In this interview with John Alechenu, the National Vice Chairman (North-West) of the All Progressives Congress, Inuwa Abdulkadir, speaks on the crisis of confidence within the party’s National Working Committee among other issues.
Your views about the leadership style of the National Chairman of your party, Adams Oshiomhole, seem to tally with views expressed by the Deputy National Chairman (North), Sen. Lawal Shuaibu. What is the issue?
The issue is this: Do we run an institution which the All Progressives Congress has become in an arbitrary manner; in a constitutional democracy? The simple answer is no. We are in the 21st century. So, my worry about what is happening in the party is that some people are bent on using all means to destroy this very new edifice that was used in winning two general elections back to back. All those who are keen observers of events in the last one year when the current leadership of our party emerged will know that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way and manner the party is being managed. Beginning from the way conflict is being managed and the way and manner decisions are taken. The way things are done now is nowhere near what the framers of our constitution envisaged. In party politics like so many other democratic settings where things are done properly, people, especially those in leadership positions, are expected to accommodate divergent opinions and imbibe a culture of inclusiveness. It is expected as an acceptable minimum that inclusiveness forms the basis of the decision-making process on an aggregate level. Except, of course, in matters which the constitution expressly provides for or in procedural matters where you must adhere strictly to the letters and spirit of the constitution. There are other things that are daily occurrences that may require the party taking a decision on matters of urgent attention not necessarily those envisaged by the constitution. Even in such matters, consultations, no matter how small, are required. But in a situation whereby the national chairman, to be specific, has constituted himself into the sole administrator of the party, it will mark the beginning of the escalation of whatever problems the party has or is having. And you saw this play out in the primaries preceding the 2019 elections. The chairman’s penchant for arbitrariness is largely responsible for the crisis which led to our losses in states where the party had no reason to lose. There were no proper meetings of the National Working Committee. Where there was even a claim of that during the period, what went out to the public as our resolution was at variance with decisions reached at such meetings. This is Nigeria’s 20th year of uninterrupted party democratic rule, how party primaries should be conducted is very clear to all and sundry. It is not that different from other political parties. This is so because the Electoral Act largely provides guidance on how primaries should be conducted. It is so clear and you are not to do anything to the contrary if you claim to be running a party in accordance with the constitution of the party and the laws of the country.
Do you then agree that your party has a problem on its hands?
Sure. We have a very big problem on our hands because as we speak, I see no genuine effort being made towards managing conflict among members. I have yet to see attempts to reconcile aggrieved members since Oshiomhole became the national chairman. I think this leadership took over in June last year and, of course, it inherited some backlash of various congresses that were conducted where some members had grievances. All these things were not addressed and we went with the carryover of some of these crises into the primaries. This was made worse by the fact that there was no genuine effort on the part of the chairman to provide leadership to resolve some of the inherited problems. Rather, he took arbitrary, often unilateral actions which created greater problems for the party at all levels. The 2019 APC primaries were the worst ever conducted by any political party in this country as far as I can remember. Certainly, you should expect a kind of impact, this impacted negatively on the performance of our party across the country. We lost elections where we shouldn’t at all; there were defections from party members in areas where such defections could be avoided. Without prejudice to the right of individuals to seek to belong to any political persuasion, it is essentially the responsibility of the party leadership to provide an atmosphere of harmony through the provision of a level-playing field for all members who are qualified to seek for the party’s endorsement to pursue legitimate ambitions. It is not for the party to create disharmony or expand disharmony as we saw during the primaries and immediately after. While it is true that we all cannot see things the same way, there must be an aggregate consensus in pursuing the interest of the party.
What would you say is responsible for the problem you are having with the party?
My insistence on the right things being done; it is that simple. I was elected and I served for four years in the first instance, I worked hard to provide a level-playing field for our party members in our zone and I resisted attempts by some individuals to use the party platform to manipulate things. I resisted because they tried to advance their personal agenda in a way that negated the principles of justice, fairness, equity and respect for the rule of law. Like I said before, this is not the first time these vested interests are seeking to get me out by all means. They sponsored four people against me during the last convention but by the grace of God and the support of our members through the delegates, I defeated all of them and won re-election. Of course, you don’t expect them to be happy and let me be, they will keep trying.
