Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Auditor, Dr. George Moghalu, has chided the Ohanaeze Ndigbo for repeating what he called the disgraceful mistake of endorsing one presidential candidate against the other. He speaks on other issues.
Do you support some Nigerians describing President Buhari’s re-election as a pyrrhic victory?
One thing about politics in this country is that we are bad losers. People really find it difficult to accept defeat. And it is one thing we must address in our democratic culture and as a people. In most cases, you find people protesting that an election was rigged but the simple question I always ask is whether the calibre of the candidate who lost determines rigging.
They claimed that Kwara was rigged because Bukola Saraki lost, but I asked, what happened in Oyo where a sitting governor, Abiola Ajimobi lost. What happened in Plateau where APC lost, in Benue where George Akume lost? So, there was no rigging because it is only where the opposition party losses that the issue of rigging is played up. For me, it is neither here or there. As far as I am concerned, the presidential and National Assembly elections were fair, free and credible especially taking into consideration the reports from the foreign and domestic observers. Yes, nobody claimed it was a perfect election since we have not reached the stage and not even the civilised democracy has reached the point of perfect election. But all said and done, it was a good election.
Don’t you think that those protesting have enough reason to believe that the party may have helped itself considering the crisis within the APC and the arrogance posture that it must win the election?
It is more of an issue of perception. We said we are going to win because we have worked hard to win as a government that has delivered on its promises to the Nigerian people. Don’t forget that Mr. President went round to campaign in the 36 states of the country and the FCT.
In each rally, he presented his report card, taking Nigerians on the promises he made and the extent he has gone with regards to delivering on those promises. He reemphasised the fact that we have not gotten to where we are going, but we are on the right track to get there. We were not arrogant in claiming that we will win. There is no politician or candidate of a party that will announce defeat before the election. In fact, even those without any structure in the grassroots claim they will win. I know one presidential candidate who does not even have an executive in his own community, claiming that he will be sworn in on May 29. We would have arrested him for saying what he believes.
Why has it been difficult for the APC to make appreciable inroad in the South East considering the vote figures from that geopolitical zone?
I had wished that my party APC wins 100 per cent in the South East. That is why other leaders and I are there, but in this recent election, we did not actualise our vision for our people. My people did not respond the way we wanted them to.However, if you place it side by side with what happened in the 2015 election, there is a remarkable improvement. For me, since democracy is a process, we will keep working to improve our fortune in the next election. We will be spreading our message that this government has come to serve the Nigerian people, South East inclusive. There are strategic projects this government is executing in my region that has the capacity to endear our government to the people.
Don’t also forget that we faced strong challenge from the opposition party with a vice presidential candidate from the region. Although, we did not win as expected, however, it was an improvement from what it was previously. We are confident that we will continue to improve until we get to where we are going.
With the realities on ground, will the 2023 presidential carrot APC dangled at the South East still be realistic?
Why not, it is not about rejecting Mr. President even though he was, but a case of more people not believing in our party, the APC. However, I have always warned that power is not given but taken. You have to work for it. So, it is clear to us from the South East that we need to work for power if we want to get it in 2023. It cannot be served on the table to us because it is our turn. We have to convince people to win a platform during the primaries and that was why we shouted on top of our voices that for things to be a little easier for the region, we need to demonstrate our commitment to the party to stand on a very high moral ground to make a demand. It is obvious that we have the challenge of convincing our compatriot and party leaders on why power should shift to the South East. We are going to work towards it.
Don’t you think that the issue of restructuring must have played major impact in APC’s rejection in the South East?
