We can only reconcile the reconcilable in our party, says Adamu
Senator Abdullahi Adamu is chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Reconciliation Committee. In this interview with Leo Sobechi and Adamu Abuh, the former Nasarawa State governor said the crisis in APC does not translate to the failure of the Caretaker Committee. He assures that the party will overcome every threat to its existence.
What inroads have your committee made in its reconciliatory efforts?
FOR us, and I speak for the members of my committee; it is a very rare privilege for the party to see us as members, who are good enough to be given the responsibility for the determination of the conflict inherent in our party.
The whole idea is to identify such conflicts and see the best way to resolve them or recommend a solution to the party. The idea is that the party has identified that there are problems, which is normal in any human outfit with the size of APC is bound to have, some resulting from internal rifts, sometimes internal weaknesses.
Some of these conflicts have to do with conflicts of interests common to the party. And so, given the Nigerian political culture, the party is a product of the merger of diverse interests groups. As such, some of the problems have roots from inception.
Some of the problems are products of contests in the primaries for elective offices and some were as a result of the last review of the membership register. Each of these has its own share as causes of the problems and the last of them is the recent party congresses held from ward to local government and state levels.
Each of these programmes produced its own peculiar problems. Our own mission, therefore, is to identify the problems and flag them and identify the personalities involved. Are the problems institutional? Are they personal? We try to distinguish between these problems to proffer solutions.
And, so far so good, we started with Kano State, because every right-thinking Nigerian will justify why we had to start from Kano. It has the largest population compared to any state in the country. Kano also has the largest state followers of the party and Kano, over the years, has the largest return of votes than any other state in national elections held in the country thus far.
So, anything that will touch the good health of the party rank and file, we felt we have a duty to start from there. We started from what we know and went for what we are looking for. We will go round the states, but we will call some Abuja, depending on the type of problems that we have identified.
It depends on the relationship of the major actors, so to say, in the conflict and on the atmosphere prevailing in the states, where we have reason to be involved in the peaceful resolution. So there is no fixation on anything in our approach because every state has its own peculiar antecedents and determining factors for resolving its conflicts.
So, we are, as much as possible, being guided by these factors and so far, we thank God for guiding our navigation efforts.
Did you adopt this method based on the time frame available to the committee?
Whether or not there is a time frame, no two disputes are the same and conflicts in different parts of the country cannot have the same intensity. Because of the urgency and the need for us to be seen to be making efforts at resolving those problems, we have to do what we are doing.
So, we believe very strongly that if there is a problem in state X and major stakeholders are in conflict in the state, as you know when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. The propensity is that our membership, men and women, are the ones that suffer from the discords that the party goes through.
And, sometimes, it is advisable for well-meaning members of the party to see that there are genuine efforts at resolving the crisis. When we visit states, we invite their leaders to sit down with us and we listen to them directly as against, for instance, calling them out to Abuja.
There are situations, whereby we can call the parties in conflict to Abuja depending on the peculiarities of the issues in question. So, we adopted the varying approaches deliberately. The party inaugurated the committee and people would want to see us, feel our presence and be convinced they are being listened to and given fair hearing.
That question was against the background of the recent announcement of February 5, 2022, by the CECPC as the tentative date for the national convention. Is the announcement exerting pressure on your committee?
Obviously, since it was intended that we would be able to submit the report of our work before the due date for the convention. Yes, the party would want us to conclude work before the convention.
As at the time we started there was no timeline. Now, there have been hues and cries since then due to the quest to occupy one party position or the other with the fear that when the convention is held they may not see their ambition being achieved.
You cannot blame them for this because individuals or groups have their own agenda in the party, even though the overall goal is to promote the interest of the party. You can’t deny that. We will try to beat the deadline and submit our report so that the party may take whatever decision the committee advices.
Are you worried by concerns from some APC members that there were both Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the Chief Bisi Akande reconciliation committees before now and nothing came out of it?
(Cuts in) The two gentlemen you mentioned were my contemporaries. We were governors at the same period. I have the greatest respect for them. In fact, Chief Akande was the first chairman of this great party after the merger. Asiwaju Tinubu is part of the leadership of this party and each of them has had occasion to try to resolve the knotty issues in the party.
But, one thing you cannot take away is that with time, the issues changed in colour and in some cases, they even changed in form. I believe they did their best and I believe where what they did is available to us in terms of the report we will make the best use of them.
I have said from day one when we were inaugurated, that their work will be reference points as much as possible for our committee. We have written and talked to Chief Akande. We have requested a date to visit him. He was so courteous to us as far as saying he would come to Abuja and that he will let us know.
We have the arrangement to discuss with Asiwaju Tinubu and he said he will go through his itinerary and advise us on when we will meet with him. They are no doubt leaders of this great party and we will continue to tap from their experiences and counsel.
What is your take on the notion that the Buni-led caretaker committee has caused so much harm than good to the party?
It is a fallacy. But, you see the position I hold as chairman of the reconciliation committee, I would make a fool of my position if I entertain such a notion. The people who do not mean well for the party float these ideas. I have been in politics for over 45 years, real partisan politics.
I have been in some kind of activism from my days as a student. I was involved in Students Union politics and even as a leader of the Students Union Government. I belonged to several quasi-political party outfits, to the formation of parties, to leading parties as chairman. To date, I have contested elections God knows how many times.
So, I am talking to you based on the authority of my own experience. There are people who just don’t mean well, they float ideas because they are looking for a harvest of followers or material benefits from their promoters or sometimes looking for attention.
