I have decided to give an account of my political journey so far because I need you to understand the pains of this Campaign, the corrupt leadership of the party system in Nigeria and why we are still marching to destination. You need to know from my experience that Nigeria’s political revival through new breed politicians is a very hard task that sometimes requires changing strategies, without compromising on principles. Nigerians want the truth from politicians and I am committed too much to good leadership and transparency in our nation’s political affairs to join the political class in further destroying the thinning fabric of democracy.
I, Henry Ayo Abimbola, made a costly decision to join politics in Nigeria because my calling is to serve. I cannot be fulfilled as a person if the abundant blessings of God in me to help the society are allowed to waste. However, I was not naïve - I knew the political conditions in Nigeria are unwelcoming to those without a lot of stolen wealth, who will not be ready to play the political game of betrayal, corruption, connivance, conspiracy and selfish aggrandizement. Nevertheless, the calling has always been greater than the suffering.
After a reconnoiter of the political landscape, I had settled for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for three reasons – it had good followership among my people in Ogun State, it provided a good rallying point for progressive politicians and its only elected Governor at the time, Babatunde Raji Fasola of Lagos State, was widely accepted as doing a good job.
Upon these considerations, I reached out to the ACN leaders with a view to measuring my chances. When I first contacted them, they told me they were very excited to have me join, especially considering the fact that I was making such a difficult decision of leaving my family and employment commitments overseas. At the time I indicated my interest in running for the post of Representative in the Remo Federal Constituency, there was nobody interested in running for the office, as I was told, because it was feared by most potential aspirants to be the stronghold of the dreaded Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel.
I did not decide to join politics as a coward. I told the leaders I was ready to take on the battle. Among those to whom I declared my readiness were the State Party Chairman, Tajudeen Bello; State Party Secretary, Abimbola Awofeso; State Party Admin Secretary, Kareem Iyanda; Party Chieftain and former State Governor, Olusegun Osoba; former Deputy Governor to Osoba, Alhaji Ogunleye; Party Chairman for Remo North LGA, Mr. Foye Sofodu; Party Chairman for Ikenne LGA, Otunba Dabo Ogunbawo; and the Party Chairman for Sagamu LGA, Otunba Osho. Without mincing words, I declared to them that I was not afraid of any such factor and that I was prepared to declare my intention to run for the office of Representative following the Party's adoption of the new name Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in August of 2010. And shortly after the name change, I paid the prescribed 100,000.00 naira for the Declaration of Intention Form (DIF) into the bank account of ACN with Bank PHB at their Abeokuta branch.
Between that official entry until mid-November of 2010, I was the only aspirant on record that had officially declared intention to run for this office, having paid the Party prescribed fees. And before November, these Party leaders had variously levied me for one Party activity or another, and I always complied with their many requests for money to carry out Party activities throughout the state. I was loyal to them, to the Party and focused on winning.
I had no suspicion that the people to whom I had shown loyalty and absolute trust lacked integrity and were working behind the scenes among themselves with a hidden agenda. While they sent us to go out to win the primaries and making money for themselves in the process, they had no plan whatsoever in holding any primaries through which, according to their own Party constitution, the flag-bearers should emerge.
It was a free-for-all fight at the state congress of the Party in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on the day the primaries started. Problems began when the state Chairman, Tajudeen Bello, announced that the party was not ready for primaries but a consensus. Of course, the statement immediately received vehement opposition and confusion since this arrangement was neither agreed at any level in the Party nor were most political aspirants prepared to accept an undemocratic, last-minute dealing.
I was physically present at the Party Secretariat and witnessed the National Youth Leader of the ACN, Prince Segun Adesegun, read out the names on the list of the "selected candidates" to a frenzied crowd of angry-looking members in the Hall downstairs. The State Party Chairman, Alhaji Bello was seated at the high table, as was the State Party Secretary, Alhaji Awofeso, as well as the three senatorial chairmen of the Party who also double as deputy chairmen to the State Party Chairman in their respective senatorial districts. Hell immediately broke loose as the disgruntled crowd instantly broke out into riots; hauling rocks at Adesegun and other Party leaders seated at the high table. Shameful as the event was, the Party leaders, those who were to lead the society, were unmoved and behaved with arrogance and shamelessness.
