Acting INEC chair can’t be fair to all parties – PPA boss
Chief Peter Ameh is the National Chairman of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). In this interview, he speaks on the challenges facing political parties in Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Excerpts:
What would you say is the major factor hindering some political parties from making impact in Nigeria?
The system has been so battered that if you don’t belong to parties that share money, you are nothing. You can look at the last general elections, especially the spending strength of both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC)! People go directly to government coffers to take money to fund their parties. Many states are comatose because they mismanaged public funds. So, for you to say that other parties are not performing well is not an offence because they have not been given the necessary materials to function and operate successfully. You should even give credit to them for agreeing to participate in the elections against all odds, despite the overwhelming involvement of state funds in politics.
The PDP says it won’t accept results of any election conducted under the present chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mrs Amina Zakari. What is your party’s position on this issue?
Based on their investigations, they had arrived at a very reasonable conclusion that Amina Zakari will not be fair to all. That is what the PDP has said. To me, that statement has not been proven wrong because an election management body should not have an acting chairperson. What is wrong with her name being forwarded to the Council of State for deliberations? What is wrong for this same name to be sent to the National Assembly for debate? These processes are laid down in the constitution of Nigeria. We should do things right.
What is your take on the relationship between President Buhari and the APC?
The fact is that the president cannot devoid himself from the party. The name of the president was not on the ballot box, it was the APC that was there. So, the party cannot dissociate itself from the mistakes of the president. They should stop playing games with the people. Promises made must be kept. That is how you show leadership. Going back to retract statements and promises made during campaigns will lead to distrust between the presidency, the party and the Nigerian people.
Is your party considering the possibility of going into merger with other parties to form a strong force ahead of the 2019 general elections?
We are having discussions with about 17 political parties on how best we can go into the 2019 general elections. We have asked some experts to study the 17 political parties and the issues from the last general elections. We have asked them to do a sort of analysis on our strengths, weaknesses, organisation and threats and tell us how we can tackle the 2019 elections. We will be a third force and make sure that we become what Nigerians need to grow.
Are you fielding candidates for Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections?
Yes, we will definitely field candidates. I am from Kogi State and my party is preparing for the election.
What are you doing as an opposition party to give hope to Nigerians, especially women?
We are really expanding the participation of women at the party level. We want women to work in collaboration with both the election management body and other agencies. It is not just enough for you to have 35 percent affirmation in the air.
Do you consider de-registration of some political parties by INEC as healthy for democracy?
No, it is unreasonable for parties to be de-registered. How do you expand the space? How would people like us come into the space when you have already contracted the space to these two major political parties in Nigeria? That means you will shut out a lot of vibrant people. Don’t forget, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says that every person is free to belong to an organisation, association, group or political party that will protect his or her rights and interest.