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Oshiomhole’s many sins

…APC stalwart explains why national chairman must go

For the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole, these are definitely not the best of times. The former labour leader and erstwhile Edo State governor is embattled on all fronts. He is embroiled in unending battle with governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, resulting in his suspension by his home state. The Federal High Court, Abuja, last week endorsed his suspension and ordered him barred from performing his duties as the ruling party’s helmsman. Although Oshiomhole quickly got a reversal of the order from the Federal High Court in Kano, the development is now mired in controversy, as people argue that the order from the court does not hold water since it has coordinate powers with the Abuja Federal High Court, which ousted him. As if that is not enough, a chieftain of his party and Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, insists that Oshiomhole must go for the APC to be reorganised. Among other issues, Okechukwu, in this interview with ALANI AKALA accused the party chairman of high handedness and messing up the party’s primaries for which it paid dearly in the 2019 elections.

Just as all hopes are getting lost that the All Progressives Congress may not be able to get any governorship seat in South-east in the last general election, last Tuesday, the Supreme Court confirmed the victory it had earlier awarded to the party in the Imo governorship election, a decision that has been trailed by so much controversy. What is your reaction to the controversies that have trailed the judgment?

For me, it’s a Daniel come to judgment because a lot of people are urging the Supreme Court to call for fresh election.  But the Supreme Court gave a valid point – the law does not allow them to sit as Appeal Court on their own judgment. 

And secondly, it is time barred – the law says after 60 days, you do not touch the issues again. Thirdly and most importantly, nobody remembers that my brother, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, did not get two thirds of the votes when he was declared winner, which means that he did not get up to one quarter in two thirds of the local councils in Imo State.

He was not honourable enough to say, ‘let’s repeat the election. I can’t be sworn in because I didn’t get the constitutional provisions for two thirds’ and his supporters also did not say so. They glossed over it and neglected the trite law that he who goes to equity must come with clean hands.

So, the Justices Supreme Court of Nigeria know that a judgment had been given and if they reverse it, the other man will come from the East, another from the North, another man from the West, all calling for review of ancient judgments.  The truth of the matter is that there will be floodgates of litigations, as the Supreme Court highlighted.

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But one of the Justices delivered a split judgment in which he restored the mandate of Ihedioha?

Yes, my brother, Lord Justice C. C. Nweze, was hanging on the same premise that Emeka won, when in actual fact he didn’t.  His split judgment could have been fair, if he had called for cancellation. Secondly, the court as they say is not Father Christmas; the lawyers to Uzodimma were able at the lower tribunal to say that we have results that were excluded.

Consequently, they subpoenaed the police to produce their copies of the results in their custody because the Police is an agent of the state. Being an agent of state, they were given copies of the results. The Deputy Commissioner of Police did not walk in on his own; the Tribunal gave an order that he should come with the copies of the results from every polling unit and the copies were needed as evidence. 

I would have agreed with Hon. Justice Nwaeze if Emeka’s lawyers at the Tribunal addressed the points he raised. What they queried in the Tribunal was the competence and authority of the Deputy Commissioner of Police to come with the documents.

They did not present counter results sheets to prove, for instance, that there was no election in those 388 polling units. One thought that INEC could have come with documents with serial numbers to say ‘this is our result sheet’ or if there was no result that it was cancelled and the cancelled ones could have been presented. 

As members of APC, we didn’t go to embassies in protest. My advice to my brother – Rt. Hon. Ihedioha – is that he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. He is a young person; there is always another day in this business.

But how will you generally describe the performance of APC in the South-east in the 2019 general elections because the expectation was that with people like you, the party could have done better?

To start with, our great party’s primary election was mangled and manipulated.  Without being immodest, if I was not rigged out in Enugu West Senatorial primaries, APC, even if I didn’t win, could have scored 25% instead of 15%.

Secondly, South-east is the stronghold of the PDP; the tendency throughout the history of liberal democracy is that some of the parties will have strongholds; the South-east happens to be the stronghold of PDP from 1999 when we started the Fourth Republic.

The good luck that is favouring us is that most of the governors are not performing; otherwise, we won’t talk.  That’s why even when we did local government elections in Enugu last Saturday; they have to still rig it after ruling the place for over 20 years. So, the area is PDP’s stronghold.

But luckily, with what President Muhammadu Buhari is doing – in infrastructure and agriculture, we are making inroads. It might not be the same in 2023 and that’s why we celebrated Hope Uzondinma’s victory because we have recovered our lost state, the state that we lost out of recklessness of some of us.

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Are you now confirming what some are saying that the determination of APC to get Imo is about 2023?

No. I am telling you that after the elections, the PDP did not win and they were not honourable enough to say don’t swear us in, ‘let’s go for a rerun, because we didn’t get the mandatory two thirds of the 27 local governments of Imo.’  It’s a constitutional provision, not Osita’s provision, but they didn’t get that. You can crosscheck and ask any of them.  What they did is what in Igbo parlance they call ‘cover the shit, let’s eat.’ It is that shit that has been reopened.

So, would you say President Buhari has done enough for the South-east for the APC to be saleable in the region in 2023?

The PDP was there for 16 years before Mr. President came to power and they promised several times to construct Enugu-Onitsha road, they did not do anything.

It ended where Mr. President stopped as the Chairman of PTF until we came the Enugu – Onitsha, Enugu – Port Harcourt to Umuahia- Ikot Ekpene, the Aba- Calabar; the PDP didn’t do anything. They said they want to do PPP for second Niger Bridge, but they didn’t do anything.

