Barr Ben Nwoye is a former chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Enugu State. He is also the secretary of the Forum of former chairmen of the party in the 36 states and the FCT. In this exclusive interview with DAILY POST Editor, Emmanuel Uzodinma, he speaks on the issues limiting the positive growth of the ruling party, the emergence of Abdullahi Ganduje as the national chairman, three months in power by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, among others. Excerpts!
Your party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has retained power again after the first eight years. In your assessment, do you think the party has actually grown in terms of having a strong system and institution?
You made a very good point about separating party from governance; the straight answer is No. As a party, we were formed in 2013, and within that 2013 to 2014, we started a major campaign. By 2015, in less than a year of formation, we took over most of the States, House of Assembly, House of Reps, Senate and of course President.
As regards a party itself, the method of formation, which is the merger, actually gave it the strength that led to the victory; unfortunately, it is the bane of the party, that is why the party, in my opinion, is weak. Because, the people coming from different segments, we call them the legacy party; for the most part, they see themselves as members of the legacy party first before seeing themselves as members of APC, whether it is the CPC people, ANPP, New PDP or ACN. Some people who have no business being in party leadership are given positions to manage the party, in order to carry one legacy party or the other along. So, it has weakened the party so much that almost 10 years later, we are still learning how to sit, we are not even crawling as a party.
We have myriads of examples and as one of the founding members and a founding party chairman of one of the States, it pains me because the party suffers from external control. The party is controlled by the government, whereby people in government decide what happens for their own specific interest. So, the party shifts its influence to the governors who now control the party for their own interest; everything is viewed from the governor’s interest; the party will continue to be weak. The party is weaker today than it was when it was formed. It is supposed to be a growth but the growth is a kind of a negative growth, a downward growth.
Every year, the party loses its strength because the party is now almost like a puppet, under external force. So, if you are not in government, specifically, if you are not a member of that exclusive club of governors, forget it, you opinion doesn’t count; governors are in charge of the party, and they are not in charge in the interest of all members, they are in charge of the party in their own interest, so what you see is a negative growth, year after year.
When we had a major crisis, the governors had to take over, and a sitting governor became the acting, they said the chairman of caretaker committee, to midwife a new convention; and when the new convention occurred, even the congress, in the State where you have governors, the entire party structures were left for the governors to the detriment of the party; not to those party members who are telling the truth; they were excluded. If you are not a governor, you dare not speak, and to regions where some States had no governor, those places were ceded away to the governors, to the detriment of the party. My zone suffered such, where no other opinion was considered and you know with power comes this ideology of omnipotence of a governor. If you become a governor today you become omnipotent, you rise to a level where nobody can talk to you, and even if they do, their idea is not sellable, it is not even acceptable, it is not reasonable. So, most states where the party has no governor, that is what makes the party weak. It is even weak in States where you have a governor, because the leadership of the party there are puppets installed to become party managers.
Why do you think it is so?
If you are a strong character, the governors detest you; a strong character that could help unify the party, discipline those that need to be disciplined, they detest you. So, what we see, you can go to South-South, South-East or even some States in North-East and North-West, you will see where the party has gone down because of the excessive interference of those in power, where the actual party managers, those who know how to organise the party and win elections are not taken into consideration. The same thing that is happening in Adamawa is happening in Zamfara; it is also happening in Rivers and it is happening in Oyo State, and even in Edo State, if you take statistical measures, you will see similarities in the entire region, that where those who are core party men and women are relegated to the background, the party never moved forward. The same thing happened in Kano, at the end of the day we lost Kano. Our leaders in Lagos were able to manage the place, but look at it, we lost the presidential election in Lagos, why should we lose the presidential election in Lagos? If we have a party where party managers are allowed to take decisions, are allowed to play their roles, let the government deal with governance, let those in the party manage party affairs and party issues, but they combine it. It is so much combined that they see the party as just a vehicle, we just use it to get to power.
