From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Sen John James Akpanudoedehe, has actually built himself into a political force to reckon with.
Having served as a onetime Local Government Chairman, Senator, Minister, governorship candidate and now in the exalted position as the ruling party’s chief scribe, he has really come a long way politically.
Fielding questions from Daily Sun, the Akwa-Ibom political strategist spoke on several burning issues, ranging from the ongoing party congresses, the chances of the ruling party retaining power beyond 2023, the real masterminds of the spate of crises rocking the party and the treacherous nature of some PDP governors, which he described as Nicodemus.
What is your take on the ongoing APC congresses?
The difference between what the Caretaker Committee is doing now and others did in the previous congresses is that this one is in conformity with the directive from President Buhari that the party should be built bottom up. The arrangement is for the people to settle for whoever they want.
If you listen to the discordant tunes, you will understand that they are voices coming from PDP that are used to allocation of such positions to their cronies. They are people with an entitlement mentality of I own this one, give it to me. If you listen to views on television coming from professors, Barristers, their clamour is for internal democracy.
We have provision for consensus in our party constitution, which requires dialogue among dissenting voices and interests. It is not a one man affair. But those with entitlement mentality failed to realise that people have changed, more people, progressives and professionals are coming into politics, joining our party that have gone home to implement our progressive ideologies.
We have to improve on what they did previously. The result is that most of the big politicians lost in the areas that were hitherto their stronghold. The masses have taken over the party because the APC needs to restrategise because after Buhari’s tenure, what happens.
Most of them shouting on television don’t actually understand the politics of the progressives. If they do, they won’t continue with that entitlement mentality of ownership of wards or local government. In most of the reports, they did not make any formal complaint. They preferred to play to the gallery or discredit the Caretaker Committee in the media despite our following the rules. This is an association they voluntarily gave their consent to be members. We expect them to exhaust all the internal resolution mechanism before displaying actions that will discredit the party. But, so far, we have done excellently well in organising the congresses.
Why is the congress replete with complaints if you have done well as you claimed?
Most of the problems we are having are cases of power blocks. For instance, there are cases of former state governors that were instrumental to installing his successor that wants to still be in charge. They forget to realise that even when the person involved is your son, once they see the enormity of their power, they would want to be totally in charge.
Most of the complaints from the states are cases of predecessors wanting to be in charge and dividing the state with the governor. They forget that it cannot work because first and foremost, the incumbent governor wants to guarantee his seat and surrendering the party structure to his predecessor when we are not in America where election is very free, may not be pleasant to him.
Surrendering the party structure to the godfathers is responsible for the rancour facing the party in some states. If you belong to a party platform that gives the governors offer of first refusal that is where the rancour usually starts. If the governor is comfortable with anyone who wants to negotiate anything with him, good, but if the governor is not comfortable, it becomes a problem.
Look at the problems created in the case of godfatherism that transpired in Edo State between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the incumbent governor. It was even more worrisome that Comrade Adams, who destroyed godfatherism ideology in Edo, wanted to be a godfather.
Most of the godfathers have only the media space but in reality can’t win elections. They go any length to use the name of Mr President, but if they truly love him or are close to him as they claim, why can’t they listen to his directive that the party should be built from the bottom up and that we should allow the people to choose who they want?
Rather, they express discomfort how they have been reduced to nothing or destroyed politically. Many people worry why such persons cannot win elections, but they forget that they are products of media hype. Most times they forget and underestimate the fact that people want to choose who they want.
I am not surprised over the backlash that trailed the exercise. It is a process but the good thing is that we have an experienced chairman, very knowledgeable in party administration. If you love the party as many of them claimed, you ought to know that there are internal resolution mechanisms and other avenues to ventilate your anger.
You must explore the option of appeal not going to the court of public opinion to appeal. Incidentally, many of them did not even go to the appeal before they started shouting. As far as we are concerned, we don’t have any complaint.
So, it is not true that the congress divided the party rather it has shown the acceptability of the party from people struggling to join the winning party. It is rather an indication of the good thing to come. People are just fighting for their ego, not the interest of the party.
However, there is functionality in conflict. It gives an indication of good things to come and that we are very strong. People don’t rush to buy something for the sake of it but because they have the need. You must come into the party and believe in it.
Did you know that millions of people that built this party from 2014 have not benefited from the party? Yet others who joined because of their names became Ministers, while the founding members have not protested, just because they love the party.
Some ministers never identified with the party and they are not using the office the way they are supposed to. They are not complimenting Mr President properly by making out time to come and explain to the party what they are doing like the Minister of Communication did recently. Some of them don’t even come to the party to equip us so that we can defend our government properly.
Some of them are simply hiding under the popularity of President Buhari. What I want to emphasise is that there are people that have been following President Buhari from CPC and ANPP that have not benefited anything from the government yet they have not destroyed the party.
Most of the people making the loudest noise are some of the new entrants from the PDP because they are not used to waiting patiently. These people are traffics and ready to move when they are hungry. We want to build a mass-oriented, very strong party.
We should be grateful to Mr President for giving out COVID-19 loans to almost everywhere to ameliorate the suffering of people. Everybody is happy. We should be concerned about the achievements of Mr President. We should celebrate the second Niger Bridge built because Igboland is the economic hub of the country.
Did the backlash that trailed the conduct of APC primaries in Anambra come to you as a surprise?
I don’t believe that our primaries in Anambra generated any controversy. The aggrieved aspirants are very much aware that the party has taken a decision and they must obey if they are not platform seekers. People have left APC and returned. They made a mistake thinking that they are the brand without knowing that APC is the brand. The aggrieved ought to know that if they don’t succeed today, they may succeed tomorrow. Don’t forget that it happened to me and I had to wait for God who designs everything.
What is giving you the confidence that APC will win Anambra?
Let me emphasise that APC will win Anambra. What is giving me the confidence is that we have done the second Niger Bridge and even much more. What Anambra people and by extension the Igbo need is someone who can enhance their business. More importantly, we have to link Anambra with the centre.
We are supposed to have a more robust cargo airport, not the small type the governor built that Onitsha people cannot access. If you want to be a good governor in any of the South East states, you must be a technologically inclined fellow and must open the space for their technological innovation.
Does the determination of APC to win Anambra have anything to do with the 2023 Igbo presidency?
I decline to comment on that, but I want to say that as a political party, we go into the election to win. We are not desperate to win but we can only appeal to the electorate to vote for us. If the Igbo politicians want the 2023 presidential ticket, they should campaign for it.
My main target is to ensure that APC claims all the South-south states. All I want to add is that the Igbo and the South Easterners are not supposed to be in opposition because of their businesses everywhere and they are also everywhere in Nigeria. As the party secretary, I won’t campaign for Igbo presidency. I am supposed to be neutral and abide by whatever decision the party leadership has taken.
Did you hear of the bribery allegation against the national leadership during the Anambra primaries?
Not to my knowledge. Nobody has brought such to my attention. However, let me ask you a very pertinent question of whether the Anambra candidate, Andy Ubah, is the richest among the aspirants. I am sure that if you are talking about money, Andy may perhaps come last among them. He has been out of government for a long time.
With the conduct of the Ward and LGA congresses, are you saying that the party has not decided on the issue of zoning?
There must be something wrong with me if I speak authoritatively on the issue of which geopolitical zone gets what. There is a hierarchy in the party that must meet to take such a decision. We will strategise when the President meets with other major stakeholders to deliberate and decide on the zoning.