A former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as part of the national reconciliation efforts after the party’s presidential primary election a few days ago called a stakeholders meeting in Edo State and thereafter had a chat with journalists.
What is the essence of this stakeholders’ meeting
The whole idea is to have a conversation because as they say, a house divided among itself cannot stand. I believe that the irreducible precondition for winning an election is that we must be united and the only way to be united is to have an inclusive meeting. If leaders want to meet, there has to be agreed criteria to select those leaders from each local government and everybody must be present. If we are going to have women meetings, all women leaders must be present, that is the way to avoid division, which is the way to avoid suspicion, which is the way to avoid rumour mongering. And we must recognize the formal institution of the party. No matter who we think we are as individuals, we can’t be taller than the party leadership that we all elected. Every one of us has the right to have ideas, but channel those ideas in a way that the leadership takes them on board and takes ownership of it and makes decisions that each and every member of the party will readily accept.
After the governorship election which unfortunately we lost, this meeting was the first meeting that we invited these number of people per local government to attend so that we have to move on because we cannot continue to cry over spilled milk but if we work together, we will win not only the next presidential election, we also win the next governorship but there is no other formula than unity. I think when you make party structures to function, then these issues will be easily addressed.
The local government chairmen are the ones that produce leadership at the local government levels and without them communicating with the people of their local governments, and through them to the ward leaders, the party will be floating in the air so local government leadership is extremely important and also very important are those our strong ward leaders across the 192 wards in Edo State which has all the offices and my appeal today is that as local government party chairmen should call a meeting of the local government executive and challenge each of the wards leaderships to go and constitute unit executive councils because everybody here comes from a unit, without units you cannot be in the ward, without the ward you cannot be in the local government and without being in the local government, you cannot be in the state and if you are not in the state you cannot be in the national level so whoever you are, myself inclusive, I must pay attention to what is going in my unit.
Let it not be that you talk about the roof and forget that there cannot be a roof without foundation so the solid foundation is the unit. If you organise ten people in a unit, encourage them to meet, if each of them brings ten people each, do you what that will amount to per unit?
Our political environment is changing, the dynamics are clear, the era of carrying ballot boxes is gone, it is one person one vote and to get that, you need to take these messages to the grassroots.
Primaries are over and regardless of how you voted and who you voted for or against, that is gone. Our party recognises the need for intra-party contestation that is why the rule is provided for primaries so the fact that you voted for somebody else, when a candidate has emerged, all of us should put those behind us and work together.
We have to learn from the presidential candidate. Upon his election, he visited each of the aspirants and if you look at those speaking for the campaign, some of them are not necessarily people who were in his camp during his primaries but once primaries are over, we need all our brains to win the election.
You also heard what the president said a few days ago that primaries are over and he will only recognize and deal with the candidates elected on APC platform and he said nobody should say I am the villa candidate because the villa does not have any candidate other than the APC candidates.
Those clarifications are important so that those who say that they are moving to another party and they have the support from any quarter from Abuja that he can go to another party and later come back, President Buhari from that statement has said no, only APC. The president also said that in whatever we do, only one person will win.
The president as the overall leader of the party has also directed and I think we all should obey that all those who have cases in court should also withdraw them so that all hands will be on deck to campaign for APC to retain power in 2023. I am an example, I was national chairman, you know how I left the office, did I go to court? If I went to court, you think I wouldn’t have had a chance? But my attitude was simply this, people hardly remember when things are tough, they remember when it is good.
If the party gave me the opportunity to chair the party for two years, even for two days and at some point some people felt I should leave and I was asked to leave, why should I forget the fact that I had the honour of leading the party? If the Supreme Court says I am the chairman, but respected party leaders thought otherwise, which party will I chair? Some people said it is your right and I said yes but in law, you can decide to sleep on your right so I chose to sleep on my right and I am enjoying it. If I had gone to court and APC could not do their convention, I could have been blamed. So I am asking those members to withdraw their cases from the courts to do what I have not done.
There have been so much deliberate mis-information on this Muslim/Muslim ticket which is a non issue and people spend so much time talking about this. Yes Asiwaju is a Muslim, he is a Yoruba man from Lagos but he found love in Delta state our own Bendel and this Tinubu lady is a Christian, she wasn’t a pastor then.
She maintained her faith and grew to become a pastor in Redeemed Church, one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Nigeria so a man who did not Islamise his wife, he did not ask the wife to convert, some of his children are Christians, some are Muslims, is there a better example of religious co-existence than this? He accepted that people have the right to worship according to their conscience.
So if he has not Islamised his wife, he has not Islamised his children, is there any sensible reason that he will do something negative when he becomes the president of Nigeria? Religion is not the problem; today, you have unemployed Christian youths who are hungry, you have unemployed Muslim youths who are hungry, does it matter who govern? When you go to Dubai, do you need to ask whether of Dubai is a Muslim, yet he is a Muslim, those who go to UK for holidays, do they need to ask whether the Prime Minister is a Christian, yet he is Christian. Does it matter to you the religion of those who developed those countries? Whoever will develop Nigeria should be the issue. All these sentiments are meant to remove issues from the debate.
Most of the presidential aspirants have been in government before. Asiwaju was governor of Lagos. There was a time when horsewhips were used to control traffic in Lagos, today are we not seeing six lanes, ten lanes in Lagos? Are we still using even numbers and odd numbers to be able to drive in Lagos? He raised the IGR and today Lagos is about 45 percent of Nigeria’s GDP that is the product of a brain because if you cannot fix your house, you cannot fix your community, if you cannot fix your community, you cannot fix your town and you cannot fix your state, you cannot fix Nigeria. Those who say Edo is not Lagos, are they able to manage security the way Lagos is doing? Before you tell me what you will do, you must tell me what you have done before.
Go to Anambra, look at the roads there, look at the schools there and then compare them to Lagos. I then ask the question, what you didn’t do in Anambra, can you do it in Abuja? Go to Adamawa and look at the poverty level compared to other parts. Our people need to understand that nobody can give what he doesn’t have. There are people who say they want Nigeria to be a producing nation but they live on importation, their business is to import. A man whose specialization is to import goods to Nigeria, they even import wine from South Africa. How can they promise you that they will make Nigerians productive. We have to disobey any logic that is not based on facts.
When Asiwaju finished his tenure as governor of Lagos state, he told his wife to go to the senate and stayed back, if a woman has such a husband, won’t she marry him over and over again and have you seen Tinubu’s wife fighting, agitating for what is right in the senate? There is another presidential candidate who married from the South East and once the woman became his wife, he Islamised the woman, he went to Yoruba land and married Christian, he Islamised the woman. Go and check these records, facts are facts, opinions are free.
2023 is the bridge to 2024, if you don’t close that bridge, you can still go to 2024 but you will be limping but if you march there on your two feet then we are ahead. They say Oshimhole is supporting this person for governor. He is now supporting this one from another region for governor that I say publicly here that I will not do anything to impose or anoint anybody because I can’t be doing the same thing and expect different results. All those who are saying Oshiomhole is supporting this person or that person, are liars. The ones I supported before, where did it bring me.
In my nomination in Edo north I campaigned and I didn’t direct anybody to step down or vote for any aspirant. The only person I told to step down is my younger brother for the House of Assembly. When they tell you those stories, there are no truths in them. We have enough brains, we have enough materials, I have learnt my lessons; the people can do no wrong.