups decided to withdraw its membership position from ADC.
“State chairman took delegates but they were merely on paper, it was not the actual people that voted. The party chairman just gave people tags with money to vote. If I win the election and after a court case, one may lose his seat, so what’s the point?”
He explained that as a candidate of the party for Gombe State House of Assembly, he decided to step down to avoid a bigger calamity, insisting that the chairman promised more that he could deliver. Abdulkadiri said the resignation of the NYC was a big blow to the party, since according to him, “The ADC National Youth Council has been one of the bedrock in making the party strong. It has almost 200,000 members excluding the 30,000 office holders across 36 states.”
It could be recalled that shortly after Prof. Moghalu was voted Man of the Year by Nigerians in a widely circulated online poll by TopFlyers Magazine, his membership of ADC earned massive goodwill for the party as well as helping to win members. In the online survey, the former deputy CBN governor beat two other contenders, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and former Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which suggested a possible upset and preference for a generational shift in the 2023 leadership selection process.
But, that optimism dissipated when Dumebi Kachikwu proved bookmakers wrong by defeating the lawyer and political economist to the second position. Piqued by the flawed process, Moghalu, who contested the 2019 presidential poll on the platform of Young Progressives Party (YPP) handed in his resignation from the party.
In the resignation letter addressed to ADC national chairman, Nwosu, the former presidential aspirant complained against duplicity and financial inducement during the presidential primary contrary to assurances from the party’s national leadership.
Moghalu stated: “I am writing to hand in my resignation from my membership of the African Democratic Congress, effective immediately. I have resigned because the process and conduct of the party’s presidential primary on June 8, 2022 at Abeokuta revealed a fundamental clash of values between me and your leadership of the party.
“Despite the circular you issued a few days to the primary committing the party to providing transportation and accommodation for delegates to and in Abeokuta, and which as we agreed, would provide a level playing for all the presidential aspirants, the party under your leadership failed to do so.
“Some aspirants, including myself, made donations to the ADC party account as requested by the party for this purpose. This failure, which appeared intentional, created room for massive abuses of the electoral process including delegate capture and financial inducement of delegates.
“This is only one of numerous inconsistencies and the absence of transparency and predictability in the management of the party that I had progressively complained about. As you are well aware, I have consistently resisted pressures to join the APC or the PDP precisely to avoid “cash-and-carry” politics.
“For me to remain a member of the ADC therefore, after what thousands of party members participated in at Abeokuta, would be to endorse political corruption of a most obscene order. It is deeply regrettable that other inducements appear to have played more important roles in determining the outcome of the primary than loyalty to the party.”
Not long after Moghalu and other members deserted the party, ADC started quaking with internal recriminations and finger-pointing. While the finger pointing within the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, the winner of the disputed presidential primary, Kachikwu, was accused of indolence and lack of organisational framework to prosecute the main election.
And, as if to get back at the NWC, Kachikwu raised the issue of term limit, alleging that the national chairman, Nwosu, had overstayed his constitutional limit of eight years of two four-year terms.
But, in a bid to avoid a double jeopardy, the National Executive Committee (NEC) moved in the save the party from imminent collapse by extending the life of the NWC by one year. The ADC NEC contended that the lifeline given to the NWC was to ensure that the party’s candidates in the general election, including its presidential candidate, Kachikwu, perform to their optimum level during the polls.
The ADC Legal Adviser, Peter Oyewole, who briefed the NEC at the meeting, had affirmed that “the tenure of all the National Working Committee of ADC had ended on the 21st of August 2022.” However, in a bid to ensure that the party did not put itself on harms highway, the Deputy National Chairman (Politics), Dr Bamidele Ajadi, moved that the tenure of the affected national officers be extended for one year so that the party could “concentrate on the activities ahead, especially the campaign activities across the country which are slated to kickstart in September.”
“Our party deserves to focus on ensuring victory at all levels for our candidates, not only the presidential candidate, but our governorship, Senatorial, House of Representatives, and state Houses of Assembly candidates across the nation.”
Ajadi’s motion, which was seconded by another NEC member, Ibrahim Suleiman, also received the endorsement of the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-South), Elder Igbinoba Festus, and the acting National Youths Leader, Hauwal Yusuf, thereby affirming the tenure extension for the national executive members.