When somebody becomes a governor, he will say, if you don’t do this, I will leave the party, that is the first threat, immediately, everybody melts; the other people, whether you are a senator, a founding father, popular people in their community, they are forgotten, everything is about state funding, but they forget that party is supposed to last beyond any one of us. Any governor, the highest is supposed to be eight years; you can destroy the party and once you are gone, you are gone and that becomes the end of the party; we saw it in Kano, Rivers, Oyo, we can go on and on; we saw it happen even in Edo State, it almost happened in Imo State in the days of Rochas Okorocha if not for the divine intervention that brought in Senator Hope Uzodinma; there would have been no APC State in the South-East, because that was way before Umahi joined the party. Any of these States I have called, look at it, why did it happen? You don’t eliminate certain persons from the party because you are a governor, you are supposed to build the party as an institution; that is why in the United States, you have the party as an institution running, in UK, in South Africa, you have the party as an institution running, we don’t have it here.
In the case of President Muhammadu Buhari, those of us that elected him, we were left out of the system. They went about picking people they called technocrats and then the technocrats instead of remaining in their various ministries to do their work, they left there, came and destroyed the States, it happened in Enugu State; they felt they are in government and should run the party as well; it doesn’t work so.
I think that the new government led by President Tinubu is already looking different, in terms of the people they are picking. I have not seen a lot of outsiders, at least the ones that I know, majority of them are party members. What you have to do is to strengthen the party knowing that immediately after the election, the next thing is how to win the next election. Yes, you are not campaigning but your eyes must be there, those people in the party must go and sell the policies, they must be involved, you must figure out how to use the party to talk about those policies, like subsidy removal, unlike what they did under Buhari where they allowed all the social interventions in the hands of state governors; the states without govenors will suffer, their morale goes down; school feeding, NPower and the rest of them, state governors used it to the detriment of our own party, these are the things that weaken the party.
Now that Abdullahi Ganduje is there, do you think he is the right person to fix the APC, with some people complaining that he lost his State, Kano?
I disagree that he lost his State; Ganduje was not on the ballot- the presidential ballot, gubernatorial ballot or even the senatorial ballot, so given that he was not on the ballot, that has an effect. Any loss in Kano should not be ascribed to him. Iit will be unfair to hang it on the neck of Ganduje because he was not on the ballot. Those who were on the ballot, it is their responsibility to put together the structure they needed to win their election and remember you can’t win everywhere, no matter what; sometimes, it was about who has more strength.
Then, let me say this- that is why the best legacy Muhammdu Buhari left for the country is the 2022 Electoral Act Amendment. It never happened before, people voted and their vote counted, so popular people won. Was there rigging and manipulation- Yes, but it was so insignificant that nobody will come out and say truthfully I was rigged out, you can’t do it everywhere. Those who were prepared, those who were popular won elections, you cry all you want. States you have people on ground you will win, or make sure an election was held, but if you have nobody on ground, of course you will not win, manipulations could occur. Wards or units where you have people on ground, nobody could manipulate it because people will vote and they will count it and take your result.
Kano is a very large State, and so we can’t blame Ganduje for that. Now coming to the other question on can he- he is the chairman now, let’s give him a chance. Whether those who supported him to be or not to be, that debate is long gone; what they have to do is to pray to God to help him to lead the party, support him to lead the party, but second guessing, blaming him, it will be unfair, he just took over the party.
So, what do you think he should do differently?
He was a governor, he knows what the governors were doing with the party and they are still doing with the party; there must be separation because when I talk about control, it is not coming from the presidency, it comes from the governors. Yes, technically, the governor is the leader of the party in every state, the president is the leader of the party in the country, but the day to day running of the party should be left for those appointed or elected to do so. Let them take responsibility for their job; allow them to think; allow the constitution to work; we have process; we have written rules and regulations, allow them to work, don’t manipulate things.
Now they are having problems picking replacements, not just Kogi, there is the Cross River issue, is that an issue of Ganduje? No, it is the governors’ issue. So, until the power of the governors’ interference in the party is discussed and dealt with, this will continue. It’s been how many months since we had resignations, the Abia State man, Nwosu died, no replacement; then the National Secretary, the National Chairman, they all left, they hurriedly replaced them because the governors agreed, they found time to agree, but wherever the governors had disagreements, it stalled. Now, we don’t have Deputy North, by God’s grace I hope it is resolved sooner than later, we don’t have Vice Chairman, North West; we don’t have a women leader, we don’t have Deputy National Publicity Secretary and one of the Organising Secretary of one of the zones; we don’t have national welfare secretary and then we say we are the largest party…we must admit there is a problem in the party. Rules are there to be followed, follow the rules, but the governors are fighting; in the case of Kogi State, it is between governors and some of other political heavyweights; in the case of Cross River, it is between the governor and some powerful people; follow the rules irrespective of whose interest is at stake.
