Big fish, small pond: How Moghalu, ADC lost third force
As momentum builds for the 2023 general election cycle, political parties are beginning to fit into their weight categories.
Apart from the nation’s political twins- the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-, Nigerians yearned for a third force political platform to serve as a credible alternative to the two.
Watchers of Nigerian politics expected the African Democratic Congress (ADC) to fit into that corner and enjoy the current rave sparked off by the Labour Party (LP).
However, through a combination of factors, ADC fell short, not only because the big fish in a small pond pedigree, which former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Deputy Governor, Prof. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, evaporated, but also because the founders of ADC had other motives far from winning the presidential election.
On October 8, 2021, when Prof. Moghalu declared for the 2023 presidency on the ADC platform, the party came alive as a potential rallying platform for the much-expected Third Force political movement in the country.
Recall that exactly one week earlier, precisely on October 1, 2021, the National Political Consultative Front (NCFront), held its second National Rescue Summit in Abuja, to commemorate Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary.
The Head, Media and Public Affairs Bureau of NCFront, Dr Tanko Yunusa, disclosed that the central theme focused on electoral reforms with emphasis on electronic transmission of electoral results.
He added: “Consequently, a national political coalition on electoral reforms under the leadership of Prof. Attahiru Jega and Dr Olisa Agbakoba was launched to put pressure on the country’s rulers to ensure that the current amendment process on electoral reforms brings about free, credible and transparent elections in 2023.”
Tanko also pointed out that the occasion provided an opportunity to the NCFront General Assembly “to formally adopt its new mega political movement,” stressing that the group has adopted a political party and is working on remodelling it to fit into its philosophy of providing a credible alternative to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It was against that backdrop that on October 8, 2021, when Moghalu announced that he would be addressing a press conference, many followers of the NCFront activities were excited. Moghalu, it could be recalled, had earlier withdrawn from partisan political activities after the 2019 general elections.
In the notice of the press conference sent out to media organisations, the 2019 presidential contender of the Young Progressives Party (YPP)), said he was “expected to make important statements about his future plans and the state of the nation.”
In 2019, when he contested for the Presidency as YPP standard-bearer, Moghalu, who was a former Deputy Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN), excited millions of young people. After President Muhammadu Buhari won the election, some observers noted that the power rotation arrangement between the North and South favoured Buhari’s second term.
Those who believed in Moghalu’s message of national re-invention concluded that he was a candidate, “whose time would come,” and were said to have counselled him to leave YPP, but sustain his “interventions in national issues of economic reconstruction, nation-building and governance.”
In the course of the October 8, 2021 press conference, Moghalu, who is also a lawyer and political economist, declared his intention to run again for the Presidency in 2023. That declaration, as well as his choice of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), which featured prominently at the October 1, 2021, second NCFront National Rescue Summit, electrified the audience.
But, while the audience and ADC faithful at the Stonehedge Hotel, Abuja, the venue of the press conference, were excited, an investigation by The Guardian showed that that development provided Moghalu’s undoing.
It was gathered that although Ezekiel Etok had introduced Alhaji Bashir Lamido to consider running for the Presidency on ADC, Lamido could not sustain his interest, even as he reneged on his promise to inject N100 million into the party into the platform.
Etok had also reached out to the former Director General of Delta State Economic Summit Group, Chukwuka Monye, before convincing Moghalu on the feasibility of ADC as the appropriate platform for him to have another try at the presidential poll.
But, while the chieftains of ADC were reaching out to notable personalities that could make the platform competitive for the presidential contest, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was said to have reached out to his ally, Dumebi Kachikwu to join the fray.
Prior to Kachikwu’s entry, Moghalu, believing that the platform was already available for the main battle, decided to engineer membership recruitment into the party, particularly by incorporating the members and field officers of his To Build A Nation (TBAN) movement.
As a result of that impetus, especially with the promise that the NCFront will adopt ADC as the chosen platform for the 2023 presidential poll, Moghalu was said to have taken up the financing of the party. He was said to have funded the state congresses of five state chapters, as well as propelling the entrance of nearly 20, 000 new members into the party.
However, signs that Moghalu demonstrated political naivety by declaring for the 2023 Presidency emerged during the ADC presidential primary held in Abeokuta, Ogun State. ADC, through its chairman, Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, had enjoined the presidential aspirants to contribute N10million each for the transportation and lodging of delegates.
In a memo sighted by The Guardian, the presidential aspirants were informed that the essence of the approach was to ensure a level playfield and ensure that there was no form of inducement or bargain with the delegates.
The statement titled, “The Outcome of the Conversation with ADC Presidential Aspirants and Party Leaders,” the party noted: “The National Leadership of the ADC, led by the National Chairman and the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, held a dialogue with all the party’s Presidential Aspirants on May 31, 2022.
“The main focus of the meeting was the party’s forthcoming presidential primary on June 8, bordering on issues of party harmony and unity, ethics and logistical organization for the National Convention.
