The All Progressives Congress (APC) Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, is a man of few words. Speaking in Abuja, he explained that leadership style and approach is the difference between sacked national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the current chairman APC Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni.
Nabena equally suggested measures the Southeast geopolitical zone can adopt to actualise Igbo presidency in 2023. He also spoke on the political developments in his home state, Bayelsa, describing Governor Duoye Diri as a man of complex and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan as a bad example of a true brother to Bayelsans.
What do you think was responsible for the APC victory in the just concluded Ondo state governorship election?
The return of unity and peace within the fold of the party was what made us to achieve that victory in Ondo. Yes, there were cracks and crisis going into the election especially after the party’s primaries, but the chairman of the Caretaker Committee and the governor of Yobe state, Mai Mala Buni, constituted a reconciliation committee that really did the ground work.
The committee pacified most of the aggrieved persons angered by the outcome of the party’s primary. The truth is that APC went into the Ondo state governorship election as a united house. It was a sweet victory. The election was not the same with that of the Edo governorship. It was very difficult to reconcile the aggrieved persons in Edo. Don’t also forget that the time the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was removed and the election was too short for the reconciliation move to achieve any tangible result.
It would have been impossible for the APC to lose Edo if Oshiomhole was not removed as the party’s national chairman. It would have been a home coming for him. If we want to face reality, there was no modicum of respect left for him from the state since he was no longer the party chairman. The people saw hope in the sitting governor after Oshiomhole’s removal.
Don’t forget that the gladiators went into that election wounded and wanted to prove a point. It was a superiority contest between Abuja-based and state-based politicians all desperate to decide who should be in charge.
Let me however say that the election is over but the national leadership of the party has not left the Edo state chapter like that. You will agree with me that after the Edo election, we could not have bothered so much about reconciliation in Edo when we have serious election in Ondo. We had to concentrate on winning the election in Ondo because you know what it means going into Ondo election as a distracted house.
We would have given the PDP hope instead of hitting them very hard. Now that the party has met its target in Ondo, we will then bring the stakeholders in Edo together on a reconciliatory table for a meeting to talk to ourselves.
We will not stop at only Edo alone but also move into other states where there are division so that we can go into the 2023 general election as a united entity. There must always be fallout among members because there are people that will never accept defeat even when the victory is crystal clear and opt for litigation. These are the ones that believe that going to court offers them better bargaining authority. We must put the house together to go into 2023 in a united force.
Did it come to you as a surprise when Governor Obaseki said he won’t return to the APC?
How can it come to me as a surprise? It won’t have because APC did not go into any deal with Governor Obaseki of returning to the party after winning the election. If there is such agreement, I am not aware.
What are the differences in the style of leadership between Oshiomhole and the Caretaker Committee?
In the first place, NWC members are elected while the caretaker committee has appointed members. The mandate of this caretaker committee is simply to reconcile aggrieved party members and put the party in a killer mentality for victory in the 2023 general elections.
Unlike in the past, it is no longer the days one person would take total control of the party machinery and structure. The caretaker committee has decentralised the leadership structure, enabling every member to participate. It is no longer a winner takes all mentality. I know it won’t come as surprise to observers that many party members have accepted to forgive and let go the bitterness each has against the other. Don’t forget that the personality of the head matters. The personality and approach of the chairman of the caretaker committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni is entirely different from that of the immediate past national chairman of the party, Oshiomhole.
Governor Buni is more accessible than Oshiomhole. Buni has this general acceptance and adopts a mild way of communicating while some others are just like military people that will never give you the opportunity to explain your own part. They conclude even without hearing from the accused. Governor Buni takes things easy and he is somebody who listens. He is responsible for the return of many people to the party. He is a silent operator, deciding to do things quietly without blowing his trumpet. The approach Oshiomhole adopted did not make him a bad person, but his style was not acceptable to many party members. His style has been working for him but many are no longer comfortable with it.
Why then the current agitation for the Buni-led caretaker committee to go?
