Can you let us into what the party is planning to celebrate its two years anniversary?
It’s already two years by the 31st of July this year. The APC was registered by the INEC on July 31st, 2013. Last year when we wanted to celebrate our anniversary, we got tied up with preparations towards registration of our membership, towards conducting congresses for our members across the federation, national convention as well as the party primaries for the 2015 general elections, which we won by the grace of God. This is the second year and the party wants to roll out the drums to celebrate our second year anniversary as a party. It is unprecedented that within two years of being registered as a party, we have won the general elections, it is unprecedented that within two years of being registered as a party, we have twenty two (22) governors elected on the platform of the party, it is also unprecedented that within two years of our registration, we are controlling the two chambers of the National Assembly, these are the things we considered as giant stride achievements that begged for call to celebrate our great party on its second year as a political party.
Where is it taking place and what is the agenda?
The event to celebrate our party at two will hold by the end of this month (August) here in Abuja and we are getting world class resource persons to speak to us on the role of a political party on emerging government and to as well talk about our change mantra, what to do to effect the change. We shall hear talks on the change our party is championing. Is it change of altitude or otherwise, these are the aspects we will be looking at. We have secured the date and the guest speakers are fine-tuning ahead of it. I can say authoritatively that one of the guest speakers will be Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Nigeria’s permanent representatives to the United Nations. We are also finalising the arrangements to get speakers outside the country. It is true the APC wants to celebrate its second year anniversary but it will not be only celebration, we also want to use the avenue for internal soul search to let ourselves know that the task ahead is more than the one behind.
Will the party unveil again it’s manifesto at the celebration?
We are not unveiling any manifesto again, we have done that during the elections, even the president while he was our presidential candidate unveiled his agenda combined with the party manifesto. Everything that is happening now is in-line with the party manifesto. We have Kogi Governorship Elections coming up in a couple of months now, APC has twenty eight (28) aspirants jostling to be the party’s flag bearer, is there any structure put in place by the party to manage the post primary crisis that may spring up giving the huge numbers of aspirants that have indicated interests?
In APC, we normally pride ourselves with our interest in internal democracy, the first ingredient that gave us victory in the last general elections is the openness of our presidential primaries. It was as transparent and open to the extent that even though that could not make it immediately congratulated the winner and they started working together. Before the Presidential Primaries, some people were thinking that APC had already anointed someone amongst the aspirants but at the end of the day, you found out that no one was anointed, it was transparently done and the candidate emerged. That is what happened in all our governorship primaries across the federation. I, as the National Organising Secretary of the party has seen primaries conducted by our leadership without any crisis, we have done party congresses across the federation without any crisis and we had our presidential primaries without any crisis so I don’t envisage any crisis springing up after the governorship primaries in Kogi State and Bayelsa elections.
If you have been monitoring our activities so far, you’ll observe that we have painstakingly in a manner that both the aspirants and the party leadership in Kogi State will be comfortable with the process, we just finished a training now with the State Executives in Kogi State, the National Executives and IRI to educate them what and what are their roles during the primaries. It is in public knowledge that we’ve had screening where we gave equal opportunities to all the aspirants, the screening committee have brought out their reports clearing all the twenty eight aspirants for the primaries and it is okay by us at the national level here. There are basic things they looked at and they deem it certified that all of them are qualified so we cannot stop anyone for the sake of disqualification. In this country, we have seen cases where an incumbent governor was not even allowed to run for primaries of the party, that is not the style of APC.
What specific machinery have you put in place to manage the candidates and fall out of the primaries?
We have made the aspirants to sign an undertaking which is optional but all of them have signed the undertaking to abide by the process of the primaries, what this mean is that we have a responsibility as a party to ensure that the primaries are free and fair, the aspirants also have the responsibility to do the right thing to ensure that the primaries are hitch free. Once you conduct a free and fair election, the losers will not mind to congratulate the winner. People get upset when the process is not free and transparent, if it is free and transparent, a loser will lose gallantly and a winner will also win gallantly. We have put adequate measures in place and I can assure you that there’ll be no backlash after primaries so long that we do the right thing. The party is poised to do the right thing by publishing the list of the delegates. It is not a matter of giving the numbers of the delegates but making them known to the world. APC will publish the list of the delegates for the primaries and anyone who has questions on who is or who is not supposed to be on the list will raise the issue before the primaries and the party will address such dispassionately.
Do you have guidelines?
We have guidelines on who qualified to be a delegate and who did not but for the avoidance of doubt, we’ll go ahead to publish the list to ensure transparency. I don’t think we are expecting any post primary issues as it never happened during our presidential election primaries. Only a few of APC controlled states are in court over primary election conflict but if you check our opponent in the other political party, there’s hardly any state that they are not in court after their primaries, so in a nutshell, what the APC believes in is her cardinal objective of giving room for internal democracy to reign, so long that you don’t guarantee the membership of your party internal democracy you can not succeed, even now that we are governing party, if we produce a bad candidate, the tendency is that the populace might vote for him or her but will he or she provide the positive change APC stands for? So when we talk about change, it must stand from within before we go outside. We are going to conduct a good primary and I can assure you that there won’t major fallout. Just last week, your party, the All Progressives Congress ( APC) received a lot of defectors and it is rumoured in some quarters that the former first lady is interested in one of the defectors to become the next governor of Bayelsa state, could you confirm if there is alliance between the party and the former first lady in the coming election in Bayelsa State? Don’t even go far, I’m not aware of what you are talking about. It is not everything that the media report that you will take to be the truth. She (Patience Jonathan) is not even a member of our party and she has not indicated interest to support any member of our party, if there are things like that, you can just say they are media speculations.