Let’s look at Enugu, is your party still existing in the State after all the stakeholders were expelled by the state chairman, Barr Ugo Agballah?
Absolutely. The Ugo Agballah situation goes back to what I said about having governors control the party. Where you don’t have a governor in a state, they give it to one or two governors in the zone to control; they share states for them to control. So, Ugo Agballah at the time he was given leadership of the party, forgot how he came in, he is the chairman of the party, but he just did not understand party management. He equated it with whatever he did when he was running for governor, the Oganiru era, when he thinks he can just abuse people. He was abusing and attacking people; he was having a fight with then governor Chimaroke, whose government he worked for before they fell out. So, it is a carryover, a kind of emotional carryover.
When he became chairman, that unresolved emotional turmoil he had with the Ebeano, from the PDP where he came from, he carried it over to the APC and he carried over his then failed gubernatorial ambition to APC chairmanship, the result of which was that he misinterpreted the process, insult and fighting was what he thought was necessary for him to prosecute the electioneering. And then, when the result came out, he saw the disastrous result he got, in all spheres, not even in APC formative stage, when they were calling us Boko Haram and all that, when we were running against a Goodluck Jonathan and those of us were called all manners of names, we didn’t score that low, we were able to sell our ideology to the people.
Aside from the result we got, we were able to attract new members into the party; people who came and registered; we were able to attract personalities, men and women of substance. I was the chairman of the party then, I didn’t do it by abusing people; we approached people, begged them to join the party, so that we, Igbos, the Christians can be part of the mainstream and make our agitations. We did it through reasonable means; that was why His Excellency Senator Jim Nwobodo and his wife joined the party, I registered them, we didn’t do it by abusing these elder statesmen; that is how we saw Senator Fide Okoro, a well known household name in Enugu North, Nsukka region, I went to his home, we didn’t do it by insulting him, he joined. The same thing with Distinguished Senator Ken Nnamani, the President of the 7th Senate, he joined us, even the wife of the former governor of old Enugu State, His Excellency, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr Dorathy Nwodo, she joined us; even when the husband said he wasn’t joining, I was still approaching the husband, a former national chairman of PDP.
In addition, we were very close to getting then Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to join us, very close, there were a lot of persuasion; we can talk about it now, he is alive, I told him that that he was not going to do well alone as opposition, you are not cut out for that; let us have this marriage. Those who didn’t understand it thought it was anti-party; how do you get a PDP person to cross over if you don’t talk to a PDP person? If you are abusing the PDP person. Of course Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, these are big names. Rex Onyeabor, former national secretary of PDP; these people were approached. I even approached Chimaroke Nnamani to run in 2015, he agreed but he said he will run on his own party, PDC, but once he wins, he was going to join, that was an agreement we had. I didn’t approach him by abusing him; today, Chimaroke is almost a member of APC. The heir of the Onoh dynasty, GB Onoh, former two time Speaker, Eugene Odo and at the climax the then immediate past governor, Sullivan Chime, the national chairman of the party, Oyegun came to Enugu to receive him and we rallied thousands of people; he couldn’t believe it.
By 2017, our party became the party everyone wanted to join in Enugu State. We held a local government election where PDP ran away, took result sheets to write in the government house. His Excellency, John Odigie Oyegun came to Enugu and came directly to Oji River for the grand finale of our campaign; it was historic; President Muhammadu Buhari was watching on NTA; he couldn’t believe it what we did; we called it broom revolution; we were changing Enugu from umbrella to broom and we didn’t do it by abusing people; we did it by interacting, appealing to people, talking about the APC change matra. Unfortunately, governor Ugwuanyi did not buy into it; he attempted it but didn’t buy into it. David Umahi took the bait, look at David Umahi today, he took the bait. Look at Ebonyi State today; even when they are talking about the Obidient Movement, the APC retained Ebonyi State, APC took the three senatorial seats because people saw the work David synergized with the top and was able to turn Ebonyi State around and people of Ebonyi saw it. Look at the infrastructure that he put down in Ebonyi, compare it to Enugu, it is not there; PDP almost lost all the three senatorial seats because it became a question of performance; at the time there was nobody to advise my friend Ugwuanyi properly, people around him, they were just there not doing their job; David enjoined the benefit of good counsel and was able to deliver most of the House of Assembly, most of the House of Reps and all the Senate. Ebonyi is the only State that achieved that height in the zone, and got a governor as well.
