From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Mustapha Audu, son of late Prince Abubakar Audu and a 2019 Kogi State governorship aspirant, rattled the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) when he announced the sack of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) through his Progressives Youth Mandate (PYM) last year.
In this exclusive interview in Abuja, he denied the speculations that some serving and former governors on the platform of the party are bankrolling him to crumble the party. He spoke on various issues.
Did the backlash that trailed your move to sack the Buni-led Caretaker Committee come as a surprise to you?
It did not come to me as a surprise because this is not the first time. Anybody that has made a name in the party they want to remove, the first thing they do is clamp suspension on the person from their ward. They did it to Rochas Okorocha, Adams Oshiomhole and many other party members.
In fact, we deserve honour that at our young age, they deemed us important enough to make false claims and allegations, but we are strong party members. The allegations against us did not come as a surprise because it came from Senator Akpanudoedehe, the Secretary of the disbanded Caretaker Committee.
It is very clear that he is a PDP man. He was a PDP Senator between 1999 and 2003. He was also a PDP Minister of State for the FCT between 2007 and 2008. He only joined the APC in 2018 right before the 2019 elections. With this pedigree, how will he recognise the APC members? He cannot because it is beyond him.
We know that he is a PDP man and that is why the APC is not doing so well. We gave certain PDP men, desperate to destroy the party from the inside, some critical positions in the ruling party. We have identified him as one of them. We know very well that he is at the forefront of the PDP agenda against the APC and against the youth.
Are you going ahead to conduct the APC parallel National Convention in February?
We are absolutely going ahead with the convention and February 26 is sacrosanct for our own convention. We are going ahead with it because there is no reason for us to suspend the convention. There has been a series of meetings between us and the DSS and some of the leaders of the party.
It is clear that what we did has affected the plans of the Buni-led Caretaker Committee because they were not planning to hold any convention in the first place till July/August this year. They plan to combine the convention with the party primaries for the presidency. There were lots of illegalities going on that were truncated by our declaration. Our declaration has affected the plans of some of the leaders that don’t have anything good for us.
What will be the implications of APC organising a parallel convention?
The implications will be more fractures for the party. Yes, we don’t want such but sometimes you have to break eggs to make Omelette. What we have done was to break some eggs to make beautiful Omelettes for APC to serve Nigerians to eat very well.
To move forward sometimes, you have to move one step backward. What we are doing is reassessing and re-analysing to prove that young people are critical to the party.
We are tired of doing all the hard work and not being allowed to contribute our own quota to the development of the country. We have been raised very well all our lives, trained abroad and for these positions, why not allow us to show what we have learnt throughout our lifetimes.
You supported the Caretaker Committee at the initial stage, at what point did you fall out with them?
Honestly, I am a party man to know that NEC has the power to constitute a committee and give it power to carry out any of its activities such as plan a convention. But the party constitution specifies that NEC must be given timeline to carry out such operation.
At the time of the composition of the Caretaker Committee, it was legal because it was given six months, but after the duration, everything about the Caretaker Committee became illegal.
Our constitution equally stated that only the NWC can conduct party primaries, set up screening committees. What it means is that the Caretaker Committee does not have any such powers and all the party primaries they have conducted were illegal.
Anybody that goes to court whether he loses or wins, the party will be thrown out. This is what we are trying to avoid so that we will not make the same mistake that will affect the party.
How true is the insinuation that some governors are bankrolling your activities?
They have said so many things including the insinuation that governors are bankrolling us. They said we got billions from Dubai. All of these allegations were sent to the DSS, but we are happy that they know what is going on. The truth is that young people are tired of what is going on. Young people, for the first time, are taking real deliberate action towards inclusion in leadership.
So, it is easier for our leaders to sit with us and say okay, you are looking for 100 positions, we can’t give you, we can only give you 60, we will give you 50 and that is real negotiation. But for them to sit down and claim that we are bankrolled was unfortunate.
It is the same way PDP was acting with all sorts of impunity before they were thrown out of power. So, if APC thinks that we can act with impunity, lie to Nigerians, fail to deliver on our promises and think that people will still vote us during the election, we are in for a shock and we will lose the election.
So, as a loyal party man, I don’t have anywhere to go. My father died for this party and I have no choice but to fight for this party, sacrifice whatever I have to ensure victory for the party. This is what I am doing. I believe it is the right thing, to challenge our leaders constructively to let them do the right thing. That will make the difference.
Did the quick notice you gave the Buni-led Committee translate to threat to your life?
Yes, of course. They threatened my life, they threatened arrest, threatened destruction, they told people to attack us anywhere they see us and they should stab our members if we come to protest at the party secretariat to show that PYM is violent. But all of these don’t matter because nothing can stop an idea when the time has come. The time for youth inclusion in leadership has come and nothing can stop the movement.
What do you tell those saying that you are a disgruntled party member having lost your aspiration to govern Kogi State?
I am not disgruntled, otherwise I would not have done so much for the party. We are responsible for the registration of nine million members in this revalidation process. We are responsible for carrying out the Youth Conference held recently.
