The APC national convention being its very first one is very important to the party and also for the polity. We feel that the convention will determine whether the party can survive or not. We are all witnesses to what happened to NPP, a party in the second republic when it conducted its first convention in Lagos. Because it was not managed very well, it led to the splitting of the party. So we of the APC were very aware of the implications of not managing the convention properly and we are happy that things went well and it was conducted successfully. Definitely, there were problems but we are happy that we surmounted them and achieved an important milestone in the life of the party.
What of the intrigues and maneuverings before the convention?
No, the most important thing is that APC was formed to help us achieve a new order, to enable us achieve the things we have not been able to achieve in the past years. Most people are committed to making sure that the activities of the party are successful. May be I can take you back to when the party was about to be formed. Many Nigerians did not give us any chance but we succeeded.
Even when a group in PDP was to come in, people doubted it. But in the need we were able to receive as many as five governors. So the national convention has been successful because we decided to make all necessary sacrifices and to do whatever was necessary to ensure that it succeeded. The interim administration had to be replaced as expected and the normal procedure is to have a national convention committee to pursue preparations for the convention. This was done successfully through the collaboration of the leadership of the party and the governors. It was a 15-member convention committee. The committee worked tirelessly to ensure that the convention came up and indeed it was very successful.
What kind of sacrifices did the leaders make to get the national convention pull through?
You know in a party as big as the APC, which is the largest opposition political party in the history of our country, controlling 16 states, with majority of registered voters in the country because Lagos and Kano states are the most populous states in Nigeria and the APC is controlling them. The party is really the only truly national party we have in the country today. It controls at least a state in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country. So, if you want to organise a convention for a party like that, definitely there must be give and take. The most important thing is that many of the leaders are mainly not looking at their own interests but rather the interest of the nation, trying to put the interest of the nation first so that in the end we can really do what is in our collective interest of building a new and a modern Nigeria.
What do also make of the school of thought that suggested that the party decided to drop the South-east from the chairmanship race due to perceived poor support base?
I think if you look at the South-east, it will be a mistake to say, okay the APC is controlling just one state. Yes, APC currently controls one state, Imo, in the South-east but the way the population of the country is distributed is such that in virtually all the states outside the South-east, you will find that people from the South-east rank second to those considered the immediate indigenous population. So it will not be right even if the theory looking at the volume of votes to concentrate on the South-east states. This is because the situation you find the people of the South-east is quite peculiar and this is not something you can attribute to all sections of the country. You find that even in election where there is very keen competition and this is what you expect when you have two dominant parties.
This is the first time because when we had the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) they were the only two political parties but now you have many parties, about 26 out of which two are dominant. So in a situation like that, you are going to have very keen competition and over time our polity will progress to that. So votes from south east indigenes living in other parts of the country can determine who wins a election. So I think it is wrong to just assess the south east in that manner and I believe that was not the consideration and the leadership of APC are aware that people from the south east are found everywhere in the country.
Is it true that the South-east accepted not to vie for the chairmanship seat because of the interest of Governor Rochas Okorocha in the presidential ticket of the party?
No, actually the zoning of the office of the national chairman of the party to the south-south like I said came as a result of so many considerations. Let us not forget that the positions that were zoned we’re principally party positions and that the elective positions will come in later. I believe that at that time, the south east will take its rightful position. Like I also said, the party does not have any policy on zoning, even though we have now started zoning of party positions. Normally in party administration we can either do something if the constitution has said so or that you an established convention on something we do over a period of time. So the south east by virtue of the fact that the people of the zone are found everywhere, their electoral asset must be be cultivated if we want to win election. This implies that very serious considerations will be given to the Xeon when the elective positions are being shared.
Your national convention has come and gone but not without ripples. How do you see the complaint by some of your leaders who said they were not comfortable with the handling of the convention?