So, the crux of the matter is that when you abuse people, we built the party; you are a stranger, Ugo Agballah is a stranger in the party; I am not beefing him, I wish him well, APC is my party, I want him to do well, but he needs to come down; leadership requires a lot of willy-nilly, a lot of patience and so much of humility; he has to humble himself; the question of ‘I have arrived I am the chairman’, you are not the first chairman; there have been chairmen before, we had a woman who handed over to me as interim chairman; I related to her until I left office, even now I still relate to her; there are things she knows that I don’t know; she was the first and then the only female interim chairman in the entire 36 States and Abuja; I respect her; Chief Joy; she was the pioneer chairman, though on interim; I am the pioneer elected chairman of the party. So, Ugo Agballah believes he can achieve all without these leaders. Politics is local; he is from Udi; the Udi is not even a ward of itself; it is two communities- Udi-Agbudu; he is only from one of the two communities and we have 260 wards; you must have somebody in all the 260 wards; not just somebody who is a sycophant, who is just somebody that you think you are controlling, somebody that is strong that can represent the party.
For example, you can’t get to a ward in Igbo-Etiti, Ukehe ward and you say that you can go there and form APC without Eugene Odo and JOJ Okoloagu and push them aside. JOJ was BoT member of APC; you can’t go and say you can do APC and Eugene, two time Speaker and one time gubernatorial hopeful, that he is a nobody; you can’t go to Nsukka and you go to a ward in Opi and you call Hon. Ike Ugwuegede that he is nonentity and so you are going to run the APC without him. Look at what happened- APC people that Ugo Agballa ran off, with his oppressive attitude, many went to LP and won or helped LP to win.
Case in point is Okey Ezea, people that worked for Okey Ezea, the engine room were all APC people. Okey Ezea was the first guber candidate of APC in 2015, when nobody wanted to hear APC in Enugu State. He is today sitting in the Senate; he defeated His Excellency Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Ambassador Ejike Eze of APC. he didn’t win because of Obidients; people are thinking that. No, Nsukka people galvanised and they picked him; anybody thinking that Okey Ezea is a product of Obidients, no; he ran election, went house to house and all the APC people, including some that I know were running for election under APC, voted for Okey Ezea and worked for him to win, because we have a strong structure. You can go and check the people that were organising his stuff in all the 6 LGAs, they were strong APC people.
Former Ambassador, General Eze, these are the key people that made sure Okey Ezea won; he was the Secretary of APC; when you run such a person out, those of us who are self made, confident people, we don’t need a party to survive, we don’t take certain insults; people come to us to join their party; somebody like me, constantly the PDP people will love to have me as a member of the party, but I will not go there at least for now. The same thing with LP people, because they know that if nothing else, I have the capacity to deliver my ward.
If Ugo Agballah comes to my ward and brings any other person to challenge me- I am a crown Prince and apart from that, I am loved by my people. By the grace of God, from my own ward we produced a Senator through LP and many people that worked to produce him are APC people. Just like Buhari said and President Tinubu repeated it; vote people with capacity, that is what is happening now; somebody will say- you did anti-party, No; you vote those who have capacity to lead; you work for people who have capacity to lead; if APC as a party produces as their candidates people without capacity because one governor or the other influenced the will of the grassroots people, the grassroots people will move and work for someone with capacity, not against the party, because whatever happens will affect them. So, people are wise now, if you give me a guber candidate that clearly has no programme, you say it is your party go and work for him, my grandchildren will depend on that, whatever policy will affect them. If I see a candidate in another political party with a good programme, I will follow the advice of Muhammadu Buhari and now the advice of President Bola Tinubu, vote for people with capacity. We worked for Tinubu because he has the capacity; I know based on his history.