Mr. President gave it as contract, not PPP gave the contract to Julius Berger.  Mr. President is on record for putting the first shovel of gravel, first shovel of sand, first set of rods on the ground. It is now about one third of completion. He started from scratch, it is a historical fact!

Two years ago in Igbo World Congress, I mentioned it, but a lady shouted me down. That was at the Friday session of the Congress. I now asked her, ‘where do you come from? She said she is from Nkwerezunaka, a community that is about 20 kilometres to Onitsha.

I now asked her, ‘do you have anybody there? She said yes. I said call the person, I will called the Controller of Works, so that on Saturday, he will take your brother there. Luckily for me, that happened.

On Sunday, while we were closing the World Igbo Congress, she announced publicly that she is withdrawing the abuses she rained on me. It’s not a joke. No President, post-1970 had invested as much as Mr. President had invested in infrastructure, agriculture.

There are a lot of beneficiaries; only that the gestation period in agriculture is very slow and other issues like herdsmen/farmers clashes otherwise, President Buhari’s agrarian revolution could have been known by now.

The herdsmen/farmers clashes have become things of concern in many parts of the country and that’s why some are even saying that the president is not doing enough to tackle that problem and as a result, they are not even ready to listen to APC or even want to hear the name Buhari. And there are other security challenges, which seem to be mounting by the day…

Nobody will sit down and say he is happy about the state of insecurity in the country or make politics out of it. It is a very painful thing. Mr. President, as an elder and father of the nation, is very worried.  But you did not expect him to come out publicly to start crying, that’s the truth of the matter. Mr. President has to admit that whatever should be done to bring peace to the land should be done. A lot of people thought he would reject the Forest Guards, the Amotekuns and State Security with different names, but Mr. President did not. He was realistic enough to know that there are changes in the dynamics of crises.

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But people believed that he is not doing enough, for instance, he has refused to heed the calls to sack the service chiefs despite the worsening state of insecurity…

When you are confronted with a barrage of crises, nobody even wants to ask what are the origins of these crises? You have kidnappers here, you have bandits there, you have Boko Haram there; it is the same country. Even those that create the material conditions that produced those bandits are now the holier than thou. 

Little did they recall that when they engaged in squander mania; they left our youths idle and an idle mind the sage says, is the devil’s workshop. I once asked somebody that do you remember that Abeokuta-Lagos road contract was awarded in 2001 and up till today, it has not been completed – even at a time, when the cost of our barrel of oil was more than $100.

The same thing happened with Lagos – Ibadan, Lagos- Benin, Benin-Lokoja, Lokoja –Abuja, Maiduguri-Kano – they stopped virtually where the PTF stopped, but they got more money.

Nobody remembers that the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, awarded a humongous contract for the upgrade of all the teaching hospitals; nobody is asking, where is the money?

Many died because of that, because they could not access the hospital services he promised, nobody is talking of that. Nobody remembers that in 2010, Okonjo-Iweala announced to the Nigerian people that they were setting up three Greenfield refineries at $23 billion to be built by the Chinese – one was to be built in Bayelsa, one in Lokoja, one in Lagos.

If those refineries were built, they could have been running now and could have saved what is bringing poverty in the land today – the fuel subsidy.

But they will say the president has also been in charge for nearly five years now and even, the four refineries on ground are also not working; he has not been able to rehabilitate them and we are still paying subsidy on imported fuel.

They can say so, but what you can also take from their argument is the fact that it was as if you are coming to power, you used to get N100 and suddenly, you begin to get below N40, your capacity to execute projects will be lower from day one.

And this is a President who, when he was persuaded that he should do retrenchment, he said no, that if you retrench the workers, where would they go? These are the issues. He said he must do the roads, no matter how slow, let’s use the money.

When Fashola, the Minister of Works, took a memo to President Buhari that he wanted to revoke all the contracts and start afresh, Mr. President said no, these contractors, some were not paid for five years.

So, you cannot say they are redundant on their own. He said they were redundant because they were not paid and subsequently, Mr. President started investing money in those areas. He said pay them, anyone that fails, you can now revoke.

As somebody who has been with Buhari since his advent into politics, would you say the president is delivering on the promises that made people to elect him first in 2015?

To a great extent – ask anybody in any Federal Ministry, Department or Agency. Anybody that says the management of public finance has not improved greatly – don’t forget that corruption is not something that you can stop in a day, there is a human factor in it – but any contractor or observer from any Federal Ministry, Department or Agency that says there is no improvement, that is above 80 per cent, let the person tell us how? The issue is that we have paucity of funds.

Looking at the crises affecting the APC at various levels, some people have predicted that the party may collapse at the end of tenure of President Buhari and may not be able to make any headway in 2023 elections. Do you share such concern?

Let me start by saying one, there are actually crises. And what pains me about the crises that we have is like what they call in tennis court, unforced errors. These are mostly unforced errors, very painful.

But as a student of dialectical analysis, it is a phase of antithesis, we are going into synthesis. APC is not going to crash. The only thing is that as we head to 2023, there will be jostling by the tendencies, some will align with each other, but whichever of the tendencies that dominates or triumphs will remain in the APC, but whether the party will crash, no.

But that surviving segment of the party may not have the national footprint to be able to win a national election like the presidency, because even if you look at what is happening now, there is already argument about which part of the country the presidential candidate of the party should emerge from in 2023?

No, it is like what I used to tell them when I go for Igbo meetings. I said ‘look, this is one of the most blessed countries on earth. There are interrelationships cutting across ethnic, religious lines and unless you take a careful look, you cannot feel that it exists.