Ahead the May 14, 2018 National Convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the South South Executive Council of the APC, met in Benin City last Monday to endorse the immediate past governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the choice of the South South for the position of the National Chairman of the party.
In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, the National Vice Chairman of the party, South South, Mr Ntufam Hilliard Eta, explained why the zone picked Oshiomhole ahead of the incumbent National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
How did you arrive at the decision to endorse Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the choice of the South South for the National Chairmanship position of your party?
On the 9th of April, the NEC of the party met in Abuja and considered the report of the Technical Committee that was set up to look at what people considered as tenure elongation and the attendant implications to the party.
The NEC at the end of that meeting made five resolutions. It was consequent upon those resolutions that the meeting of the zonal executive committee was convened to deliberate on those resolutions. In the zonal executive committee we have about 168 people as members and the committee speaks on behalf of the zone.
All the members were invited to the meeting in Benin and the agenda of the meeting was circulated among the leaders. They were also advised to make comments or presentations on the agenda.
Nobody added or removed any item from the agenda while the major item on the agenda was the deliberation of the NEC’s resolution. And to show you the importance of that item on the agenda, members accepted to skip the reading of the last meeting so that they could have time to deal with the main issue of the day.
The meeting started the deliberations by attempting to modify the resolutions of NEC but the attention of the meeting was drawn to the constitution of the party which precludes any organ of the party from tampering with any position of the NEC. To that effect the zonal leadership affirmed the decision of the NEC and commenced deliberations.
The second item of the resolution was the zonal pattern of the party to be retained and it was put into deliberations and over twenty people spoke on the issue of respecting the position of the NEC and maintaining even the micro zoning of the zone. The interpretation of the zonal executive committee was that the zoning must be retained from even the ward level to the national level.
It was at that point that I personally suffered a loss because my leader and former governor of my state, Chief Clement Ebri was precluded due to the NEC resolution on zoning. The resolution of NEC was to maintain zoning even at the micro level and it went on to ask the position of Edo state given the fact that the processes for congresses and convention would commence a week after this meeting.
And it has historical comparism because in 2014, before the National convention of the party, under the auspices of the then former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, such a meeting was convened in his house. At that time, Chief Tom Ikimi had resigned as the National Vice Chairman of the party, so the two leaders, Amaechi and Comrade Oshiomhole who were governors then led us to take the decision.
Amaechi invited us for a meeting including Oshiomhole, and invited the persons who wanted to contest the national chairmanship to speak to us. At that meeting, since the slot was ceded to Edo, the chairman of Edo state APC was called to come and present the position of Edo state.
And at that time, the chairman of the Edo APC presented the position of Edo which endorsed Chief Oyegun as their choice and we followed the choice of Edo and endorsed Oyegun as our candidate. The same thing was done yesterday (Monday) where we invited everybody for the meeting and called on the state chairman of Edo to give us the position of Edo state.
The chairman came to us that the Edo state APC caucus unanimously endorsed Oshiomhole as their choice for chairmanship of the party.
At that point, when people started speaking, they did not raise the issue that the chairmanship should be moved from Edo but argued that we could not consider the position of Edo caucus in 2018 whereas in 2014 we considered such position in the presence of Amaechi. And knowing that what is good for the goose cannot now be said not to be good for the gander, we also put the question to the house to ask whether they accepted the position of Edo.
And majority of the zonal executive committee members affirmed the position of Edo. Now those who were against putting the question to the house were less than 15 who stormed out of the hall after they had participated in the voting and lost. They said they were four chairmen and few others and that they have dissociated themselves from our final decision. If they had won would they have dissociated themselves?
But Amaechi’s group kicked against the endorsement?
That was why I was really surprised because when we endorsed Oyegun, he was governor then and we did it in his house in Port Harcourt. We have not done anything new. What we are saying is that Oyegun is free to contest but our choice is Oshiomhole.
Let me even correct this impression. I read on the pages of newspapers that four chairmen dissociated themselves. I know that Cross River state does not have a chairman as we speak, so it could not have been four chairmen.
And let me also explain that the chairmen are members of the zonal executive committee just like the other 164 people. We were not holding a state executive meeting, we were holding a zonal committee meeting and in the zonal executive committee we have over 168 people including senators, governors, deputy governors, former senators, former House of Reps members.
So, the chairmen who stormed out of the meeting were not speaking for their states. Senator Nelson Effiong was seated and participated in the voting when his chairman stormed out and said he dissociated himself. He could not have been speaking for Senator Effiong, he could not have been speaking for Hon. Robinson or Hon. Esieme Eyibo. When the chairman of Rivers state stormed out of the house, he could not have been speaking for Senator Magnus Abbe, because Abe sat until the end of the meeting after voting.
He could not have been speaking for Senator Wilson Ake, these are people form Rivers state. In Bayelsa, when the man who was acting as chairman left the hall, people like Chief Ikisibor and others who were from Bayelsa state remained at the meeting. So these people could not be claiming to speak for their states. So these are the issues.
Why we zeroed-in on Oshiomhole
Everybody who has been monitoring the situation in Nigeria and our party would understand what it means to have Oshiomhole as the chairman of APC. We are not stopping Oyegun from contesting and Chief Ebri my leader, but what we are saying is that majority of the people prefer Oshiomhole as our candidate.
If you ask for my opinion, I am the National Vice Chairman for close to four years now and I believe the APC presently needs rebranding, reinvigoration, we need new creativity, and we need to build strong leadership. I can tell you that we have been lacking very seriously, leadership at the national level of our party. And when we bring Oshiomhole on board, I can tell you that the party will have a new lease of life. The impunity that has crept into the APC will be halted and the laws of the party will be respected.
APC needs rebranding, it has to rebrand itself especially in the South South here and even in other parts of the country. The party enjoys the acceptance of the people on the basis of it being a progressive party. which believes in the well-being of the people, as well as a just and transparent system. But we have not had these over the years.
What the party needs to do now is to find a way of creating a perception that this party is different from PDP. PDP is known for impunity, disrespect for the rule of law, lack of internal democracy and these things are creeping into APC due to weak leadership of the APC.
So the people at this point cannot see the difference between APC and PDP. We have now presented to the people a good choice and alternative. If we do not change course immediately we will be messed up. Right now the party is not going towards the right direction. It is going in the direction of the PDP and it must be halted.
So this convention affords Nigerians the opportunity to effect changes and take the party back to where it should be. If this is done you will observe that millions of Nigerians will be struggling to join the APC.
So how is the Bola Tinubu Committee doing?
Asiwaju has been my leader for a long time right from when I was state chairman of ACN in Cross River state. I have known Asiwaju and worked with him for a very long time. I know what he brings to the table. I know the role he played in the victory of our party in 2015. So I can never trivialize the place of Asiwaju in our party.
I am happy with the good relationship between President Buhari and Asiwaju because when these our two iconic leaders come together, victory is assured for our party. But we cannot say so for many others who pretend to be leaders, who cannot bring anything to the table during elections. Tinubu’s committee is doing well and it was because of the confidence that the President has in him that made the president to give him that responsibility.