From: TAIWO AMODU, Abuja
Chief George Moghalu is the secretary, National Rebuilding Inter-party Contact Committee, set up by the All Nigerian Peoples’ Party, [ANPP] as part of the process towards ensuring that it regains its voice as a formidable opposition party in the country. In this interview with Daily Sun, the former national secretary of the party explains the task of his Committee.
ANPP used to be a very formidable opposition party. What is being done to reposition the party?
We have leadership challenges in the past and those of us in the party, we acknowledged that fact and that led us to the last convention that threw up the Ogbonanya Onu led leadership. You will all agree with me that since that leadership came into place, it hasn’t been the same anymore.
The party has kind of regained its position in the consciousness of the Nigerian people and we are fully aware of the responsibilities. Ever since that leadership came into place, things have been working, the party is being turned around, re-engineered, so that we can get back to our pride of place in the body polity, so that we can gain the position we were occupying, prior to the last experiences we had with regards to having the right leadership. I agree with you, to a very large extent, that it appears we missed it.
Yes, but the important thing is that we acknowledged that problem and that’s why we are starting the process of getting back our party to where it should be and we acknowledge with every sense of modesty that the Dr Ogbonanya Onu led leadership has really turned the party around and Nigerians have been acknowledging that fact. One of the very fundamental things we have done apart from many other initiatives of the leadership is the setting up of a national committee that is called the National Rebuilding and Inter-party Contact Committee, led by no less a person than the former executive governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
In this committee, we have very credible known leaders of the party. The governor of Yobe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam, the deputy national chairman, there are other two governors, there are former governors, representation from the Senate, there are members of the House of Representatives and other stalwarts of the party, across the country, who are determined to rebuild our party: look at the areas we have missed it, look at our areas of strength, reach out as much as possible across the country, to some of our members, who have left the party for some reasons or the other, so that we can get everybody back on stream to get the party to continue playing the role it should play.
So, basically, we are in the process of rebuilding; we acknowledged that the process of rebuilding is a continuous one—it isn’t what you start one day and stop. So, we have continued the process and we shall continue until we get to the point where we feel satisfied that our party has returned to its pride of place. So, I will say that the process is ongoing and we shall certainly get to where we desire to be.
You just mentioned inter-party contact committee in passing. We know some other opposition parties have been involved in alliance talks, the ACN and CPC; is your party also involved in this, or you are discussing with some other parties?
No, like the national chairman said in the interview he granted, not too long ago and in line with the decision of the NEC of our party, we are open and one of the terms of reference of the Committee, is to reach out to other parties; reach out to civil societies groups, or anybody who is interested in building a strong or vibrant democratic nation—anybody who is very committed to getting this nation to move forward. So, we are open, we are talking with very many groups and we don’t have limitations, in terms of say, this is no go areas.
As far as the party is concerned, there are no go areas; we are open to discussion with any and every group that is interested in getting this country to move forward. That appears to be abstract; in specific term, are you talking with other political parties?
Yes, sure, we are talking with other opposition parties. The terms of reference of this Committee doesn’t limit us to people to talk with; it is open and that’s why we are inter-party contact committee.
We are open and we are talking to every group.
The PDP has always dismissed every alliance talks as a fluke. Is this another grandstand by opposition parties?
I wouldn’t say that. Let us look at it from this perspective. The truth is that anybody has the right to make any assumption, but one thing you must know with this particular development is the fact that this is the first time that we are talking about alliances, merger, one year or more than one year before an election. One major problem we have had in the past is that alliances, or discussion on alliances, discussion on merger, are all started, few days, few months to elections, at a time most of the political parties have taken their position. In a situation like that, there is no way you expect people to drop their ambition, to drop their plans and whatever. So, that has been a major constraint. But this time around, negotiations, discussions have started quite early before elections, so that people can have the opportunity to look at all issues, dispassionately.
Don’t forget that this time, there is no contest—-nobody is presidential candidate, nobody is vice-presidential candidate, nobody is governorship candidate. We have president in place, we have vice-president in place and we have governors in place. Elections have come and gone. It is about governance now. So, you have enough time to look at how you can at the end of the day, be able to merge or align—whatever language, whatever name you want to call it. So, you have enough time to look at the challenges, look at peoples’ expectations, look at what you want; you put everything on the table. I also want to say there appears to be sincerity of purpose, there appears to be a commitment on every side, that there is a need, at least, to get it right now.
You are convinced that this time around, there is no half hearted commitment; that there are no moles within, working for the ruling party?
I am not a soothsayer, as to be able to know what is in the minds of people, but when you are pursuing a good cause and you have already a fixed agenda you are working with, you must accommodate that people can originate evil. That’s the truth. We are talking about building our democracy, we are talking about the interest of the nation. So, if you are there and you think the best role you can play is to be a mole, you are welcome.
It is all about choice. For me, there is nothing untoward about what is happening, there is nothing challenging about what is happening. So, you lose nothing. Let us talk about the security challenge facing the country. The north-eastern part of the country has been the most affected and incidentally, that is where your party is in control. Is your party not worried that this could paint it in bad light? We are worried; I am not even looking at it from the perspective of Borno, Yobe. No, I am looking at it in the context of the entire nation, the general insecurity across the country. I am very worried. Take Borno for instance, the political parties have been trading allegation: PDP is saying, Boko Haram was the creation of former governor, Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff, ANPP has claimed it has been at the receiving end and went further to submit that those arrested as patronizing the sect are PDP senators. Do you see politics in all these? Look, let us be honest about this issue. Why would you want to accuse the ANPP government, when practically all the victims are ANPP? It makes no sense. They have claimed that an ANPP government under Modu Sheriff funded Boko Haram and some of the victims, so far include his blood brother. How do you explain that? How do you explain that in relation to the fact, one of the victims was his brother in-law and close ally? Somebody married to his sister, same mother. How do you relate that to the fact that his attorney general, a close confidant was a victim? How do you relate that with the fact that major victims in this unfortunate development are key players in ANPP, his party? It doesn’t make sense and difficult to reconcile. Most importantly, governors, yes they may be answering chief security officers, but they don’t control the police. It isn’t peculiar to Borno alone, it is across the country, because the Commissioners of Police don’t report to them. They may be answering chief security officers, but to what extent are they chief security officers? So, nobody can easily convince me. So, if PDP comes out as a party to say it is ANPP, then it is unfortunate. Then you take it a step further: the two senators who have one thing, or the other to do with Boko Haram are PDP. So, how do you reconcile that? The man that has been vilified by PDP chieftains is equally the Board of Trustees chairman of your party. Don’t you see him as a political liability, rather than an asset? No, not at all! I don’t agree with you!! Have you also looked at it from the perspective that the reason why he is a target is because he is a political threat? Everybody knows him, the way he fights his political battle; everybody knows that he is loved by his people; everybody knows that he has capacity to win elections. This is a man who has rarely lost any election. When you look at it side-by-side his political strength, you can also accept the truth that he is a target, because it is a case of do everything you can to get this man off the way, if you must make any political impact in an environment that he has political domination. Have you looked at it from that perspective? If he isn’t loved by his people, he wouldn’t have been at the Senate for the number of times he was there before becoming the governor. This same man was elected twice as governor of Borno State.