We know them. In as much as we do not want to dismiss anybody with the wave of the hand, at the same time we don’t want to give them undue attention. We don’t put them on the scale and take the weights they don’t deserve.
Based on the strength of character and competencies of members of your ad hoc committee, some stakeholders are mooting the idea that the committee should oversee the national convention. How do you react to that?
We have an assignment with the committee today, to reconcile members of APC and submit our report to the party. We don’t want to compound the problems of the party.
Let us get down with the assignment first. If the party feels any member of our committee is deserving of any other assignment, so be it. But, right now, we are on the national reconciliation committee of the APC. No more, no less.
The fear by President Muhammadu Buhari that the party should not become history after the end of his tenure seems to be gaining traction, what is your take on this?
It’s a wish and that is what a good father would do. He has had the opportunity of being elected as President on the platform of this party to serve for eight years. If by God’s grace he serves out his eight years, we have every reason to thank God.
He has said he is not going to busy himself with the issue of tenure elongation. He said so and I believe him, which is a show of statesmanship and integrity. He said ‘I am a Muslim, and believe in the Holy Quran. I took the oath with the Holy Quran that I will abide by the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, which stipulates that I can be elected to serve two terms of four years each. No more, no less and I do not intend to go beyond that.’
He said so. And it is only natural for a good father to think of what happens after him. So, he is a good father. Who is wondering that by the time he is not on the stage, what could happen to the party? That is what President Buhari is doing.
He is thinking aloud, he is expressing his thoughts and is sharing it with you and me. So, I do not see it as fear, I see it as concern. There is a difference between fear and concern. When you are concerned, it is because you want good to happen and how that good happens becomes the issue of concern to you. It is not fear.
So, it depends on your interpretation. The President is showing the father he is and he is not selfish to say once my tenure is over, to hell with the party. He is concerned about what happens after him and wants to be sure that the APC family is intact. If anything, he wants the APC to be stronger than it is by the time he would have served as President for the country.
Control of party structure to determine who gets what is part of the problem, so can you reconcile anybody that has lost out?
Like I said individuals have their purposes for joining the party. People have different backgrounds, and so, most of what we see and hear help us to appreciate the backgrounds of these individuals in the conflicts. I am not being specific because I am just throwing the net.
Anybody who has no room in his heart or mind to see it the other way, what do you do with him? We hope as we go along, to see to what extent we can persuade people to see the other way. Every coin has two sides. If you insist on seeing only one side of the coin, you are not helping yourself or the party.
So, we will do the best we can to induce the ability to look at both sides of the coin. We have no other party, but the APC. If you mean well and your membership of the party is genuine, then it is better to do so (look at both sides).
You cannot be in the party and be fighting for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Every member must fight for the interest of our party and I take it in good faith that every member is fighting to promote the interest of the party. But, where people are adamant, uncompromising and are not listening to one another, then there is a problem.
If these crises fester, how far would it affect the national convention?
Well, that is not for me to say and we don’t hope so. The party is in a better position to read the barometer and say whether it is realistic or not. We are only an ad-hoc organ of the party till we are done with the assignment.
Of course, we will continue to be involved in APC affair. But, there is always a huge difference between what the party leadership recognises against any individual acting on his own. We have a party, and ordinarily, the party should be supreme.
If the party says to do this, you do it. If it says don’t do this, don’t do it. That is the civilised norm. Unfortunately, we are in conflict, even with that concept of party supremacy. Some people do not even know this. And the party, in some cases, has not been able to assert its authority over its members.
There are clear dividing lines between the Progressive Governors’ Forum and National Assembly caucus of the party over some of the nagging issues, are you reconciling groups?
I am heading a reconciliation committee and that is not within our terms of reference. I do not want to go into that, I do not want to go into a wild goose chase. As far as I am concerned, there is no conflict between the Governors’ Forum and the National Assembly. So, I do not want to dabble into that.
I believe in the unique position of governor in the scheme of things in our democratic space and I have no apology for this. They are the chief executives of the federating units of this country. The Constitution says so and I work as a Senator and I am under oath. I am under an obligation as a party member to recognize it and abide by it, even if there is any conflict in governance, it is not for me to share that with you, especially in a press conversation of this nature.
As far as I know, there is no conflict between the governors, the National Assembly and the leadership of the party.
Are these conflicts healthy for the party, especially as the elections approach?
You will hear all manner of things as elections are by the corner. In every democracy, when people smell election, you will hear all manner of things. It happens in America, it happens in the United Kingdom, it happens in France. Once the election is around the corner, you get to hear things like this. The polity is put under heat. There is no remedy for it, as it varies from one democracy to the other.
Is the fear of implosion of APC no longer an issue?
Unfortunately, my friends in the fourth estate of the realm are always in romance with this kind of idea. However, I want to assure you there would be no implosion in APC. The fact that you hear some of these musings or disagreements show that there is democracy in our party. And the fact that the party recognises the need to establish our committee tells you the depth of our democracy and our belief in conflict resolution.
Is the Mustapha Audu uprising, which purported to have sacked the Buni-led caretaker committee, then a flash in the pan?
I don’t recognise such a group. It’s not on our menu; unfortunately for them. Anybody cannot just wake up and say I sack you. Somebody cannot just sit in his ward or village and say you are sacked. This is not where you enjoy so much liberty and you just say you have sacked the national chairman of the party, it is a joke, a huge joke; but still, a joke taken too far.