You know that a national convention involving the election of the national executive of the party particularly will definitely bring its own problem. Assuming if our politics has matured to the level that all those who are interested can contest and have a situation where one state can take more position while others have less. But we have not gotten to that level in the politics of our nation. So there is no way you conduct your convention and it will not have ripples as you mentioned.
I have read the statement by Chief Tom Ikimi and also heard of speculations about the concern by the former Borno governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. The elected executive and the leaders of the party have a very big responsibility to make sure that discussions go on to find a way that all those who are not happy one way or the other are talked to and the sources of their displeasure looked into to ensure that in the end the party will be able to heal any wound that may have occurred. Leaders have a huge responsibility to reconcile differences after the convention.
What is your view about allegations by your party that it’s leaders and especially some governors were being harassed by security forces?
Actually I appreciate your question; you see Nigeria is a great nation and democracy is good for our country but the way is practiced in the past 15 years is almost like a civilian rule without democracy. There is no way you can deny people their fundamental rights of movement and association. This is the position of the party. It is not like they are alleging, these are facts. What happened in Ekiti two days ago was very crude and also shameful. It would never have happened. I was an eye witness and I was directly involved because an aircraft was chattered for fly some leaders of the party from Abuja to Akure because there is not yet a functioning airport in Ekiti state. So we arrived Akure and drove for about one and half hours to Ado Ekiti. We learnt that the Akure airports cannot take night flights and so all aircrafts must land or depart before 6 pm.
We had to leave Ado Ekiti early enough in order to get to Akure and take off Arround 5pm only to be informed that our aircraft cannot fly. There were three aircraft in the airport but they blocked the run-way with military trucks. It was indeed a very pitiable situation. We have to now drive back to Ado Ekiti and when I got there I insisted that I must be back to Abuja. I went with the clothes I was putting on with the hope that I will come back same day. We left Ado Ekiti around 7 pm in the night and drove all the way to Abuja arriving at about 2 am.
Imagine if anything had happened to us. In my car was Chief Audu Ogbeh. Imagine a person of the status of the Governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi to denied access to Ekiti state. They denied entry into Ekiti which was a clear violation of our constitution that makes mandatory for every citizen to exercise his or her rights to free movement. This is the reason why Nigerians have to give opportunity to the APC. Look, for 16 years we have had the PDP in power and look at where we are. Governors, former governors, former ministers, former national chairman of political parties are not even allowed to move about freely. You imagine what other Nigerians are going through. It is sad and should not be allowed to go on.
2015 is now around the corner, what are the plans of APC to woo Nigerian voters ahead of the general elections?
Yes APC is still in the process of positioning its structures. We are putting in place the structures and trying to make them functional. APC is young but we have our manifesto. We are concerned about the rising unemployment in the country. We intend to create employment because there are so many unemployed people in the country. These young ones should be making contributions to the development of the country but they are not doing so because there were not given the opportunity. Take for example, 14 years is long enough for them to solve the problem of power.
It is as if we are producing less than what we use to produce before the advent of the civilian administration despite the enormous resources deployed into the sector. We should be tired of depending of generators because when do so, you are creating jobs for another country. We should do something that will help us to produce and by so doing we can create jobs. We are interested in making sure that we improve the education sector because there is no reason why we should have over 10 million Nigerian children out of school. It does not make sense at all. How many countries have a population of up to 10 million. So many countries all I’ve the world has a population of less than 10 million and this is number that is out of school. So APC in government is committed to ensuring that the right environment is created so that our children can be educated and to participate in nation-building.
We intend to direct our education towards science and technology so that we can produce people who will be entrepreneur through technical and vocational education. Things ought to done that has not been done we will do them. Also in the area of corruption, we will create the environment that will make it more difficult for corruption to thrive. For example why should we not teach our students the dangers inherent in involvement in corruption. There should be civic education where they will teach these children about people who have done well and helped this nation without being corrupt. That is creating role models. These are some of the positive ways of fight corruption. APC wants to give Nigeria free and fair elections, elections that will not only be credible but transparent.