We were responsible for so many things that we have done in the party just in 2021 alone, let alone our contribution even after we were disqualified from the primary in Kogi State in 2019. So, that is not the true position and it is unfortunate for people to think that it is because of young people or that I am fighting for young people because I am disgruntled.
Even if I am disgruntled and my fight is for young people to be included in governance, what is wrong with that? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We are asking for 12 positions for which the secretary of our own CECPC and myself will not be taking any of those positions for the sake of credibility. We cannot be fighting for this position and go ahead to grab them.
What are your fears for APC especially as Buhari will not be contesting in the 2023 presidential election?
My only fear is that we may not get our house in order before the poll. Why I strongly believe we cannot is that only young people in APC are the ones speaking up against the injustice in the party. The good thing is that they form the greater percentages of the population. And if Nigerians see us succeed in this battle against our leaders, they will believe in us and vote for us. But if we fail, they will not believe APC can succeed in government.
So this is not the APC of your dream?
Certainly not; this is definitely not the APC of my dream when I was joining the party. This is because members of the opposition party have infiltrated the APC and those people with questionable character have used the opportunity to show who they are. How can we empower somebody like Akpanudoedehe who is a known PDP man, who sleeps and wakes up as PDP to take charge of the party?
He is on a mission to ruin the APC and all his actions have shown that. He has never seen money like this before and for him to be exposed to this kind of money to have the opportunity to bring the party down is a Christmas gift served to him two years ago that he is still benefitting.
Is there anywhere you can give the Buni-led Caretaker Committee a pass mark on?
No. They failed totally and that is the reality. If we did not say it out, everybody must be saying it in their minds. If you are given a task for six months and you could not do anything in 20 months, it is an F9 rating. Violating the constitution left, right and centre is another F9. If in the face of these failures, you cannot resign, it is another F9.
If in leadership you failed to show the ability to deliver, you have failed. If as at the time they took over there were 36 state chairmen and now we have 93 chairmen, it is a confirmation of their failure. I can announce the failure of the APC leadership confidently and publicly even though there is still room for improvement.
What are those things that will make you sacrifice your agitations after being dragged to different security agencies?
Let the right thing be done. Simply, they should call us for dialogue, we want youth inclusiveness and we demanded for 12 out of the 27 national leadership positions. We are asking for vice chairmanship positions, two per geopolitical zone. There is still room for negotiations.
And just like the DSS said, we seem to have affected their plans. They did not intend to hold a Convention but we have pushed them to roll out plans. We want results and cannot align with those that don’t want results. If they go ahead with their Convention, we will absolutely sacrifice our Convention plan.
However, we have in the interim put our arrangements in place and inaugurated sub-committees for our Convention and will by the end of this month make it available to the media. Apart from that, we have almost 57 extra APC State chairmen that have reached out to us to inaugurate them.
We are waiting till the end of this month and if we see that the Buni-led committee has done the right thing and pending the outcome of our meeting with President Buhari, we will sheathe the sword but otherwise we will go ahead with our arrangement.
What happened to your threat to occupy the secretariat and audit the Buni-led Caretaker Committee?
Nothing happened to the threat because ours is a mental occupation. We won’t do anything physical and that is why we can’t even protest because we are aware that they have paid those boys outside the APC headquarters to stab people in the crowd when we show up there. It is a ploy to brand us violent people.
We know their trap and cannot fall into it. However, we have written to the leadership of the party to vacate the APC headquarters and we are waiting for them to do so. As for the audit, we have started the process.
The good thing is that Mr President is aware of what we are doing. In fact, it was the DSS that arranged the meeting to be held between us and Mr. President because they know that what we are doing is critical to the survival of the party.
It may surprise you to know that the DSS handled us with civility. I could not believe what they said to me. They said so many positive things. Incidentally, Akpanudoedehe told them to break into our houses, pick us up in the middle of the night, detain us for three days and then release us.
But in their own wisdom, they knew that carrying out their request means to turn Nigerian youths against the security agencies. The DSS advised us that so long as we are not doing anything violently, asking people to commit crimes, we should proceed in what we are doing. They said that since we are fighting for young competent persons to be included in the government, there is nothing wrong with that as far as they are concerned.
How did you feel when some APC youths denied you?
They are youth leaders in the APC on the payroll of the party’s national leadership. They are receiving money and paid to say that we are not party members. They like what is happening because they are constantly given money. We don’t want youths like them but youths to speak the truth and regardless of their condition they are able to speak truth to power.
Why are you so hard on the national leadership of the party but kept mute on what is going on in your state, Kogi?
Honestly, there is time for everything. I had the opportunity to say something during the election and I spoke up my feelings against what I considered the failure of leadership for not delivering the dividends of democracy to the people. But the then leadership screened me out. I supported the candidate as a true party man.
Don’t forget that this is not an election time for Kogi State and whatever I say will not impact on the leadership and so there is no need to dissipate energy on something that is not impactful. We will say what is in our minds during the next election cycle.
And without sounding illogical, there are some benefits this current administration has done better than their first tenure. They were far much better than they were in the first tenure. But, the truth is that I would have done more in that perspective if I am in that saddle.