Osh­iom­hole: Real rea­son why I went to U.S

From his re­cent en­counter with the DSS, to his at­ten­tion-grab­bing trip to the United States, APC Na­tional Chair­man Com­rade Adams Osh­iom­hole spoke frankly and in-depth to Daily Trust Sat­ur­day about a num­ber of is­sues. Here­with, are ex­cerpts:

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Daily Trust: We will start with the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the APC’s rec­on­cil­i­a­tion com­mit­tee. How did it go, and what can you share with us about what hap­pened there? Com­rade Adams Osh­iom­hole: It’s a rou­tine af­ter ev­ery elec­tion, even when we do iso­lated gov­er­nor­ship elec­tions. It be­comes com­mon that when peo­ple go to con­test, one way or the other, one per­son emerges and the rest start protest­ing and mak­ing al­le­ga­tions, some founded, some un­founded. It has be­come part of our tra­di­tion in All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) that af­ter pri­maries, we try to talk to those who are in­volved in the process, not only to ac­cept de­feat, but to work whole­heart­edly to en­sure that the party pre­vails.

DT: Talk­ing about the com­mit­tee, what would you say is the fate of the anointed or pre­ferred gov­er­nor­ship can­di­dates of Yari, Amo­sun and Oko­rocha?

Osh­iom­hole: Well, the process didn’t pro­duce them, and that’s it. We have pro­ce­dures and this is well laid out and it wasn’t in­vented by me or the Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee (NWC). These are rules clearly laid out and pro­vided for in our party con­sti­tu­tion. Some are also guided by the amended Elec­toral Act. So, once those pro­cesses have been metic­u­lously fol­lowed, they pro­duce an out­come. It’s a game of process, not one of power. At this point I wouldn’t want to say who prefers what, but I know that the can­di­date that has emerged did not seem to co­in­cide with the ones who are per­ceived to be favoured in those re­spec­tive states you re­ferred to.

DT: So, we will go back a bit. On­line and so­cial me­dia was awash that you ‘ran away’ to the United States to avoid sign­ing can­di­date re­place­ment doc­u­ments. Can you tell us what re­ally hap­pened dur­ing that pe­riod? Osh­iom­hole: We have pro­ce­dures for re­place­ment of can­di­dates pro­vided for in the Elec­toral Act, which al­lows a can­di­date, if he with­draws, to be sub­sti­tuted by the party. And few peo­ple have on their own, for var­i­ous rea­sons, writ­ten to us that they were with­draw­ing. I don’t need to run away from pres­sure. I think that the min­i­mum re­quire­ment for lead­er­ship, or the qual­ity of lead­er­ship has to be judged sub­stan­tially by the ex­tent to which one can re­sist pres­sure or act un­der neg­a­tive cir­cum­stances. I be­lieve that, in ac­cept­ing this priv­i­lege to be chair­man of the APC, be­ing the party in gov­ern­ment, there will be pres­sure. What is im­por­tant is that no one should be able to pres­surise one to do what is clearly wrong. Whether wrong with re­gards to our con­sti­tu­tion or in re­la­tion to the pro­vi­sion of the Elec­toral Act or in good con­science.

So, I don’t need to run away to avoid

do­ing what is wrong. I had to visit a fam­ily mem­ber who was sick. A purely do­mes­tic is­sue. I at­tended to it, and I came back. It’s just that we live in a coun­try where peo­ple like to make al­le­ga­tions even when they don’t make any sense at all. Things that sound quite pedes­trian, you find peo­ple who are oth­er­wise rea­son­able seem­ingly giv­ing them hear­ing. I think it was just the in­ven­tion of the me­dia, and those who have ex­hausted all the power points and choose to re­sort to black­mail. But It doesn’t change the truth.

DT: Apart from the whole US trip de­ba­cle, there was the other con­tro­versy, about your en­counter with the DSS. What re­ally hap­pened?

