• Says governors, legislators set to join party
… Boasts of coalition with over 35 political parties
Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The National Chairman of Africa Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Okey Nwosu, who has been struggling to keep the party afloat in the last 12 years is now a happy man. His happiness stemmed from the choice of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s coalition christened the Third Force of ADC as the political party to be used to wrest power from the President Muhammadu Buhari-led ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). According to Nwosu, already ADC is in coalition with other 35 political parties to produce a presidential candidate that will win the 2019 election. In this interview with Sunday Sun, he disclosed that Obasanjo picked the party because of the character and integrity of its members. He, therefore, said that the ADC is the party to beat in the 2019 elections, adding that it will even win 80 per cent votes cast in the North-West geopolitical zone of President Buhari. He also spoke on other issues.
The Obasanjo coalition recently adopted your party, what is your strength and focus having been adopted as the platform to wrest power from the ruling party?
We have the habit of integrity, habit of character and then habit of due process in whatever thing we are doing, that’s what determines the strength and resilience in our way of doing things. So, ADC is stronger in that respect than any of these organizations that are moving around. You won’t expect religious leaders in Nigeria, you won’t expect former military leaders in Nigeria and won’t expect critical persons in this country to seat and say the country is not going on well. People want to see our democracy succeed and they don’t do diligence before they select the vehicle or the platform with which they want to execute the task. So, the due diligence was done and it was only done by one person, that is, number one. Then secondly, I want to raise this also, other than the coup culture in the Nigerian military that took over Nigeria from 1965; moving forward, other than the coup culture, the military of any country is the most patriotic and disciplined professional in any country. It is only in the military that you teach people how to sacrifice their lives for the nation, it is only in the military, during the training, that you have greatest respect and loyalty to your country. In other higher institutions of learning in the country they don’t teach you how to take your country first, they teach you how to make yourself better, it is only in the military they teach you how to sacrifice for your country.
Unfortunately, we have bad coloration of the military in this country because they delved into the politics of the country, but that doesn’t mean that if you go to NDA that those rudiments of patriotism, nation first and be ready to sacrifice your life for the country are not taught there, they are taught there. Why do I go this way even when we castigate them we know that they have basic trainings which most us didn’t have and, therefore, I have very high respect for the military.Yes, you can see may be some retired Generals, religious leaders, both Christians and Moslems, traditional rulers and traditionalists, say that the country is not at peace and what is happening is not good, therefore, there is the need to come together and look for a good and trusted vehicle that will take Nigeria where we are going to instead of allowing anarchy to take over the nation, that may be their own reason. But in terms of which political party they decided to use, I know that they must have done their due diligence. I read the former President Obasanjo where he said that he met leaders of over 40 political parties and did proper scrutiny. I spent time with some of these leaders, some I spent two days with them while they were studying to use your vehicle, I’m also studying them too in terms of how do we can cope with all these people coming in and I saw one thing in all of them, which is the sense of patriotism and deep sense of commitment in the Nigerian project, they all have it, they may have their own issues, we are not perfect as human beings, but one thing I saw and know is whether in IBB, whether in Obasanjo, whether in Danjiuma, they all have passion for this country and have high sense of commitment to the project of Nigeria.
Are you surprised they are adopting your platform?
I’m not surprised because we know what we are building, we know it will take time, but we are sure that the time will come when Nigerians will want a strong vehicle with character to lead them.
Are you confident that there will be election in 2019, some people are having fears after the APC ward congresses that this government coupled with insecurity may not organize a successful 2019 election?
I’m confident that our democracy has come to stay and that we will continue to get richer and richer. We see all kinds of manipulations and schemes, but our democracy has come to stay that I can tell you in confidence.
Is your party looking forward to merge with other political parties in the forthcoming election?
