Ahead of 2023 general election and National Convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Umar Duhu, pioneer National Vice Chairman of APC, North East region, in this interview with Ikechukwu Okaforadi, gives an insight on how the party may zone the 2023 presidency and chairmanship position of the party, among other national issues.
You are a member of the APC Appeal Committee for Ondo governorship primaries, to what extent are the grievances arising from the processes a threat to the party’s victory in Ondo and Edo states?
First, I will like to appreciate the resilience of all members of the APC for to have accepted the result of the party primaries in Ondo state, thirteen people contested, and the incumbent Governor emerged, out of the thirteen, three people filed their petitions to the appeal committee. The appeal committee, in its own wisdom, and in furtherance of its own terms of reference, because we were also advised to proffer solutions towards ensuring that there will be a political solution to solving the grievances and assuaging members who felt aggrieved as a result of the process . So we interacted with the people that filed petitions and we assured them that the party is on top of the situation. The party has set up a reconciliation committee headed by the Governor of Niger State, and the work is in progress. Another thing that people should know is that President Muhammdu Buhari, in his wisdom, wrote letters appreciating the resilience of all members for their steadfastness, and determination to remain in the party, to ensure that APC wins. What is fundamental in Ondo and Edo state now is that it is the party that we are looking at and not the individuals. People have emerged, what is left for us now is for all hands to be on deck, we must act like a ruling party. We cannot afford to lose any of the states this time around because it is only one state that is standing between APC and PDP, and all of us are preparing towards 2023 general election. We saw what happened to PDP in 2015 when the opposition parties came together and formed an alliance, and there was a breakaway of PDP faction, five governors came to APC and that was how we defeated them. So we cannot afford to lose 2023, we cannot stay in power just for eight years and just lose power. As I am talking to you, APC is resolute and determined to takeover these two states, to show PDP that we still have the strength.
There are fears that the mandate of the Mai Mala Buni committee is too wide, and that he is not carrying the Bola Tinubu camp in the party along?
I don’t think so, because Mai Mala Buni, is a versatile politician, he feels the pulse of all members of the party and in exercising his responsibility, the first person he contacted was Bola Tinubu, to seek his advice and blessings, and Tinubu has given his advice and he promised to give all his support to the entire process until it completely succeeds. Anybody that says that Tinubu is not relevant in this party is wrong, because he has contributed significantly towards us achieving what we have today in APC as a party, he was instrumental towards ensuring that opposition parties came together to take victory from the then ruling PDP. So Tinubu is relevant and he is carried along. If you look at the Mai Mala political antecedent, he came from the Action Congress of Nigeria (APC), then, he moved into APC and became a member, so Buni is a product of Tinubu’s political amalgamation. As it is today, Tinubu is adequately represented and his interests are adequately protected. The interest of Tinubu is APC, and the extraordinary convention committee members led by Buni are doing exactly what the leaders want.
With about two months into the six months within which the Buni Committee was mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari to conduct the extraordinary convention, there are still crisis ravaging many state chapters, with members refusing to withdraw their court cases as urged by the President, and Buni is yet to meet State chapters, don’t you think the committee is in effective?
Most of the problems we had at the state levels were instigated by some members of the National Executive Committee, particularly the National Working Committee members, but today, the National Executive Committee is no longer there because the National Working Committee has been dissolved. So I think people should sheath their sward and because by God’s providence, they are no longer in office, Mai Mala Buni is incharge, and he is one honest politician that people should believe in, he speaks truth to power and he feels the pulse of all members of the party. So people should have confidence in his leadership and appreciate the fact that he will address most of the problems that bedeviled the party before this time. The problems in the state chapters of APC are gradually easing out by themselves. The committee is very effective, it has a time frame and terms of reference and he is working just exactly towards that, there is no need for him to go and start meeting with state chapters when there will soon be a National Executive Committee meeting for them. It is like going outside his jurisdiction, because as it is today, except there is a pronouncement to dissolve the State chapters, he does not need to meet them.
Political analysts following the APC crisis have advocated the dissolution of all the state chapters of the party so as to have a genuine reconciliation; do you think this is the right way to go?
No, I don’t think it is going to be the best way because it will escalate crisis in the party and this so called factions; people will start to show their strength and one camp will begin to claim superiority over the other. So I think the best they can do now is to leave them in place so that when the National Working Committee is in place, and they are people of proven integrity, elected to take charge of the party, they can then sit as leaders elected by the people and deal with the issues affecting the state chapters.
Zoning is another issue that will generate controversy in APC, with regards to zoning the presidency and chairmanship positions, how will you advice Mai Mala Buni Committee to go about this?
My thought about zoning is that Mai Mala Buni led caretaker committee has a task to achieve, he has to bring all the leaders of the party, all the stakeholders, all those that matter, to sit down on a roundtable and agree. Is it now right for us to shift the chairmanship of the party to the north, if it is so, so be it, so that the people in the southern part of this country will have a sense of belonging that yes, since the chairmanship of the party is now in the north, so we have to have a shot at the presidency of this country. This is the reason why I am for zoning, anything aside from that I will say I want the best person for this country, but you know, since we are living within the zoning formula between the north and the south, if you allow the chairmanship of the party to still go to the south, the impression of the people in the south will be that APC is not willing to concede the presidency to the people in the southern part of the country. So I believe that this is a task that all Nigerians and all members of APC must accept so that we can all have a sense of belonging that we are a republic, we are a circular state and all shades of opinion matters in this country.
In your State, Adamawa, recently, members of Nuhu Ribadu campaign team defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), what is happening?
Politics is dynamic, and the constitution allows for freedom of association, movement and so on. So in that regards, you are free to associate with whoever you want to associate with, nobody stops you from that, it is a fundamental human right. But I want to tell you that no member of Nuhu Ribadu campaign committee defected to PDP. People can disguise and say I was your supporter but now I am pitching tend with somebody else, but that does not mean you are truly my supporter. I can tell you with confidence that Nuhu Ribadu is resolute in APC, he has told the whole world that none of his campaign members have defected to the PDP.