In Enugu State, Barr Ben Nwoye served as the All Progressives Congress's previous chairman.
He is also the secretary of the Forum of former chairmen of the party in the 36 states and the FCT.
In this exclusive interview with Daily Post Editor, Emmanuel Uzodinma, he speaks on the issues limiting the positive growth of the ruling party, including the emergence of Abdullahi Ganduje as the national chairman and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu's three months in power, among others. Excerpts!
Your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC, has retained power again after the first eight years. In your assessment, do you think the party has actually grown in terms of having a strong system and institution?
You made a very good point about separating parties from governance; the straight answer is No. As a party, we were formed in 2013, and within that period of 2013–2014, we started a major campaign. By 2015, in less than a year of formation, we had taken over most of the States, the House of Assembly, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and, of course, the President.
As regards a party itself, the method of formation, which is the merger, actually gave it the strength that led to the victory; unfortunately, it is the bane of the party, which is why the party, in my opinion, is weak. Because the people come from different segments, we call them the legacy party; for the most part, they see themselves as members of the legacy party first before seeing themselves as members of APC, whether it is the CPC people, ANPP, New PDP, or ACN. Some people who have no business being in party leadership are given positions to manage the party in order to carry one legacy party or another along. So, it has weakened the party so much that, almost 10 years later, we are still learning how to sit; we are not even crawling as a party.
We have myriads of examples, and as one of the founding members and a founding party chairman of one of the States, it pains me because the party suffers from external control. The party is controlled by the government, whereby people in government decide what happens for their own specific interests. So, the party shifts its influence to the governors, who now control the party for their own interests; everything is viewed from the governor’s perspective; the party will continue to be weak. The party is weaker today than it was when it was formed. It is supposed to be growth, but the growth is a kind of negative growth, a downward growth.
Every year, the party loses its strength because it is now almost like a puppet under external force. So, if you are not in government, specifically if you are not a member of that exclusive club of governors, forget it; your opinion doesn’t count; governors are in charge of the party, and they are not in charge in the interest of all members; they are in charge of the party in their own interest, so what you see is a negative growth, year after year.
When we had a major crisis, the governors had to take over, and a sitting governor became the acting chairman of the caretaker committee to midwife a new convention; and when the new convention occurred, even the congress in the State where you have governors left the entire party structure to the governors to the detriment of the party, not to those party members who were telling the truth; they were excluded. If you are not a governor, you dare not speak, and in regions where some States had no governor, those places were ceded away to the governors, to the detriment of the party. My zone suffered such a situation where no other opinion was considered, and you know, with power comes this ideology of the omnipotence of a governor. If you become governor today, you become omnipotent; you rise to a level where nobody can talk to you, and even if they do, their idea is not sellable; it is not even acceptable; it is not reasonable. So, in most states where the party has no governor, that is what makes the party weak. It is even weaker in States where you have a governor because the leadership of the party has puppets installed to become party managers.
Why do you think it is so?
If you have a strong character, the governors detest you. If you have a strong character that could help unify the party and discipline those that need to be disciplined, they detest you. So, what we see, if you go to the South-South, South-East, or even some States in the North-East and North-West, is that the party has gone down because of the excessive interference of those in power, where the actual party managers, those who know how to organize the party and win elections, are not taken into consideration. The same thing that is happening in Adamawa is happening in Zamfara; it is also happening in Rivers State; it is happening in Oyo State; and even in Edo State, if you take statistical measures, you will see similarities in the entire region: where those who are core party men and women are relegated to the background, the party never moved forward. The same thing happened in Kano; at the end of the day, we lost Kano. Our leaders in Lagos were able to manage the place, but look at it: we lost the presidential election in Lagos; why should we lose the presidential election in Lagos? If we have a party where party managers are allowed to take decisions and are allowed to play their roles, let the government deal with governance, let those in the party manage party affairs and party issues, but they combine it. It is so much combined that they see the party as just a vehicle; we just use it to get to power.
