Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) 2019 Gubernatorial Primary Election in Imo State, Ahmed Ali Gulak, has dismissed misconception in some quarters that the newly sworn-in governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, may not perform after all.
Gulak, a former special adviser on Political Matters to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and one-time speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly, expressed confidence that with the coming of Uzodinma, it is a new dawn in Imo.
Amongst other issues such as APC after the Buhari administration, visa-on-arrival policy, withdrawal of troops from internal security operation and Amotekun, the newly commissioned Southwest security outfit, Gulak spoke about the Supreme Court ruling on Uzodinma and Emeka Ihedioha, saying that he never had issues with former Governor Rochas Okorocha as a result of the primary election in the state, which saw to the emergence of Uzodinma. Excerpts:
How do you feel now that your party, the APC, has reclaimed Imo State?
First and foremost, the APC as a party gives glory to God for what has happened in Imo State because we know as a fact that Imo State is an APC state. There were internal problems though within the party. APC was not defeated in Imo State and like you could see from the Supreme Court judgment, it was APC and its candidate, Hope Uzodinma, who scored the highest number of votes and ought to have been declared from day one. But because they excluded his results from 388 polling units, and when you add that one which was admitted in evidence as exhibit, you find that Senator Hope Uzodinma and APC as a party won that election ab initio. So, APC has been vindicated, APC did not lose election in Imo State.
Have you looked at the figures bandied about by people, particularly on the social media, that if you add the votes the Supreme Court awarded Uzodinma…
(Cuts in) No. You see, I dislike this word, the Supreme Court ‘awarded.’ You see, don’t go by social media report. The Supreme Court has given verdict. It is the highest court. The Supreme Court acted on the facts before it. The Supreme Court acted on what was before the trial tribunal. The court is supposed to act on what is before it, not through speculation and not through the social media. There are processes for trial. Trials are not done through your whims and caprices. There are results. Elections don’t hold in the ward or local government or state. Elections are held at the units. Elections are held at the units and the unit results are what will add throughout the state to get who scored the highest votes. What you do at the ward collation is to add; what you do at the local government is to add and what you do at the state is to add. But elections are held at the polling units where the results are computed.
There are those who also believe that Fr Mbaka, though he is a spiritual man, was used to douse the tension in the state prior to the judgment. What is your take on that?
You are just talking about Fr Mbaka. Fr Mbaka is a religious leader. You know he said he was predicting. You as a citizen, you can also predict. It depends on how your mind works.
He said it was a prophecy…
Well, we can call it a prophecy. You can sleep in the night and have your dream. Don’t you dream? You dream from time to time and if through your dream, some things are revealed to you and you come out to tell the public, that does not mean that Fr Mbaka is APC or Supreme Court.
What do you have to say about those who also believe that he is the spiritual arm of the APC?
You see, I am not a student of that spiritual belief of the people. Only God knows what will happen tomorrow. I believe in that. Fr Mbaka has never come out to say he is APC member or PDP member or APGA member. He is just a religious leader who ministers to his followers and on the 31st day of December, 2019, during the crossover prayers, sermon, he said God has revealed to him and his followers. They believe him, they follow him, they are Christians and they are Catholics in Imo State. Mbaka is from Enugu, he is not from Imo State. Mbaka is Catholic, that was his sermon that he has seen in a dream or vision as they call it that Hope will be governor.
And it came to pass…
That is prediction. Some predictions may come right, some may not be right like America predicted that Nigeria would disintegrate in 2015. Did Nigeria disintegrate? You see, let us not trivialise this issue. Let us take these issues as serious issues. You don’t joke with the judgment of the Supreme Court. It is the final court. Whether they are wrong or right, it is the final court. Let us not attack our institutions like what the PDP has done in attacking the justices of the Supreme Court. That is the highest point of rascality from leaders of a political party. Look, what happened in Zamfara? The PDP did not even go to court, but the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, gave judgment that there was no candidate for APC during that election. And you know APC won that election overwhelmingly. So, when the Supreme Court came out to give judgment, the APC took it as one of the judgments that must be respected because it is judgment from the Supreme Court. It is the highest court. When the Supreme Court excluded all candidates of the APC in Rivers State, we did not call the Supreme Court as having been compromised. You may disagree with their decision, but their decision is final. You must live with it. But that doesn’t give you the latitude to abuse and to be castigating an institution you solely depend on when it comes to democracy.
How have you been relating with Okorocha since the crisis began?
Why are you particular about Okorocha? There has never been crisis. Okorocha is an APC member, though the ban or his suspension in the party has been lifted. He is APC member, I am APC member. I don’t feel anything.
Where you in Imo State when the governor was sworn in?
I was there.
Okorocha was there. Did both of you exchange pleasantries?
We greeted, even at the airport here (referring to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja). Of course, I offered him my hand and he held my hand.
Are you serious?
What is your take on Imo people believing that Uzodinma will not perform as governor?
You see, I become so worried when journalists like you begin to speculate.
It is not about me, but the people…
Which people? Who are the people? You see, you just cash in on this, you journalists that oh, the people. Who are the people? Who are the people for God’s sake? Let us not trivialise issues. A government has just been installed in Imo State. You know as a fact that Uzodinma is an experienced person. He is a man of the people. You needed to have seen what happened in Imo State on that day. From seven o’clock in the morning till we reached around 7:30 in the evening and 8:00 when he was sworn in, ovation! Owerri was at a standstill. Gun salutes any angle you go, receiving the man because they know the man, they know his capacity and they know his capability.
So, you believe they prefer him to Ihedioha?
