A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, has described the recently concluded national convention of the party as very successful.
Okechukwu, who is also the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), came hard on Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, declaring that he is de-marketing the party. He also speaks on the tasks before the new National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and the nPDP tendencies in the party, among other issues.
How would you react to the outcome of the APC National Convention?
The convention as some us predicted was very successful, in spite of minor hitches from sordid elements. It was successful in the sense that we elected a veteran, competent, courageous, dynamic, pro-people and consensual chairman in the person of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. And the good thing is that Comrade Oshiomhole has the endorsement of Mr President. I’m one of those who hold the view that in a presidential system, the president tailors the party model to his size.
The Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) summed it up thus: ‘BSO is thrilled by the unprecedented consensus, starting from President Muhammadu Buhari, our national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, to the entire leadership, membership and delegates to the national convention, which
led to Comrade’s seamless election as chairman.’ He will take APC to the next level from where Chief John Odige-Oyegun stopped. Oyegun by all standards did well from the victory of the 2015 general elections and managing to hold our great party-polygamous family together. It’s not an easy feat.
The commotion among delegates from Delta and Imo states took a shine off the convention. What’s your take on that?
To be frank, one was outraged especially when the commotion happened when our dear President
was addressing the convention. The president’s address in such a convention is normally rated as one of the high points when the delegates and other party faithful will not only listen to their leader, but also internalise the messages from him. They poured sand on the chalice. Therefore, it pained me that the factional leaders of APC in Delta could not resolve their differences before the convention. I am aware that the two factional chairmen, Dr Cyril Ogodo and Pastor Jones Erue, as far as I know, were friends the last time I led the panel for the legislative primary in Delta in 2014. And one had often seen both Ogodo and Erue as friends and men of Olorogun Ortega Emerhor.
What of the commotion in Imo pavilion? Are you shying away from talking about it because it has to do with the South-East?
You are not fair to me. Covering calamity? Far from it! To be exact, on the commotion in the Imo State pavilion, I was not shocked that Owelle Rochas Okorocha, led the commotion, for he has been de-marketing the All Progressives Congress (APC) from inception. His philosophy is if not for me, then scatter. That’s exactly what happened. He knew his candidate for National Organising Secretary would lose if he didn’t resort to brinksmanship and brigandage. That’s his trademark.
You said that Okorocha is de-marketing the APC but he is the leader of the party in the South-East as the only elected governor of the party in the zone…
(Cuts in) Yes! Without singing like a broken record, may I once more remind your readers that if Okorocha had placed public interest above self interest the South-East members of the APC and the region in general could have benefited immensely from Buhari’s government both in appointments and projects, like our brothers and sisters from the South-West. Okorocha’s attitude denied us that. He is the only wise man; every other contrary advice or criticism is taken as an adversary talking. That’s why after presiding over a meeting of the then 12 governors of the APC in 2014, where the governors out of their consideration for equity and natural justice decided that the chairman of the party should come from either the South-East or South-South, he paradoxically jettisoned the wisdom of his colleagues.
This allegation is strange because he doesn’t have the capacity to do that. How did he jettison the decision of his colleagues?
Instead of respecting the noble decision of his colleagues, Okorocha came to the South-East caucus to announce that he wanted to run for president. And when some of us reminded him that the president is zoned to the north and so why don’t we support our leader, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu for chairman, he dismissed it, claiming that zoning is not in APC’s constitution. When reminded about the decision of the governors at their meeting, which he presided over as the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, he dismissed the idea and went to Lagos to abuse Buhari at the presidential primary. Even when I told him that Tinubu had pledged all the delegates to Buhari, he turned deaf ear to the strategic plan of our competing region in the southern belt of Nigeria. Was it not the same thing he exhibited at the Eagle Square?
The national chairman emerged by consensus but many observers believe that other contestants were forced to withdraw from the race by the powers that be in the party. Don’t you think APC has begun to toe the path that landed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where it is today?
Please let’s respect our leaders. Otherwise how can you spew that Clement Ebri, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor and a host of others were hounded out? May I ask— if they were hounded out why was Senator Osita Izunaso not hounded out? Methinks if there were such forces, Okorocha could have deployed it to hound Izunaso out. Yes, there are always rumours of powers that be in politics, but one thing we must give to President Buhari as a democracy convert is that he has no penchant for hounding anybody out.
But it was reported that the powers that be also told Izunaso not to run. As a major stakeholder in the South-East APC, did that actually happen?
The little I know is that some governors had canvassed the idea that to elect Izunaso would be a slap on the face of Okorocha who is not only their colleague, but also their chairman. So, to avoid that, they canvassed that he should withdraw. It was basically an idea floated to hit the middle ground. One shared that idea and even canvassed for a neutral person, who could have easily defeated Okorocha’s candidate. My understanding is that it was basically the solidarity of the governors. Methinks it was wrong strategy on Izunaso’s side.
You said the convention was successful but the leader of the nPDP wing of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, warned of looming crisis shortly after the convention, saying many members were still aggrieved. He spoke the fact or you think otherwise?
In politics, horse-trading is the norm. Therefore, there is nothing strange for any tendency to agitate. In fact, the more you agitate the more recognition if not mileage you gain. I am happy that one of theirs, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, was re-elected as the national publicity secretary of the party. Do you believe that we of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) have no principal officer in the National Working Committee (NWC) to the best of my knowledge? It’s hoped that most grievances will be resolved in the second term.
What reform agenda do you think Oshiomhole should immediately embark on as he assumes office?
One subscribes to the position of the BSO, Enugu State chapter, which appealed thus: ‘may we sincerely appeal to Comrade Chairman not to work on hearsay especially in the South-East, where some leaders are wittingly or unwittingly de-marketing and eroding the electoral value of the APC by parading only their family members and cronies for political offices. If they are allowed with their greed in the forthcoming primary elections, the electoral fortunes of the APC will suffer unnecessarily.’ The truth is that even for the Tinubu Reconciliation Committee to gain traction; the NWC needs to have the accurate records, status and approval ratings of the party in each state. In the South-East for instance, if you make Okorocha the face of the party, then it means you are digging a big hole for our great party to fall into. There are leaders like him in other zones.
What are your views on President Buhari’s chances in 2019 now that the APC national convention has come and gone?
President Buhari’s chances are very bright. He is the one to beat and one in all honesty cannot point at anyone in the pack of the opposition who can beat him. This is the same problem the PDP is confronted with. With massive infrastructure development programmes of 5,000 kilometers of federal roads, 5,000 kilometers of rail line, additional 5,000 megawatts of electricity and targeted food sufficiency, with a project completion cycle of three to five years, how can anyone beat him?