But the missiles that were coming from the people unmistakably spoke loudly and unequivocally. The leaders took to their heels and fled from the rancorous crowd; escaping through the back exit into a secured room in the upper back end of the building, where I had to stay with them for fear of being injured by the rioting folks who might mistake me for an accomplice with the culprits. The angry crowd went on a rampage as they destroyed chairs and tables inside the building and also destroyed glass windows until the Police eventually arrived to control the situation. Surprisingly, the listed or selected candidates were conveniently missing or absent from the venue of the announcement; indicating they secretly had advance warning to keep away from the expected heat at the Secretariat. If these were the choice of the people by primary or delegate voting, then there would be no need to hide them from the People during such announcement.
While the confusion lasted, Party leaders were held hostage for several hours as aggrieved members of the Party unleashed terror on members and the Secretariat. The timely arrival of policemen did not even save the situation with daring youths and Party supporters threatening to burn down the Party Secretariat.
As events unfolded, we began to get details of the plan that was aborted. An unknown opponent, whom I later found out was the brother-in-law to former governor Osoba’s deputy, was awarded the seat that I had worked tirelessly to win. The son of the late Chief MKO Abiola, the late winner of the June 12 presidential election, would suffer the same fate in the hands of Governor Osoba, who gave his son, Olumide Osoba, the seat for the House of Representatives for the Odeda/Abeokuta North/Obafemi Owode Federal Constituency in place of Mr. Jamiu Lekan Abiola. Lekan Abiola had been campaigning hard for the seat in his constituency, just as I had. Lekan has since parted ways with ACN following his experience.
Part of the secret plan of the Party leaders was to award primary victories to those who had not picked up nomination forms nor campaigned. Many of them were new ACN decampees from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who were the same people who had turned Ogun State into a ravaged political landscape. They included Mr. Remi Hazzan, the Deputy- Speaker of the state assembly, Mr. Pelumi Olusola and Adijat Adeleye, who were slated to represent the Odogbolu, Remo North and Ifo II state constituencies now on the platform of the ACN at the state House of Assembly, respectively.
After the aborted announcement of the sham "primary elections" in which the Party leaders essentially selected either their in-laws, fellow cult members, or other close acquaintances as "winners," I promptly took formal steps to register our protest against their disgraceful conduct of what they were considering "primary election." I organized constituents from the three LGAs making up the Remo Federal Constituency, including Remo North, Ikenne and Sagamu, to draft a protest letter condemning the marginalization of my LGA of Remo North by the ACN in the distribution of elective offices, as well as the blatant disregard for Party internal democracy without any primary election process.
The protest letter was signed by at least 31 people from the three LGAs, including myself. And I personally lead the protest group in a convoy of three busloads of my constituents and supporters to the Party's State Secretariat to hand-deliver the protest letter to the State Chairman, Alhaji Bello, as well as delivered a copy of the same protest letter to the residence of former governor Osoba, accompanied by the same constituents and supporters.
Although it later became known that the same problem was repeated in other states by the Party, it was even more disheartening how wives, in-laws, sons and friends were awarded Party flags secretly by Party leaders without any respect to Nigerians and those who had sacrificed everything to gather grassroots support and play politics the way it should work.
Read some reports about the ACN primaries:
ACN Chairman, Bisi Akande, challenged by reporters, said: “If election within our party is what you are trying to describe as internal democracy, then we reject such idea. Can we impose when we are contesting against PDP? Party knows what people want. But we can do something within our party if the leadership of the party feels that that is the best thing. This is because it is the leadership of the party that understands the manifestoes of the party and knows what the people really want. This is not a matter of an individual but the party. Nobody should accuse ACN of imposition because that is our style. Anyone that is not comfortable with that should go and contest in another political party. So, if you see anyone carrying placard around, he is wasting his time.”
