Barrister Festus Keyamo (SAN), spokesman of the President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation, in this exclusive interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI in Abuja speaks on developments in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Excerpts:
The APC has been enmeshed in crisis since the conduct of its primaries with some governors calling for the resignation of the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Don’t you think this will affect President Buhari’s chances especially in his campaigns?
I don’t know why people rush to use this word ‘crisis’. Because once there is struggle for positions and people drag them selves to court or write petitions, it’s just a normal struggle within parties. But people are too quick to use the word ‘crisis’. If it is crisis, that means there is nobody that is free of the crisis in Nigeria. Indeed, nobody is free because the same thing happening here in APC is what is happening in all the other political parties that have the possibility of winning elections in this country. It is happening in PDP, APGA and so on. APGA is controlling only one state, yet they carried guns and shot themselves during their primaries. In fact, somebody had to flee through the window. Did you hear of any guns within APC? None! So, this idea of rushing to use the word ‘crisis’, to me, is just a pattern that the members of the public want to adopt. There is no primary that comes that issues won’t arise. It will happen again in 2023, 2027, 2031 and so on. It will always happen because there will be struggle, fierce struggle for power. The positions are few but the people are many. So, there is no crisis in APC. What we have is just fierce struggle for positions.
So, with all that is happening within the party, do you still believe all is well with the APC as we go into the elections?
Has the APC been deregistered by INEC? If the answer is no, then it is a growing concern. There is fierce struggle for positions. The people who got the tickets are humans, not goats. Somebody must get it while some people won’t get it. Those who did not get the tickets will make it look as if heavens are falling. Everybody who does not get the ticket will tell you that the party will lose thinking that he is the only one. A tree does not make a forest but from what we have always seen, anybody who lost a ticket will always believe the party cannot survive without him. That is not true.
You once granted an interview early this year saying Nigerians should form a third bloc that the APC is not the best political party for the country. Now that you are the spokesperson of President Buhari’s campaign, do you still stand by that statement?
I agree and I am saying it for the umpteenth time, and nobody should misquote me. APC is not the best political party we can have. Is it the best? No, but it is better than what we have before which is the PDP. Will I be foolish enough to say that it is the best? Is it a perfect party? The APC is a work in progress and that is why you can see internal struggles for positions and all that. You can see complaints of marginalization by some members. So, it is not the best but it is far better than what we had before. The only problem is that when people like you play this recording now, you will stop at where I said APC is not the best but you will not mention the second part of the statement where I said it is far better than PDP. I am not a sycophant to say that God is working in Nigeria. We are all human beings. It is an imperfect system that we are trying to perfect. I said that after some time, if this system does not improve or perfect, people should think of going further and forming a third bloc. It is a work in progress and I am not talking about 2019 or 2023, it may be in the future. Our parties are not based on ideologies and that is why you see people jumping from one party or the other overnight. Imagine a conservative turning to a progressive overnight or a progressive turning to a conservative overnight. Is that possible? They are only looking for tickets. So, I will not sit down here and be a fool to say our parties are based on ideologies. Why did I say that both APC and PDP are not the best. It is because there is really no ideology behind them. The APC is still the party that still presents something better in the sense that all the leaders of APC, apart from those joining behind you can associate them with progressive politics over the years. I am talking of President Buhari, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. These ones have never been in the ruling party. Never! That is what makes the difference. Apart from these few ones, every other person is just water flowing from one stream to another. So, you can still see that there is some semblance of progressive politics in the ruling party. That is all I said and if you ask me again, I will repeat the same thing on tape. APC is not the best but it is still a far cry from where we are coming from.
Do you think President Buhari still enjoys the same goodwill with which he came to power four years ago?
His party won all the major elections in 2015 and now. That is the clear answer because if I keep talking from now till evening, I cannot gauge it because I am not INEC or a barometer.
But what is your perception based on the pulse of Nigerians?
Where do you feel the pulse of Nigerians? Is the pulse felt on social media? Is the woman selling groundnut, pepper or crayfish on social media? People will just sit down here, carry their phones and turn themselves into INEC overnight and begin to calculate and do opinion polls on phones. The only opinion poll is the poll that we have conducted in 2015 and now and the President won all elections. He won Edo, Kogi, he won Kwara now. He won Ekiti, Osun and Ondo. Each time the PDP lose, they will cry foul. Let me tell you what is going on. What is going on is not a cry about rigging. The opposition is really not crying about rigging each time this election holds and they lose. They are crying about preventing them from rigging. That is what they are crying about. I want to put it on tape now that since 1999, the PDP had no other means to win elections than to write results. So, they found themselves in a new territory and they are uncomfortable with it. They don’t know how to canvass voters. The second problem they have is that they don’t know how to run elections without massive money. Apart from the popularity of President Buhari, these are the two handicaps they have now and which they will face going into 2019 elections.
President Buhari got fewer votes in the South East in 2015. Do you think he will spring a surprise this time around?
Again, I will refer you to the results of election because that is the only way to judge. I cannot look at social media and judge. In the Anambra election, in the heat of IPOB protests, the President’s party moved from a distant third to close second. PDP now came third. For me, the Anambra governorship election was victory for APC. For a party who got 5,000 votes in 2015 now making over 95,000 votes despite not being the ruling party in the state, that is the next level in Anambra. The biggest gainer in the Anambra election was not APGA that won but APC that came second. What we got in that state was an addition of 85,000 votes because in 2015, President Buhari barely scored 5,000 votes in that state in 2015. So, people should look at all these and nobody should come and cry rigging in 2019. You are seeing these empirical figures now going on. Also, look at the revolution going on in other parts of the South East now. We didn’t have one single senator before, now we have about 5 or 6 senators. Andy Uba came into APC, Hope Uzodinma came in followed by Onni Ogbuoji. Former governors like Sullivan Chime came in, former ministers and senators also came in. So, we have made tremendous progress and it is evident for all to see. So, with all these, how can somebody not sit down and say we have not made tremendous progress compared to where we were in 2015? This election will be easier for President Buhari than Goodluck Jonathan’s elections in 2015. Forget all this noise they are making on social media. Based on facts and our achievements, we know it will be easier for President Buhari now.
You said the 2019 election will be easier for President Buhari than the one he contested against Goodluck Jonathan. Don’t you think Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential flagbearer will divide Buhari’s votes in the North?
In 2011, we had four presidential candidates from the North. Nuhu Ribadu, Ibrahim Shekarau, Mahmud Waziri and Muhammadu Buhari. Did they divide Buhari’s votes? In fact, that was when he got 12 million votes from the North. Nobody can divide Buhari’s votes in the North.