Osh­iom­hole: I’m the chair­man of the gov­ern­ing party, and is­sues that have to do with the se­cu­rity agen­cies, par­tic­u­larly the se­cu­rity ser­vice, which the DSS rep­re­sents, I have a duty as the chair­man of the gov­ern­ing party not to add to the chal­lenges that such an in­sti­tu­tion con­fronts in mo­ments like this. But the only point I want to make, is that the chair­man­ship of a party is not at the plea­sure of the se­cu­rity ser­vices, or the DSS. It is in­con­ceiv­able that the DG of the DSS will for ex­am­ple in­vite the chair­man of a po­lit­i­cal party, even one of the fringe par­ties who can­not yet boast of a coun­sel­lor, not to talk of a main op­po­si­tion party like the PDP.

It’s in­con­ceiv­able that the direc­tor of the DSS will feel com­pe­tent to in­vite the chair­man of a po­lit­i­cal party to re­sign. And the fact that I am the chair­man of a gov­ern­ing party, per­haps makes it all the more so. I be­lieve that var­i­ous agen­cies have their man­dates and that they are clearly stated in the statutes that es­tab­lished them and they are ex­pected to be guided by that. So all this talk about DSS ask­ing me to re­sign, I am not ac­count­able to DSS but to my party.

I read a lot of silly state­ments. Peo­ple made al­le­ga­tions, and some went on so­cial me­dia, while some print me­dia reck­lessly printed them. But some­how I found it strange that peo­ple talked about money al­legedly chang­ing hands. They have never listed one per­son that said I gave X to Mr. Y. Noth­ing can be more reck­less than that. Some­times they are at­trib­uted to an al­leged DSS re­port. But that’s not shock­ing, given the level of mis­chief that I have seen and the fact that at in­cep­tion PDP was very wor­ried about the prospect of my be­com­ing the na­tional chair­man, and the dam­age that I am ca­pa­ble of in­flict­ing on them.

Even my worst critic would agree that there is no vil­lage I will not go to in Nige­ria that peo­ple wouldn’t recog­nise me and smile from their hearts. Not ev­ery­body that has been pub­licly ex­posed as long as I have been com­mands that level of love and af­fec­tion. Be­cause pol­i­tics is about in­flu­ence, and the elec­torate will vote, one way or the other that vote can be in­flu­enced by peo­ple they trust.

The only thing that I prob­a­bly found strange is to find a sit­u­a­tion in which you have some voices, how­ever dis­cred­ited they are, singing the same tune with the op­po­si­tion. Now that tells you there must be some­thing I am do­ing right. Be­cause no­body in­sists on rules or trans­parency with­out be­ing fought. Just like peo­ple are fight­ing the pres­i­dent to­day. Some say what right has he to talk about anti-cor­rup­tion. Some would even tell you “na anti-cor­rup­tion we wan chop?” So, are you go­ing to, be­cause of those mis­guided or un­in­formed com­ments, aban­don what you rightly be­lieve, or stand firm on what you be­lieve?

I’m sat­is­fied that we have made pos­i­tive changes in the way in which in­ter­nal democ­racy is man­aged in our party. We have for the first time con­ducted di­rect pri­maries for our pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, for which about 14.6 mil­lion APC mem­bers voted for him, and we can rightly say there­fore that he al­ready has 14.6 mil­lion vot­ers, be­cause those who voted for him are likely to be able to per­suade their spouses to also vote for them and prob­a­bly one or two of their friends and chil­dren. So we have a pos­si­bil­ity of mul­ti­ply­ing that num­ber by three or four. Now, peo­ple could de­cide to down­play the im­port of that. For me, those are the proud in­no­va­tions we have brought about which some el­e­ments in our party didn’t quite agree with.

