From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Chief George Moghalu, has appealed to Nigerians to support the South East geopolitical zone to produce the next president of the country in 2023 for the sake of justice, equity and fairness.
Moghalu, who was the secretary during the formative period of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014, in this interview, gave a detailed explanation of why he dragged his party to court over the outcome of its purported primary poll ahead of the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State. He also spoke on other issues of national concern.
Your party is in power in Abuja and during the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, it made efforts to also take over the state. Eventually, in the course of doing that, you dragged it to court over issues that emanated from its purported primary poll. Why did you take that legal step against your party in the first place?
The party that we laboured to put in place did not do the primaries according to the guideline as provided by the party. And being a law abiding citizen, I sought judicial redress and eventually the court process followed and judgement was given. And the judgement agreed with me that there was no primary. The report of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirmed my position that there was no primary because nothing happened between the time provided by law in line with the guideline of the party; that no primary took place. So, the judgment as you’re aware also was to come up on the 4th of December. But based on a petition written by the respondents, their lawyer wrote raising the issue of security concerns and the judge obliged him and shifted the judgment to 20th of December. Fortunately, 20th December, the judgement was given with regards to the election. Everything about the election has been in the public domain, so everybody is aware. So, basically, this has provided me with the opportunity now to talk with the people; to thank my supporters across this state, to thank the party, to thank those who believe in the democracy for their support and encouragement, having stood by me this trying period; to thank the president, the critical stakeholders and leaders of the party across the country who put in one word or the other of encouragement because they know that I was looking for justice and they supported me, because what we are doing is not about an individual but it is about our democratic process; it is about doing things right. It is about stopping impunity. It is about creating an enabling environment for democracy to grow, to thrive. That’s actually what we went to court to do. And to God alone be all the glory. That’s where we are today.
According to you, your going to court was in the interest of democracy. But particularly, people are saying that your party is out from that election and so any person going to the tribunal about that election from your party is on his own. How do you prefer somebody from outside of your party to be the governor of the state instead of somebody from your party because that judgment didn’t even give you the candidacy of your party?
I will prefer my party being in government. And that is why 13 of us indicated interest that we wanted to be governor; and we campaigned to achieve that objective. And the responsibility of the party was to give us a free, fair and credible primary which was what we sought having bought the form, expressed our interests, bought the nomination form, went to the field to campaign and we were denied that opportunity; only for the party to say that there was primary and declared a candidate. I said no, I will not sit back and watch fraud, impunity manifest and then I cross my hands. I said that I will not accept it. I made my position very clear, that if the party does not do what is right, that I will seek judicial redress. Not in a situation even INEC itself came out to say that no primary took place. So, it is not about me not wanting my party; it is about my party not doing what is right. It is about somebody expecting that at my level I’ll sit back and watch such manifest manifestation of impunity. I will not accept that because it is not right. It is morally reprehensible. It is wrong and we must do things right. That is why I keep saying that it is not about the individual; it is about a system that needs to be corrected. It is about a process that needs to be properly put in place for the benefit of our democratic culture and the benefit of we, politicians. So, it is not about not wanting my party to go. If I don’t want my party to be in government, why did I come to contest? I want my party to be in government and that’s why I laboured. That’s why the other people who bought forms also laboured. That’s why we campaigned round the 326 wards of the state. That’s why we reached out to the people. That’s why we made ourselves available for the contest. So, it is not about not wanting my party. I want my party. For crying out loud, I have always wanted my party to form government at all levels if possible.
Was there a time the party leadership approached the aggrieved aspirants to, perhaps, allow the person declared as the candidate?
For me, when you talk about the leadership of the party, it is the chairman and the secretary. None of them approached me. I don’t know whether they approached the others. But even at that, why would you approach me to allow an illegality to be sustained? Why? Is it not morally reprehensible?
It’s just for the party to…
(Cuts in) It is not about “just for the party.” We cannot encourage impunity. Something must be done right. What does it cost us to do primary? We have materials, men, capacity and the ability. Why can’t we do it? So, it is not necessarily about talking to people. Yes, they may have talked to some people. I will not be fair to say that some leaders did not discuss with me. Some governors did. I must give them credit. When they created the opportunity I also made my case very clear to them. I am sure that they saw reasons with me. It is not about me now. It is about doing things right. Let me tell you something. It is not cast in iron that I must be governor because power belongs to God and He gives to whom He pleases at His own time. It may be that it is not God’s time that I will be governor now. It is a possibility. Are you getting me? So, there is no iota of desperation in my ambition? But at the same time also, I would have failed in my responsibility to sit back and watch gross impunity and say okay, fine, the party has talked to me. Talked to me for what? What are you going to tell me? Should I come out and say that there was primary when there was no primary? Because me coming to accept that means that I will have to consent that there was primary. That’s the argument; because you cannot generate results from the moon. For me to come out and say ‘okay, I accept’, means that one, I accepted that there was primary; two, I accept that somebody sat back in his hotel room and wrote the result and allocated me figure and that is what I should get. That’s most unfair.
