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‘Any true democrat from North or South can be next APC national chairman’

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Okechukwu

A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Mr Osita Okechukwu, in this interview with OLAWUNMI OJO, says the next national chairman of the party can come from any part of the country as long as the person has the qualities to steer the party to victory in 2023. Okechukwu, who is the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), also insists that the National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Committee of the party requires more time to accomplish its assignment, saying the party was in a bad state when they took over.

The APC National Caretaker Committee, inaugurated in June, was mandated to organise a special convention within six months where a new national chairman of the party would emerge but nothing seems to be happening in that direction. Do you envisage another round of crisis in the party as a result of this? 
To be pragmatic, I think the six months should be extended. Yes, it is good to quickly elect a new national chairman, and adhere to the stipulated time schedule, but pragmatism is the core in every strategic planning. Indeed, we should extend and accord due cooperation to the Governor Mai Mala
Buni-led caretaker committee to enable them to diligently fix and reposition our great party.

But nothing seems to be happening and some members want the Caretaker Committee to obey the six months schedule?
One, something is happening and many laudable programmes are going on. There are reconciliations on the cards and they are embarking on biometric registration of members. When one casts a cursory look at the damage done to the soul of our great party from the beginning of our government in mid-2015 by the unforced error struggle for National Assembly leadership to the culture of impunity which Comrade Adams Oshiomhole unleashed after his election as national chairman on June 23, 2018, the need for extension of time becomes imperative. Our stock crashed from 25 states to 19 today.

Accordingly, the Buni-led committee requires deep introspection to gather the pieces and reconcile the various warlords and tendencies. United we stand. So, if it takes six or 12 months to fix the party, so be it.

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You are calling for the extension of the tenure of the committee but others see it as a plot by the North to control both the party’s structure and the presidency. What is your take?
On the so-called plot for the North to control both the party’s structure and the presidency, one has heard such narrative. It is among the conspiracy theories being bandied. I will be an idiot to dismiss any plot of influence in our liberal democracy.

However, it is imperative to first put our party’s success in 2023 ahead of every option, because the 2023 presidential election will be a big referendum on the performance of all of us members and leaders of APC. Therefore, whoever is found worthy to chair the party to a successful 2023 and beyond, one will support such chairman.

All we need urgently is for all hands to be on the deck to halt the dangerous slide of our party to cliffhanger. We were witnesses to how our sister political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), nearly went under but for the oxygen supplied by Comrade Adams, according to the PDP national chairman, Chief Uche Secondus. I insist that our task now is to join hands to rebuild the party lest PDP will gain more grounds and halt Buhari’s Agrarian Revolution. If we do that, our party, contrary to the perspective of pundits, will surely come out of its present challenges stronger, better ideologically defined, better organised and with internal democracy entrenched. Time will definitely vindicate me.

With the clamour for power shift to the South gathering momentum, which geo-political zone do you think should get the national chairmanship slot?  
This is the second leg to my candid opinion. We need a well-groomed democrat as our new national chairman, whether from North or South, so as to avoid the pitfalls of the Comrade Adams era. On June 23, 2018, 6,800 delegates trooped to Eagle Square Abuja, from all the nooks and crannies of our fatherland. Virtually all of us campaigned for Comrade Adams and indeed hysterically heckled fellow candidates like Chief Clement Ebiri, who were reluctant to step down for him. We rated Comrade Adams as the safest pair of hands; we saw him as a good and bar-knuckle mobiliser in lieu of 2019 elections, which was less than one year ahead. For some, he was a messiah coming to salvage our great party, with successful scorecard as labour leader and action governor. He had the support of Mr President, who vested a lot of hope in him and the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who frantically mobilised for him majority of our governors and other stakeholders. All cards looked nice. But look at where Comrade Adams left the party.

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To majority of party members, he failed woefully as he reneged on his vows, became narcissistic, hoisted a culture of impunity and became arrogant. Hence our stock depreciated from 25 state governors to 19 while the PDP that was almost on its knees with nine state governors appreciated to 16.

Therefore, methinks a sane chairman of the party from any part of the country stands in a better position to first place equity, fairness, natural justice and good conscience in the front burner. If we are lucky to have such a sane and pragmatic chairman, naturally he will consult extensively with our members and leaders before the presidential primary election.

What has a sane and pragmatic chairman got to do with the zoning convention? 
I mean that in his consultation, he will definitely point out that there is a subsisting zoning or rotation convention. And that going by this convention, the presidency rotates between the North and the South and that in the southern belt, Southwest and South-south had presided over Nigeria since the inception of the zoning convention in 1999, hence it is the turn of Southeast geopolitical zone. We have a moral force on our side; we have justice on our side; we have equity on our side.

You have been canvassing this position for long. Is it because you are from Southeast?
Far from it! To be frank, outside my parents and my late uncle who was my guardian, one has benefitted more from other Nigerians than Ndigbo. My position is strictly based on the zoning convention and equity, natural justice and good conscience cum sense of belonging, which gave birth to the zoning convention in first place.

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You seem to be sermonising and there is no room for that in politics…
(Laughs) To be exact, while we miss a lot of opportunity is because we don’t diligently explain our case. If you call it sermonizing, so be it. I mean sincerely that every geopolitical zone in the south has presided over Nigeria, since the inception of the zoning convention. What we need now is the Falae/Obasanjo Model.

What do you mean by Falae/Obasanjo model?
Let me start by positing that in liberal democracy, there comes a time of maturity; that is when two political parties dominate the environment. This is where Nigeria is with the APC and the PDP. Yes, there are other political parties but mostly missionary parties not winning machines. The easiest way to actualise Nigeria president of Igbo extraction is via Falae/Obasanjo or Yar’Adua/Buhari Model. These are models where the presidential candidates of the dominant parties were chosen from the same geopolitical zone.

In effect it is a patriotic duty for APC and PDP to nominate two candidates from Ndigbo. This will be the remedy to Gun-Box democracy and the return of Ballot-Box democracy, which is in recession.

What we need most importantly is a national consensus to produce a Nigeria president of Igbo extraction. It will be the ultimate healing of the wound of the civil war. It will demobilise IPOB and Co and create a lasting impression that any tribe can preside over Nigeria.

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A real time sense of belonging is vital ingredient for cohesion and unity of our dear fatherland. The Falae/Obasanjo Model was founded on equity, natural justice and good conscience, with the sole objective of a harmonious and peaceful atmosphere.

What happens if both parties reject this model?
We will move on as a nation for he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.

The national caretaker committee chairman recently appealed to members to withdraw pending court cases in the spirit of reconciliation. Isn’t the fact that some cases are still in court even after the President ordered their withdrawal an indication that the party can no longer put its house in order?
The order, to a greater extent, was honoured except for the intransigent few. His Excellency, M.M.Buni and his committed team have reconciled many states and one can say that it is work in progress. As I pointed out earlier, our former narcissistic chairman did a lot of damage to the party.

Your state, Enugu, is one of those the caretaker committee listed as having been reconciled. What is the true state of affairs there?
We have reconciled the foundation membership led by Comrade Adolphus Ude and Co that left us before. We are lucky to have them back. Those who are outside the circuit are few, mostly from the PDP. They came with a hype of coming with money and huge followership. Regrettably, neither did they come with people nor drop their so-called huge war chest. That’s our predicament.

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