When somebody becomes governor, he will say, If you don’t do this, I will leave the party. That is the first threat. Immediately, everybody melts; the other people, whether you are a senator, a founding father, or popular people in their community, are forgotten. Everything is about state funding, but they forget that the party is supposed to last beyond any one of us. Any governor, the highest is supposed to be eight years; you can destroy the party, and once you are gone, you are gone, and that becomes the end of the party; we saw it in Kano, Rivers, Oyo, we can go on and on; we saw it happen even in Edo State; it almost happened in Imo State in the days of Rochas Okorocha if not for the divine intervention that brought in Senator Hope Uzodinma; there would have been no APC State in the South-East because that was way before Umahi joined the party. Any of these States I have called—look at it—why did it happen? You don’t eliminate certain persons from the party because you are a governor; you are supposed to build the party as an institution. That is why in the United States, you have the party as an institution running; in the UK, in South Africa, you have the party as an institution running; we don’t have it here.
In the case of President Muhammadu Buhari, those of us who elected him were left out of the system. They went about picking people they called technocrats, and then the technocrats, instead of remaining in their various ministries to do their work, left there, came, and destroyed the states. It happened in Enugu State; they felt they were in government and should run the party as well; it doesn’t work so.
I think that the new government led by President Tinubu is already looking different in terms of the people they are picking. I have not seen a lot of outsiders, at least the ones that I know; the majority of them are party members. What you have to do is strengthen the party, knowing that immediately after the election, the next thing is how to win the next election. Yes, you are not campaigning, but your eyes must be there; those people in the party must go and sell the policies; they must be involved; you must figure out how to use the party to talk about those policies, like subsidy removal, unlike what they did under Buhari, where they allowed all the social interventions in the hands of state governors; the states without governors will suffer, their morale goes down; school feeding, NPower, and the rest of them, state governors used them to the detriment of our own party; these are the things that weaken the party.
Now that Abdullahi Ganduje is there, do you think he is the right person to fix the APC, with some people complaining that he lost his State, Kano?
I disagree that he lost his State; Ganduje was not on the ballot—the presidential ballot, the gubernatorial ballot, or even the senatorial ballot—so given that he was not on the ballot, that has an effect. Any loss in Kano should not be attributed to him. It will be unfair to hang it on Ganduje's neck because he was not on the ballot. For those who were on the ballot, it was their responsibility to put together the structure they needed to win their election, and remember, you can’t win everywhere, no matter what; sometimes, it was about who has more strength.
Then, let me say this: that is why the best legacy Muhammdu Buhari left for the country is the 2022 Electoral Act Amendment. It never happened before; people voted and their vote counted, so popular people won. Was there rigging and manipulation? Yes, but it was so insignificant that nobody will come out and say truthfully, I was rigged out. You can’t do it everywhere. Those who were prepared and those who were popular won elections. You can cry all you want. If you have people on the ground, you will win or make sure an election is held, but if you have nobody on the ground, of course you will not win, and manipulations could occur. In wards or units where you have people on the ground, nobody could manipulate it because people will vote, and they will count it and take your result.
Kano is a very large State, and so we can’t blame Ganduje for that. Now coming to the other question on can he—he is the chairman now, let’s give him a chance. Whether those who supported him to be or not to be, that debate is long gone; what they have to do is pray to God to help him to lead the party, support him to lead the party, but second-guessing and blaming him will be unfair; he just took over the party.
So, what do you think he should do differently?
He was a governor; he knows what the governors were doing with the party and what they are still doing with the party; there must be separation because when I talk about control, it does not come from the presidency; it comes from the governors. Yes, technically, the governor is the leader of the party in every state, and the president is the leader of the party in the country, but the day-to-day running of the party should be left for those appointed or elected to do so. Let them take responsibility for their job; allow them to think; allow the constitution to work; we have process; we have written rules and regulations; allow them to work; don’t manipulate things.
Now they are having problems picking replacements, not just in Kogi; there is the Cross River issue; is that an issue in Ganduje? No, it is the governors’ issue. So, until the power of the governors’ interference in the party is discussed and dealt with, this will continue. It’s been how many months since we had resignations? The Abia State man, Nwosu, died; there was no replacement; then the National Secretary and the National Chairman all left; they hurriedly replaced them because the governors agreed; they found time to agree, but wherever the governors had disagreements, it stalled. Now, we don’t have Deputy North, by God’s grace, I hope it is resolved sooner than later, we don’t have Vice Chairman, North West; we don’t have a women leader, we don’t have Deputy National Publicity Secretary and one of the organizing secretaries of one of the zones; we don’t have national welfare secretary; and then we say we are the largest party... We must admit there is a problem in the party. Rules are there to be followed; follow the rules, but the governors are fighting; in the case of Kogi State, it is between governors and some other political heavyweights; in the case of Cross River, it is between the governor and some powerful people; follow the rules irrespective of whose interest is at stake.
