My fears for APC, Buhari – Idahosa
Charles Idahosa is a founding member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which started as AC then ACN before its fusion with other parties to form the APC. He was the Political Adviser to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as governor of Edo State. He spoke to ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU in Benin City.
How do you feel about the seeming lack of cohesion in APC?
I feel very worried and I fear for the APC. I thought the party would take advantage of the confusion in the main opposition party, that is, the PDP. But from all indication, the APC is having problems, just like the PDP. The way some of the top notches and those powerful people at the national level are talking frightens me and I fear for Nigeria.
I feel sorry for President Muhammadu Buhari, because I can conclude without any fear of contradiction that he is surrounded by sycophants and people that are ready to tell him what he wants to hear. Nobody is telling him the truth and the country is just drifting. I fear that we are going back to 2010 over the issue of his health and what happened to former president Yar’Adua, a situation where top leaders of the party and those in government will be talking about a president running for a second term, when we are all aware the man needs to take care of his health.
It has nothing to do with Buhari, as anybody can fall sick at any time. He didn’t plan for it and it is not something that anybody should laugh about. But what should be everybody’s concern is how the president will be healthy enough to carry out his job. As we speak today, the man cannot perform his job. The man is not well and he needs to go and take care of his health, even though those around him are talking about his being fit to do a second term. May 29th is far away, and he has not even done two years.
So, I am not quite happy at the way things are going at the national level and the feud between the National Assembly and the Presidency might lead us to where we started. We might just erode the gains made since 1999, if we are not careful. So, I am using this opportunity to call on those at the top to forget about their self-interests, as well as what they stand to gain, because if you look at this whole scenario— the National Assembly, the Presidency and the confusion in the hierarchy of the party over whether to run or not, we shouldn’t be talking about such. Rather, we should be talking about the president’s welfare, because when the president is not well, Nigeria is not well.
In developed countries, you talk about institutions and not individuals. I don’t know how many of us can just talk of the CIA head, British MI5 or British M16, or the Israeli Mossad. But in Nigeria, they still talk about Ribadu and Magu. But we should learn to build institutions and not names. So, I am appealing that we should look inside and stop this drifting.
APC commands majority in the National Assembly, but the relationship has always been frosty. What is responsible for this?
It is because the party is not in control of its members in the National Assembly. Ab initio, the party wanted to install the leadership of the National Assembly, but it failed. Since then, they have not been able to make amends and talk as a body. The National Assembly members of APC are operating differently. Don’t forget the different groups that make up the APC in the amalgamation. We all came from the PDP, the CPC, the ACN and the rest of them. And though they have fused into one party, everybody is still protecting his own interest. The people empowered to handle these matters are not doing their job. That precisely is my point.
So, what is the solution to all this?
Those sycophants at the top, who call themselves big names in the party, and the government should put their heads together and tell themselves the truth.
My fear is that I don’t see any of these parties being on ground to contest in 2019. Rather, I see a situation, where the PDP will disintegrate and if we are not careful, APC will also disintegrate, because at the rate we are going, we have not been able to become one. So, I am very worried about 2019. I thought after winning, APC would put its acts together, but it is clear for all to see that we are not together; the party is very divided. The National Assembly is operating completely different from the government and we are in absolute majority. So, what we should ask is: What are our people in the National Assembly doing? Though I am neither in the National Working Committee nor in the Executive of the party, but I am a party man who has been there from the beginning.
When we left PDP in 2004, we formed what was called the ACD, under the late Alexander Anielo. I remember the few people then that I see around now includes Lai Mohammed, who was in the National Publicity Committee. We were always meeting in Abuja with a few other people. I also remember that immediately Tribune and Vanguard saw us at that meeting in Abuja, because then I just left government as a commissioner for Information under the PDD government, they carried a headline that it was Lucky Igbinedion and Tinubu, who were supporting the new party that will wrest power from the PDP in the future. However, Lagos State government kept quiet, while Lucky Igbinedion took a full-page advert to disown me, saying I was on my own and that nobody sent me.
But today, everybody is in APC. We started as ACD with Anielo as the chairman. From there, we became AC and Lucky Igbinedion told us that we were air conditioners without compressor, but now, there are people now leading the party, who were not there when it started. So, my advice to them is that they should put their heads together.