Ob­vi­ously you can’t have ev­ery­body buy into the process of change. It can be painful,

The chair­man­ship of a party is not at the plea­sure of the se­cu­rity ser­vices, or the DSS. It is in­con­ceiv­able that the DG of the DSS will for ex­am­ple in­vite the chair­man of a po­lit­i­cal party, even one of the fringe par­ties

and with time you be­gin to re­alise that although our party slo­gan is ‘Change’, iron­i­cally few lead­ers ap­par­ently thought that change sim­ply means re­plac­ing Jonathan with Muham­madu Buhari. But re­ally, what the pres­i­dent and party lead­ers mean by change is chang­ing habits and the way peo­ple in gov­ern­ment ap­proach ser­vice de­liv­ery. Chang­ing a so­ci­ety that is in­creas­ingly re­ferred to as cor­rupt to one that is seen to work for the ben­e­fit of all with cor­rup­tion as a ma­jor dis­ease that should be fought and de­feated on a sus­tain­able ba­sis. Those are the changes the pres­i­dent talked about.

DT: What can you tell us about the al­le­ga­tions that you were usurp­ing roles of other mem­bers of the NWC, es­pe­cially the na­tional le­gal ad­viser, who protested?

Osh­iom­hole: We have a con­sti­tu­tion. It’s very clear that no­body is an is­land to him­self or her­self. Yes, we have 21 elected mem­bers of the NWC. We con­sti­tute an or­gan. It is not 21 NWCs, it’s one, and the du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the chair­man are well-stated. Among oth­ers, it pro­vides that the chair­man is the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of the party. He is also the Chief Ac­count­ing Of­fi­cer. The word CEO has the same mean­ing ev­ery­where in the world. The fact that you are the head of a de­part­ment or a di­vi­sion, or a unit, does not iso­late you from tak­ing a di­rec­tive from the CEO. So, if there is any­one, in­clud­ing a le­gal ad­viser, who thinks that he is run­ning a dif­fer­ent sys­tem that is not ac­count­able to the in­ter­nal struc­tures and power and con­trol within the party, the chal­lenge may be his.

But again, those are all part of the dis­trac­tions. What hap­pens in gov­ern­ment and some or­gan­i­sa­tions is that if you don’t pay at­ten­tion to some minute ar­eas, they be­come the en­try point for op­po­nents to in­fil­trate and cre­ate max­i­mum dam­age. What are the is­sues? The right to nom­i­nate who rep­re­sents us, the right to be con­sulted. If I am taken to court as na­tional chair­man, and my name is men­tioned, or they just write na­tional chair­man and write All Pro­gres­sives Congress, com­mon sense should ask, should I have the right to be in­formed and to ap­prove who rep­re­sents the party in a law­suit? Why would any­body want to mo­nop­o­lise that? For me it’s straight­for­ward. I have seen ridicu­lous sit­u­a­tions in which peo­ple who took our party to court come to me to say, ‘Al­low me to nom­i­nate the per­son who’ll rep­re­sent the APC’ so that they are guar­an­teed of the out­come of the case. I can­not oblige such a re­quest, and if in­sist­ing that the right thing is done leads to in­ter­nal memos that some choose to pub­lish, my eye is on the ball, to pro­tect the cor­po­rate in­ter­est of the APC. I think that’s it.

DT: Speak­ing about your eye be­ing on the ball, cam­paign sea­son has kicked off. How much more of your­self are you go­ing to throw into the process?

Once the nom­i­na­tions are over, the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and the run­ning mate are the most vis­i­ble can­di­dates that ev­ery mem­ber of APC must pro­ject and mar­ket to the Nige­rian peo­ple. So, that is our num­ber one pri­or­ity, en­sur­ing that we win more states, if not all the states. We will work hard to win all the states. But we recog­nise that only the Nige­rian peo­ple can de­ter­mine how many of those we will get. But ob­vi­ously we be­lieve that our gov­er­nors have done well, that we should win more states. So, we will de­ploy ev­ery ef­fort and ev­ery in­flu­ence that we have with the elec­torate to cam­paign for them and cam­paign with them, so that we win. We will also do ev­ery­thing to en­sure that our se­na­to­rial and House of Reps can­di­dates win.