Let’s look at Enugu. Is your party still existing in the State after all the stakeholders were expelled by the state chairman, Barr. Ugo Agballah?
Absolutely. The Ugo Agballah situation goes back to what I said about having governors control the party. Where you don’t have a governor in a state, they give it to one or two governors in the zone to control; they share states for them to control. So, Ugo Agballah, at the time he was given leadership of the party, forgot how he came in; he is the chairman of the party, but he just did not understand party management. He equated it with whatever he did when he was running for governor in the Oganiru era, when he thought he could just abuse people. He was abusing and attacking people; he was having a fight with then-governor Chimaroke, whose government he worked for before they fell out. So, it is a carryover—a kind of emotional carryover.
When he became chairman, that unresolved emotional turmoil he had with the Ebeano, from the PDP where he came from, carried over to the APC, and he carried over his then failed gubernatorial ambition to the APC chairmanship, the result of which was that he misinterpreted the process; insulting and fighting were what he thought was necessary for him to prosecute the electioneering. And then, when the result came out, he saw the disastrous result he got, in all spheres, not even in the APC formative stage, when they were calling us Boko Haram and all that, when we were running against a Goodluck Jonathan and those of us were called all manner of names. We didn’t score that low, and we were able to sell our ideology to the people.
Aside from the result we got, we were able to attract new members into the party—people who came and registered; we were able to attract personalities, men and women of substance. I was the chairman of the party then, and I didn’t do it by abusing people; we approached people and begged them to join the party so that we, the Igbos, the Christians, could be part of the mainstream and make our agitations. We did it through reasonable means; that was why His Excellency Senator Jim Nwobodo and his wife joined the party; I registered them; we didn’t do it by abusing these elder statesmen; that is how we saw Senator Fide Okoro, a well-known household name in Enugu North, Nsukka region; I went to his home; we didn’t do it by insulting him; he joined. The same thing happened with Distinguished Senator Ken Nnamani, the President of the 7th Senate; he joined us; even the wife of the former governor of old Enugu State, His Excellency, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr. Dorathy Nwodo, joined us; even when the husband said he wasn’t joining, I was still approaching the husband, a former national chairman of the PDP.
In addition, we were very close to getting the then Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to join us. There was a lot of persuasion; we can talk about it now that he is alive. I told him that he was not going to do well alone as opposition; you are not cut out for that; let us have this marriage. Those who didn’t understand it thought it was anti-party; how do you get a PDP person to cross over if you don’t talk to a PDP person? If you are abusing the PDP person. Of course, Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, these are big names. Rex Onyeabor, former national secretary of the PDP; these people were approached. I even approached Chimaroke Nnamani to run in 2015; he agreed, but he said he would run for his own party, the PDC, but once he won, he was going to join. That was an agreement we had. I didn’t approach him by abusing him; today, Chimaroke is almost a member of the APC. The heir of the Onoh dynasty, GB Onoh, the former two-time Speaker, Eugene Odo, and at the climax, the then immediate past governor, Sullivan Chime, and the national chairman of the party, Oyegun, came to Enugu to receive him, and we rallied thousands of people; he couldn’t believe it.
By 2017, our party had become the party everyone wanted to join in Enugu State. We held a local government election where the PDP ran away and took result sheets to write in the government house. His Excellency, John Odigie Oyegun, came to Enugu and came directly to Oji River for the grand finale of our campaign; it was historic; President Muhammadu Buhari was watching on NTA; he couldn’t believe what we did; we called it the broom revolution; we were changing Enugu from umbrella to broom, and we didn’t do it by abusing people; we did it by interacting, appealing to people, and talking about the APC change mantra. Unfortunately, Governor Ugwuanyi did not buy into it; he attempted it but didn’t buy into it. David Umahi took the bait. Look at David Umahi today; he took the bait. Look at Ebonyi State today; even when they are talking about the Obidient Movement, the APC retained Ebonyi State. The APC took the three senatorial seats because people saw the work David synergized with the top and was able to turn Ebonyi State around, and the people of Ebonyi saw it. Look at the infrastructure that he put down in Ebonyi; compare it to Enugu; it is not there; PDP almost lost all three senatorial seats because it became a question of performance; at the time, there was nobody to advise my friend Ugwuanyi properly; people around him were just there not doing their job; David enjoined the benefit of good counsel and was able to deliver most of the House of Assembly, most of the House of Representatives, and all the Senate. Ebonyi is the only State that achieved that height in the zone and got a governor as well.