APC is there in Enugu but a lot of work needs to be done to bring everybody back to the party. All those people that are now chased out, you say you have sacked them, by the way, there is standing order from the then national national chairman invalidating all of that. Though, I still hold Abdullahi accountable over what happened in Enugu State; he didn’t speak when he needed to speak; he refused to be a father to all; he was just a father to one side; he was the chairman of reconciliation committee; he is aware that there was no congress in Enugu; that’s behind us; but when people went to complain, even if you don’t do, I am not among those who say remove Ugo Agballa; I don’t preach for removal but reformation; teach him right, he shouldn’t be abusing people; tell him that he is running the party down; tell him that he is a father to every member of the party; don’t say you don’t need them; they all have votes. If you tell a voter ‘go to hell’, he will be happy to take his vote to hell and that voter has other people following him; he will line all of them up and they will all take their votes to hell. That is why the LP people that won, majority of the APC people worked for them; those that won Reps; by the way Prof Nnamchi, he was an APC member; it was almost like what happened in Anambra; Tony Nwoye, he is an APC guy, all the people that worked for him are APC, people are not stupid. So, if the party continues to do what Senator Abdullahi did, it won’t go well.
I am thinking that Ganduje needs to study what Abdullahii did wrong and what he did right; when it came to managing the crisis in the states, Abdullahi didn’t do anything, at least when he came to Enugu. Every attempt to get Ugo Agballa to advise him on the right buttons failed. You can’t insult, Ken Nnaman, you can’t insult Sullivan Chime, you can’t insult a serving minister, these are all the people that you said you suspended in an election year, former speaker, immediate past chairman, your predecessor and you expect to win election; the result is 4772 votes which all my efforts to get people contributed to that, just for His Excellency Tinubu, but the other ones you saw what happened. All the people that are doing beauty parades on billboards, it ended up in shame. People are in court with less than one per cent of votes cast and you are telling the court that you won the election. It is only in Enugu State that every APC member claims to be the winner of the election; if the person that won the election scored over 80,000 and you are at around 8,000 claiming that you won the election, it is funny.
All in all, Enugu APC is there and strongly there; my supporters are waiting to be called out. Once Ugo Agballa changes and calls people together, things can happen; electioneering is gone; we are now into governance; by God’s grace, His Excellency picked the guber candidate as a minister, he is not an outsider, anybody that ran for governorship becomes automatically a member, even though he joined the party recently. He needs to stand up to the occasion and reach out. Whether it was by his own intent that he supported pushing people away, I don’t know, but he needs to re-examine it, now that he is representing Tinubu; he has to call everybody back; he has to reach out to people because once election finishes, governance begins, so also preparation for the next election. He can’t start two years from now, because in about a year or so, we will be talking about congresses, so another round of fighting will come up; those who want to run, so he needs to start now, call and ask everybody for forgiveness and those that offended you will also ask for forgiveness, these things are about interest. He is now the minister and Ugo Agballa is the chairman, they need to come together, call a meeting, don’t exclude anybody, call everybody.
You are one of those who campaigned vigorously for President Bola Tinubu; going by his policies so far, are you having any doubt about his capacity to reposition the country?
President Tinubu is a maverick; I campaigned for him based on the good plans he has; I have followed him for a long time, right from the time of the legacy party, we all came from the ACN. I have followed his activities even while I was in the US; forget all the nonsense people are talking about; incidentally, I lived in Chicago, he lived in Chicago, I am a Chicago boy. We have some parts and I believe that the things he did in Lagos, I believe he can replicate it here in the country. I have never had any doubt in my mind about whether he will succeed, or any decision he has taken.
But the specific decision that everybody quarrelled with is the removal of fuel subsidy. I think anyone who understands what happened and how subsidy has been used to fleece Nigeria and Nigerians, will agree that it was the best decision to take. But one can argue that it was done too suddenly, because we are all affected. I am a Nigerian, my cost of living has increased. If you ask me on my personal basis, because I now spend a lot on fuel, on a personal note, the answer is No, but it is a sacrifice, I still see it as part of that campaign. You recall that I gave up a lot of my stuff, including my house for the election, finance and all that, turned my Enugu home into campaign headquarters; the only campaign office that Tinubu had in the State was the one I gave him; he didn’t ask for it, but it is part of my belief that I will make the sacrifice needed for this man to be elected, because he has all it takes to turn this country around. I spent a lot of my personal funds in putting up billboards, advertorials, going to radio stations talking about his plans and policies, and buying and branding vehicles; it is a sacrifice, nobody told me to do it. I wasn’t doing it so that I could get anything in return; I was doing it as a patriot; I put up all manner of clothes, I gave to people, I adorned it, to sell his candidature. The very first morning after he picked his running mate, his vice, I went on Channels TV and I was hit left and right on the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket.