Well, suffice it to state that style as described by Chairman Akande was not explained to the political aspirants when the ACN leaders were fleecing us of money for Declaration of Intention forms, nomination forms and other heavy financial and material commitments about the ACN that were all based on lies and blatant disregard for social decency and decorum.
A newspaper commentator rightly replied to Bisi Akande: "Not only is it insulting for the Party Chairman to talk to members in such a condescending manner, it is scandalous that the leadership of ACN is brazenly promoting nepotism and cronyism as core values of the Party. If foisting of wives, concubines, biological children and political godsons on hapless members, rather than allowing them choose their candidates, is the style of ACN, so be it. But it is disingenuous for the Chairman to claim that the style was an attempt to stop those who want “‘to come and hijack the Party because of their dirty money.’”
Another person wrote in a national daily: “Leaders of the autocratic contraption called ACN have demonstrated to Nigerians in the last few weeks that they do not represent the change that Nigerians demand. A political party that lacks internal democracy lacks democracy period. Such a body cannot be the vehicle to improve the lives of the people of this nation because it is rotten at its core, full of holes, revolting and soon to be consigned into the trash bin of history. That is what the ACN has become.”
My people rejected the explanations of the Party leaders resoundingly. We were united in our unequivocal condemnation of the sham primaries in Ogun State by the ACN! Three days after the protest letter was delivered, Alhaji Bello called an ACN Chieftain in Iperu, Mama Erelu Aina, who is one of my strongest backers and supporters in Ikenne LGA to arrange for a meeting over my letter. They agreed I was to come to the Party Secretariat to discuss the protest letter with some Party elders. Present at the meeting were Chairman Bello, all three of his deputies in the three senatorial districts. The bottom line of the meeting, retrospectively, was just to try to water down the flames the protest letter had created in the Remo Federal Constituency. Craftily, Bello had called Erelu Aina back a few days after my meeting to inform her that the Party elders had resolved to return the Representatives flag back to Remo North as the People had anticipated and expected, but that never actually happened. Instead, Bello and his gang were trying to pacify me with promises of plumb state-level political appointment. But I told him point-blank that I was not running for state-level appointment, but for election into the Federal House of Representatives, to represent my Remo People.
At that point, I knew I had to leave the ACN.
What really shocked me was the surprising attitude of the same Party leaders after their betrayal of my trust and confidence in them. Knowing fully well they had betrayed me and that I was not happy with their lack of integrity and honor, they began to socially ostracize me and tactfully began to avoid contact with me. The same folks who had been using my money for various party projects and events that were nothing more than lies and scams began to avoid my phone calls. They quarreled and fought amongst themselves over what they perceived went wrong and what they supposedly realized was awful way and manner to have treated me, the people's favorite Representative aspirant in Remo.
In light of the situation, I decided that the ACN no longer represented to me, the kind of political party that can deliver the benefits of democracy to my people. While it is not ideal to change course in the middle of a race, it has become a necessary decision for many hardworking, honest political candidates with modest means to find a way through the unbelievably corrupt political system that is not serving the Nigerian people well. Upon credible advice of my supporters and community, who insisted I had to represent them at the elections, I opted for the National Conscience Party (NCP), founded by the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, as a place to wage an honest political battle and still win on the strength of ideas, integrity, decency, followership and deep grassroots reach. The NCP, based on the reputation of my campaign and person, welcomed me. I thank the leadership of the NCP for their trust and belief in me.
What must be made abundantly clear is the fact that it was my supporters and constituents all across the entire Remo Federal Constituency who were agitating and clamoring for me to consider running to represent their interest on the platform of the NCP that inspired my move. This election bid has never been about me. It has always been about my passion and drive to bring about true freedom, liberty and justice to my People. My candidacy today on the platform of the NCP is fueled and powered by the good people of the 33 towns of the Remo Federal Constituency.
Henry Ayo Abimbola
National Conscience Party (NCP) Candidate for Federal House of Representatives,
Remo Federal Constituency, Ogun State of Nigeria