So, the crux of the matter is that when you abuse people, we built the party; you are a stranger, Ugo Agballah is a stranger in the party; I am not beefing him, I wish him well, APC is my party, I want him to do well, but he needs to come down; leadership requires a lot of willy-nilly, a lot of patience and so much of humility; he has to humble himself; the question of ‘I have arrived I am the chairman’, you are not the first chairman; there have been chairmen before, we had a woman who handed over to me as interim chairman; I related to her until I left office, even now I still relate to her; there are things she knows that I don’t know; she was the first and then the only female interim chairman in the entire 36 States and Abuja; I respect her; Chief Joy; she was the pioneer chairman, though on interim; I am the pioneer elected chairman of the party. So, Ugo Agballah believes he can achieve all this without these leaders. Politics is local; he is from Udi; the Udi is not even a ward of itself; it is two communities—Udi-Agbudu; he is only from one of the two communities, and we have 260 wards; you must have somebody in all the 260 wards—not just somebody who is a sycophant, who is just somebody that you think you are controlling, somebody that is strong and can represent the party.
For example, you can’t get to a ward in Igbo-Etiti, Ukehe ward, and you say that you can go there and form APC without Eugene Odo and JOJ Okoloagu and push them aside. JOJ was a BoT member of APC; you can’t go and say you can do APC and Eugene, a two-time Speaker and one-time gubernatorial hopeful, that he is a nobody; you can’t go to Nsukka and you go to a ward in Opi and you call Hon. Ike Ugwuegede that he is a nonentity and so you are going to run the APC without him. Look at what happened: APC people that Ugo Agballa ran off with his oppressive attitude went to LP and won or helped LP win.
A case in point is Okey Ezea; the people that worked for Okey Ezea in the engine room were all APC people. Okey Ezea was the first governorship candidate of the APC in 2015, when nobody wanted to hear APC in Enugu State. He is today sitting in the Senate; he defeated His Excellency Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Ambassador Ejike Eze of the APC. He didn’t win because of Obidients; people are thinking that. No, Nsukka people galvanized and they picked him; anybody thinking that Okey Ezea is a product of Obidients, no; he ran election, went house to house, and all the APC people, including some that I know were running for election under APC, voted for Okey Ezea and worked for him to win because we have a strong structure. You can go and check the people that were organizing his stuff in all the 6 LGAs; they were strong APC people.
Former Ambassador, General Eze, these are the key people that made sure Okey Ezea won; he was the Secretary of APC; when you run such a person out, those of us who are self-made, confident people, we don’t need a party to survive; we don’t take certain insults; people come to us to join their party; somebody like me, constantly the PDP people will love to have me as a member of the party, but I will not go there at least for now. The same thing with LP people, because they know that if nothing else, I have the capacity to deliver my ward.
If Ugo Agballah comes to my ward and brings any other person to challenge me, I am a crown prince, and apart from that, I am loved by my people. By the grace of God, in my own ward, we produced a Senator through LP, and many of the people who worked to produce him are APC people. Just like Buhari said and President Tinubu repeated it, vote people with capacity. That is what is happening now. Somebody will say, You did anti-party. No, you vote those who have capacity to lead. You work for people who have capacity to lead. If APC as a party produces as their candidates people without capacity because one governor or another influenced the will of the grassroots people, the grassroots people will move and work for someone with capacity, not against the party, because whatever happens will affect them. So, people are wise now: if you give me a gubernatorial candidate that clearly has no program and you say it is your party, go and work for him, my grandchildren will depend on that, whatever policy will affect them. If I see a candidate in another political party with a good program, I will follow the advice of Muhammadu Buhari and now the advice of President Bola Tinubu and vote for people with capacity. We worked for Tinubu because he has the capacity; I know this based on his history.
