In this interview with JOHN ALECHENU, the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, speaks about the Ekiti governorship election, the R-APC and other issues
There are allegations that the All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party engaged in vote buying in the just concluded Ekiti State governorship election. What happened?
Our people have a proverb that when you see a man with one bad leg carrying luggage on his head and you say, why is that load not sitting straight? The man will say it is the load you are looking at; you are not looking at the leg. The meaning of that is that Ekiti became a problem the day someone reduced an otherwise intelligent and educated people to ‘I can be procured’. When you reduce your people to those who have no higher aspirations other than eating, that is the utter debasement of the values of your own people. I wasn’t in Ekiti during the election. Without prejudice to what happened there, what I know is that in the end, there was no single observer group that said the outcome did not reflect the aspirations of the Ekiti people. We’ve not had a perfect election in Nigeria; we should aspire to achieve the best. For me, the people of Ekiti have taken their state back, it is a victory for progressive ideas, it’s a victory for Dr. Kayode Fayemi who has deservedly returned to the position that he should occupy in the state.
Do you agree that your party is factionalised?
Not at all!
How do you explain the emergence of the Reformed APC?
I think there are certain contents that must be seen before anyone can say a party is factionalised. One of them is that the executive of the party as constituted is divided. The executive of the APC, as constituted, is intact. So, it is on that basis that I say the APC remains united. Yes, with due respect to the people who are doing the R-APC thing but I see it as a form of negotiation, as a form of expression of grievances and in every political setting, there will be people who will not be happy with the way things are. Regardless of what we consider to be their grievances, merit or demerit of such grievances, it’s incumbent on our party to continue to see how we can bring everybody into the fold. That is why you see that despite all the temptations; despite the fact that some people are saying deal with them, the leadership of the party, under the chairmanship of Adams Oshiomhole, has decided to toe the line of reconciliation and I know as a matter of fact that whether it is new PDP of R-APC, he has been making efforts to try to reach out to them to see how we can, as much as possible, bring people into the fold. Recently, you heard the governor of Benue State (Samuel Ortom) said he was leaving the party. We reached out to him and discussions are ongoing to address the issue. At the end of the day, a political party is not a religious organisation; it’s not a mosque or a church. A political party is a group of people with varied interests depending on how those interests are defined. That’s why people say that in politics, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests. What we should aspire to is that at the end of the day, the interest of Nigeria will be much more important than all those other primordial or sectional interests. I think what is going on as an opportunity to have conversations. If people are crying, I think what they are doing is saying, ‘let’s have a conversation’ not that they want to leave or destroy the house. The person that is saying ‘look, I have an issue, let us talk about it’, is more interested in the house than someone who has a grudge and keeps quiet even though he is not happy.
What happened to the peace process involving Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, your party and the Alhaji Kawu Baraje-led nPDP?
You will recall that that initiative, led by his Excellency the Vice President, started during the former executive of the party, led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. It was an attempt to also see how everybody’s interest can be reintegrated into the overall cycle of the party. We have a new party’s national executive led by Adams Oshiomhole, who has a clear idea as to how some of these issues can be handled. I know that he is making efforts, he is reaching out. I know that when this issue of R-APC came up, some people were threatening all kinds of things but he said he must try as much as possible to accommodate every single person that has a genuine grievance. We must agree that some things happened that shouldn’t have happened and we must try the best we can to make sure we bring everybody back into the fold. Our reaction to all these things has not been as antagonistic as ordinarily would have been because we are looking at the positive side of it in terms of reconciliation. You can’t say you want reconciliation and you keep pouring petrol into a burning fire. We are happy with the progress we have recorded. We would rather that some of these things go on as quickly and more positively as has been at some levels but overall, I think we are moving closer to resolving some of these issues.
How sincere is your party on the issue of restructuring? How can this happen before 2019?
Whether it’s going to happen before 2019 or not is not something I can possibly say now but what I can assure you is that the party’s abiding commitment to the issue of restructuring. It is in our manifesto and I keep saying it that the manifesto of a party is not something that you must exhaust in four years. As long as it remains in your manifesto, it is your responsibility to the people of Nigeria and that is the point we have been making all along. We have started; we’ve made efforts as a party; we’ve set up a committee; we produced a report, and we’ve made recommendations. There are bills at the National Assembly that have been there since the 5thand 6th Assemblies if you check. It’s a process; Nigeria has been an independent nation since 1960, an issue that is as significant as restructuring in the country. As we have always known it, it’s not something that can be done like a hundred metre race; it is complex. There will be winners and there will be losers in any form of restructuring. It’s in managing the victory of winners and the loss of the losers that the complexity lies. It is what will determine, in the end, whether you will not end up with unintended consequences, no matter how noble or grand your vision for restructuring is. When we talk about restructuring, we are talking of the overall template for the reorganisation of the country itself – economically, politically, socially and otherwise.
Where does the party stand on the issue of state police?
Some situations will impose certain imperatives on you. One is the issue of state police. The issue of state police is one of the core elements of the restructuring promised by the APC. It’s part of the issues contained in the report of the Governor Nasir el-Rufai committee.
But the last time, we heard the report was to be submitted to the President. What happened?
The procedure, which we followed, was that we brought the report to the caucus of the party and the national caucus has advised that we take it to the National Executive Committee. The NEC of the party, in its wisdom, said it is not something that we can just approve in a hurry; let us set up a small team that will put it together in an articulate form and forward to the President as the party’s position. One thing is clear; the party has done its bit. It is now in between forwarding its recommendation to the President that was where we were before these other situations, such as the emergence of a new leadership, happened.
What about the process of the creation of state police started by the National Assembly?
The National Assembly has decided to take on the issue of state police. I don’t think you can disconnect the APC from that. In any case, the National Assembly, as it’s constituted today, is dominated by the APC. I think that on the issue of restructuring, there are some people who will tell you that we should keep the status quo as it is, 100 per cent. There are also different interpretations of what should happen and there are degrees at which people are ready to go in reorganising the country as it were. I think everyone has come to the realisation that some kinds of tinkering is necessary.