Beyond the court judgment, you may be aware already that your party in the state is already polarised. Just the other day we heard about the stakeholders’ meeting presided over by a leader of the party away from the Minister of Labour and Employment that we always had known. I don’t know what you and a few other stakeholders in the party are doing to unite the party especially being that this judgement we are talking about today was not in favour of those who sat and said that they held that stakeholders’ meeting.
The truth about it is that, for every sincere APC member who loves the party, what should concern everybody now is unifying the party; getting our party to work together, resolve our issues and address the challenges before us because what we need to think of doing now is to rebuild the party; win back the confidence of the people and not wasting our time struggling for leadership. I keep telling people that you don’t elect a leader, you don’t appoint a leader; a leader evolves from the people. It is an evolving position. If you want to contest governor, councillor, president; fine, those are contestable positions. It is at my liberty to say who is my leader and I follow you because I have seen some aspects of your lifestyle or your operational methodology that appeals to me. So, a leader evolves from amongst the people. So, it is not something you contest. And if you look at the APC constitution, there is no title there called leader. There is no contestable position there called leader. But let me also say that by convention as it is in the political clime of this country, the highest political office holder in any state where there is no governor is usually referred to as the leader of the party and that is fair. And that is why somebody like Senator Chris Ngige can lay claim to leadership. He is the highest political office holder in the state. Here was a former governor, former senator and a serving two term minister. These credentials are not in contest whether it is true or not. These positions are not in contest. So, the circumstance has presented him with that responsibility. Are you getting my point here? So, there is nothing to contest. I don’t mind meetings going up and down. You can hold meetings as you like. You can answer the leader. If that is what will make you happy, answer it. It is like a chieftaincy title. If His Highness A gives me, I answer and Highness B gives you your own title, you answer and Highness C gives to the other man, in fact, even if they don’t give you, you give yourself. You see people answering emperor, High Chief, I don’t know how high but it’s High Chief. You see people answering various things. Whatever that will make you happy, do it. But when you now want to make what is unconstitutional a constitutional issue, it becomes funny. The truth remains that a leader evolves from amongst the people.
Beyond the governorship election, doesn’t it worry you that the party is not coordinated? Won’t it affect the plans of your party towards the 2023 presidential election?
The point you made is very cogent. Any sincere person, that’s why I said those who love the party and who are members of the party know that all is not well and there is a need for us to sit down and think out of the box, rebuild confidence, rebuild our party and start on a clean slate. It may not surprise you that the other day somebody said that ‘oh, they are going to sack me from the party.’ I say I am not surprised but the truth about it is that it is usually an anomaly for a tenant to sack a landlord. In my house, a tenant wants to sack me. I am a critical stakeholder of the party. You may not like my face or my views about a position but when APC was formed, I was a member secretary for the formation of the APC. I am not a joiner. I didn’t join the APC. I was part of forming the APC. So, when somebody who came to join us; who we are magnanimous to accommodate now says that he is going to sack me from the party. I am waiting for the process. So, what should concern us now, the critical stakeholders who were insulted; time was in this state when we were called names; when were rubbished. People like us have been in opposition. This is the first time I am in government. This is my first time in my political career from 1999 to date. This is the first time I am in government. I have always been in the opposition. So, what should concern us now, as it disturbs me is reconciling all the interests, looking at the factors that led us to have a poor outing to avoid it tomorrow. We don’t gain anything by fragmenting the party. For us to win election we must be united, we must pursue one common agenda. You cannot lord it over the owners of the party. You can’t lord it over us. It is unacceptable.
Some people have argued that part of the problems your party had during that primary poll was the use of direct primary as an option. And recently, the president declined assent to the electoral bill because the National Assembly proposed direct primary as the only option for political parties. Looking at these two scenarios, do you support that argument that direct primary could not have been a better option for your party in 2021?