APC is there in Enugu, but a lot of work needs to be done to bring everybody back to the party. All those people that are now chased out—you say you have sacked them—by the way, there is a standing order from the then national chairman invalidating all of that. Though I still hold Abdullahi accountable over what happened in Enugu State, he didn’t speak when he needed to speak; he refused to be a father to all; he was just a father to one side; he was the chairman of reconciliation committee; he is aware that there was no congress in Enugu; that’s behind us; but when people went to complain, even if you don’t do, I am not among those who say remove Ugo Agballa; I don’t preach for removal but reformation; Teach him right; he shouldn’t be abusing people; tell him that he is running the party down; tell him that he is a father to every member of the party; don’t say you don’t need them; they all have votes. If you tell a voter ‘go to hell’, he will be happy to take his vote to hell, and if that voter has other people following him, he will line all of them up and they will all take their votes to hell. That is why the LP people that won, the majority of the APC people worked for them; those that won Reps; by the way, Prof. Nnamchi was an APC member; it was almost like what happened in Anambra; Tony Nwoye, he is an APC guy; all the people that worked for him are APC; people are not stupid. So, if the party continues to do what Senator Abdullahi did, it won’t go well.
I am thinking that Ganduje needs to study what Abdullahii did wrong and what he did right; when it came to managing the crisis in the states, Abdullahi didn’t do anything, at least when he came to Enugu. Every attempt to get Ugo Agballa to advise him on the right buttons failed. You can’t insult Ken Nnaman, you can’t insult Sullivan Chime, you can’t insult a serving minister—these are all the people that you said you suspended in an election year—the former speaker, the immediate past chairman, your predecessor, and you expect to win the election. The result is 4772 votes, which all my efforts to get contributed to, not just for His Excellency Tinubu, but for the other ones you saw what happened. All the people that were doing beauty parades on billboards ended up in shame. People are in court with less than one percent of votes cast, and you are telling the court that you won the election. It is only in Enugu State that every APC member claims to be the winner of the election; if the person that won the election scored over 80,000 and you are at around 8,000 claiming that you won the election, it is funny.
All in all, Enugu APC is there and strongly there; my supporters are waiting to be called out. Once Ugo Agballa changes and calls people together, things can happen: electioneering is gone; we are now into governance; by God’s grace, His Excellency picked the governorship candidate as a minister; he is not an outsider; anybody that ran for governorship becomes automatically a member, even though he joined the party recently. He needs to rise to the occasion and reach out. Whether it was by his own intent that he supported pushing people away, I don’t know, but he needs to re-examine it now that he is representing Tinubu; he has to call everybody back; he has to reach out to people because once the election finishes, governance begins, as does preparation for the next election. He can’t start two years from now, because in about a year or so, we will be talking about congresses, so another round of fighting will come up; those who want to run, so he needs to start now, call and ask everybody for forgiveness, and those that offended you will also ask for forgiveness; these things are about interest. He is now the minister, and Ugo Agballa is the chairman. They need to come together, call a meeting, don’t exclude anybody, call everybody.
You are one of those who campaigned vigorously for President Bola Tinubu; going by his policies so far, are you having any doubts about his capacity to reposition the country?
President Tinubu is a maverick. I campaigned for him based on the good plans he has. I have followed him for a long time, right from the time of the legacy party, when we all came from the ACN. I have followed his activities even while I was in the US. Forget all the nonsense people are talking about; incidentally, I lived in Chicago, he lived in Chicago, and I am a Chicago boy. We have some parts, and I believe that the things he did in Lagos can be replicated here in the country. I have never had any doubt in my mind about whether he will succeed or any decision he has taken.
