Oshiomhole must go to enable us reorganise APC for post Buhari era – Okechukwu
The Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, who was recently suspended by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for alleged anti-party activities tells his story to Southeast Bureau Chief, LAWRENCE NJOKU.
Did intra-party feud play any role in APC’s performance?
The only problem one had is not to sound like a broken record in serial lamentation over the horrendous atrocities of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who mangled APC’s primary elections. The intra-party feud before his ascendency as the chairman was escalated due to his narcissism. Comrade Oshiomhole is Mr. know-it-all, intolerant and totalitarian. These are not good attributes in democracy. If President Buhari was not made of sterner stuff, he could have been bruised by the mangled primaries across the federation. This is why we are bleeding in our traditional strongholds like Bauchi.
You were recently suspended by your party for alleged anti-party activities. What happened?
To be sincere, I only heard of my suspension on radio, television and newspapers. As usual, Comrade Chair didn’t follow the rule of law and due process, as stipulated in APC’s Constitution. I went to the party secretariat and searched in the registry, but I couldn’t find any letter addressed to me. As of today, there has been no letter or oral invitation to come and explain my own side, so as to fulfil the elementary doctrine of law, which makes fair hearing mandatory, since one is not an employee of Adams Oshiomhole & Sons Ltd.
What in your estimation could have led to the suspension of the four of you?
I’m not in a position to answer for His Excellencies, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Ibikunle Amosun and Hon Usaini Usaini. They’re capable of defending themselves. I don’t think they got any letter. I was friendly with Comrade Chair, especially during the Fuel Subsidy Crisis era, when he was chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress and I was the National Publicity Secretary of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties. We all jubilated when he became chairman, not knowing the party’s woes would be compounded. To be exact, if there is anyone who should be charged for anti-party offence, it should be Comrade Chair.
Firstly, in his own wisdom, he pulled an advertorial in the national dailies, asking each state to choose from three modes of primary as enunciated in APC’s Constitution – direct, indirect or consensus. Enugu State where I come from weighed all the modes and chose Indirect primary. On October 1, 2018, we commenced the process at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus Stadium. I negotiated the venue for our party, as the Indoor Sports Hall, earlier got was encumbered.
In the midst of the primary, a call came from Comrade Chair, and I was one of those he spoke to. He said, ‘Osita what’s going on?’ I replied that the primary was going on smoothly, and that he could inquire from the Commissioner of Police and Director of State Security Service (DSS), who were there. He brushed that aside and asked of Juliet Ibekaku and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama. I told him Juliet was not a delegate and that Onyeama was attending the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
The panel, headed by Professor M. Momoh, later told us that Comrade Chair ordered them to stop. The next morning, we heard in the news that the primary had been canceled and Enugu State should resort to Direct primary. Meanwhile, it is against the democratic choice of party leadership and membership in Enugu and there were no ballot papers or logistics to manage direct primary in 260 electoral wards. Anti-party activity No 1 and done with impunity. Comrade Oshiomhole’s breaches of APC’s Constitution and anti-party activities are uncountable. Anti-party activity No 2: He raised what one can dub Edo militia for the primary. Contrary to the Federal Character principle, he appointed over nine Edo indigenes as Chairmen of Electoral Primary Panel in states. Enugu State and many others had no chairman. Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu chairmen of Primary Panel were all from Edo State. Why?
Ordinarily, it could have been one chairman per state. It was like bazaar for his kinsmen and transparency atrophied in the process. The outcome was loss of states APC wouldn’t have lost in the election. Two, we went into the primary and one won the Enugu West Senatorial District, but was rigged out. I went to the party secretariat with my petition, only to be told that they were advised not to acknowledge our petition. I was forced to go to the house of Professor O. Osunbor, chairman of the Appeal Panel and handed over my petition. He promised to invite me to defend my petition and never did.
The same Professor Osunbor was the chairman of Kebbi State Panel. Impunity incorporated, for what is the fate of a petitioner from Kebbi, where he presided? Comrade imposed Juliet Ibekaku he had earlier asked after during the October 1 gubernatorial primary, where she was neither a delegate nor a candidate and expected her to win.
With the level of acrimony in your party, do you see it surviving the next election in the Southeast, especially with the loss of the only state it used to control?
As usual, we the devout and committed members will and must pick the pieces after the disaster caused by Comrade Oshiomhole. Don’t forget that some of those imposed are new members and fair weather friends. They don’t have staying power, so they will soon depart in search of greener pastures, and we the foundation members will rebuild our house. On the loss of Imo State, please blame Comrade Oshiomhole.
