Okeckuwu: grumbling by members does not suggest party is gone
Mr. Osita Okechukwu is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with ADAMU ABUH, he said APC cannot implode in the near future
Is division within the ranks of the APC enough to cause implosion?
Let me start by saying, as a political scientist, there is no major political party all over the world that is monolithic — Even the Republican Party, the Grand Old Party (GOP), which is the oldest political party in the world. In fact, Donald Trump has exposed the underbelly of the GOP and the various tendencies in the party. The establishment, that is, those who claim ownership of the GOP, are losing out to Trump in the primaries, and shouting to high heavens.
So, there is no political party that is monolithic. As I said, democracy is not a revolution. The parties are not cults, per see. What obtains in the parties is bargaining and compromise to get consensus. APC is also doing that. The party is trying to bargain, as much as it could, in-house. But it is not something we would shout outside. There is no political party in the world, where people are not hopeful, and sometimes, disenchanted. The essence of a political party, as different from Boys Scout or any social club, is to access state power. We went for an election and we won. A lot of people thought they could have been made ministers, director generals or ambassadors, this or that.
It is human nature that after a successful election, the spoils of office have to be shared. In fact, in parliamentary system, the ministers are shared before the election in what they dub shadow ministers. Accordingly, if you hear party members grumble aloud, don’t blame them either. But don’t use it to say the party is gone. I sometimes wonder when people talk of the chairman of the party being removed; I had read a lot of insinuations that the man would be sacked. But under which constitution are they going to do that? Is it the APC constitution? I don’t think so. Nobody can sack him until he is found guilty for malfeasance or breach of the APC Constitution.
What do you make of talks that those unhappy with APC are on the verge of forming a new political party?
The truth is that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC would remain strong or dominant in the next few years, if not longer than that. That is the history of liberal democracy. The zenith of liberal democracy is when you have two dominant political parties in a multi-party system. To form a third force, is not a very easy game. I know what it took us, when we of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), lost in 2003 and started this idea of merger. There was nothing we didn’t do and we went around the country. In 2004, you remember we even did a road march in Abuja, that involved the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), then led by the late chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, the late Wada Nas, chief Olu Falae, President Buhari and Balarabe Musa. What we were trying to do then was to form a mega political party comprising NAP, PRP, APGA, ANPP, CPP and all manner of parties. It didn’t work. In 2007, we came back to that. By 2007, when President Muhammadu Buhari lost the election in questionable circumstances, we decided to head to the court. Along the line, in the presidential tribunal, the late chief Ume Ezeoke and his own faction of the ANPP, Senators Modu Sherrif, Kumo, Yerima, chief Emma Eneukwu and others, said they were joining the Yar’Adua government to form a national government. And we said no. There was a lot of blackmail. They asked rhetorically, what are we fighting for since the late Yar’Adua is from Katsina State with Mr. President? They were not bothered about the doctrine of free and fair election. Why don’t we support him, they repeatedly asked, which we said no, because it is not a matter of kinship. We said, that some discrepancies and flaws in the election had been spotted and that required us to be in the tribunal.
Luckily, the then President of the Court of Appeal, who was chairman of the Presidential Tribunal, Hon Justice A. Abdullahi, granted us reprieve, by allowing the tribunal to continue sitting. He relied on the fact that since the candidate had not withdrawn his suit and was still in court, that the party withdrew from the case, was inconsequential. That was the case that came to the Supreme Court, and for the first time in the history of electoral battle in the country, the Supreme Court had a tie of 3-3. It took the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Hon Jutice Legbo Kutigi, pain and agony to break the tie to 4 -3 in Yar’Adua’s favour. This was a case somebody wanted to withdraw from the backyard, and we said no.
So, when we finished that phase, we now formed what we called the defunct Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), led by President Buhari, and two days on the eve of the presidential election, we almost formed a merger with the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). But the merger failed again and we couldn’t patch it up. So, the merger issue lasted from 2004 to 2013, when the APC was registered. This is why I doubt the birth of a strong 3rd Force in the near future. There is nothing like forming a new party like the APC or PDP in the near future. APC and PDP have dug-in. A third force is one of the hardest things to build in a political system, because of the nuisances listed above. We have about 25 political parties, yet we don’t makeup to 30 per cent population of the country. So, majority of the people are not partisan so they don’t move with you.
What is your take on the altercation between the party leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Petroleum Minister, Ibe Kachikwu?
Whereas, our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is not only politically correct, but has the constitutional rights to condemn the awkward joke made by the Hon Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, over the national embarrassment caused our great country by the ugly fuel supply chain logjam; however, we in the Southeast Zone of the APC, do not subscribe to the call for his resignation. Those who call for his resignation should not forget the transparent, frugal and prudent manner in which Kachikwu and co-deployed in the petroleum product importation and fuel supply chain; a policy, which has saved our dear country over N500b for the country. May we also remind those who call for his resignation, how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) turned the petroleum product importation and fuel supply chain into a slush fund, recklessly increased the cost geometrically from N634 billion in 2010 to N1.6tn in 2012. In 2013, N888b was officially budgeted with a supplementary budget of N232 billion in the same year, making an average N1tn per annum. It is our considered opinion that Kachikwu should stay, for bringing sanity to the petroleum product important and fuel supply chain in the last 10 months.