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23 December 2006

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THE NCP's NATIONAL CONVENTION IN ABUJA

The national convention of the National Conscience Party (NCP) was held at Denis Hotel, Abuja on December 20, 2006. In his address on the state of the nation, the National Chairman of the NCP, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, lampooned neo-liberal economic policies and the anti-democratic posture of the Obasanjo/Atiku ruling PDP government and urged the Nigerian people to put pressure on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against Obasanjo and Atiku. He also called on the people to prevail on INEC to conduct free and fair elections in 2007.

On the 2007 general elections and the proposed NCP alliance with other political parties to adopt a consensus Presidential candidate that can be formidable enough to defeat the PDP's candidate, Dr. Obayuwana presented General Muhammadu Buhari as a possible candidate that NCP could adopt because of a number of reasons. For example, Buhari is seen as incorruptible. He has accepted to operate a public sector driven economy, etc.

However, a majority of NEC members and rank and file disagreed with the idea of the NCP declaring support for General Buhari. The general feeling was that the NCP could not afford to support somebody who is not its member. Hence there was a proposal that only a member of NCP should be raised to run on the platform of the Party. Consequently, Mrs. Basirat Ogunlana then proposed Dr. Osagie Obayuwana as the NCP Presidential flag bearer. This proposal was unanimously adopted by every delegate present, while the National General Secretary, Mallam Yunusa Tanko, was elected as the Vice Presidential candidate.

Already previously the Lagos State Chapter of the party had presented to the leadership and circulated to the delegates a special message to the convention vis-à-vis adoption of General Buhari as the Presidential candidate. The message states, "Instead of investing NCP political credibility on Buhari running as the Presidential candidate of a well known capitalist party dominated by anti-poor and corrupt politicians like the ANPP/AC, General Buhari, in fact, should be invited to come and team up with the NCP if he truly wishes to have his publicly stated ideals actualised." The chapter therefore urged the delegates and the leadership to be very cautious "when deciding on the political strategy and tactics to be adopted in relation to the forthcoming 2007 general elections."

Against this background, and against the background of the fact that the party's NEC had earlier recommended Buhari for adoption as the presidential candidate which the NCP should vote for in the 2007 elections, the unexpected u-turn by the few NEC members who spoke on this issue and the unanimous acceptance of the proposal that Osagie Obayuwana and Yunusa Tanko should run for presidency, instead of adopting Buhari, did not occur without some sense of misgivings. There was the fear expressed by some of the delegates that the national leadership adopted this tactic so as to avoid a heated debate at the Convention while, at the same time, waiting for a more propitious moment when it will relinquish its mandate under the guise of giving support to a more popular candidate which can defeat the PDP's anointed candidate.

Most unfortunately, this feeling was reinforced by the contributions of Messers Femi Falana and Peters Omoragbon on 'Focus Nigeria', an AIT TV programme, the next morning after the Abuja National Convention. Instead of emphasising on the fact that the NCP presidential candidate will mount a vigorous, pro-masses, anti neo-liberal policy campaign among the working people, Omoragbon was already saying that they would back any candidate that shares the NCP's ideology, irrespective of which party he or she comes from. This, to say the least, is politically irresponsible. Every averagely conscious person knows that virtually all other main political parties are anti-poor, pro-rich and provocatively corrupt. So, how can the NCP national leadership begin to sow the seed of an illusion of a presidential candidate of a capitalist party who at the same time will share the NCP's ideology? Again Omoragbon's statement shows that the NCP's mandate can be traded with other individuals or parties without a further recourse to the national congress or convention of the party.

We in the Lagos State NCP consequently urge Messers Obayuwana and Yunusa not to give up the party's mandate given at the National Convention of the party held in Abuja on December 20, 2006 under any disguise whatsoever. Instead, we call on the national leadership headed by Obayuwana to immediately come up with a comprehensive campaigns plan, to take NCP's pro-masses agenda to all the nooks and crannies of this country, particularly among the poor working masses on the basis of the party's programme and a rejection of all moneybag politicians. If the leadership adopts this approach, we in the Lagos State NCP pledge our unalloyed commitment towards such effort; notwithstanding any political and or tactical organisational differences we may have with the Obayuwana led NEC.

STATE OF THE PARTY

In his introduction of this issue Obayuwana stated that organisational indiscipline has been a major problem in the party. He said that unnecessary energy that could have been harnessed to building the party is being dissipated on internal issues for public consumption. He said if an individual or a group view is in minority, he or it should wait for the time when he or it would be able to convince others of he or its view and that people should learn to work with others as a house divided by itself cannot stand. He therefore appealed for unity and discipline.

Most shockingly however, Obayuwana leadership recognised one Christopher Bankole as Lagos State NCP Governorship candidate despite the fact that it was Lanre Arogundade that was unanimously elected as the Governorship candidate both at the Lagos State emergency State Coordinating Council meeting of December 15 and State Congress on December 16, 2006. Nobody knows how Bankole emerged as a so-called Lagos NCP candidate. In contrast the December 16 State Congress was attended by 137 members representing 18 local governments. Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the founding National Chairman of the party was also present as were an official INEC representative and journalists. Furthermore the National General Secretary, Yunusa Tanko, was the one who submitted Lanre Arogundade's INEC form F002 to INEC Headquarters in Abuja on Friday, December 15, 2006.

Again, Obayuwana leadership has continued to recognise and relate with a set of elements claiming to be a faction of the Lagos NCP. Scandalously these unrepresentative elements were accorded delegate status at the convention. These were the same elements that petitioned the national executives to dissolve Lagos NCP at the Benin NCC in March 2006.

However, without conceding that these elements constitute a minority "faction" in Lagos, the December 9, 2006 National Coordinating Council meeting has rejected their demands. This meeting, held at Chief Gani Fawehinmi's Chambers, lifted the purported expulsion and suspension orders previously placed on Segun Sango, Lagos State NCP Chairperson, and other leaders in Lagos and the south-west respectively. Against this background the granting of delegate status at the National Convention to this faction only 11 days later means that it is unfortunately doubtful if the Obayuwana leadership is sincere with its agenda of building the NCP as a formidable opposition party especially with respect to 2007 general elections.

However, before the meeting ended, Obayuwana requested the Convention to empower the NEC to resolve what he called Oyo and Lagos States NCP crisis. This was generally adopted by the delegates. But there can be no doubt that the vast majority of active NCP members will react with fury if the national leadership use this mandate to try to replace the genuine, campaigning Lagos and Oyo state NCP leaderships with self-serving position seekers.

These apparent contradictions in the politics and conducts of the Obayuwana leadership notwithstanding, we in the Lagos State NCP nonetheless congratulate the Convention for resisting the temptation to adopt the presidential candidate of a well known anti-poor and corrupt capitalist party. The NCP's National Convention has given the party another chance to position itself as the most steadfast defender of the working masses and poor.

A clear bold political campaign against the looters and the rotten elite and for pro-masses' demands could bring the party significant support. This campaign should not be simply about the elections, but also be aimed a building a base upon which we can continue the battle to really liberate the Nigerian people from poverty and helplessness after next April. We thus invite all party members across the country to build a campaign that will make the NCP a timely masses party.