In this interview, the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, shares his thoughts with state house correspondents on a number of issues affecting the party, national and crisis-ridden state assemblies and the president’s recently released ministerial list.
Q: Why did you meet with President Muhammadu Buhari?
Oshiomhole: I am the chairman of the party. The president is not only the president of Nigeria but also the leader of the APC. So, I have a duty to brief him on what the party is doing and also share with him on what the government is doing.
You know, a few things have happened over the past two weeks. Last week, we had two days of intensive conversation with the president and a select group from the private sector, including foreign experts to look at going to the Next Level, to deal with the specifics of how to accelerate the pace of development.
You know normally, even for governors, they do open ceremonies, then go away and come for closing ceremonies and say, we look forward to the communique. But here, we had a president who sat for 10 hours each day to listen to presentations and debates.
He even contributed, and that for me was something l was happy about. It shows that our party has moved from being a rally where people go home from, to one that after everyone had been sworn in, we now sit down to say going to the next level, what are the policy issues and how we deliver to the electorates? I came to thank him for providing leadership for that exercise.
Q: What he is doing to address the turmoil in the party?
Oshiomhole: You talk about rumours, what about what you see? I am very proud to say that under my chairmanship, our party has made tremendous progress. I am not at the mercy of fake or even disgruntled analysts. I write my testimonials by myself, in terms of what l do, how I do it, and what the unbiased people say.
For example, it was noted that 17 governors were going to remove Oshiomhole, what happened? In the end, we provided leadership and had more votes. In the 2015 election, the difference between our candidate and President (Goodluck) Jonathan then was slightly less than three million, but this time around, we had somewhat less than four million.
I am a national chairman, not a zonal or state chairman. So, my responsibilities include getting the APC at the national level going, including relating with the president: the ways we expect the state chapter chairmen to associate with their governors and the local council chapter chairmen with their local government council chairmen. That is the way it works.
I believe that Nigeria under my leadership appreciated APC better as evidenced by the fact that we had more senators, house of representatives members this year than before. For the first time since 1999, the letter of APC under my signature was read on the floors of both chambers of the National Assembly, announcing the principal officers of the party, as determined through consensus by the leadership of the party. This is why unlike 2015 where APC as a party had no say whatsoever as to who emerged as the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and principal officers. This time around, we got six out of six. Can I do better than that, can I score more than 100%? You talk about turmoil, and if this is how to be in chaos, I want to live there.
Q: What about the crises in Bauchi and Edo state assemblies?
Oshiomhole: Then you should be specific. As the media, you are the most articulate media on the continent. The political environment in other countries is not as free as our own. This is the only country where you can abuse the President, and you go home and sleep. In other countries, if you do so, that will be the last time, you will be seen.
We must defend that right- the right to please him, the right to abuse him, the right to ask me the questions you are sking now and you go home and sleep. Go to some countries, if you talk like this to the chairmen of the parties, you will have to negotiate your camera, but we must defend this freedom. Here, l spoke to you that what happened in Edo and Bauchi are unacceptable. It is not about me. But as a Nigerian who believes in democracy, for nine persons in Bauchi to inaugurate a house of 31 members is wrong. Go and read relevant sections of the constitution; it states clearly that a house cannot be less than 24 and not more than 40 members.
Eleven people in Bauchi, where you have 31 members. It is not about me, not about you. I ask, can you form a quorum of something that does not exist. All my life, l have run associations, I could say, for instance, when I was a leader of the NLC, we had a quorum of National Executive Council of the NLC, now when that quorum had not been formed, I could not say we had created a quorum.
So, you cannot form a quorum of the House of Assembly, when it has not been inaugurated. It is about the system. If I condemned Bauchi and I do so in the strongest terms, I cannot denounce less, what happened in Edo State. It just shows that truth has no political affiliation.
God must give us the courage to condemn what happened in Edo. In the security meeting we have had with some of the senators, governors and lawmakers, it was agreed that when comes to proclamations, you do not only write a proclamation letter, but you ensure that it is communicated to all those concerned and you give them ample time so that wherever they are, they can come in.
We were all here in Abuja, don’t forget we went around the country, talked to everyone that we want Senator Ahmed Lawan as our candidate. We didn’t want to have two candidates vying for the same position from our party, but you saw on that day how Senator Ali Ndume insisted that he must contest against the party’s position. He didn’t hide but he said he has a right, we didn’t deny him that right.