But the specific decision that everybody disagreed with was the removal of fuel subsidies. I think anyone who understands what happened and how subsidies have been used to fleece Nigeria and Nigerians will agree that it was the best decision to take. But one can argue that it was done too suddenly because we are all affected. I am a Nigerian, and my cost of living has increased. If you ask me on a personal basis, because I now spend a lot on fuel, the answer is No, but it is a sacrifice, and I still see it as part of that campaign. You recall that I gave up a lot of my stuff, including my house for the election, finances, and all that, and turned my Enugu home into campaign headquarters. The only campaign office that Tinubu had in the State was the one I gave him; he didn’t ask for it, but it is part of my belief that I will make the sacrifice needed for this man to be elected because he has all it takes to turn this country around. I spent a lot of my personal funds putting up billboards and advertorials, going to radio stations to talk about his plans and policies, and buying and branding vehicles. It was a sacrifice; nobody told me to do it. I wasn’t doing it so that I could get anything in return; I was doing it as a patriot. I put up all manner of clothes, gave them to people, and adorned them to sell his candidature. The very first morning after he picked his running mate, his vice, I went on Channels TV, and I was hit left and right on the issue of the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
When I left that Channels, I got terrible words from some very close people; they challenged even my humanity, even existence, whether I was Okay; from all over the world, from UK, from US, of course the country; again, it is sacrifice, because if we agree that this thing is wrong, we are enriching a few to the detriment of this country, it is not sustainable. Read a snippet of What Okonjo Iweala said: the issue of subsidy is not sustainable; they know what they are doing, and that is why they are carrying all manner of propaganda against it; every day, they will say they are going to raise prices because they took away breast milk from overfed children; we have a few overfed children, and now they are getting malnourished; so they cry and go through different layers of groups to try to bring it back.
They have released money to the States; is Tinubu the one holding the N5 billion per State? If you share one million each in Enugu State, you will not be through with the N5 billion for every human being living in Enugu State. That N5 billion can go to every human being in Enugu State; let us line up in Enugu. I am now speaking state-based, and I believe the same thing will happen in other states. They say we are about 200 million people. If we can start lining up, by any measure, let us start lining up. On my trip to Warri, I will use part of my own money to fund the fuel. I am not saying they should go and share money, but I am only trying to highlight the reality. In less than three months, where did Tinubu get the money? From savings. This is what the overfed babies were collecting before.
So, his policy is that we have to be patient; he has a four-year mandate, and we are just on his third month. He has told the governors to go and do what they can to alleviate the sufferings of the people; if you ask me, if I am a governor, I will also do part of the money sharing; we have the population; we have means of knowing it; we have NIN, we have BVN, we have voter’s cards; we have so many ways. Are we going to miss some people, Yes; are some people likely to collect more than once, Maybe; are these the reasons to stop sharing money? - No. Udoji did it; they did it in America during the COVID; they shared money; they did it in the UK; it is hardship; it is called hardship fund; make it available; people should access it; share it through banks; apply, and anybody is qualified to apply; if you share it through banks, we have the record of everybody; we did it during COVID here in Nigeria; Buhari did it through a special project; there was no special project; they shared money; they shared N60,000; this one is more than N60,000; go through banks; special projects went through the banks; send the money to the Central Bank, then go to any bank, set up an application; you can’t apply twice; there is BVN, if you don’t have it, you can get it. It is a simple thing. If there is any fraud, you bring the paper, give it to a few eggheads, and they will sit and show you where the fraud went. They are busy talking about using it for agriculture, using it for this and that; it won’t get to the majority of the people. But President Tinubu has done what he can do; my hope is that when these governors come back from their leadership training in Kigali, they will have learned that there is a need to share some of that money; if you don’t share all, share some of it; even the governors, politically, it will help them more; it is not about Tinubu.
There has been this talk by a section of your party members that some of the ministers from the South-East are not strong forces and that it was deliberately done by the governors. What is your take on that?
It is an unfair assessment because those people were screened, and before they were screened, the Senate looked at their qualifications and saw that they were qualified. There is not one single one of them that does not come with special skill or knowledge; is it the Enugu minister? What other qualifications could he need? It is unfair. If a man has run a business successfully for so many years and has remained steadily successful, what other qualifications do you need to do that? Is it Ebonyi-Umahi, a two-time governor, one-time chairman of a party, the PDP, a two-time Deputy Governor, and then a one-time senator? What qualifications are they talking about? Is it Anambra, a lawyer, successful real estate mogul, and woman who ran to be the president of this country, Do you know the guts it takes for someone to come up and say, I want to lead this country, and run strongly only to step down? How many women have ever done that? She used her personal funds or funds she raised to purchase the expression of interest form, which is about N50 million; they can make up whatever story they want to make. The woman has the credential. The Imo investment banker before she became a commissioner She came from the private sector, the banking sector, a successful person on her own; for her to rise to that level in the banking sector, that is not something you just walk up and they say you have become a manager, and then go on to become a commissioner in Imo State; is it the Abia woman, a three- or four-time member of the House, a former Whip, a doctorate degree, a barrister at law, a solicitor, so what are the criteria?