You must understand the president’s reasoning when he refused to sign the bill. And if I heard him right, the principal reason for not signing the bill is that Mr President believes that restricting the democratic process to direct primary infringes on the democratic rights of the people; that you should give them options: direct, indirect, consensus. And you will also listen to the president that we need to have an opportunity for even smaller parties to be able to get their candidates in any election. Having said that, it is not about the mode but it is about the process. There is nothing wrong with direct or indirect. In 2017 primaries, we did indirect. In this one, we are supposed to do direct. But the problem is the process. It is the operation. It is those who were to operate it; their determination to defraud the process and scuttle it. What has direct primary got to do with writing result in an election that did not hold? What has direct primary got to do with announcing results in the middle of the night without the presence of the media? What has direct primary got to do with not sending voting materials to voting centres until about 5:30pm? So, it has nothing to do with the mode. It is more of the sincerity of the operators of the process. If they were sincere and determined to make the primary hold, to make the primary work, then the mode becomes immaterial.
By your argument, have you not passed a Vote of No Confidence on the Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, who presided over that primary?
But he knows that the process was flawed? He knows that no primary took place. It is not about me passing a vote of no confidence on him. I leave it to the judgement of his conscience. If he says, like he said, that election took place, I wish him the same thing. His political career is not ending with first term governor. My only prayer for him is that when the next election is held for him, they will use the same process to deliver him. That is my prayer.
2023 is just next year. You said that you were the secretary during the formative stage of the APC…
(Cuts in) Yes, I was the member secretary. There were three legacy parties. For the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), we had 18 members, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), 18 members and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) 18 members. Each of these committees had a member secretary. I was the member secretary of the ANPP. CPC had their member secretary; I think Obla from Cross River State; then, ACN had a member secretary, late Dr Lame from Bauchi. And then when a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Gov. Rochas Okorocha joined us, Senator Osita Izunaso was the member secretary for that faction of APGA that merged with us. We were four member secretaries that midwifed the process. And I was hosting them in my office. It was my office that was the central place, so I was like coordinating the activities of the member secretaries.
Let me drop my question. At that formative stage, was there a time you agreed on the rotation of the office of the president of Nigeria?
No, no, no! You see, it is beyond me as an individual; it is beyond the secretaries. Don’t forget that as the political process was going on, various meetings and consultations were going on and if I sit back here and tell you that I attended all, then I have lied to you which I will not. But if you look at the constitution of the party, there is no place we put it down in black and white that the presidency will rotate. It is not in the APC constitution because that was not the decision reached as part of the process of negotiation. But consultations were going on, on the need. And again, when you talk about this rotation, it is a consequence of achieving equity, justice, fairness and balance. It is just like what happened in Anambra. Haven’t you asked yourself one question, of all the political parties, 90 to 95 percent of them, their governorship candidates were all from Anambra South Senatorial Zone but there was no place we have sat down and written an agreement that it must move to the South. What that implies is that by convention, there is a democratic process through which every area is accommodated; every interest is protected so that we can guarantee equity, justice, unity and fairness. So, that is it.
But do you support that a Nigerian of Igbo extraction should be president of Nigeria in 2023?
If it was my choice to announce, I would want a Nnewi man. If I am to decide now, what are you talking about? Do you know what impact it will make that a Nnewi man is the president on this community? In fact, if they allow me I will take from Uruagu, my village. Are you getting me? If you micro-zone it down, I will take it for my family.
So, are you interested in running?
I am not. I have not said that. But what I am trying to tell you is that I will be very happy for an Igbo man to be president. But one thing you must understand is that in power dynamics, power is not given but taken. And when you’re talking about a united Nigeria, if I understood you right, a president of Nigeria but of Igbo extraction, which implies that the man from Rivers, Lagos, Sokoto, Cross River, and others all have a role to play. So, what I will advise my people is that we must make every conscious effort to take over the platforms that have the capacity to produce the president of Nigeria. And as of today, they are only two platforms, the APC and the PDP. Truth be told because we are talking of the president that will traverse the over 700 Local Government Areas in this country. And I am sure that it is only these two parties that have offices in the over 700 LGAs of the nation. So, we need to build bridges. We need to reconcile ourselves to the reality of the moment that politics is about negotiation and power. So, we need to extend our hands of fellowship across the Niger. We need to reach out across the parties. Those in PDP should start reaching out; those in APC should start reaching out. Those who are apolitical should get into the fray; get the business community, get the intellectual community, the youths, the students’ unions, get people to get involved; let there be discussions and let us continue talking to our friends across boards. We have to start this negotiation. But I desire it. If I have a choice, I will want an Igbo man to be president.