Former governor of Edo State and All Progressives Congress (APC) chairmanship aspirant, Adams Oshiomhole in this interview with newsmen said he is in the race to restore the party to its original vision. He explained the reason the party’s stakeholders are in support of his candidacy.
Your party is grappling with some challenges , what makes you think you are the best man to fix the problems?
I am very familiar with the dreams, missions and visions of the founders of this party because I was one of them. Four years down the road, in line with the provisions of our constitution, the APC and the constitution of Nigeria, we are obliged to have an elective convention and one of the positions being contested for is that of the National Chairman. And I am convinced that I have what it takes to provide leadership and build on the foundation laid by the first chairman, Chief Bisi Akande who did a marvelous job.
So I think for a political party that is determined to be in power, you need a solid structure to achieve it and God used Bisi Akande and other leaders such as President Buhari, Asiwaju and others to achieve that, after which Chief Oyegun came in to contribute his own quota to build on that foundation. Now I have the opportunity to contest for that office believing that we can help to reinvent and refocus the party in a way that it will be a strong pillar to support government elected on its platform at the local, state and federal levels. My hope then is that my task will be to try to begin to help everyone not only to understand the essence of progressive politics, the ideology that it represents but start the process of building a party that in the very nearest future Nigerians should be able to stop the debate about whether or not there is a difference between one party and the other.
To be honest it is a huge challenge to try to make the distinction, which is why people say they don’t know the difference between one party and the other. Of course the ease with which people cross carpet also raises the issue of whether really there are fundamental ideological differences. But why we need to deepen this and make it an issue is that if we do not do it, then Nigerian people really do not have a sustained basis to align with one political party or the other as we found elsewhere.
I think the danger of not having ideological based political party is that political contestation will be driven by religion and ethnicity which is very very dysfunctional as far as managing the affairs of a state is concerned.
Religion is important in our lives to guide our values and create a sense of fairness, justice and above all the fear of God without which we can’t make progress. But it can become dysfunctional if conversation and friendship are driven exclusively by these ethnic and religious sentiments.
How do you go about achieving these lofty dreams ?
Like I said elsewhere recently, unless we act proactively, that is members of the political elite to really get serious and organise parties based on ideology, these other forces will crowd out the political class and politics will be very injurious and national unity will be weakened and that will be a danger to our future.
I am clear as to what my task will be, it is not to reinvent the foundation, it is now to look at the finishing to strengthen the house. Secondly is to evolve a leadership style such that every member of the house can find reasonable comfort to remain in the house and any one expressing discomfort will be assisted to see how we can work together to have comfort in that house rather than a situation in which if you are not comfortable you open the door and if it does not open you jump through the window and look for another house.
We want to to provide a leadership style that will challenge other political parties to get serious. At the beginning it was like that, people knew the difference between Aminu Kano’s party and other political parties. We knew the difference between the NPN and the UPN. So it will help the public know which party to belong to. If you look at the June 12 election, people voted based on ideology of the SDP and the NRC and that is why you saw that Abiola won in Kano.
What has changed today?
What has changed is that there is a huge deficit of the capacity of the political elite to put issues on the table. And for ease of defense, people result to ethnic sentiment when their stewardship come into evaluation or they are seeking support and they do not have a coherent message to persuade the people, they then resort to cheaper option of religion. I believe as a people we need to deal with these things by bringing on board issues to replace these sentiments which can be quite annoying.
There are deep cracks and crevices in the party , how worried are you about the situation ?
It is also important to say that we have even expanded the house of APC. Many people have decamped from PDP to APC after the formation of the party in 2014 and even after the last elections. So I think we have lost few, we have gained more and I believe there are many who will come may be after I assume office, if I win. However, that does not mean that we don’t have a problem. But I thank God that He blessed the Nigerian people by directing their thoughts during the last election to vote in President Buhari and excuse former president Jonathan. Clearly from all the revelations now, those of us and those other Nigerians who believe that the level of corruption and theft of public fund has got to a level that is no longer sustainable to a point that President Buhari said’ if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria,’ t0hose who thought it was just a simple slogan have seen the extent of abuse by former administration. I was able to say it to President Jonathan and the service chiefs that time, that by 1999 Gen.Abdulsalam handed over 774 Local Governments to President Obasanjo to superintend over but by 2014-2015, PDP was only superintending over about 250 Local governments, the rest were under the control of Boko Haram.