When I left that Channels, I got terrible words from some very close people; they challenged even my humanity, even existence, whether I was Okay; from all over the world, from UK, from US, of course the country; again it is sacrifice, because if we agree that this thing is wrong, we are enriching a few to the detriment of this country, it is not sustainable, read a snippet of What Okonjo Iweala said; the issue of subsidy is not sustainable, they know what they are doing and that is why they are carrying all manner of propaganda against it; everyday, they will say they are going to raise price, because they took away breast milk from overfed child; we have few overfed children and now they are getting malnourished; so they cry and go through different layers of groups to try to bring it back.
They have released money to the States; is Tinubu the one holding the N5 billion per State? If you share one million each in Enugu State, you will not be through with the N5 billion, to every human being living in Enugu State. That N5 billion can go round to every human being in Enugu State, let us line up in Enugu. I am now speaking state-based and I believe the same thing will happen in other states, they say we are about 200 million people. If we can start lining up, any measure, let us start lining up. My trip to Warri, I will use part of my own money to fund the fuel. I am not saying they should go and share money but I am only trying to highlight the reality. In less than three months, where did Tinubu get the money- from savings. This is what the overfed babies were collecting before.
So, his policy, we have to be patient, he has a four-year mandate, we are just on his third month. He has told the governors to go and do what they can to alleviate the sufferings of the people; if you ask me, if I am a governor, I will also do part of money sharing; we have the population, we have means of knowing it; we have NIN, we BVN, we have voter’s card, we have so many ways. Are we going to miss some people, Yes; are some people likely to collect more than once, maybe; are these the reasons to stop sharing money- No. Udoji did it; they did it in America during the COVID; they shared money; they did it in UK; it is hardship; it is called hardship fund; make it available; people should access it; share it through banks, apply and anybody is qualified to apply; if you share it through banks, we have the record of everybody, we did it during COVID here in Nigeria, Buhari did it through special project; there was no special project, they shared money; they shared N60,000; this one is more than N60,000; go through banks; special projects went through the banks; send the money to Central Bank, then go any bank, set up application; you can’t apply twice, there is BVN, if you don’t have you can get. It is a simple thing. If there is any fraud, you bring the paper, give it to a few eggheads, they will sit and they will show you where the fraud went. They are busy talking about using it for agriculture, using it for this and that; it won’t get to the majority of the people. But President Tinubu has done what he can do; my hope is that when these governors come back from their leadership training in Kigali, they would have learnt that there is need to share some of that money; if you don’t share all, share some of it; even the governors, politically it will help them more; it is not about Tinubu.
There has been this talk by a section of your party members that some of the ministers from the South-East are not strong forces and that it was deliberately done by the governors….what is your take on that?
It is an unfair assessment because those people were screened and before they were screened, the Senate looked at their qualifications and saw that they were qualified. There is no one single of them that does not come with special skill or knowledge; is it the Enugu minister? What other qualification could he need? It is unfair. If a man has run a business successfully for so many years and has remained steadily successful, what other qualifications do you need to do that? Is it Ebonyi- Umahi, a two time governor, one time chairman of a party, PDP, two time Deputy Governor, and then a one time Senator, what qualifications are they talking about? Is it Anambra, a lawyer, successful real estate mogul, a woman that ran to be the president of this country, do you know the guts it takes for someone to come up to say I want to lead this country, and ran strongly only to step down…how many women have ever done that? She used her personal funds or funds she raised to purchase the expression of interest form, which is about N50 million; they can make up whatever story they want to make. The woman has the credential. The Imo, investment banker before she became a commissioner. She came from the private sector, the banking sector, successful person on her own, for her to rise to that level in the banking sector, that is not something you just walk up and they say you have become a manager, and then went on to become a commissioner in Imo State; is it the Abia woman, three or four time member of the House, former Whip, she holds doctorate degree, a barrister at law, solicitor, so what are the criteria?
