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:
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.”