Mr. Osita Okechukwu is the Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview monitored on Arise Television, he speaks on the forthcoming national convention of the party, crisis in some state chapters and reconciliation moves, among other issues. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
Recently the APC Governors Forum passed a vote of confidence on the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led national caretaker committee but there are still issues and all kinds of divisions within the party. What is the state of affairs within the APC?
Let me start by saying that I join the governors in passing a vote of confidence on Governor Buni and members of the caretaker committee for the good work they have been doing, especially when we cast our mind to the earthquake caused by the previous National Working Committee (NWC) that made us lose some states and some legislative seats and almost cost us the 2019 presidential election if not for the vote bank of President Muhammadu Buhari. Therefore, we commend them highly and I am one of those, who are interested in what they are doing for the fact that when we completed the ward, local government and the state congresses, there were crises on the ground and they set up a reconciliation committee made up of very eminent Nigerians led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu and they are doing a good work. I am one of those who attended one of their reconciliation meetings when they came to Enugu State. I was so happy the way they drilled us and they even rebuked all the factions. They asked us whether we don’t what to win the 2023 presidential election and other polls. According to them, if we want to win, we must keep our house in order. So, I think what they are doing is to ensure a united APC before the national convention of the party. So, the convention is going to hold but I am not one of those who are actually bothered by the date of the convention. What I am bothered about is how to get APC properly united. I am not saying you will get 100 per cent unity across the length and breadth of this country. We had over 10 states that petitioned over the congresses but the Buni committee said we have to raise a high-powered reconciliation committee to look into it and help us resolve the crisis. Some people said no, they are delaying, but do they want to go to battle under the electronic transmission that has come to play, under the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) that has become a vaccine to vote rigging, where the votes count more today than it used to count in the past. If you are going to do that, you need to unite the political party, so that the new national executive of the party will not have crisis in their hands. Yes, there are court cases but you should take it to the bank that after the reconciliation, almost 90 per cent of the court cases would be withdrawn. And when that is done, the new executive would have a good hand to go into the primaries and the campaign. Don’t forget that the 2023 general election is starting in February and February is just about 12 months away. If you are a politician like some of us who have been in this game for the past 40 years, if you start today to prepare, you have to prepare well. So, I think what they are doing is to have a united political party and it is a welcome development.
You talked about witnessing one of those reconciliation efforts in your state, how would you assess what is happening in the party; for example, a state like Kano and the friction going on within the factions?
You have to understand that we are actually running a multi-party system but within the multi-party system, we have two dominant political parties but APC is the party that is number one, so every other person wants to have a hold on his ward, local government and state because if you do so, there are chances of raising candidates that would win elections than somebody who is in All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). So, the contention has to be higher because to whom much is given, much is expected. We are a winning team, so if you win the ticket of APC for the Senate, your chances of becoming a senator in the 10th National Assembly is very high. That is why it is contentious. It is not unexpected. It is just like picking a jersey in the Super Eagles, it is more contentious to pick a jersey now than before. Some people went out of their way and did everything they can to be in Cameroon but they were not there but those who were there even among the 28 players in the Super Eagles, what coach battled with was those that started the matches. So, if you are a winning team, you will have that kind of contention, agitation, horse-trading and complaints. It is all those cacophony of voices that the Buni’s committee is trying to reconcile and harmonize. And I think by the end of the day, it would be harmonized. Don’t forget as well that after the whole battle, those who refused to key in, we will appeal to Mr. President to talk to them because it is about persuasion. Yes, you want to be governor of Kano State, granted. Let’s give him the governor but what do you give to the other side? How many commissioner posts do you reserve for them, who goes to the Senate? All those issues would be trashed out and that is why it is a political party. Don’t bother yourself, at the end of the day, you will see what will happen how about 90 per cent of the crisis we have today would be reconciled. I have seen that happen before because nobody wants to go lose an election and become opposition.
If you say we should not bother, what of the crisis in Osun that might cost the party the governorship of the state?
Is the party not worried about that? Your question is very valid and germaine but what I am saying is that before the Osun election, there will be a primary. If the governor is re-elected to run for the APC, he will look into the grievances of those who feel that they have been marginalized or left out. The leadership of the party will also call the governor and say ‘Mr. Governor, please what do you offer these other individuals’ and when that is done to a great extent, we will win Osun again. Osun is a progressive state, so it cannot go to the PDP. The people will remain with us because we are talking of infrastructural development and investments for tomorrow’s Nigeria. We are not just talking about coming to power for power sake, the only problem we have is that we lived in an era that the PDP shared money meant for infrastructure and we are not sharing money. That is part of the agitation in Osun State but we will reconcile those things.
What is the source of your optimism, considering the fact that APC is in court in 14 states and the fact that the reconciliation committee is not making any progress in Ogun, Osun, Zamfara, Kano and many others?
The challenge must continue but what I am saying is that if there are 90 cases, by the end of Senator Adamu committee’s job, we will find a reduction to less than 10; take this to the bank. The point of the matter as I said is I cannot explain all the strategies we have on the table but what I am saying in simplicity is that it is only one person that would become governor of Enugu or any of the state. When you determine who becomes governor; we will decide with the governor how the rest of the tendencies would be accommodated. We are talking about the politics of inclusion. Our solution is inclusion. Our solution is unity to win the election and for you to win, you need to include others. We will adopt the method of my people who used to hunt because before they go for hunting, they will decide who gets what depending on what they contributed to the killing of an antelope, so that we do not use the bows and arrows we used in killing the antelope to fight ourselves.
It is a tradition of giving and taking. I think that is what the Adamu committee is preaching. We are working in a system where evidence and experience have thought us the fact that you imposed Osita Okechukwu to be governor of Enugu State does not mean I will be loyal to you when I become governor. That is why a lot of people are now saying ‘why are we insisting on imposing somebody, why don’t we allow people to decide because those who imposed people in the past became their enemies number one.’ So, what we are preaching is inclusion.
Yes, one person must be a senator, what of the House of Representatives, what of the boards? We have in our hands over 1,000 board appointments. So, we will bring all these issues to bear. But if we are not united, we have our sister political party waiting in the winds.
We have 22 states in the hands of our party today, so at the end of the day, the crisis would be in less than four states and we are going to reconcile those four states. My optimism is based on facts and figures. Yes, there is hunger in the land and we are addressing that by trying to go back to land. We are trying to put inclusion to resolve the intra-political crisis. Yes, we might not achieve 100 per cent, I must bet you on that, but all those cases in Federal High Courts and High Courts of the states, would all be withdrawn with accommodation and inclusion.