•Says his party bidding its time to remove Senate President Saraki, Speaker Dogara
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in this interview, gives insight into why his party’s presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, will win Saturday’s presidential election, saying the APC was glad to have former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the PDP candidate. Excerpts
Controversy over removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen
Honestly, I don’t like dabbling into judicial matters because I have so much respect for our judiciary. But when the PDP became the mouthpiece and defender of the suspended CJN, some of us became worried. This is a judicial officer who agreed that he erred when he did not declare some of his assets. And we have a situation whereby huge amounts of foreign currencies were found in different accounts allegedly belonging to him. And the PDP created the wrong impression before the international community and we saw joint statements condemning the action of the President who was acting on the recommendation made by the Code of Conduct Bureau. Are you are saying that if a crime is committed on an election day and, because it was an election day, the person concerned should not face the law? The President of America today is being investigated over alleged Russian interference in America’s election. And we saw that years ago some parliamentarians in the UK resigned when it was discovered that they spent funds they were not supposed to spend. So I don’t know why a President who is sincerely fighting corruption, people who are supposed to encourage him are now looking the other way. In order not to ridicule the judiciary, which he took an oath to protect, I felt the CJN should have resigned honourably to avoid unnecessary controversy.
APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole
But do you think President Buhari has fulfilled his promises to Nigerians to justify his quest for a second term?
The PDP ruled for 16 years without fixing our problems and now you are saying that President Buhari would have fixed Nigeria in three and a half years. President Muhammadu Buhari has fulfilled most of his promises to Nigerians and you cannot tell me that he would have fixed the country in three and a half years. We are on the road to sustainable growth and development. Our local industries are very firm now and that is the root of the development of any country and massive investment in infrastructure which I believe President Buhari has been doing. Addressing the infrastructural issues, reviving the railway system, dealing with the issue of power notwithstanding the way the PDP privatized the DISCOs, giving them to those who neither have the capacity to run them nor the resources to invest. But this is not to suggest that everything is fine. If we think that we have completed our mission, we won’t bother ourselves.
But do you think that those things that you have done will earn your party victory at the polls?
Let me tell you, what Nigerians have always wanted is an honest leader. You can accuse Buhari of anything but you cannot say that Buhari is corrupt. Even the worst foreign leader has acknowledged that Buhari is a man of honour and integrity, no President before him commanded that kind of respect, not even Obasanjo. And when the British Prime Minister had the guts to say “Nigeria is fantastically corrupt”, our President said “but you are the custodian of the corrupt money, return the money to me”. How many Presidents can look at the British Prime Minister’s face and say that to him, but he did. So I am not suggesting that those who are going to vote for us think that the problems are solved, they see honest intentions by the President and he is pursuing honest solutions.
People are saying that your party will not win South-East and South-South, it will not win in the North-Central and they will balkanize the votes the President has always had in other parts of the North. And they are saying your party cannot win in the free and fair election.
The campaigns have started. You can actually go round and find out what people think. And the things about choice is that no man is good and no man is bad. But when you compare one man with another, no man will compare President Buhari to Atiku, those who know Atiku and what he stands for. And this reminds me the point we need to make about foreign interest in our election, we begin to see foreign countries going beyond their bounds, more or less interfering. Right now, Americans are talking about the Russian interference in American election. It is a subject of investigation as we speak. So no country will tolerate interference. But that you provide a system to monitor and ensure that you assist countries to strengthen democracy, all of that is fine. But don’t get to a level of interference.
2019: Don’t miss senate president’s seat, APC chieftain tells southeast
When you hear Atiku saying, “I will privatize NNPC”, even if they will kill him, I don’t know why he had to add that one. Who will kill him? I am not sure how many Nigerians have money to buy NNPC; he is speaking to his Western audience. When he says he will float the Naira, you know whose values he is piloting. Those are IMF agenda, float the Naira. So in Atiku’s world, floating the Naira, even it means one thousand Naira to one dollar, so be it. You think he does not know what he is saying? Of course, there are countries, if they have their way, they want Nigeria to be perpetually underdeveloped.
But do you think President Buhari will earn votes like he earned in 2015?