But you know must Nigerians like to describe our President as Commander-in-Chief, we already know that, but for effect, people always amplify yours. So as the commander-in-chief, he could have commanded the security service, the police chief to ensure that Ndume did not appear or is facing some enquiries somewhere while the election was going on, but he adhered to the letter and spirit of the constitution. Senator Ndume was allowed to go to the National Assembly, not out of favour but out of his own rights and against our consensus to say he was contesting.
What I did that day, as you must have seen (because it was televised) was to lobby our senators even as they were doing the voting to say, please don’t disgrace the party. There is a moment for hard talk, there is a moment for soft talk, there is a moment for open talk, there is a moment for a quiet talk. A leader must have the capacity to weave all of that together to get the kind of result you desire.
As you can see at the end of the day, Senator Ndume had his way to contest, but we humbled him by the reduced numbers he got, but he exercised his rights. At the end he said, I wanted to prove a point. Well, he proved a point which is he is not capable of defeating the collective will of the APC family. Today, I am privileged to be the chairman. So these are landmarks you should acknowledge.
For once we didn’t fight on National Assembly. Who is now fighting? Look at the PDP, and you refused to ask this question – PDP insisted on the secret ballot while APC wanted opened ballot. PDP doesn’t want their people to stand up and be counted they wanted their people to vote secretly because they thought that our people would betray us the way they did in 2015, but we had worked hard on our people psyche and changed the mindset to recognise that to belong to a party is to be loyal to that party, and that loyalty goes beyond Election Day.
I believe our people bought into those arguments we gave them support. Besides the platform, we gave them other organisational supports, and by the time they finished voting, they lost. Now, who was trying to find out? For the first time in the history of democracy anywhere in the world other than Banana republic, it is now PDP that set up a panel investigate how people voted in a secret ballot.
Why won’t you ask them why they are investigating secret ballot? God forbid that if you go and do secret ballot and they lost the election, they will go to your village and say they want to investigate. They are the ones in turmoil, they are the ones in confusion. We are waxing, strong and strong.
Remember I was saying that Saraki must be removed, people would say how would I do it? I said okay if he resists removal, then we would uproot. We went to Kwara, we did ‘Otoge’, we uprooted Saraki, and you cannot commend me for this? Do you know who Saraki is? If you are talking of the smartest political player, seasoned, smart guy, he is. But for every smartness he has, I have a superior smartness. Who won?
As a Senate President, we uprooted him as a senator, we uprooted has a nominee for governor, and senators, we put our own. Today, he doesn’t have one senator in Kwara, and he doesn’t have one House of Representatives member in Kwara. Everything in Kwara is APC, and you can’t commend me for that? If you don’t then I will be like a lizard – I will praise myself if you state house correspondents don’t appreciate me.
Q: What is your reaction to criticism trailing the president’s ministerial list? Especially that it is not a credible one.
Oshiomhole: Whose credibility? How credible are some of those who are talking? The point is that I don’t know if there is a Nigerian who knows every Nigerian. Even as I can say that I have worked for Nigerian people at all levels, as a worker in a factory, as President of the NLC, as governor of a state and now as a national chairman of a party, there are too many Nigerians I will never be able to know.
The screening process is meant to enable those watching, and it is not for nothing that it is televised, it is to allow Nigerians to see who these people are. But you will find that people started dismissing the list even before the saw it, just like some other things that Nigerians dismiss without knowing the meaning.
So, what you and I should insist on is that in the president’s second term, in this next level, our party, our government at the centre, state and local government level must deliver. That is the entry point for every Nigerian.
And when you talk of patronage, who should we appoint…have you heard of Americans pointing Russians because they are experts to go and preside over their MDAs? Even in your newspapers do you invite me as APC chairman to come and write your editorial?
Patronage can be positive or negative, but if there is one man who has shown the capacity to patronise all including where he did not win the election, it is President Muhammadu Buhari. Otherwise, where we got less than five per cent, I saw two ministers coming from that state, even though he got less than five per cent there. That speaks volumes about a large heart, to accommodate, appreciate and to have an all-inclusive government.
I am very optimistic that these ministers, the party, the executive, the National Assembly, where we have an overwhelming majority, we have what it takes to take Nigeria to the next level.
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