Now ,this not my opinion, this came from security agencies when they came together in the last National Council of state meeting before the 2015 general election where they requested in 2014 for postponement of the general election. On account of the fact that they could not guarantee security in many of the Local Government Areas in the North East. I was reading virtually every other day how soldiers were accused of running away from battle ground and they were arraigning them before military tribunal.
To the credit of Femil Falana he rose to their defense but inspite of that many of them were condemned to death including senior officers. But we now know that they were not actually running away from battles, they were simply refusing to commit suicide because the funds budgeted for defence was converted to party funds and distributed through a chief security officer to various bank accounts of PDP leaders and activists to share for all kind of purposes including electoral purposes.
So the twin issue of corruption and the growing influence of Boko Haram, are things that Nigerians will not forget in a hurry. The Nigerian state was almost going down before Buhari came. I remember saying at the National Council of State meeting to the then President Jonathan, that the Nigerian armed forces by their conduct , were demystifying the Nigerian state. I said so because the states are held together by the Armed Forces . When the Army announced that a rag tag army has become so strong that they could not provide security for election, Nigeria for me was approaching the beginning of the end.
So that historic change was to preserve the sanctity of the Nigeria nation and I read your papers every day, I have not heard since Buhari came in that our soldiers were running from battle. What this means is that they are now better kitted and above all they are inspired by the character and quality of the Commander in Chief. And whatever is the imperfection noticed in our security system will be nothing when you compare it to what it was before Buhari became the president.
I think what we need to do is to assist Nigerians not to forget some of these things in a hurry.
Why do you think the crisis in APC has lingered to this point ?
I think what has happened is that we had expected what one described as chemical reaction but what we got was a physical reaction. Chemical reaction would have led to bounding of all the various elements into one organic hole. But unfortunately the physical reaction where the various parts are dangling and trying to hang on, the center is not clear and it is that reaction that you observed and described as huge challenges. It is real. By holding meetings of organs of a party, the various people that formed APC should have been bounded. People were supposed to form progressive alliances. I think this is the area we have not done too well in holding regular meetings of organs of APC across the 774 Local Governments to meet and know one another. Once we institutionalise regular meetings, and encourage debates and contestation, when we begin to do that, that chemical reaction will take place and the party will bound.
Secondly, we must also develop skills to manage conflict. In all of those states where we have crisis, you will find out that those conflicts were not really inevitable they were just a reflection of a free people who think it is normal to have different point of view in a matter. However as they begin to disagree, depending on your temperament or understanding of challenges of democracy, you begin to think that you are fighting and that you don’t agree with yourselves. You then need someone to come in to remind you of what binds you together rather than what divides you.
But let me tell you, in the real world, nobody gets what he wants you get what you are able to negotiate. As a trade unionist I know that I was never able to get all that I demanded from my employer. But my employer was never also able to escape with his desire to maximise profit even at the expense of my life, which is why common to the central of my interaction, is always give and take, compromises. Dialogue is central to serving a free society and a free organisation. So we will bring all of these to bear to deal with these issues.
The President’s support for your candidacy has resulted in governors and other key stakeholders throwing their weight behind you . How were you able to get the endorsement of the President ?
If I have prominent people from the north, prominent people from the south, east and west it means I will be at the center. No one will say if not for my support you would not have been there. If you are a product of one section then you might remain detained by that section if you feel that to return to that office you must service that section because it is your support base. But when you have the privilege of a broad support, from many leaders then no one leader will say I put you there you must listen to me. But let me also say that what is qualitatively different about this support is that there is no question about what is influencing this support because conventionally in our political environment, we hear that those who have the deepest pocket tend to buy the support. But this support is being offered from people who cannot be procured which tells you it is flowing from the knowledge of my person. Because I have been fortunate to work with all the governors, including past governors.
Those I did not meet in office I met them when I was President of the NLC, we had engaged one on one, they know what I stand for. So they offered this support based on their understanding of my person and not inducement and that makes a difference.