Of course he will earn more votes, you know why? Somehow, there are things I really don’t want to talk about. PDP tried to give the impression at a point, if you review some reports in the past, including some stories in the print media, there was an attempt to link President Buhari to Boko Haram. That they brought Boko Haram just to make Nigeria ungovernable for Jonathan. But they changed the narrative now since he became President. There is nothing they have not said. Today, the man from the South-East who has seen Buhari building the River Niger, it is no longer rhetoric, he did not have to change his name to Azikiwe, but he is building River Niger. He is restoring the dual carriageway between Onitsha and Enugu. He is building one connecting to Port Harcourt, there are a number of roads in the South-East that he is doing. So those ordinary traders who ply those roads, they are going to vote for Buhari. Last time they did not vote for him. Look at the outing we had in Enugu, we can see the difference between the campaign we had in 2015 in Enugu and now. We were in Akwa Ibom, you must have seen the pictures; that is the South-South where they call the safe haven of the PDP, it is no longer going to be so.
But some people say that crowds at rallies may not be the true reflection of votes.
What is the true reflection of votes? Social media? Let me tell you, most times the crowd reflect the true picture of acceptance of that person. Go and organize a rally and say you want to be President and see. I have run in elections, I was a governor twice; so I understand the language of the electorate. I can read the body language of the electorate. I know where we are strong and where we are weak. So if you were to go to Kebbi as I have done, and stay with ordinary farmers who are experiencing new posterity because, unlike the PDP government, this President said we must eat what we produce. Atiku says he is going to renew importation, he will remove the ban on 42 items so that we can go back to begin to import tooth pick, import plantain, import Amala. He is going to export our jobs and import unemployment to the country. There is no miracle about job creation. What this government is doing, by insisting that you prohibit the importation of rice, requires huge political will. PDP producing Atiku is the best thing that has happened to this election. The day PDP selected him, we were happy. First, because he cannot plead innocence. Atiku has been in government and he was a party to many decisions, he superintended over the privatization of many enterprises, he was involved in many pronouncements. He was one Vice President who was so ambitious. So his face is well known. His commitment to business and his conservative credentials are very clear, he does not lay pretence to the welfare purpose of government. And look at his language, he says “I will enrich my friends”. I would have thought a smart politician will say “I will enrich Nigerians; I will make Nigerians less poor”. And don’t forget that the resources of nation states are limited, that is why the economist talks about scarce resources. So the more you enrich your few friends the less will be naturally available to the rest of Nigerians.
So you are confident you might win this election.
I am very confident. Try and put together various statements from the PDP, you can see that it has already accepted defeat. Now, listen to this, I Oshiomhole, I have always tried to win every vote that has been counted in my favour. PDP, until this election, from 1999, with the possible exemption of the 1999 election, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, PDP recklessly misused the armed forces and the police to write election results. This is the only time that the PDP will be going into an election without being in control of the armed forces and the police. So they will have to win every vote. And if you know what is going on in some PDP states where they have governors, the way they try to misuse the police shows you they are panicking. So I have absolute confidence that whereas I will be the first to admit that there is still a lot of job to be done, I do have a couple of ideas on a couple of things that we have to do differently next time around. But I have no difficulty at all in pointing out what has changed positively for the Nigerian nation.
But your party has problems in Zamfara, Rivers, Ogun and Imo states. Some people say there is trouble in your party.
There is no trouble at all. First is that we got a good ruling as regards Zamfara. Zamfara State High Court has ruled that the election conducted is valid and has asked INEC to accept the result. And we have forwarded the name to INEC, so Zamfara is settled. Rivers, we are still in court and we are waiting the final pronouncement. Of course, that is worrisome; it is a pity, we cannot blame anybody; we cannot blame the judiciary, that is our own internal problem. As for Ogun, yes, the governor chose to sponsor his preferred candidate on another party platform. Fortunately for him, the law allows him to choose who to support. Fortunately for us, the governor’s support is not a pre-condition for winning an election because he himself became governor without the support of the governor that was in office then, Gbenga Daniel. So history does not tell us that once a governor does not support someone the person does not win. I became a governor not through the support of a governor; there are many people who became governors in spite of not because governors backed them. It would have been nice for people to subject themselves to party discipline. People must recognize that in a contest it is not about power, it is about numbers.
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If the people prefer someone else, as a matter of disciple and commitment to party, you have to accept the decision of the party. It is unfortunate that a governor will feel that if his own preferred candidate did not win the primaries, he will have to go and field someone else in another party while he remains a senatorial candidate of our party. It is a choice and I do not have any instrument to stop them from doing that, but that does not define our victory in Ogun. As a matter of fact, because Ogun people are very enlightened. I believe that it is not the governor that will tell them who to vote for. They will also have their views on why a governor should ask them on this election to vote left one election and on the other election vote right. The people are wiser than that. I believe we will win in Ogun. Imo, I believe the same thing, we will win the state despite what the governor is also doing there. Of course there are challenges, it is not only in APC that these things are happening, maybe they are happening now more transparently. I believe that our political future cannot possibly be in the hands of any particularly individual who chooses to put his personal interest over corporate party interest.