Who are these vested interests?
For now, I am not at liberty to mention names for personal reasons. When the time comes and the opportunity presents itself and it becomes necessary, of course, I will do so.
You recently gave the party’s national publicity secretary a seven-day ultimatum to apologise and meet certain conditions or face legal action. Has he complied?
No. I gave notice. This is not even a party matter, it is personal and since no effort has been made to address the issues I have raised in this regard, I am putting together the required documents and my lawyers will soon file the matter in court.
Why do you think the conflict, or as some would say, the crisis within the party appears intractable?
It is difficult to point to a single factor. However, it is on record that we were able to manage our challenges in the formative years of the party because the interim national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, did a good job of managing the various tendencies which came together to form the party. Chief John Odigie-Oyegun collected the baton and the party was further strengthened to become one which Nigerians were happy to associate with and we went on to defeat a ruling party and remove an incumbent president from office. You are a journalist, you can recollect how many states and how many seats we won in the state and national assemblies. Most of these gains have been reversed within the last one year because we have an individual who has little or no regard for the party’s constitution and proper procedure as national chairman. Political problems, especially as they relate to party politics, are easier to handle when those in charge have a sense of decency and are able to be fair to all when issues arise.
Some have said you are angry and bitter about losing Zamfara; hence you are transferring your aggression to the chairman. How true is this assertion?
Yes, I am bitter about the poor performance of my party nationwide because it fell below our expectations. Besides, I am not one to celebrate mediocrity. We lost in places like Zamfara because our national chairman side-stepped the laid down procedures for party primaries and insisted on doing things which run contrary to the provisions of our party constitution. I have no regrets expressing the bitterness that we performed poorly when compared to the standard we set in 2015.
What future do you foresee for the party?
Oh, a bright one. This can only be possible when the party is better managed. The truth is that the party cannot survive with the arbitrariness we saw during the conduct of the party’s primaries. The APC is a political party, whose health both now and in the future, will depend to a great extent on our ability to abide by the rules we set for ourselves by ensuring that party members are treated fairly.
Some have said names submitted by the President for consideration as ministerial nominees do not inspire confidence. What is your take?
The first question to ask is: Are these persons Nigerians and do they qualify to be so appointed? In both cases, the answer is yes. President Mohammadu Buhari’s commitment to take Nigeria to the next level isn’t in doubt. He has picked eminently qualified Nigerians who are party loyalists that I believe understand Mr President’s vision for the nation. I believe they all have what it takes to deliver. Let’s all support them as they work with Mr President to deliver on his mandate.
The National Working Committee of your party, APC, recently issued a statement recommending your expulsion from the party over alleged anti-party activities. How do you respond?
As far as I’m concerned, and in the eyes of the law, as I know it, that purported action is an enterprise in futility and is of no effect. This is for the simple reason that you cannot build something on nothing. In any event, even if there is any such thing (allegations); any member of the party or indeed any organ of the party has the constitutional right to complain about any other member or organ of the party. However, this must be done in an appropriate manner. By this, I mean, the complainant is expected to follow laid down procedures as enshrined in the constitution of the APC. We have duly constituted organs to consider such complaints. And we have a well-defined hierarchy in this regard. Whoever an allegation is levelled against has a right to a fair hearing. It doesn’t matter whether the complaint is germane or regarded as frivolous. The complaint must have a complainant who takes his case before the appropriate organ of the party and the party organ must provide the person against whom the complaint or allegation is made, the opportunity to state his own side of the case. This position is expressly guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As amended). The constitution guarantees the right of fair hearing to all manner of persons no matter how grievous the offence may be.
