The new National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, assumed office, last Tuesday, at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, after his predecessor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, handed over to him. The exercise, which had been scheduled to take place on Monday, was delayed till Tuesday following what Oyegun explained as the need for him to rest after two days of sleepless nights due to the last weekend National Convention of the party.
After commending Oyegun for his achievements as the leader of the party, Oshiomhole used the opportunity to unfold his agenda, hinting that the APC was going to set up a Progressive Institute where party members will learn the rudiments of democracy and good governance.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to prosecute former President Olusegun Obasanjo over the alleged $16 billion that was alleged to have been spent on power without result during his tenure. The new party boss also spoke on several other issues including the forthcoming Ekiti governorship election.
You are my elder brother and I am proud of your performance. We have PDP as the first governing party in Nigeria. You might just find that in their 16 years of existence as a political party, they have had 14 National Chairmen. When they want to write the story of internal democracy, stability of leadership and adherence to the constitution, you (Oyegun) will be the only one in our history since 1979 who was elected, ran the party according to its rules and led on the basis of those procedures as stated in our constitution. It is to your credit that you did not prepare pepper soup for the President and, after that, he pulled out a gun and asked you to resign (referring to then-National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh’s encounter with former President Olusegun Obasanjo).
Ekiti governorship election
I am very confident that all we need to do is to make sure that the instrument that was ruthlessly deployed by then-ruling party to rig us out has been dismantled. They must now go through the rigors which we have always gone through to persuade the people why they are better. We won’t resort to their old tactics because we promised to be different and we will be different but we know that old gangs cannot change their habit. They cannot learn what they have never known: how to win votes. They have perfected how to write results, and writing of results is no longer in vogue. So I am very positive that we will win Ekiti State on the basis of our record and their own record. We will ensure that there is free and fair election just like in Edo where we launched free and fair election.
Yearly APC Convention
We want to go beyond being a mere electoral platform to supporting the executive and the legislature and to ensuring that both arms of government are informed about our commitment as embedded in our manifesto. And we will create a situation where every year we must have a convention, not in an open place like the Eagle Square where people beat drums and praise singers will have a field day but in a convention centre and the agenda will not be election. We will look at our manifesto and look at our performance. We will see what we promised and what we have accomplished. And if there is a gap, you get those elected to explain to us what they will do differently to bridge the gap.
Crushing insurgency, kidnapping
The world is ever-changing; the manifesto you wrote in the morning might even become obsolete in the evening. Let me give you an example. We committed ourselves as a party to ensure that Boko Haram is dealt with. And to the credit of our President and the armed forces, Boko Haram, which threatened our elections in 2015 when President Jonathan said he was only in control of about 250 local governments even though the PDP inherited 774 local governments, the rest being under Boko Haram, President Buhari re-secured the entire territory of Nigeria. This shows that when the Commander-in-Chief is strong and gives that motivation, our military will work. That time we never knew about herdsmen fighting farmers. Now in terms of the way forward, we have to review our security architecture, tackle new forms of criminality as they arrive. People will also agree that the level of kidnapping was much higher before 2015 when President Buhari came in. But as you deal with one issue, new issues emerge and, therefore, because the environment is dynamic, policies embedded in our manifesto are subject to constant review to ensure that they meet changing realities.
Above all, when we talk of party supremacy, when the organs of the party meet and take decisions, when you take decisions like that for example in the National Executive Council meeting, where the President is seated, if the President violates or acts contrary to the decisions taken by NEC, even the President can be accused of anti-party activities. The same thing goes for National Assembly members. Executive actions and legislative actions must tally with the promise and manifesto.
We also have to institutionalise debate for quality discussion. Now, what is always in our headlines is crime. Even those who presided over Nigeria until recent past are going back to their places of birth to whip up ethnic sentiment because their conscience tells them they have committed crimes for which they are candidates for prison. Now, we must find out these ethnic champions and religious bigots by putting on national discourse policy issues that have to do with the polity, the economy and the society. Let us build a basis for agreement and disagreement. And if people want to fight within the ranks of the APC, let that fight be to the extent that some people are raising issues about our educational policy, our economic choices, the policies of the CBN as they affect the President or wealth creation, rather that have ethnic nationality conferences.
If we fix Nigeria, everybody can worship in true freedom without worshiping on empty stomach. All of us must work together to understand that in the 21st century, we need brains. We are the most populous nation; we are the most endowed nation. I think the real challenge is that our party must work to also move us to become the most skilled nation, the most united nation, the most respected nation, not account of our size but on account of what we have accomplished. And that is why I am saying that we must not copy bad language from the party that has been sacked from power. We are the largest party; that is what they say. What we should celebrate is how smart are we, how democratic are we, how inclusive we are, how participatory are our presence in decision-making. How do we bottom up rather than top down.
APC change slogan remains
I have seen an agenda to confuse our people. I am not aware that at any forum, at any organ of the party, that there was a decision to change the slogan of the party. And as far as I know we have not changed it, our slogan remains ‘APC, Change’. We must deepen the change, sustain the change and we are consistent; then progress will be the outcome. So some people who want to deceive people we have a duty to correct them. We are proud of our slogan, we are committed to it. A change that, for the first time former governors are being convicted not through plea bargain, yes, they must try to change that change. A change that has eliminated fake collection of subsidy from the NNPC, yes, they must be committed to change that change. But Nigerians who were victims of the massive looting are committed to sustaining the change. Nigerians whose properties have been destroyed are committed to sustaining the change.
OBJ must account for $16 billion power fund
And as I was reflecting, I watched our President asking a question, you have spent 16 billion dollars on power and I heard him ask, ‘where is the power?’ 16billion dollars was spent and the more dollars we spend the more darkness we have in Nigeria. Then I now said, maybe because the President has not proceeded to now ask the follow-up question, ‘since you cannot find the power, then you must bring the 16 billion dollars’. So to assist the PDP to overcome this belief that the anti-corruption war is selective, the President needs to do the needful after all. It is already on record that what other Presidents failed to do by respecting Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi, our President showed courage by recognizing June 12. That same courage should not fail him; so he can proceed to recover the 16 billion dollars from the man who superintended over the spending of that money. What we need to do as a party is to provide the support that our President needs.
And to divert attention, Obasanjo raised the alarm that they wanted to kill him. And since President Buhari assumed office, no political leader of note has been murdered or assassinated. But this was a President under whose watch a Minister of Justice was murdered in cold blood and that Minister could not get justice. So when the ghosts of the Harry Marshal, Dikibo and several others who were killed under his (Obasanjo) regime are hovering around, the man is raising the alarm that they wanted to kill him. To kill is to prevent investigation, god will keep you alive to account. I think all of us should be ready to do everything we can to help Nigerians not to forget in a hurry those who thought they can loot for 16 years; destroy the fabric of our growth and render apology later so that they can be allowed to move around. People say when a husband or wife has been involved in serial adultery, how much can you trust?
We will be ready for PDP
I want to thank my brother, Secondus (PDP National Chairman) for congratulating me and saying that I should be ready for constructive criticism. I cannot wait for that. That is why I believe we should establish a Progressive Institute so that our party leaders and members can interact and come up with policies. We need to have an institute where people understand that to be progressive is to be a party that is pro-people, pro-workers, pro-poor, people-driven so that those who are elected on our platform, we cannot have people from the extreme right, as well as those from the extreme left, all under the same party platform. Nigeria must move into parties based on identified ideas. So if you want to join, you will be subjected to the rules if you cannot you go elsewhere. You cannot be a general purpose dealer, we must go beyond that.