The National Assembly caucus of the APC should meet with the national leadership of the party and become one, because we are not making any headway; we are fighting ourselves. Look at what is happening with these probes by Osinbajo. They are the people fighting themselves. You see the National Assembly rejecting the president’s nominee for EFCC on the ground that the report from DSS indicted him. But the DSS is under the Presidency, just like the EFCC. The National Assembly is not saying they did not want him, rather, they are pointing at the report. So, there is a lot of politics going on. You heard Babachir Lawal saying, ‘who is Presidency?’ You journalists have not been able to analyse what he meant by that question?
So, that is the big issue. The different powerful people in the Presidency have different interests. The DSS writing a report against another government agency under the Presidency—you can see the confusion and the intrigues. It is very worrying. The president is not too strong, and instead of us to concentrate on how we can put the ship of state right and ensure that the man has the opportunity of really looking after his health, people around him are politicising the matter. And those wanting to gain out of it are saying he is ready for second term. How do you open wide your mouth to talk that kind of rubbish? The man has not even done two years and you are talking about 2019.
There has not been any serious prosecution in terms of those names mentioned. Are you not worried about that?
That brings us back to the different interests in the Presidency that I am talking about. Immediately the President returned from London, I knew the war would be tough. The president announced in London that when he returned to Nigeria, he would announce the names of the people from whom money was taken, but when he got to Nigeria, quite unlike the Buhari I know, he changed his mind. He attributed this to security reasons, saying he had been advised not to announce the names. And I think that was where we lost because by now nobody knows how much he collected from each person.
Do you see the national situation as hopeless?
Not hopeless, but I am worried because of the way things are going. The APC members at the national level are not talking with one voice. I was reading Saraki the other day and he said it was APC members that voted for Ekweremadu. He said they made him deputy president because they are in the majority. Everybody is still on their own.
So, at the end of the day, there is really need for us to put our acts together and tell ourselves the truth. But unfortunately, truth is a very scarce commodity in this country’s politics, especially in our party. Now, nobody is telling each other the truth. You cannot say that APC is controlling the National Assembly, as we cannot pass anything through, and Saraki is supposed to be an APC member.
There are a lot of things that are supposed to be settled at the party level. Saraki will sit down on a Monday as the Senate President and an APC member, but the next day he is in the dock as an accused in CCB. These are things you take care of at party level. We are just washing our dirty linen in the public, which is why people are taking advantage of the situation and saying the whole thing is one sided.
How do you see the issue of Igbo being marginalised?
Nobody is marginalising the Igbos. Rather, the Igbos are marginalising themselves. The Igbos are just like the Binis in a way. There is what we call crab culture in Benin. If you put 50 crabs in a bucket, travel to London and back, none of them would have escaped, but if you put 10 snails in the bucket, you won’t meet any by the time you return. The crabs tend to pull each other down. So, if you put 30 of them in a bucket, when one tries to climb up, the others will pull it down. So, for instance, if you make one of them the Speaker, 50 of them will want to be Speaker. If you give them the Presidency, every village will want to produce one, they have not been able to come together.
You know how many of them have been Senate presidents within a short period, yet David Mark was there throughout, when it was zoned to his region. The Igbos fight themselves too much. It is my personal opinion that they are the ones marginalising themselves, and that they have not been able to put their acts together, because by now, the Igbos ought to have gone for the presidency.
I remember the problem that led to Ibori’s wahala. He was set up because he wanted Obasanjo out in 2003, while we wanted Ekweme. I was Ekweme’s coordinator. James Ibori appointed me and I held several meetings with Ekweme, but they scuttled it and we knew those that did it. We wanted Ekweme to run and in order to keep hold on him, we wanted Atiku to still be the vice president for another four years so that he wouldn’t feel short changed with Ekweme as president, but they scuttled it before Obasanjo now discovered that it was Ibori that spearheaded it. And that is why he pursues Ibori till tomorrow.
Before I was at the Rivers State Governors lodge, Obasanjo was on his knees begging because he left everything to Atiku. So, when nomination came in 2002, he had no control over any delegate, as Atiku was in charge of all the governors. But Ibori said it must be the turn of Igbos, let the southerners just have these eight years and we zeroed in on Ekweme.
I was Ekweme’s coordinator and I was Obsanjo’s coordinator and a member of the national political meeting in 1999. We already held a meeting and we knew what we wanted to do, but they scuttled it. Ekweme is still alive, so I think the Igbos should put their house in order, because our size is our strength and we need to work on that, we would gain more by doing so. The funny thing is that if Nigeria breaks up, the people that will suffer most are the Igbos.