Against the backdrop of several complaints of manipulation and favoritism during the recently concluded congresses of the All Progressive Congress, APC in Benue State, the leader of the party and Senate Minority Leader, Sen. George Akume, in an interview with newsmen in Makurdi, applauded the conduct of the congresses. He maintained that the party is angling to take over the reins of power from the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Parry, PDP in 2015. Our correspondent Uche Nnorom was there. Excerpts
As the leader of the All Progressive Congress in Benue State, what is your take on the recently concluded congresses in the State?
I am so impressed with the turn out at the ward, local and state congresses of the APC. I am really encouraged at the level of enthusiasm shown by party members. By and large, we are encouraged from what we saw is sufficient proof that the APC is determined and committed to do what is right for the purpose of advancing our democracy in ensuring that at the end of the day we are answerable to the people through free and fair election.
What is on your take in terms of complaints.
We are a large family. Do not forget that three different parties with different ideologies decided to come together and form a mega party. So, against this background, you are expected to have some little frictions here and there which is normal in any political process. Even within a family, you sometimes have little acrimony. I got some complaints by people who felt their candidates were not fairly treated. But again, the number is so restricted. I will give some few examples: in Ushongo local government where the Congress was repeatedly postponed, there were complaints that some people were excluded but they sat down with me in Makurdi and there was a reconciliation. I think it was a major achievement. I came into town with Chief Audu Ogbe to handle the situation in Zone C, I think the bitterness substantially went down. There were several complaints that the congress was not properly conducted in some areas. By the time we went into real discussions, we discovered that there was proper elections in these places but there was problem in four local governments which were also sorted out. That is why we were able to have a successful outing. Of course, do not forget that in Buruku and Gwer West local government areas, there were some disagreements and all these issues were looked out and resolved. So, substantially we came out clean. It is a record. There is no way you will conduct an exercise of such magnitude without raising some adrenalin in some people but in all, the corporate image of the party outweighs sectional and personal interests.
How true is it that you faovored some candidate against others?
It is true that so many candidates who contested approached some of us who are stakeholders. Many of them who wanted to be chairman came to us to present their position about what they want to do if elected chairmen.. They did not meet only George Akume, they also saw Chief Audu Ogbe, Chief Isaac Shaahu, Chief JKN Waku, Justice Utshaha but in the final analysis, they all voted because we did not have a consensus. The whole essence of our talking is to also build a consensus and where that fails, then we go into actual voting and in the process the one who is preferred wins. It is not just a question of having a candidate but for them to explain what they can do for the party if elected so they came and talked to me.
The court, in the case of Alhaji Usman Abubakar aka ‘Young Alhaji’ wherein he alleged undue suspension from the party dismissed the matter. Now that he has lost at the court, what is his fate in the party?
I want to say that every member of the APC is treated as a member of the family. Party issues are essentially family issues so when you have a problem, the normal way to resolve the problem is to use the party machinery. The grievance settlement procedure of the party is clearly enunciated in its constitution. It is never the best approach to take the party to court. As far I am concerned, anytime they want to come back, they will be accepted as bona-fide members of the party. I want to state that we do not discriminate at all against people who take the party to court but we always advise that they should go through the party’s machinery and processes before heading to court.