Why do you blame Comrade Oshiomhole when everyone knows what transpired?
Let me repeat that I don’t want to sound like a broken record, for I had in several fora reminded those who forget easily, how Comrade Chair assumed chairmanship with a wrong mindset, where he regarded everything done by his predecessor, Chief John Odigie Oyegun as evil. By the time the Imo State congress was concluded, before his entry, Chief Hilary Eke won Imo APC chairmanship. I remember how the mainstream, led by Senators Izunaso and Ararume rescued APC’s structure from Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
Based on this fact, on July 12, 2018, at the launch of Airport Railway in Abuja, we pleaded with Comrade Chair to please not hand back Imo APC structure to Okorocha. There and then, he told me he was going to dissolve the chapter and hand back to Okorocha. I told him that such a move would destroy the party in Imo. He refused, saying Okorocha assisted his chairmanship. The outcome is the calamity APC suffered in Imo State. Adams in all honesty can’t absolve himself from the blame. I warned him.
So, what would you advise the party to do to ensure sustainability going forward?
Firstly, Comrade Oshiomhole must go, so as to reorganise and overhaul the party for the post Buhari era. Failure to do this is better imagined. I’ve always been bothered about what happens when Mr. President finishes his second term? How best do we hold on to the 12 million Buhari Vote Bank, which resonates in every presidential election, since 2003? This Vote Bank is an uncommon treasure built by the Aminu Kano tradition in the North, which President Buhari epitomises. This is my greatest concern, when one reviews what reckless leadership caused our great party.
Many believe your position in attacking party leadership and refusing to support the candidates that emerged, when you were denied Enugu West senatorial ticket showed you’re not a party man and desperate for office…
Without being immodest, I’m a humble person and devout party man. If not, how come I used my little resources and contact to upgrade APC in Enugu more than any other person? It’s difficult to support a carpetbagger, especially one that is not a team player and whose hallmark is factionalism. My sister, Juliet factionalised Enugu APC, knocking one head against the other. She instituted serial court cases, including the one that blocked genuine peace effort, His Excellency, Ken Nnamani made before the primary. It was the faction she funded with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, which subsisted till March 9, 2019 and upon which Senator Ayogu Eze, was dazed, scoring only 10,000 votes.
Today, she is not friendly with any of the APC factions in Enugu State. My cardinal question is: why didn’t she win at her ward, Egede? Or in any of the 81 wards which make up Enugu West Senatorial District? One thought those who imposed her would have come to help her win. They lived on assumption that they would write the result, but the ubiquitous Card Reader denied them this utopia.
Did you say your party leadership lack powers to suspend you?
What I said was that the NWC didn’t follow due process and rule of law. The right thing is to follow the due process laid down in Section 21 of our party’s Constitution and give one fair hearing as demanded by extant laws. Anything contrary is witch-hunt and show of power. This is season of contestation for ministers and they want to blackmail and eliminate some of us. They’re not Almighty God.
Do you agree that APC’s performance was not impressive in the recently held general elections in the southeast?
I beg to disagree that APC performed below expectation in the 2019 general elections. Firstly, in the presidential election, Muhammadu Buhari, who had 198, 000 in the whole Southeast in 2015, got 403, 000 votes. He had the threshold of 25 percent in Abia, Ebonyi and Imo States. This is impressive by any standard.
Secondly, we have three senators in 2019 and none initially in 2015. Then we were castigated that the Southeast could have produced Senate President, if we had one senator. When Senator Ben Uwajumogu emerged later via the court, the principal offices had been shared. This time around, we improved tremendously, especially when we reckon that all progress made in liberal democracy is incremental. And most importantly in liberal democracy, where there is multiparty system, each party or candidate has its stronghold and weak hold. Southeast happened to be our weak hold and bigotry, vile propaganda of ethnicity and religion did not help our case.
What do you mean by bigotry?
It pains me to recount how our big brother, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo behaved. Ohanaeze, a non-partisan, socio-cultural organisation veered off course to adopt His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar. He didn’t act like a polygamous father, who should have taken into account that some of his children belong to other political parties. To add salt to injury, he went into strategic coalition with similar associations like the Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum and PANDEF and adopted Atiku.
The dosage of their propaganda and bigotry was so heavy it is inappropriate to recount them here. Bigotry fueled our poor performance more than any other factor. Paradoxically, immediately they adopted Atiku as a Southern candidate, little did they know they had ironically excised him from his region, the North East and his neighbour, the North West. The two zones have over 30 million votes. That’s why he polled 50, 000 votes in Yobe, where Buhari polled over 400,000 votes, just like the scenario in Enugu.
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