MOMOH: The APC Leadership Overreached Itself



Former Minister of Information and member of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, told SEYE OLUMIDE that the crisis rocking the party in the National Assembly is not out of place. 

Do you think the ongoing face off in the National Assembly is capable of destabilising the party and governance? IT is unfortunate that some people were beginning to perceive the issue between the APC controlled National Assembly and the leadership of the party as something out of place.

In the first place, it is not a strange development and it is not synonymous to the APC. Similar thing happened in the rank and file of the PDP in 1999, when the party’s choice for the leadership of the Senate was Chief Evans Enwerem, but the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate preferred Dr. Chuba Okadigbo.

Enwerem eventually emerged, but the PDP senators found a means to remove him later, and put Okadigbo. Interestingly, the party too found a way around the issue.

Similar situation happened in 2003, and also in 2011, in the House of Representatives, when Aminu Tambuwal, now the governor of Sokoto State, emerged as Speaker against the preference of the PDP leadership. The difference between what happened then and now is that the proceedings of the National Assembly were not beamed live by the media, as it is at present, where Nigerians watch what is going on and give various interpretations and meaning to it.

Nigerians were simply briefed then by an appointed member of the House on whatever they wanted the public to know. But now, everything is done openly.

It is a normal thing that whenever the principals of the National Assembly are to be elected, there is bound to be trouble and struggle for power and positions. Do not forget that this is a caucus matter, and every bloc fights to get recognition and upper hand.

Why it is so, is the type of constitution we operate, which gives the National Assembly autonomy to choose it’s principal officers. What is the implication of the crisis? People do not yet understand the structure of government. Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution from where each structure of government derives its power clearly states division of labour and also division of power.

The National Assembly cannot impede on the activities of other arms of government, neither can the other arms do similar. What we are witnessing will soon normalise and fizzle out; just in a matter of weeks, the whole imbroglio will settle. Mark my words, it won’t, in anyway, impede on the performance of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government, neither will it destabilise the party. It is part of politics.

To put my argument straight, the principal responsibilities of the National Assembly is lawmaking, my appeal to Nigerians is to wait and see whether the 8th Assembly will fail to deliberate on any bills passed to it in future. What is happening is mere politics and struggle for power.

It is a storm in the teacup that will soon die. Does the party have the constitutional right to determine who becomes what in the National Assembly based on the letter it wrote to the Senate, which was thrown out? In the first instance, every senator in the National Assembly today got there through the party. This alone makes the party supreme because it can determine who becomes what and who goes there.

It is, however, unfortunate that the APC leadership over-reached itself by the letter it wrote to the Senate, stating categorically, who becomes what and who occupies certain positions, forgetting that the National Assembly, by the power of the constitution, ‘is an autonomous body’.

What they should have done was to zone the positions and leave the remaining for the Senate caucus to determine, who they actually want to occupy the positions.

By so doing, you are coordinating the affairs of your members in the Senate, and not to have directly been involved in the affairs of an autonomous body.

The best thing is to have given them the guidelines because every activity is a link, I mean Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara’s emergence and the mock election the party conducted was a reflection of the interest of a particular group. What I am saying is that the party shouldn’t have gotten itself directly involved in the National Assembly affairs.

Do you consider Saraki’s action and that of his cohorts a betrayal to the cause of their party? Before I answer your question, let me correct this impression that Senator Bukola Saraki is not a member of the APC, nobody should give the impression he (Saraki) is a PDP member. He is a leader in the APC, a former governor, and a former chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum.

Nobody should doubt his competence to lead the Senate. I will also like you to note that it is not that Saraki does not have support among the APC, the simple fact is the party cannot tell the Senate what to do. It is right that the party organised a mock election and it came out with a preferred candidate based on the outcome of the election, but it didn’t clearly come out on zoning of positions.

The whole issue is still about politics and it is not new at all. I can assure you that it will not stop the APC and President Buhari from performing. What is your reaction to Buhari’s position that he does not want to interfere in the affairs of the National Assembly, when actually, he cannot afford to be aloof? If you are in the position of the National Assembly, won’t you make laws, which is your principal responsibilities? The National Assembly is going to make laws, not for the APC, but for Nigeria.

President Buhari is right to say that because the constitution clearly states the functions of the three arms of government. It is like this, the party conducted a mock election, but whosoever felt dissatisfied with the outcome of the party’s election can as well go and campaign in the House.

The National Assembly we are discussing here is an autonomous entity. Buhari couldn’t have said anything different but like I said earlier, the party can still wait and get its desire done if it so wishes But it appears the PDP members in the National Assembly are gradually collaborating with their former members that are now in the ruling party to take over control… And what is wrong in that? There is nothing wrong in that, so far they are not, and cannot take over the presidency.

They cannot tell the President what to do, neither could they determine government policies Are you saying the ongoing impasse cannot affect your party’s performance and Buhari’s promises to revamp the country? It’s like you don’t know what is already going on since Buhari took over power. The fact that the man has not said anything the entire country is shaking.

Take a visit to ministries and parastatals and see what is going on there. Civil servants are beginning to sit tight, as the country is gradually getting lose from the tight grip of indiscipline and impunity. It is no longer business as usual. Take a critical look at the reason why fuel price suddenly returned to N87 in the recent time without Buhari issuing any statement.

The refineries we were made to understand cannot function are gradually picking up now, yet the man has not said anything. It would surprise you to know that it is not that the refineries are not working, but nobody is giving them crude oil to refine.

Some of the oil marketers who collect government subsidies, but yet will not deliver are beginning to sit up. Take a look at the turn around in the military settings and the type of discipline and vigour with which the officers are ready to discharge their duties in respect to combating Boko Haram insurgency. In the next few weeks, you will see how the issue of Boko Haram would be settled.

Some people talk of delay in the appointment of ministers. This is not possible yet, because we need to do some restructuring, which I can assure you is going on. The transition committee submitted its report not long ago and a lot of discoveries were made.

Let me tell you, nobody can push Buhari around. I can give you my word that President Buhari will change this nation for the better.

It is the belief of many people that the National Assembly crisis is aimed at reducing the influence of former governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, within the party, that former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is backing Saraki and also that the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, compromised with several other such insinuations? First of all, what we have is a merger. The APC is a merger of people.

Tinubu is from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Buhari from the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), Odigie-Oyegun from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Governor Rochas Okorocha from All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Saraki and Atiku with the five governors of the PDP.

Which of these blocks has the dominant place and share in the party. CPC has the presidency, ACN the vice presidency, ANPP the national chairman, APGA the party’s governors forum. Some are saying it is expedient for the other leg of the merger to have something.

I don’t want to contradict myself, but the argument, according to some people, is that it is a better arrangement for all the blocks that formed the merger to have something. Don’t forget that I said earlier that every link in the issue at hand is a reflection of a particular interest. I can tell you that nobody is being sidelined or subdued.

Go and carry out your research, which of the blocks dominates the National Working Committee of the party? Tinubu is a leader of the party and he played a major role in the formation of the APC. Our driving force that made all the parties involved to sacrifice our individual identity is how to rescue the country, there is nothing personal.

I think Nigerians should look beyond the present situation and look ahead. There is nothing new about it, neither is the crisis synonymous to the APC, the PDP has faced worst crisis.

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