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.