All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun spoke with reporters in Benin-City, Edo State capital, on the preparations for the presidential primaries, Chief Tom Ikimi’s defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), next year’s elections and other national issues. OSAGIE OTABOR was there.
How do you intend to produce your presidential candidate without rancour?
There will be disagreement, but we will overcome them. We have survived all the predictions. We have insisted we are going to have a level playing field. We are going to give aspirants equal opportunity. We are going to be even handed. There is no anointed candidate to the best of my knowledge. We will issue a code of conduct that the run-off to the primaries will be rancour free, in terms of personal attacks. People will say why they are the best, but it is not within the rules to say why somebody else will not get it. The aspirants are to prove that they have the leadership quality the nation deserves at this crucial time of its existence. We are trying to have as wide as electorate as possible, given the fact that conventions hold in a single venue. Even though we would have preferred direct primaries, we thought of that because of time. Whoever comes out will be the person the entire party will unite on.
Why is it difficult for the APC to have a consensus candidate like the PDP?
We don’t believe on forced consensus. I don’t want to comment on what the PDP did. That was a forced consensus. If tomorrow all the aspirants come and say they agree to support a preferred aspirant, we will gladly accept. I know each aspirant can beat anybody the PDP will present. In this case, they said they have settled for President Jonathan. I trust completely that all of them can beat anything the PDP can offer. We have no problem, if the aspirants pick one person. We are going to do the right and the democratic thing, which is a free and fair primaries.
Ikimi said you took the food he cooked away…
This whole thing about Ikimi is getting to a bad joke. I think we should let it be. He has said what he wants to say. I do not know that, at any stage, if any, he was such over riding influence that he cooked the food for everybody to eat. It is an over-exaggeration of his role in the party. The ACN choose him as leader of their team and the group made him the chairman of the process after the leaders of the various parties have agreed to come together. They just needed someone to chairman the negotiating sessions. If that means that he cooked the food, let him enjoy the accolade he is giving himself. I will not want to deprive him of that personal crowning of himself.
Will the party miss him?
No party wants to lose anybody, but the people who are not ideologically attuned to wear the APC stance, it is best for the party and let them go where they can feel at ease. Just like we lose some, we are gaining some. A few days ago, I was in Lokoja to welcome seven House of Assembly members. That is a useful addition. That is an addition that of relevance. That is the kind of quality addition that the APC is gaining across the country.
President Jonathan has said that his party would win Edo and Rivers…
What did you want the President to say? We have a list of the places we are going to win. That they will win Edo and Rivers is totally out of the question because we have very strong governors in those two states. Edo, of course, is APC. There will be one or two skirmishes and that is all. For the River governor to have survived all the onslaughts, including major ones by concentrated security agencies, with full Aso rock backing, it tells you he has something more than the ordinary and that he is firmly in control of the politics of River State. With all the array of special policemen sent there for a particular purpose, with the minister making trouble and the man has survived, and you say you are going to win that state from him when you cannot get more than five members of the House. Think about that.
With the exit of Shekarau, Sheriff and others, is the ANPP alliance still intact?
We lost Bafarawa and got Wammako. Is it a plus or a minus? In Kano, we lost Shekarau, but we gained Kwankwaso, a brilliant and performing visionary governor. Sheriff did not win his senatorial seat. There is a governor there who is in the APC. The exit of Sheriff coincided with who is Boko Haram and who is not. When he left, the floodgate opened on who is indeed sponsoring Boko Haram. God took him away just in time. Imagine the embarrassment we would have suffered, if he is still a member of the APC. What we gain was superior to what we lost.
Is there any plan by the APC to stop the swearing-in of Ekiti State Governor-elect Fayose?
There is no plan to stop the swearing-in. It is a plan to get the judicial system to decide whether we are a country of law and order or not. Whether the laws of the country still mean anything or whether the impeachment has the same force as a criminal offence. Whether it is an indictment because the forms you fill when running for office asked whether you have been indicted or not. It is for the judicial system to decide. Stopping him or not is a matter of what the law says. We have gone to court to seek the interpretation of the laws. Was he a qualified person to contest to be the governor of Ekiti State? The unprecedented happenings, the humiliation of the judiciary. Thuggery in the sacred halls of the judiciary.
Has this country degenerated to that extent? What does it portends for the nation when a judge is manhandled in those sacred chambers? It has never happened before. That is where I expected you people to stand. To help rebuild the system. The judiciary is on trial. I am waiting for what the judges would do. How seriously would they react? Will they get cowed again by the power structure of the nation or will they stand up for themselves and say we cannot have this? It must not happen.
I was traumatised. I personally did not go to receive the national award of the CON. I can’t put myself together to receive an award, where the halls of justice of this country have been desecrated. There has been no forceful reaction by the Federal Government. The shock was too much for me to wear agbada and be shaking the hands of the Federal Government. I really urge the press to stand up and ensure that what happened is unraveled and a severe punishment is meted out or we don’t know where we are going to end next. We don’t know who would be slapped next. Maybe, the President himself. The nation is suffering and degenerating.
Did you do anything to pacify aggrieved members of the party?
The harm was already done. Those who left had already gone. You cannot give conditions for settlement and the time you gave has not elapsed, you went to see the President. There was no sincerity. The party has recovered from that temporary glitch.
Is it true that there was a clash between you and Governor Oshiomhole over some candidates in Edo?
I have enough trouble in Abuja. I am trying to get my acts together on who will be the presidential candidate. I am putting the party in the fighting shape for the elections than to bother about candidates in Edo. There is absolutely no clash between the governor and I. The primaries should be free and fair and whosoever the people want will be the candidate. The people must be given the total freedom to choose. Let those involved go round and campaign. This is all names dropping. I am not sure the governor has told anybody that he preferred any candidate. In politics, there are no secrets.