There’s this concern about the spate of defections into the party. The election in Bayelsa is around the corner and we have some big names who in the past wanted to be governors but failed in their bid there’s this assumption that some of them are coming to get the APC’s governorship ticket. Won’t this lead to crisis?
There won’t be any crisis, a political party is just like a church, you don’t stop anyone from coming in to worship. We can’t stop anyone from coming in to join APC, we are even looking for more people to join our party fold. If there so many bigwigs in Bayelsa or any other states coming to join our party, what that means is that our party is doing well, if we are not doing well those bigwigs will not join you. How do we manage their entrance into the party? That is where we have code of conducts and guidelines for primaries. If anybody is coming in now he’s qualified to contest for the primaries, you can’t stop them from running for the primaries, it is the delegates that will decide who becomes the candidate of the party.
If you look at the delegates electoral college, those who constitute the APC delegates, they are more inclusive than the other political party, the other political party will do a special congress to elect three people per ward, in our case, virtually all executive members of our party are delegates. If you have a large number of delegates, the tendency is that people cannot buy them over because the number is large. People cannot camp them overnight, how do you even do that when you have over four thousand delegates? If you are qualified to run for an election, you can run, we cannot stop any new person coming into the party not to contest; it is the delegates that will determine their fates. Mind you, we are not doing a new delegate list. It is the other political party that does a special congress to elect an adhoc- delegates that will elect the candidate. The scenario is APC is different from that, ours own is to ensure that the existing executives from the wards to local and state governments levels constitute the list of the delegates. That is our guideline, it is them (delegates) that will know whether I as an aspirant have worked for the party or not. I wouldn’t want to stress on this point but the bottom line is that everybody will be given a level playing ground to operate on whether you are a new entrant to the party or not so long that you are qualified.
When are you conducting the primaries?
We are conducting primaries in Kogi State next week, nobody in the APC family can come out to tell you that Mr A or Mr B is going to emerge, it is not like the other political party that stay in one office and endorse somebody and then a group to actualize what they have already done. Here in APC no one can tell you who is going to emerge as the candidate, I repeat again nobody can tell you that. The National Chairman of our party does not know who is going to emerge as our candidate on Saturday, our job is to send a credible team to monitor the process and who so ever wins, that’s it.
Presently, post elections tribunals are ongoing, just last week, there was an incident where your party members in Rivers State took their protest to INEC headquarters in Abuja over the refusal of the State Residence Electoral Commissioner to allow them access the electoral materials, is there anything the party at the national level doing or it is going to do on this issue?
We here at the national level will find it very reluctant to comment on issues before the Tribunal. We don’t want them to accuse of this and that. Our people in Rivers, Imo, Akwa-Ibom and other states who are having issues at the tribunals have been advised on what to do legally and they are doing that right now. It is condemnable to see some of our members being tear gassed, Nigerians have condemned it and we also joined Nigerians to condemn such treatment. They went to INEC to make a specific request, they never went there to demonstrate so why won’t they be admitted to state their points and for INEC to answer them? It is not everything you request from INEC that it will oblige to do but if the court gave an order that such should be done, why can’t they obey the court order? We will refrain from commenting on those sensitive issues because it has gone beyond our domain, it’s now a judicial matter and we will allow them to finish and if there are issues, we’ve advised our people on how to follow them legally. We must pride ourselves as law-abiding citizens of the country. Our party is first and foremost a believer in the rule of law, that is the only way the system can be sanitised and nothing beyond that.
Your party, the APC has set the precedent with the coming elections in Kogi State by giving the governorship form to the women for free, but some of the women in the party still feel they have not been fully accommodated like their male counterparts. Why is this so?
Anything that has to do with gender is somewhat of agitation, when you are agitating for something, you will surely become an Oliver Twist. If you get this, you’ll still agitate for another one. If you say our women are complaining then I’ll say it is not true, they are not complaining.
If there is any party in Nigeria that is more woman friendly then I’ll say it is our party. For the first time, no major political party in Nigeria have given a woman a governorship ticket before, APC gave it’s governorship ticket to a woman in Taraba State, she would have emerged as a governor, even at that it is never too late because her case is still in court. What does that mean? It means APC as a party doesn’t do lip services to the issue of gender, if we do, we wouldn’t have given our governorship ticket to a woman but we did it. The same APC elected a woman as the chairman of our party in Adamawa State. We elected her as chairman of our party. Today, the same person is now an elected senator from the same state. During the interim administration of our party, a woman in Enugu State was also appointed as the chairman of our party in the state. Within the last two years when the APC was formed, we’ve had two women as chairmen of our party in the state, has that happened anywhere before? Even our major opponent, you can go and check, have they produced a woman chairman before, have they produced woman governorship candidate before? Even in the appointment that we are doing, you wouldn’t say women are relegated, a woman is currently the chairman of INEC, the most sensitive electoral body in the country. Mr President has not appointed his ministers, I believe when he does so, women will be there, even special advisers, women will be there. We didn’t joke with the issues of our women, the APC is the only part than takes the issue of her women seriously. It is in the public knowledge that we don’t charge money for nomination form from any of our women who wish to vie for elective positions; the Kogi primary is a clear example. One of the contestants is a woman and the party didn’t collect a dime from her to obtain the form. If a woman is qualified to contest for any elective position under the platform of this party, she’s free to do so. In every committee set up by this party, it is an unwritten law that a woman must be part of any committee that will be setup. When we are forming our excos at the ward to the state levels and national level, we made it clear that one out of the five ex-officio must be a woman, which means we get women in at any level. We take women seriously in this party.