Okey Sampson, Aba
Benjamin Apugo is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Board of Trustees (BoT) from Abia State. He speaks on the reconciliation efforts going on in the party.
He argued that the reconciliation panel, headed by former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu should reach out to former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members otherwise known as the new PDP in APC, so as to make more impact.
After the APC mega rally in Abia State, not much has been heard from the party, what’s the problem?
Nothing has gone wrong, the party is still on course and everything that is supposed to be done is being vigorously pursued. APC is going to take over power in the state and we do not believe that PDP is a challenge.
Does APC still maintain its stance of not zoning the governorship to any part of the state?
Zoning sometimes disrupts the smooth operation of a political party. If you are building a house, you may need a bricklayer; you cannot go for a carpenter because he comes from a particular area, when you know he cannot do that work. What we are saying is that if we look at this area and we don’t find what we need, we can take it from any part of Abia State as long as the person will serve the state diligently.
Are you satisfied with the structure of the leadership of APC in the state?
Though the leadership of the party has not done much in the state, APC is still better than the PDP that has ruled the state for 18 years and has not done anything.
Are you not worried that some notable politicians in the state who left other parties for APC are making U-turn?
I don’t know of anybody that has left APC for any other party in the state as far as I’m concerned. In fact, we are still getting new ones like Chief ABC Agbazuere, a former commissioner in the state declared for APC and came and showed me his registration card.
One of your sons wants to contest for the House of Reps in 2019, what are his chances?
My son is a grown man and has all the qualities a man should possess to win election. If he decides to go for the House of Reps or even the governorship of the state, he is qualified and I think he will succeed. From what I have seen so far, the young man is well accepted by people and I’m sure he will win.
What’s your take on the mandate given to Bola Tinubu to reconcile the warring groups in APC?
No matter the little efforts one makes to achieve peace, it is something commendable. The president has the right to ask somebody to act for him or on his behalf. But what I had expected the president to do particularly in the case of Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and Ganduje the governor of Kano was to go straight and personally resolve the issues involving them. The president should have involved himself directly in settling that dispute and it will be over.
I don’t want to preempt Tinubu, but what will be wrong with his committee is if they do not involve the New-PDP people in it. It was the New-PDP that delivered Kano, Kaduna, Kogi and in fact many more states apart from those in the south-west were all PDP states before the 2015 election. When you are going for a peace mission like that, you must look inward and look at those leaders of the New-PDP and involve them in the committee. Nobody should be too small to be reached out to in this peace mission even if he a Ward leader.
In Abia it was predominately PDP, no other party had foothold in the state. So, if it were 10, 000 votes that Buhari got in the last election; it was former PDP members that believed in us that made it possible. I’m saying this for the president to read. You shouldn’t sidetrack the New PDP; it is only Chibuike Amaechi who is from that group that is presently in government.
Recognition should be given to some people if Buhari is to win the 2019 election. Although he will win all over again, what about the states that are not APC states like Abia? We will like to win hands down. The federal government cannot continue to give things that should be given to APC members in the state to the PDP government thereby making the APC members weaker. The APC members could have been given the contract of cooking for the school children so as to empower them. The women empowerment is passed through the opposition governor when in actual fact you should use the party machinery. In this state the PDP is not performing, we don’t know if there is government here or not. Then when you pass all these things through him, how would the New PDP people that worked for you feel?
If you were invited by Tinubu on his reconciliation tour, what would advice would you give him?
I will advise him that if he is going to PDP states, he should involve the new PDP members. If for instance I go to Kano today to reconcile the people there, I’m not going to achieve anything; it is the Kano people that will reconcile with each other. It is quite unfortunate that APC which is in majority in both arms of the National Assembly is today treated as if it is in the minority and it is due to the crisis. When talking about reconciliation, members of the new PDP should be given appointment because they are not there. Respect and recognise them when making appointments.
There is the impression that members of the new PDP who are now in APC are not happy with the way things are moving presently. Would you consider going back to PDP?
We can never dream of going back to PDP because it is not the only party in this country. If you do that, you know you are not a politician with moral status. People have been saying that people like Saraki and Dogara may go back to PDP, I don’t think they will do that, but if they do that, that will spell their political doom. What will they look like even in their states? I’m not talking about what the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar did because we, the new PDP people did not move over to APC with Atiku, and I want to make people know that now. We had already gone there before Atiku joined us.
Are you in support of plea bargaining for those being tried for corruption?
Plea bargaining should not stop the court from punishing a guilty person. The type of plea bargain I will sanction is that if somebody was to be sentenced to life imprisonment, it could be reduced to 100 years, for example. But if you settle and you leave the person to go, what about the harm the person has caused? Former president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma was removed from office on allegations of corruption. African heads of states have given Buhari the leadership in the war against corruption in Africa and Nigeria is in Africa; so, he should step up the fight in the country.
The PDP chairman, Uche Secondus has boasted that his party will disgrace APC in the 2019 election, do you see that happening?
There is nothing wrong in having ambition. Uche Secondus can say by next year PDP will turn to Jesus Christ, we will wait for him to do it. If he was not able to win when the nation was on his palm, how would he do it now? So, forget about empty boasts. Watch and see if PDP is going to win where they had. I think any reasonable human being should join APC because it is the only hope for the common man in this country.
How do we address the lukewarm attitude of people in going to obtain their Permanent Voter’s Cards?
Our people have this apathy to register and get their PVCs; they will ask you what they are registering for because they have been in suffering for many years and those they have voted for have not bettered their lives. Like in the case of Abia, we have suffered in the hands of PDP. Nothing is working, go round the whole of Umuahia my home town which is the state capital, you can’t see any place where one block of four inches is going up, so, how do you tell people to go and register? However, we are trying to sensitise people to get their PVCs so they can vote out PDP.