How do you feel about happenings in the country especially the unending political crisis in Rivers state?
It’s a very disturbing development. What is happening in Rivers State is disturbing. Look at the recent incident where the governor was barred from entering his lodge. There is no reason to stop a governor from going to Government House. Even if there was any reason to prevent people from using that route, the main fact is that the governor came out and identified himself and that ought to have made the police allow him in. I think we have to do things properly so that we can continue to build on the achievements made so far in democratic practice in the country. Right now every Nigerian is concerned about the impunity going on. The PDP government is acting as if nothing matters. With what we are seeing , the era of impunity is back . We are back to the era where those in government believe that they can do anything and get away with it.
When you say we should do something properly, you tend to suggest that this government is not getting it right. Is that correct?
Oh yes! Definitely, what happened in Port Harcourt in respect of the governor of Rivers state was an embarrassment to the nation and it should not have happened . We should not allow it to be repeated. There are several embarrassing things taking place within government circles.
Would you say the crisis rocking the PDP is affecting governance?
Yes. The situation in PDP clearly shows that it should re-examine itself .Nigerians are being taken for granted by the party. It is the ruling party, it has certain obligations to the nation but the wrangling has made it lose focus on the nation’s problems. Don’t forget that what is happening in the PDP now could never have happened if there was no APC. They always had disagreements but because there was no alternative platform where people can easily go , those who felt unhappy decided to stay put, but because APC is a strong platform, it attracted those who are not happy with what is happening in the ruling party. These people have a more attractive alternative . If their discussion with their party fails to go the way they want, they can go somewhere else.
How much damage is the PDP crisis doing to governance?
It is hurting the system so much. There are certain people who are supposed to be taking decisions that affect Nigerians who are now focusing on the crisis. I said they have certain obligation to the nation , unfortunately they are distracted. If you are the ruling party you have an obligation to the nation and it is very clear. The ruling party is having difficulty in making sure that the party is organized in a way to give the nation leadership that the nation deserve . That is why those of us in the opposition are asking Nigerians to consider us because when you have two things there is no way of knowing which is better until you try both. Nigerians ought to try the APC and put the PDP into opposition because when that happens many of the problems we are having will not be there.
Do you see the recent cabinet reshuffle changing the direction of government?
Ordinarily, a cabinet reshuffle is meant to inject fresh blood into government but the recent one was based on the crisis rocking PDP. But all these things wouldn’t have happened if there’s no APC.
How is APC reaping from the PDP crisis?
No, for us in the APC , we want good governance, we want peace and prosperity. We are not interested really in what is happening in PDP .We do not know whether it will be to our advantage or not because they have been given the opportunity to govern and Nigeria should assess them. So, whatever they do, it’s for Nigerians to assess. If Nigerians are happy they will leave them to remain in power but if they are dissatisfied they will kick them out. I know that majority of Nigerians are not happy with the government, they are not happy that they are being trampled upon .
What’s your take on the widespread belief that APC is working with the Baraje faction?
No, PDP cannot say that. Don’t forget that those in APC and PDP are Nigerians and as a matter of fact you cannot even have democracy without opposition. It is those in opposition that really give democracy its viability. If anything is going wrong in the system, we in the opposition must be concerned, and we must draw the attention of both the government and the people to it ,so that they will be corrected because our interest is really what to do in the best interest of our nation.
What does APC has to offer after PDP ?
The sovereignty of the nation resides in the Nigerian citizens . Nigerians will determine who will be their leaders, whether at the state or federal level. As long as it is democracy, Nigerian citizens will take that decision and all we are saying is that let Nigerians be allowed to choose who they want. By 2015, the ruling party PDP must have been in government for 15 years and we have seen problems of insecurity, unemployment and poverty growing at a time the price of crude oil is highest in the history of the nation. People must be given the chance to make a change. These are problems that we have had enough time to have rectified or at least show that we are moving towards addressing them . We have not and the APC is telling Nigerians that we will address all these ills. We will secure the nation, we will bring peace to our country. We will provide employment, we will fight poverty and have a nation that is not only peaceful but prosperous . It can be done.
There are insinuations that APC has been in talks with the rebel PDP governors and supporters as well as the NGF led by Gov.Amaechi and they have agreed to join forces to form a majority in the National Assembly so as to move against the President. Why is this necessary?
Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) should be given credit for fighting for democracy. NGF was not formed in 1999. With all humility, I was the first to be chairman of Conference of Nigerian Governors. It was put in place in 1992 when there were 30 governors in the country. The forum is for all the governors, not for governors of PDP only. I don’t know of the plots you are talking about. APC is ready to welcome new members but we are not plotting against anybody. PDP is the architect of its problem. The crisis in the party is as a result of injustice. We have always said that for democracy to thrive in a nation, we cannot have one political party being in government for too long. If you don’t perform, you will be voted out and you become the opposition party, then another party will come in. If they don’t do well, they will be voted out. Any person, who is in government will do his or her best to the nation . It has happened in Ghana. It is happening in other countries, so it can happen here.
Some believe that APC may soon be in the same shoes as PDP when the contest for the presidential ticket starts especially when Gen. Buhari insists on vying again.What’s your take on that?
The truth is that the birth of APC is historic. It has never happened in Nigeria, never happened in Africa and rarely happened any where in the world. So many people said it is not possible. There is APC now. I want to assure you that the spirit of give and take will continue to guide APC, because many of those who started this made sacrifices. They did that because they want it to be successful. So, we believe that the spirit of give and take will guide them against all the obstacles that will come.
The impression in some quarters is that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is imposing his will on the party . They cite the installation of Bisi Akande as the chairman while some of you who were chairmen of the other parties were not given any office. Isn’t this a problem?
No, I want to assure you that such discussions are not odd. Don’t forget that speculations can come from any quarters. When APC leaders are saying something, one thing everybody agrees on is that there is no pre-condition . For now, what the acting chairman is doing is trying to ensure that the structures are put in place at the state level to enable registration to go on.
After registration which is the main thing , then we go into congress. You now establish the leadership at the state level . After that there will be a convention by January next year. That will now put in place substantive leadership of the party at the national level. It is after this is done that other matters can come up. The question of deciding where this one will be or not, is not on the table now.
Where is APC zoning its presidency to?
I can’t discuss something that is not before us yet . It is not proper to do so. At the appropriate time, we will handle that because the constitution of APC provides for zoning. When that time comes, this will be a valid question. But now it is like discussing something in a vacuum and I don’t think it is right.
The interim national executive committee of the party was not zoned to any part of the country as rumoured. What happened was that INEC requested from APC that the interim executive must have members from at least two thirds of the states of the federation.
So, we wanted at least 25 states , that is 24 states plus Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In order to meet up with that, we looked at our constitution and then we chose 35 positions, because you must have more than 25 positions if you have to cover 25 states . And the positions were rather zoned.
Remember this was before APC was registered. So it was nine positions to the ACN , nine positions to the ANPP and nine to CPC. If you add all these three you will have 27. Now the balance of cake was now shared between the group from APGA and DPC.