The national chairman, Nwosu, while expressing gratitude to the NEC for “the confidence reposed in me and members of the NWC,” promised to redouble efforts to ensure the party delivers on its mandate in 2023. He disclosed that a meeting of all the governorship candidates would be convened as part of efforts to unite the party and work towards victory in 2023.
However, arising from the meeting with governorship and National Assembly candidates, the NWC announced the suspension of the presidential candidate, Kachikwu, the chairman of the inchoate caretaker committee, Senator Patricia Akwashiki as well as state chairmen involved in the illegal attempt to orchaestrate regime change at the national headquarters of the party.
The presidential candidate, Kachikwu, had announced the replacement of the Nwosu-led NWC with a caretaker committee led by Senator Naomi Akwashiki, stressing that the decision was taken at a National Executive Committee (NEC). Meanwhile, the Nwosu-led NWC described the NEC meeting organised by Kachikwu as illegal, even as the caretaker chairman, Akwashiki wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seeking approval to relocate the party’s headquarters and recognition of the caretaker committee.
Amid the tangle, INEC responded to Akwashiki’s plea, stressing that the desire to change the party’s headquarters and for a caretaker committee did not meet with the laid down regulations.
In a letter signed by its Secreatry, Rose Onaran Anthony, INEC shot down the caretaker committee on the basis of incompetence, stressing that the absence of signatures of the national chairman and secretary invalidated the requests.
Buoyed by INEC’s recognition of his chairmanship, Nwosu maintained that Kachikwu’s suspension cannot be lifted, stressing that although Kachikwu emerged from a free and fair presidential primary, the presidential candidate has done nothing to show that he was actually prepared to contest the February 25, 2023 presidential poll.
He blamed the screening committee headed by Akwashiki for not doing a thorough job to unearth the hazy backgrounds of the presidential candidate, pointing out that it was clear that some people planned to hijack ADC for unclear purposes.
On the purported selection of Mrs Patricia Akwashiki as the party’s caretaker chairman, Nwosu said there was nothing like that, explaining that the constitution of ADC spells out the procedure for leadership change.
He stated: “Akwashiki, who was the BOT chairperson also headed the screening committee put together to conduct due diligence on all our presidential aspirants, handled Kachikwu’s screening, which has put the party in a bad light.”
Nwosu also threatened to drag the party’s presidential candidate, Kachikwu, to court for defaming and making unfounded claims against him. Kachikwu had, at a news conference, accused the chairman of overstaying his term in office, alleging that Nwosu had been using the platform as a business organisation.
Nwosu warned Kachikwu that he has seven days to withdraw the defamatory and traducing words against him, he (Nwosu) would have no options than to drag him to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and seek the following remedies:
“Damages in the sum of N20Billion (Twenty Billion Naira) for the injury and damage you have inflicted on the reputation and public standing of our client.
An injunction to restrain you from publishing the same or similar statements in the future and cost of the suit”
In a letter by his counsel, Sam Kargbo, the principal partner in the law firm of Jackson, Kargbo & Associates, Nwosu demanded Kachikwu to retract his “slanderous, libellous and traducing statements against Ralph Okey Nwosu.”
Nwosu’s counsel informed Kachikwu that unless he carries out the retraction of the damaging statements within seven days from the date of service of the letter, the law firm would have no option than to drag him to show cause and pay N20billion damages to Chief Nwosu.
In the course of serving the court summons, it was discovered that Kachikwu still operates from his private residence instead of a presidential campaign office.
But, while the party continues to claim that the presidential candidate “is indeed desperate to destabilize the party, ensure it remains confused,” Kachikwu remains unperturbed, even as his chances of being recognised by INEC as the ADC presidential candidate remains doubtful.
Apart from the failed bid to change the national leadership of the party, ADC accused Kachikwu of “talking about starting a campaign fund, and that his over 3 trips out of the country since after Primary were to speak with investors. Till date, none has been activated.”
Going by the INEC timeline for the 2023 poll, the names of presidential candidates recognised by the commission for the election were to be published on September 20, 2022. Consequently, whether Kachikwu’s names appears of fails to make it would give new indicators as to the level of participation of ADC in the general elections.