People saying those things should be specific; the ingredients or content that are missing in any one of those five ministers. People who are disgruntled are those coming up with stories; so people saying this are the disgruntled sore losers; anyone mentioning any of those people and undermining their credentials are sore losers. These are people who perhaps believed that they are going to be the minister and for some reason and somehow, they were edged out; there are stories that people bought it, then go and buy; if you couldn’t purchase then allow those who have purchased. For the first time, we have three women from South-East; women think differently, give them a chance, people are attacking them because they are women; but I want you to know that women are not weak; we think it is a men’s world- No!
During the Buhari administration, we had one over six, one woman, and five men, nobody made noise about it. Now we have three women and two men, then people will start talking rubbish; give them a chance, if anyone talks of qualification, they should come up with a specific area of lack and compare them with the other region; they are even over qualified if there is any such thing; let’s pick any zone and compare the credentials and you will find out you will not get many places to match the credentials of those coming from the South-East. So, I take exception to that; everyone wishes to be one thing, but it can only be one person at a time, ‘na turn by turn’, power comes from God. If you tried and it didn’t’ work, calm down, it is not over yet, it is only four years; besides Tinubu can decide to reshuffle and can decide to increase the number, right now they are only 45, they may get to 48; South-East has been crying and agitating, may be Tinubu may consider any one of them, but they should calm down and support those God has given chance.
Could you rate your party’s chances in the November guber elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa States?
You know I will be biassed; so as a biassed party man, we will win all three. But then I can tell you in all seriousness, it is going to be a tough election in all three. It goes back to when we started this conversation, the power of the governors. If you go to all three states, the top contenders in all three states, including their supporters, you find that APC grassroots are split in all states. So, a lot of work needs to be done and there is no time. Governor Ganduje has a lot of work to do.
In Kogi, the other day, the National Secretarial was boiling, why? Replacement of some vacant positions. And then, the person who resigned as deputy spokesman is now contesting under a different platform, SDP, his supporters are APC people, he did not go there to meet massive people in SDP, they don’t exist in Kogi. Kogi is one State that is only APC since Yahaya Bello came in, they have not shared power with anybody up till this moment; now, APC grassroots are split, we need reconciliation and we need it fast. Winner takes all destroys a lot of things. You might be a governor today, you are powerful but it is not forever. It is APC fighting APC.
What is going on in Kogi State, nobody is even talking about PDP; Melaye was a member of APC; so the three people running are of APC extraction; his members, those supporting him, APC. When you check the whole thing, it is almost like it will go either way. It is a difficult election to prosecute but our party needs to bring everyone together, begin to talk to the powerful people, former this, former that. If we lose Kogi, it will be a major hit for us.
Then Imo State, same thing. We still have the AA people there, they are APC people. I was glad to see the picture trending of reconciliation between Governor Hope and former governor Rochas Okorocha; I hope that reconciliation touches the heart; I hope it is not just on the lips. Because I also am aware that the people supporting the two groups in the LP are APC people- the Nathan group and the other group are APC people; so, when you look at these things, there is trouble, but the advantage there is that Hope is on the ballot, unlike Kogi where Bello is not on the ballot. At some point, the opposition might unite. Right now, the fight is like a three or four way fight but at some point, the opposition may unite, that was how Rochas Okorocha came into power- then ACN and APGA united; that’s how PDP got off. If APC, the ruling party does not unite, the opposition might unite. We cannot keep saying the power of incumbency. Rochas Okorocha beat an incumbent governor in Imo State, you can’t allow fights to continue raging, you must appease certain people, you can’t undermine people who clearly have some element of followers. The PDP is there, AA is there, APGA guy is there, the only thing LP is suffering is- who is the candidate? But you can look at it from the advantage angle because multiple people are campaigning for Labour, they can win and let the court decide who is the candidate, there is no name on the ballot.
Then Bayelsa, same thing. You see the way the primary went; it left many people downcast; the party needs to go and reconcile those people. If it is true that there was no election as alleged by the camps of those that lost out, including David Lyons’ camp, you have to go and bring those people back. David won the election the last time, he can win it again, it is not a question of I can do it alone. You can’t push people away in an election circle. So, I think they are all very tough battles but I am optimistic that we will win all three. But my advice is reconciliation, reconciliation, reconciliation- bring back as many people as you can into the system and do the fight with them.