The Deputy National Chairman (North) of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, speaks about the meeting with aggrieved nPDP members of the party, and the anti-graft war among other issues with JOHN ALECHENU
you are leading the APC team in discussions with the aggrieved nPDP members of your party. What happened at the last meeting you held with the Vice President?
When we got to Aguda House for the meeting, we were 20 in number. The Vice President said the number was too much and that we should reduce it. There was a debate on how many people should be on the panel.
There was nowhere we gave a condition that Senate President Bukola Saraki’s trial at the CCT be withdrawn. Even Saraki will not agree to that at this stage because it would be a stigma on him to be honest.
What exactly was the agenda of the meeting?
The basis of our talks was the contents of that letter that they brought to the party and took copies to the Vice President and the President. It is the contents of the letter which have now gone public that formed the basis of their demands. They said persecution of their members and didn’t say the Senate President.
Did they name specific persons they claimed were being persecuted?
They did not specify. That letter will be x-rayed and we will go point by point and ask for specific examples, something like that.
Was the issue of congresses discussed during the meeting?
The letter was written before the congresses were held but they raised the issue at the meeting. (The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu) Dogara, raised the issue. We said when we reach the specifics, we would talk about that.
How will the party address concerns raised by some of your members in the National Assembly whose return to their positions could be under threat because of the way the congresses were handled?
We have not started treating the report of the congresses. When such issues come up, there are ways we can always address them. You want to say we can’t make amends, yes, we can we can make amends. Decisions are made and amendments can be made to such decisions. Look, politics is not madness. There must be a way of accommodating peoples’ grievances, there must be a way of carrying people along those who are left behind in any process.
How does the party intend to handle cases from the parallel congresses?
You see, in politics, you can’t have a perfect process and indeed, when you look at political activities and processes, I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where you can have a single opinion. There will be varying opinions on any issue because without it, we are not in politics. There must be disagreements, these disagreements are normal in politics. It is not the first time we are having the cases in politics. We will resolve them.
You have barely three weeks to your party’s national convention. Do you think you still have time to address all these challenges?
In the resolution of disagreements, some may take just five minutes while some may take one hour. Probably, the most difficult ones may not last beyond one day. So, what are you talking about? By next week, we will have a delegates’ list to be used for accreditation at the national convention.
Has the party begun the process of reconciling members’ differences following the congresses?
It is ongoing. We were supposed to have met yesterday (Wednesday) but couldn’t because of some logistics problems and the inability of some members to travel down.
Some protesters at the secretariat kicked against the conduct of the congresses in Imo State and also demand the removal of one of your colleagues, the National Organising Secretary, Sen. Osita Izunaso. What’s your reaction to the protest?
It is their right. We are in a democracy and people have the right to air their views on any issue in a peaceful manner. That is the beauty of democracy. Like I said earlier, when we meet, we will take a decision on most of these issues. There is no issue beyond resolution. Our chairman has reports which he will present for consideration by the time we start the sitting. These things are normal and don’t forget that this is a third world democracy. We are not yet an advance democracy.
We are bound to have disagreements. The only thing we always try to avoid is violence but there are times you can’t even avoid or prevent it because there are people who cannot control their emotions.
When is the expiration of the tenure of this executive which you are a part of?
Our responsibility as the national working committee of this party ends from the day we finish compiling the delegates list and hand over to the convention planning committee.
It may not have anything to do with the day we took the oath of office because by the time you have concluded the ward, local government and state congresses; dealt with all complaints and established what the delegates list is and handed over to the national convention planning committee, what will you be doing at the secretariat? Nothing; you have no function, even when the new executives emerge they won’t ask you to come and handover.
The convention committee will hand over the instrument of authority. It is immaterial which day we took office. The attention of the party will be on the convention and nobody will be here for anything. We started work in July (2014), we were elected in June 13, there were no offices, and we were sworn in July by the late James Ocholi SAN. We are very comfortable.
There were parallel congresses in 22 states. What is the party doing to address this issue which some argued could threaten the party’s existence?
We appointed committees from Abuja and charged them with the responsibility of organising congresses. They brought in reports. We have no moral ground to reject their reports and accept that of a volunteer. Anybody we have not assigned to do that job is a volunteer. Look at it this way, this is a committee officially inaugurated and they went and did their jobs and the Independent National Electoral Commission, the regulatory agency, was there to witness it and they took a copy. Then, you ignore that and accept another one? If somebody goes to court, all he needs to do is to apply for a certified true copy from INEC and it is what your committee submitted to it that will be brought out.
There are certain cases that we will have to take a second look at. Where we found out that our committees were compromised; we have to look at it. We have to be fair to see how best to come up with a solution.
Some observed that in cases like what happened in Imo State, there is no way the NWC will not take sides with the governor who is the leader of the party in the state. Don’t you think this observation is genuine considering the powers wielded by governors?
True, he is the leader of the party in the state but you see that (Imo) issue is yet to come to the NWC. I really don’t have the correct details of what transpired in Imo State except what I saw on television. And when you see somebody or something on television, you may describe it as hearsay. Let me see the report first before a decision can be taken.
Your party just celebrated three years in office as the ruling party. Do you think democracy has served the country well since 1999?
I can tell you democracy has benefited this country. It has benefited us because the worst form of democracy is better than the best form of military rule. At least, in a democracy, people are free even if for the purpose of exercising their right. You have free speech and it gives you the opportunity to ventilate your view. That is not to say that the democratic system does not come with its own challenges. It comes with many rights and privileges. Naturally, you are bound to have challenges with the system but that does not mean it is still not the best. It is the best system. No matter what mistakes the players make, it is not enough to condemn the entire system.
Yes, within the last three years, we have done well. I remember in 2015 when the general feeling in the country was that the country was going to collapse. The average Nigerian felt the country was going to break into pieces because of the level of insecurity, corruption and impunity.
Compare that time and now, the government in power didn’t seem to have any more control over the affairs of state. Things were really going haywire but when you look at it, after three years, we are still in one piece. Yes, it has been a bumpy three years because of the fight against insurgency, the anti-corruption war and all of that. The fight against corruption is not an easy fight because the corrupt members in society are always thinking ahead. They can afford the services of the best lawyers. They have money and ready to use it to achieve their objectives. Nobody has come out to say President Muhammadu Buhari is not fighting corruption. They keep saying he is not doing it right. The good thing about it is that President Buhari has not lost focus and he is not someone that will lose focus. Sometimes, if you listen to comments about corruption, you are bound to lose focus.
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