From what I saw on ground, yes! From what I saw on ground, nobody could have mobilised those people the way they mobilised themselves to receive Hope.
Don’t you think the public will say you are just saying this because you are an APC member?
Well, they are entitled to say whatever they have to say, but what I have seen is what I am reporting to you.
How was the atmosphere in Imo before you left the state?
Let me tell you: Hope Uzodinma was a senator and he distinguished himself in the Senate. You know it as a fact. Hope Uzodinma joined the APC and during the primary election, he overwhelmingly won the primary election of his people because whether in a party or out of the party, if you are a man of the people, the people will always be with you. Notwithstanding the internal crisis of the PDP, notwithstanding the position of the then governor, yet, the people of Imo State who were APC voted for Hope. Now, you have seen that during the general election, Hope Uzodinma and APC won the election overwhelmingly.
The warring factions in Imo State such as Okorocha, Uche Nwosu, and others came together before the Supreme Court judgment and when the verdict was given, they all supported. What is your take on that?
It is their party. It is just interest, divergence of interest. Rochas Okorocha was elected on the platform of APGA. In 2014, he switched to APC and won re-election on the platform of APC. Nwosu has been in the government of Okorocha in Imo State for years. He was a candidate in APC. He was an aspirant and he lost the primaries. Although he joined another party to contest which the Supreme Court unanimously said he ought not to have been a candidate of AA. So, the issue doesn’t even arise. When you saw them coming together, they knew the right thing has been done and all hands must be on deck to give Senator Hope Uzodinma the needed support for him to develop the state the way we know him to do.
Considering the crisis witnessed so far in APC, how do you see the party after the Buhari administration?
APC during Buhari and after Buhari: We hope and pray the leadership must be given the necessary impetus and support to continue to meander, galvanise and unite the party as we inch towards 2023.
Not too long ago, the Federal Government came out with visa-on-arrival policy for all Africans. Considering the insecurity being experienced in the country, some people are worried that the visa-on-arrival policy will escalate the situation. Do you agree?
The government ought to have arrived at this policy, having analysed all aspects. And this visa-on-arrival is not only for Nigerians, even in Dubai. When you arrive in Dubai, they can give you visa on arrival. So, if Nigeria has decided to give visa on arrival to African countries at the airport, at the seaport, at the borders; I am sure and convinced they have put in place, some mechanisms to determine those who are likely to get this visa on arrival. It may not be for all comers.
The Federal Government has also said it will withdraw the military from internal security operations. As someone from Adamawa State in the Northeast, what is your take on that?
To that, I also say from their security perspective, in their own wisdom, that is what they have said. But coming from the Northeast, I sincerely believe it is not yet ripe for withdrawal of troops from the Northeast. Yes, they may withdraw troops from towns that have relative peace and deploy policemen to those areas. But you have seen recently that Boko Haram has been attacking commuters from Damaturu to Maiduguri, from Maiduguri to Kano and all that. I still believe we should be very conscious in talking about withdrawing troops in the Northeast geopolitical zone.
Are you saying the police are not equipped to tackle the situation?
With proper training and equipment, they can do it, especially the mobile police. It is training and equipment.
That takes us to the Southwest. As a lawyer, how do you see the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, saying that Amotekun is illegal?
I am not joining issues with the attorney general. But be that as it may, the security situation in the country, community policing should be at the forefront now. And what do I mean by that? Everybody must be conscious of our security environment. You must be alert to what is happening around you – who are the strangers? Who are the visitors? What has brought them? What work do they do? Even in those colonial days when we were still children or before we were born, there was community policing. A village head must be informed of any stranger coming to his vicinity and I don’t believe Amotekun is an issue that will attract our attention and to dissipate our energy. If they can properly harness it and properly organise it in such a way that they police the community, I welcome such a development. I support it. It is just like we have Civilian JTF in the Northeast that our various governments have put in place to police the community because they know themselves, they know the bad ones in the community and they know when strangers come into the community. And what have you? They assist the police and they assist the security with information and the terrain. If you bring a soldier or a police from the South or from the Southeast and take him to the Northeast, he does not know the terrain, he does not know the bearing. It is the Civilian JTF that will guide them.
Is your state benefitting from having the First Lady as an Adamawa indigene? Are you reaping from her vintage position?
Well, she is doing her best. To the best of our knowledge, she is doing her best in accordance with what is available to her. You know the office of the First Lady is not a constitutional office. She doesn’t control vote. In fact, it is through contribution that she can organise and harmonise donations from well-wishers that she takes home to the IDPs. We have seen her do that and we commend her for that. And I am really; really amazed by her concern and the way she deploys some resources available to her to the IDPs in Adamawa State and the Northeast in general.
How is Adamawa after Bindow?
I will refrain very well from making a comment because the person there is not from my party.
How is the APC in Adamawa?
Well, we are trying to come together because we went into the election in factions. We went into the election with some people pouring their hearts to the election and doing whatever they could do to win the election. We had some people who were nonchalant and who were even supporting the opposition. And we have seen the result of that.
How did you come to that conclusion? Do you know them in person?
We know ourselves politicians. We know ourselves.
Who are they?
I don’t need to mention names, but we know ourselves. Somebody who is in a party, during elections, you make certain statements that are derogatory of your candidate. What does that show?
2023: Are you taking a shot at the governorship race?
It depends on what the party wants.
Are you prepared?
I am always ready and prepared anytime, any day. I have been in this game in that state since 1990, politicking. And I have always been partisan; I have been active. I have never been dormant.
So, you are sure anytime you contest, you will win?
Anytime, any day, I am a candidate to beat in Adamawa State.