The Constitution of Nigeria is valid and supreme to any other law existing within Nigeria. Not only is the constitution of Nigeria, but this right is also guaranteed by the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. There were complaints from the Sokoto State Chapter of our party. Complaints, which I was not privy to but as soon as they were brought to my notice, I responded to them as a responsible leader because no matter how frivolous a complaint is, a leader needs to take steps to address them and I did appropriately. I urged the party to also take steps to curb the excesses of certain individuals within the state chapter of the party and informed them of my intention to seek legal redress if the party failed to act in accordance with provisions of our constitution. They (party) failed and I was left with no option but to seek legal redress. So, I went to court challenging the procedure they employed to try to take the action they took or were about to take at that time. Since I took the matter to court, I have refrained from speaking about it because we had joined issues and we are before a court of competent jurisdiction. I was surprised that the party has not communicated with me but I always get to read about one pronouncement or the order in the media. There is this popular saying that equity has to be vigilant. So, I will not just sit down when the media is awash with some of these issues and fail to respond to them. The only way I know how to rescue myself is to resort to the court of law which I am entitled to.
I’m sure you are aware of the provisions of Article 20, (10) of your party’s constitution, which prohibits members from filing an action in a court of law against the party or any of its officers on any matter relating to the discharge of the duties of the party without first exhausting all avenues for redress provided for in its constitution… (Cuts in)
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not subordinate to any other constitution currently in operation in this country. This constitution gives me the right to approach the court when my rights have been breached. I have given sufficient notice and have reached out to the leadership and organs of our party before this time. I duly informed our party leadership particularly the national chairman, unfortunately, nothing was done before I went to court. The court processes were served, the party has legal representation in court just as all other parties that are listed as defendants. The proper thing to do, when a matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction, or any court for that matter, is for parties to stay action. Discussing the substance of the matter becomes subjudice. We have seen where our President, Muhammadu Buhari, respected this principle when the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onoghen, was before the Code of Conduct Tribunal which is a quasi court. He respected the authority of that tribunal, talk less of any other person. We all recall this did not happen too long ago. Now, for what I consider subterranean purposes, the National Chairman of our party, Adams Oshiomhole, through his cronies decided to become a law unto himself. This is very disappointing and unbecoming of a leader of the APC, the governing party in this country. As far as I am concerned, I don’t want to delve into the substance of the case we have in court against self-serving leaders of the party because doing so will constitute a case of serious misconduct on my part being a servant in the temple of justice. I am also a patriotic citizen of this party who believes in the rule of law. People may say the court process may take ages, yes, as a practitioner, I know that the wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely. For equity to prevail, you are required to be vigilant. Equity never indulges the indolent. You don’t sit down and say because you are legally right, things will fall in place and you do nothing to ensure that your rights are protected within the ambit of the law. You are expected to be pro-active; you don’t just assume that everybody will do the right thing. So, what is incumbent on you is for you to ensure that on your own part, you take the right steps either in the discharge of your responsibilities or in relating with the leadership and membership of the party. I don’t think people are getting this thing right; some choose to mischievously hide under the guise of certain constitutional provisions and do whatever they like as if they are complying with constitutional provision whereas they are engaging in naked abuse of power. You can’t just say because you are chairman of the party, you just express a personal opinion and make it look as if you are invoking an authority as duly constituted as envisaged by the constitution. That is what the chairman and the national publicity secretary are doing. They just make pronouncements and claim it was a decision of the party. Every member of the NWC knows that, most often than not, these pronouncements are made when those making them know fully that no formal meeting of the NWC duly constituted deliberated and decided on such a course of action, we all witnessed it.
Can you recall an instance?
I can’t recall any time that we sat down at an NWC meeting to condemn the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC. Yet at any given opportunity, the chairman and the publicity secretary give an impression that such a thing happened. The worst instances of these kinds of pronouncements happened during the last primaries. Conflicting pronouncements about the party’s position regarding the mode of primaries agreed upon caused a lot of disaffection. I challenge whosoever has proof to come out and present minutes of meetings indicating that most of the decisions taken during the primaries as announced by the national chairman were taken during a duly constituted NWC meeting.
In this kind of situation, not just as a lawyer, but as someone who has presented himself as willing to serve-because there is this presumption that those who join politics are in it to serve in whatever capacity. If I offered myself and party delegates representing our members across all the states of the federation converged on Abuja for our national convention and duly elected me out of the five of us that contested, I should protect their interests at all times. Those who tried to use proxies to force me out during the convention are the same people trying to do the same today. They failed during the convention, they will fail again.
Source: The Punch