The actions of these governors does it amount to anti-party activities within APC laws?
I think it is so obvious.
But why are you afraid of disciplining them?
It is about taking your time and getting your priorities right. At the eve of election, I am not going to be distracted to sit down and begin to do intra-party trial. I rather take my message direct to the electorate because my focus is to win the next election, why will I waste my time on such issues? But let me remind you, if you don’t appreciate it, I am already in history as the only Chairman of a governing party who has had the guts to enforce the rule and disqualify two sitting Ministers because I was convinced that they have done some things that are not in line with progressive politics. And we disqualified them even as sitting Ministers. And even the fact that the party can stand for a candidate that is not backed by a governor. It is a statement of courage. If you don’t readily appreciate that, I do since you are suggesting that I am probably afraid of disciplining them because they are governors. I am telling you, you have to decide whether at the eve of a major electoral contest, whether you want to devote your time to distractions. Go to set up panels to try them because there are procedures for discipline, or you rather devote your time talking to the electorate who are our ultimate employer. I will rather devote time and resources now, talking to our electorate in Ogun on the need to vote Dapo Abiodun as the next governor of and also talking to Imo State people on the need to vote Hope Uzodinma as the next governor. That will be more productive to me than dissipating energy in sanctioning the two governors now.
But maybe you are looking at the body language of the President who received the candidate of the APM in Ogun State and also received Dapo Abiodun?
The President’s body does not speak, the President’s mouth speaks and my ears hear. Mr President has spoken loud and clear, if you monitor the interview of Mr President, I believe on Arise Television, where he said how can any one man, even a governor sit down and say, “you will be governor, you, you will be deputy governor, you, you will be Speaker, while you, you will go to the House of Reps and I will go to the Senate and you said that is consensus?” The President said the party has been very fair in our decision. Do you require any further comment to tell you what the President thinks about such people? But Mr President is very liberal; he has the exceptional capacity to listen and to receive anyone who claims he is supporting him. And like he said in that interview, I can only hope that when people say they are supporting him that they mean it. However, he is very clear he has only one party, the APC, he supports only candidates fielded on the platform of the APC. He has stressed that many times, I don’t think he needs to say more. The issue of body language, why do you talk of body language when the spoken word is there? So I can tell you authoritatively that in Imo, we will win more votes and our candidate Senator Hope Uzodinma will win.
But should you lose the presidential election, what will you do?
What do losers do? Let me tell you, anybody that knows me will tell you, I fight hard for what I believe in but I don’t play god, I am a democrat. When I tell you that Nigeria is bigger than the subtotal of all the political parties it comes from my heart. Or I tell you that if there is conflict between my conscience and my privileged position, I will resolve it in favour of my conscience, it comes from my heart. And those who know me know that is the way I am. I fight hard but I don’t play god.
Do you still want Saraki out as the senate President?
See, if Saraki convenes the Senate tomorrow and we have the number, we will impeach him because we cannot accept that minority will rule majority. And I am happy that he has renewed the fight. There was an informal understanding between him and his colleagues in the APC that he was going to put the national interest above his personal interest, so somehow there was a cease fire between him and our APC senators. But right now that he is trying to reduce the Senate to a department of the PDP, we have to impeach him. We cannot accept different standards, democracy has only one definition. In order to avoid distractions, we did not want to go to court, otherwise when you decamp from a ruling party to a minority party you have to forfeit to your position.
But you may not have the number to sack him.
We have the number. We have 2/3 to remove him. The mistake people make, go and read the Constitution very well, the Constitution says to impeach a President, Vice President, you need 2/3 of all the members of the Senate. To impeach governor and deputy, you need 2/3 of all the members of the state House of Assembly. And it goes on to say to impeach the Senate President you need 2/3 of members, it does not say of all members, it means members seated on that day. So any time that Senate sits and we have the 2/3, we will sack Saraki, he will be impeached. We will sack Speaker Dogara of the House of Representatives, they will be impeached so that we will protect our democracy; our democracy is bigger than Saraki.