“It was observed and stressed by the party chairman that the ADC must avoid the delegate merchandising culture of the ruling parties. The chairman warned that any established act of monetary inducement of delegates or delegations would be met with disqualification, both of any candidate involved and the delegate or delegation, from participation in the National Convention and the Primary Election…
“It was also discussed, agreed and then decided by the party leadership that the national secretariat of the party will take direct responsibility for the transportation and accommodation of all states’ delegates to the National Convention. On no account should ADC state chairmen henceforth approach aspirants for, or such aspirants provide financial support for these purposes. Any breach of this ethical framework will result in sanctions.
“In order to facilitate the party’s ability to discharge the responsibility of providing for the transportation and accommodation of delegates, it was agreed that the party secretariat would receive financial contributions from Presidential Aspirants for this purpose on the basis of a clear and transparent budget to be presented to the Aspirants by the party secretariat.”
But, contrary to the well-meaning intentions of the party, unknown to some of the aspirants, the national chairman was already handed in gloves with Kachikwu to programme the outcome of the primary. For instance, it was gathered that on the eve of the presidential primary, while other presidential aspirants were being hosted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at a dinner, Kachikwu, who eventually won the primary, was busy receiving delegates from the northern states and shepherding to them to different hotels.
Insiders confided in The Guardian that delegates who saw what transpired during the PDP presidential primary looked forward to dollar rain and were well disposed to the same when it started happening, even as it was alleged that Board of Trustees (BOT) members were well treated.
“I can tell you that funds ranging from five to N12million made the rounds during the party primary. You know it is not all the time some of us could get such money. Wallahi, there were some of the delegates that saw dollars and stayed in a good hotel for the first time in Abeokuta,” a delegate from Sokoto State narrated.
Checks by The Guardian revealed that Kachikwu decided to play a fast one since most party faithful complained that he was playing Fayemi style of elitist politics. It was further alleged that the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, supported Kachikwu’s emergence, ostensibly to pave way for his (Kachikwu’s) eventual stepping down for him around December 2022.
A source close to the Delta-born politician said there was no way another Deltan should be running for Presidency, when the Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, would be on the presidential ballot.
Insisting that Kachikwu would eventually step down for Atiku, the source disclosed that Kachikwu has been a long-term ally of the former Vice President, noting that apart from politics, both leaders share economic interests.
Based on the weight of the allegations, The Guardian made efforts to get Kachikwu’s reactions. But, after repeated calls and messages, the Presidential candidate was not forthcoming.
Kachikwu also failed to respond to the question posed to him: 1. Is it true that you were supported by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to pick the ADC Presidential ticket as a placeholder to ultimately step down for the PDP presidential candidate?
2. How would you react to the alleged purchase of the ADC ticket via consideration to the national chairman and members of the party’s
BOT as well as delegates to the presidential primary?
3. What issues do you have with former President Olusegun Obasanjo that made you shun the dinner for ADC presidential aspirants on the eve of the ADC presidential primary at Abeokuta?
4. At what point did you make the decision to contest the 2023 presidential election? 5. How do you feel about Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s presence on the presidential ballot knowing that you all hail from the same Delta North Senatorial District? 6, Prior to joining ADC what political party did you belong to and have you contested for any elective position before?
In what appears as a tacit validation of Kachikwu’s alleged plans to play the ‘Tambuwal’ for Atiku before the February 25 presidential election, both the presidential candidate and the ADC national chairman, Nwosu, are embroiled in a stiff tussle for the control of the party structure.
While Nwosu, whose tenure had long elapsed was said to be planning to use the party as a bargaining chip, Kachikwu is said to be peeved, because his supposed plan to step down for Atiku would be of little effect without the party’s support.
Both men are said to be less bothered by the fact that after the presidential primary, thousands of members have left the party, especially given that most of the members expected Moghalu to pick the presidential ticket.
With accusations and counter-accusations flying about in the party, the infighting is at a fever pitch, because while Kachikwu is relying on state chairmen to remove Nwosu, the embattled national chairman is fighting back with the support of the National Working Committee (NWC).
To worsen the division, most candidates elected on the ADC platform have refused to add Kachikwu’s pictures to their campaign posters. It could be recalled that nearly 30 state chairmen of ADC recently urged the national chairman, Nwosu, to step aside, stressing that his tenure had long elapsed.
Apart from unsubstantiated claims of money changing hands during the party’s primaries, the state chairmen contend that after 17 years as chairman, Nwosu has no business presiding over the affairs of ADC any longer.
According to the Kogi State ADC chairman, Mr Kingsley Temitope Ogah, who spoke to journalists in Abuja, “Nwosu continuous stay in office was in breach of the party constitution.”
Boasting the support of more than 27 state chairmen, Ogah frowned at the attitude of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) towards the state chairmen of ADC during their meeting and called for the immediate disbandment of the NWC.
In the place of the NWC, he said a caretaker committee should be put in place to oversee the management of the party till a national convention is held, stressing that Nwosu’s elongated tenure expired by August 28, 2022.
But, countering Ogah and his colleague-chairmen, Nwosu disclosed that the NEC resolved that because of the general election and fall out of the acrimonious presidential primary, “we cannot afford another convention. For the interest of the party that a new national chairman will be elected come a year after now.”