People saying those things should be specific—the ingredients or content that are missing in any one of those five ministers. People who are disgruntled are those who come up with stories, so people saying this are the disgruntled sore losers; anyone mentioning any of those people and undermining their credentials are sore losers. These are people who perhaps believed that they were going to be the minister, and for some reason, somehow, they were edged out. There are stories that people bought it; if you couldn’t purchase, then allow those who have purchased. For the first time, we have three women from the Southeast; women think differently; give them a chance; people are attacking them because they are women; but I want you to know that women are not weak; we think it is a men’s world—no!
During the Buhari administration, we had one over six, one woman, and five men; nobody made noise about it. Now we have three women and two men, then people will start talking rubbish; give them a chance. If anyone talks of qualification, they should come up with a specific area of lack and compare them with the other region; they are even overqualified if there is any such thing. Let’s pick any zone and compare the credentials, and you will find out you will not get many places to match the credentials of those coming from the South-East. So, I take exception to that; everyone wishes to be one thing, but it can only be one person at a time, turn by turn. Power comes from God. If you tried and it didn’t’ work, calm down; it is not over yet; it is only four years; besides, Tinubu can decide to reshuffle and can decide to increase the number; right now they are only 45; they may get to 48; South-East has been crying and agitating; maybe Tinubu will consider any one of them, but they should calm down and support those God has given a chance.
Could you rate your party’s chances in the November gubernatorial elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa States?
You know I will be biased, so as a biased party man, we will win all three. But then I can tell you, in all seriousness, that it is going to be a tough election in all three. It goes back to when we started this conversation: the power of the governors. If you go to all three states and look at the top contenders in all three states, including their supporters, you will find that the APC grassroots are split in all states. So, a lot of work needs to be done, and there is no time. Governor Ganduje has a lot of work to do.
In Kogi, the other day, the National Secretariat was boiling. Why? Replacement of some vacant positions And then, the person who resigned as deputy spokesman is now contesting under a different platform, SDP; his supporters are APC people; he did not go there to meet massive people in SDP; they don’t exist in Kogi. Kogi is one State that has only been APC since Yahaya Bello came in; they have not shared power with anybody up till this moment; now that the APC grassroots are split, we need reconciliation, and we need it fast. Winner takes all destroys a lot of things. You might be a governor today; you are powerful, but it is not forever. It's APC fighting APC.
What is going on in Kogi State? Nobody is even talking about PDP; Melaye was a member of APC, so the three people running are of APC extraction; his members and those supporting him are APC. When you check the whole thing, it is almost like it will go either way. It is a difficult election to prosecute, but our party needs to bring everyone together and begin to talk to the powerful people. If we lose Kogi, it will be a major hit for us.
Then Imo State, same thing. We still have the AA people there; they are APC people. I was glad to see the picture trending of reconciliation between Governor Hope and former governor Rochas Okorocha. I hope that reconciliation touches the heart; I hope it is not just on the lips. Because I am also aware that the people supporting the two groups in the LP are APC people—the Nathan group and the other group are APC people; so, when you look at these things, there is trouble, but the advantage there is that Hope is on the ballot, unlike Kogi, where Bello is not on the ballot. At some point, the opposition might unite. Right now, the fight is like a three- or four-way fight, but at some point, the opposition may unite; that was how Rochas Okorocha came into power—then ACN and APGA united; that’s how PDP got off. If APC, the ruling party, does not unite, the opposition might unite. We cannot keep talking about the power of incumbency. Rochas Okorocha beat an incumbent governor in Imo State. You can’t allow fights to continue raging; you must appease certain people; you can’t undermine people who clearly have some element of followers. The PDP is there, the AA is there, the APGA guy is there, and the only thing LP is suffering from is: who is the candidate? But you can look at it from the advantage angle because multiple people are campaigning for Labour; they can win and let the court decide who is the candidate; there is no name on the ballot.
Then Bayelsa, same thing. You see, the way the primary went, it left many people downcast; the party needs to go and reconcile those people. If it is true that there was no election as alleged by the camps of those that lost out, including David Lyons’ camp, you have to go and bring those people back. David won the election the last time; he can win it again; it is not a question of whether I can do it alone. You can’t push people away in an election circle. So, I think they are all very tough battles, but I am optimistic that we will win all three. But my advice is reconciliation, reconciliation, reconciliation—bring back as many people as you can into the system and fight with them.