I’m one of the leaders of the Coalition for New Nigeria (CNN) and CNN is a rainbow coalition of 35 political parties. As a matter of fact, we had a retreat here in Awka and we have been dealing with some of the issues that Obasanjo or Babangida mentioned in their different letters. I still have in my spirit that CNN as coalition of 35 political parties are part of these body, we have one thing in common, but how the alignment will be whether the parties will want to fuse hundred per cent the way that all these movement are fused or whether they want us to proceed on being alliance that would be working out, but 35 political parties and counting are joining this because we want to save our democracy. The vehicle has been defined as ADC, that is the platform and we are still working out different arrangements on how every political party will fuse and even proceed, including from the PDP and some quality persons in APC.
Are you considering picking a younger person as your presidential candidate?
The way we structured ADC and even with the new arrangement, we said that whatever we are doing 30 per cent of positions both appointive and elective will go to the youths, 30 per cent will go to the women while 40 per cent will go to others because we are very conscious of this dynamics that will play out. Then when it comes to the fact that some of our critical stakeholders are 70 years old does not mean that they have come to run for elections, no, they have joined the young people, women organizations and different organizations. If you go to the CNN which Obasanjo happens to be a member, 90 per cent of the people who registered under CNN are young men of between 18 years old and 40 years old maybe the other remaining per cent may come between 50 to 70 years old . So these other people who may be over 80 years may not constitute up to 0.1 per cent, but you have to carry everybody along, everybody brings in some knowledge and direction.
Now the vehicle which is your party has been chosen, how do you select or zone positions for your leaders?
I will not preempt the work the people are doing because now we are concerned and we want to make sure that everybody is carried along unlike in the APC. Within the next three weeks or one month, how we zone positions, including the national chairman, would be made public, which position goes to zones and for me when we did our last national convention I told the people because I have been national chairman for a long time, I have been financing it and doing everything; I told the people that until our party expands to become meaningful in the democratic play in Nigeria until that time we will continue in office to make sure it doesn’t lose focus and its mission, now it is coming clear, you go to different states of the federation, go to Sokoto, Borno state, anywhere you go people are trooping to go and register in ADC, people are opening offices, people are donating offices at different levels. So, now the party has taken a new shape and that has come to stay and is most likely to form the next government, I can now say I have built something and some of the founding executives who have been giving the direction will write it down, this is the way the party will continue to go. As a matter of fact in the next one month, how we have zoned things will come out, but I’ll be happy if the party chairmanship will be zoned to South-east, I will not contest, I have been piloting the affairs of the party for the past 12 years; we shall wait until the zoning comes out.
When is the party planning to do its congresses and convention?
The moment the zoning arrangement comes out, we are going to do some major retreat in the party and after that we talk about our national convention, but it will come soon. What you have to understand is that Nigeria is yearning for new direction and the phone calls I have received showed that the movements are going, the people are agitated, now you will see that over 60 per cent of votes in the North-west will be committed to the party, the total votes in the North-west, it will be sweep over because Nigeria wants proper change this time around and it will now be left to what we are doing in-house, to see how to manage and develop, recreate systems that will have a very resilient democratic process moving forward that would not exclude anybody. This present administration is practicing exclusionism, but ADC government I tell whoever you see in any position elected will not run the type of security council that this APC is running. Even if an Igbo man is elected, if you look at the security council, you will see a representation of Nigeria’s diversity. This is where we are going, because we have to be a country and if we leave the process and continue to go the way it’s going you will see distraction because the next day if an Igbo is elected the president he will just select people from the South-east to form the security council because already we have a precedent, we can’t allow that to continue.
Has any National Assembly member or governor indicated interest to run in your party?
Yes, of course, but I will not mention them until when the time comes. We shall allow them to come in and contest election. You see some people have called me to tell me that I should allow some old people in PDP, APC to come in. A political party is a public trust, you allow everybody to come in, but the truth of the matter is that while you come in, you cannot change the dynamics playing out in the party instead the party will convert you to become a solid democrat and then one of the guiding principles and philosophy in ADC is role modeling; for a senator or governor, the leadership principle we have chosen is role modeling. If you are the leader you will be doing things you want your subordinates to do, if you are a senator you will be acting in a way you want your people from the constituency to act such as good character and everybody should be acting in tandem for us to have a very robust country and one of the greatest country in the world.