I don’t think so. We must first come out clear for people to understand what is restructuring. I can place a bet on it that 70 to 80 per cent of persons mouthing restructuring don’t know what they are asking for. For some, it is about dismembering the country, for others it is about bring down the entire structure to create a new one, yet for others, it is about addressing the economy and infrastructural development. Let us look at what we have to get as a people from the government of the day. We cannot be talking about restructuring and at the same talking about presidency for the Igbo nation in 2023. It is a clear contradiction. I am among those who said that Ohanaeze has no business dragging Igbo nation through the same route we passed in 2015, which created political problems to us. Ohanaeze adopted former president Goodluck Jonathan and he failed the election, and where did it place us. The same group of people dragged us through the same route in 2019 by adopting the PDP candidate, which has now led us to nowhere. Why can’t Ohanaeze as a leadership disassociate itself from politics and continue its role as a socio-cultural organisation that speaks for the Igbo nation. Some notable Igbo sons and daughters are strong APC members as well as Ohanaeze members, but how can the same group I am a member oppose my political view by adopting my opponent’s candidate and expect me to still pledge my loyalty to such group. It is impossible; I will rather fight and challenge the group and that was the position many of us took.That moral standing expected of that group to protect our group interest has been lost. The group would have been standing a solid ground if it was neutral and allow sons and daughters of Igbo nation to play politics according to their interest and sentiment. The group would have provided us a guide by admonishing those on every divide to be careful. As people looking for relevance and to be part of the government, Ohanaeze would have allowed its sons and daughters to pursue it from various platforms so that anyone that succeeds at the end, the interest of the Igbo nation will be projected and protected.
What is the implication of Ohanaeze’s endorsement of Atiku now that Buhari has been re-elected?
The endorsement was very unfortunate and has remained very unfortunate because the fear we expressed then has come to be. The shame is on Ohanaeze now but we warned against it based on the experience we had in 2015. What Ohanaeze has succeeded in doing was to sadly repeat the mistake of the 2015.
It is most unfortunate but it has happened. Fortunately, the president did not relate to us after the 2015 election based on the endorsement of Ohanaeze because he knew that some of us did not agree with them and the same thing is happening now.Some of us did not agree with Ohanaeze and will never agree with them. Today, we are exonerated. Our fears are confirmed because they would not have dragged us through the same path we followed in 2015 if they are reasonable.
How do you feel on the attacks, intimidation and disenfranchisement of Igbo by their host communities in some parts of the country?
To the best of my knowledge, the APC never encouraged voting based on religion or tribe. We made it clear that people are free to exercise their franchise in line with the dictates of their conscience. Throughout the campaign, the chairman consistently adopted the mantra of one man, one vote. It is unfair to disenfranchise any ethnic group and I will never be party to it.
What is your take on the comment by Mr. President that the next four years will be tough?
The President was right in telling Nigerians what to expect in the next four years because building a structure will never be easy. There must be a surgery to remove a tumour. The healing will start after the surgery. Government, conscious of these challenges, has been addressing it systematically. It has done that with the various empowerment programmes it introduced, which is intended to ameliorate the difficulties. There is the tradermoni concept, the N-Power, the school feeding programme among others, which are intended to cushion the challenges facing Nigerians with regards to governance. The meaning of what Mr. President said is that we should be ready to take responsibility.
Do you see Buhari changing from his nepotistic political appointments in his second term?
I won’t agree that his appointments are nepotistic, but if you say that he needs to expand political base in terms of appointments, he has made it very clear that every part of Nigeria is his constituency. He has demonstrated it by his appointments. Don’t forget that most of the appointments are statutory and a good number of the appointments have been sufficiently balanced. However, like every other human being, we would prefer our appointments to come from our places. That is human being for you. We must also separate the personal staff of Mr. President from public appointments. Service Chiefs like he has tried to explain in many instances, may be through seniority, lay down procedure. Somebody at the level of Mr. President has more information than many of us.
He has been guided by such information many of us may not be privy to but that is not to say that I will not wish to see every part of Nigeria comfortably accommodated and I can tell you that Mr. President and the government are conscious of this fact.
What is the party putting in place to ensure that it will not mismanage the emergence of principal officers in the National Assembly like it did in 2015?
When two are involved, there must certainly be different approaches. The current national chairman of the party is different from his predecessor. This current chairman has his own ways of doing things and getting result. What I know is that we value all the people elected on our platform. The party will give everybody the opportunity to try and the party will also play its role firmly.