But the bot­tom line ba­si­cally is that, ba­si­cally it is a cam­paign sea­son and there would be no other pri­or­ity other than we en­sure that we cam­paign, have a co­her­ent mes­sage, strengthen our bond with the Nige­rian peo­ple and in terms of strat­egy, speed to what has been ac­com­plished, even in the face of very dwin­dling re­sources and the huge debt that this gov­ern­ment has in­her­ited from the pre­vi­ous one, and the right re­newed em­pha­sis on in­fra­struc­ture and what that has trans­lated to and if sus­tained, what could be the end prod­uct. So, we will be look­ing at those is­sues and throw­ing ev­ery­thing into it.

DT: Your party is said to have lost Zam­fara. Is there some sort of game­plan to re­cover?

Osh­iom­hole: No, we haven’t lost Zam­fara. I think INEC, for now, has re­fused to ac­cept our nom­i­na­tions on the ba­sis of as­sump­tions they al­lege we did not con­duct pri­maries in Zam­fara. But we have ev­i­dence that we did, and we have ap­proached the court to look at the facts, and or­der INEC to al­low us ex­er­cise our fun­da­men­tal hu­man right to con­test elec­tions in the 36 states. We are hope­ful of jus­tice be­cause I do not think that the let­ter and the spirit of the con­sti­tu­tion and the po­lit­i­cal party, in this case a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party and gov­ern­ing party that some­body hid un­der le­gal tech­ni­cal­i­ties that are doubt­ful, to deny the great peo­ple of Zam­fara State the right to choose a gover­nor, and oth­ers, of their pref­er­ence. We’re hope­ful that the court will find in our favour that INEC’s de­ci­sion was wrong.

DT: As the most ac­tive Labour leader that the NLC has ever had, and now chair­man of the rul­ing party, what’s your po­si­tion on the new min­i­mum wage?

Osh­iom­hole: I have spo­ken on this be­fore when I was in gov­ern­ment. I in­creased the min­i­mum wage to N25,000 a month from N18,000 three years ago. I paid it one year to the end of my ten­ure and my suc­ces­sor has con­tin­ued to pay it. So, if I ap­prove as a sit­ting gover­nor, N25,000 three years ago, as they say, ac­tion al­ways speaks louder than words. So, by ac­tion I have ex­pressed my be­lief that Nige­ria needs a more re­al­is­tic min­i­mum wage. How much it should be should be the out­come of ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith. I think there is some con­fu­sion in many quar­ters about what the old min­i­mum wage rep­re­sents. It seems to me that peo­ple are con­fus­ing a gen­eral wage re­view for fix­ing a na­tional min­i­mum wage.

Those con­fu­sions have to be ad­dressed. If they are suf­fi­ciently ad­dressed, peo­ple may find that there is no dif­fi­culty in ap­prov­ing and im­ple­ment­ing what I still pre­fer to call a re­al­is­tic min­i­mum wage, be­cause in a state, gov­ern­ment must be seen to work for its peo­ple and the hu­man wel­fare must be the pri­mary pur­pose of gov­er­nance. You em­ploy peo­ple, as­sign du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to them, and they carry out those du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. They are en­ti­tled to be paid at the end of the month.

Also, min­i­mum wage doesn’t mean ev­ery­body pays the same thing, it sim­ply means the state has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect the weak­est and the poor in a so­ci­ety.

If you don’t pay at­ten­tion to some minute ar­eas, they be­come the en­try point for op­po­nents to in­fil­trate and cre­ate max­i­mum dam­age

Adams Osh­iom­hole, APC Na­tional Chair­man

Osh­iom­hole: Rec­on­cil­i­a­tions are a nor­mal thing.”

Osh­iom­hole: “APC hasn’t lost Zam­fara.”

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