What is the position of ADC in the call for restructuring of the country?
A lot of people have taken the issue of restructuring in many ways and some from how it appeared we have so politicized it that people dance around it, but I have explained to most stakeholders and Nigerians as a whole and they seem to understand better what restructuring will do for the country. Take a look at when our local government begins to work properly, it will be good for everybody.
Do you have structures to win any election?
The fact that ADC which I founded does not have governors, many senators or House of Representatives and Assembly members in place doesn’t mean that we don’t have structure. We have structures and we are well intentioned to bring a new life into this country. But we have the challenges of governance, the challenges of elections, challenges of campaign and challenges of our democracy. One, too much money, secondly, people in government using government structures and institutions. Instead of them using government structures and institutions to do the work of government they use it to intimidate Nigerians to be able to go their own way. These things have affected ADC, you are aware when ADC in Anambra State presented somebody for Federal House in Onitsha, she won the election because people voted for her up to 85 per cent, then what happened, the system stole it. Here in Anambra State we won election in 2015 in Orumba, our candidate won the election, but it was taken away from us then apart from that you go to Edo State, we won election in 2017, it was stolen away, Lagos State, Sokoto, Zamafara, Borno, Benue, the only seat we are keeping now is House of Assembly seat in Bayelsa, even that of Assembly seat in Bayelsa we won it and INEC declared a different person and our candidate went to court and the court returned him. They appealed, they delayed the appeal till the last day, but the Appeal Court still said that he won the election because the evidence was there. Then for the first time our candidate appealed the judgement, then to go and be sworn in they refused to swear him in, after two months then the court reversed itself and said that the case had to be retried, how can an Appeal Court judgement in ordinary House of Assembly election be retried. I wrote the Judicial Commission, I wrote to the Supreme Court, but that case went on retrial and on that date some people boasted that it will change, but because of the letters; one day to the retrial date I wrote a petition which was published in newspapers and the Nigeria Judicial Commission saw it and the Supreme Court people saw it that made the Appeal Court to be afraid and they did the retrial and still gave us justice more than six months after, you can see just House of Assembly. Then after that, to be sworn in became another problem, but today, the ADC’s flag is flying at the Bayelsa House of Assembly complex, but you see at what cost it took. Here in Anambra State there is nobody who can organize the grassroots as I can, I organized APGA, I gave it APGA at the registration, I paid the INEC fee, I supported the whole processes financially until it was registered. I came down to Anambra State and I built APGA into a winning machine, I don’t think even with the state they occupy and the money that they have build the party they way I built it. Building the grassroots is not any problem for us in ADC, we have the structures, but we had challenges and it has gotten to a time Nigerians should face the reality.
Do we want this our democracy to continue or do we want to retire our democracy, but I think all Nigerians, I have spoken to the religious leaders, Christians and Muslims, traditional rulers from all parts of this country within the last three months, they are all committed that our democracy must go on. The old talk of our democracy terminated by the military is gone. Now the democratic processes is in the space when we see some absurdity is left for us to call all the critical stakeholders so we reengineer it by ourselves, whether by forming a new party that would solve it instead of allowing the system to be derailed by undemocratic means that is what is happening. Critical stakeholders have looked at the way we are going down and down and they decided that we must reverse this in a democratic way. So ADC has the structures, but then when the people speak you will know this. So, ADC has the value and discipline to carry the entire thing to make sure we save our democracy and Nigeria. All these speculations will continue going on but if you go to the media council you ask, is our democracy healthy? When you make a critical analysis, is the democracy healthy? Do we like the spate of killings in Nigeria? When we speculate we ask ourself, is it right in a country for us to say we are pumping billions of naira into agriculture and we allow cattle to go and be destroying our agricultural produce and the state government with so much power does nothing. Something must be done which is inevitable and we have to look for creditable organ, creditability has to do with the value, your character of integrity, your character of leadership that’s what brings credibility and when Nigerians say they want to move forward they should act and stand by it.