In politics, it is not possible for everybody to be on the same boat. We have people around that benefit from crisis and will do everything possible to fuel such. We have told them to bring forward their ideas so as to factor them into the plans of the caretaker committee.
But realistically speaking, how possible can it be to organise convention within the next two months. We practically have only November to organise the convention but can the caretaker committee conclude the reconciliation, organise congresses from ward levels and manage the fallout of the congress before that time? Yes, there are people making such request out of genuine concerns but there are others still bitter against the caretaker committee. Some of them are still pursuing their selfish agenda. All I appeal is for patience to enable the caretaker committee to build solid structure.
How do you feel that APC has no presence in the South-south, the geographical zone you come from?
We all knew what happened in my state, Bayelsa, where APC won the election but the Supreme Court said otherwise. In Edo, where we had a serving governor, crisis would not allow us to consolidate. All that had transpired should be a bitter lesson for all of us. However, the major problem we have in the APC South-south is the selfish interest of the political leaders. Everyone of them wants to be in charge and to take total control yet they cannot produce a single state governor. There is too much greed.
How did you and the party candidate overcome the shock of Supreme Court ruling on Bayelsa?
What happened came as a rude shock to everybody. Recall that we were at the venue of the swearing-in for rehearsal when the news of the ruling spilled in. But there was nothing anybody could do again. We have to accept our fate and pray for better luck next time.
What do you think APC would have done differently if it were in charge in Bayelsa?
Nothing could have been better than the state being in the same party with the federal. It would guarantee infrastructural development in the state. We have noticed the inferiority complex in the governor of Bayelsa state. He has pigeonholed himself in the state, waiting for only the federal allocation. He is not making any efforts to come to Abuja to network with the federal government on ways to improve the fortune of the state. If the APC had taken over the state, there would have been serious turnaround in Bayelsa today. It would have been easier to collaborate with the federal government and its agencies to attract one developmental project or the other. It is too bad now that even paying salaries has become a problem. APC would have done much more and far much better because we would have enjoyed federal government support and backing.
What are the chances of APC retaining power beyond 2023 especially as President Buhari will not be contesting?
Yes, 2023 is around the corner yet still far. We don’t want to disrupt our plans thinking about 2023 for now. For us at the APC, it is one thing at a time. We are not like the PDP. I was surprised that when PDP won Edo, they did not go to demonstrate at the American embassy again.
Remember that we have several elections before the 2023 general elections. Anambra is there, Osun, Ekiti are also on the line up. We are going to take it one after the other. With a united party, we will cross the bridge when we get to the 2023 river. It is wrong to say that the future of the APC is tied to Buhari because the party is bigger than every individual member. Every contestant runs on party platform because there is no independent candidacy.
What do you know about zoning in the APC ahead of 2023 presidential poll?
We know that there are six geographical zones in the country, but what is going to be the major determinant is the agreement by the stakeholders. The unity of the country is more important than any zoning arrangement. Our priority is unity because there may not be victory without unity even if the ticket is zoned to any part of the country. I don’t have any fear of APC retaining power beyond 2023. What should be our concern is the unity of this country. We have to continue preaching the language of peace especially for some of us without dual nationality. We should look beyond ethnicity in 2023 but search for the candidate capable of uniting us as a country.
So the Igbo clamouring for 2023 presidency should wait for the decision of the stakeholders?
There is no way that the Southeast zone will not be part of the deliberation on the zoning arrangement for the 2023 presidential ticket. We already have the former Senate President in the caretaker committee. Every zone will be involved in the stakeholders’ meeting. But I want to however urge the Igbo to know that getting political positions involves lots of negotiations and lobbying, not by whipping up sentiments or by force.
The Igbo must discover their allies and go into deep negotiations. They must begin to wake up to the reality that politics is by number. We have seen what Igbo could only do with a political party we can say it is truly their own, APGA. How many states did APGA win in the Southeast? What it means is that they cannot get it right with their own political party.
Therefore, they have to put their house in order. But like I said, we should not be bothered about the religion and section our next president will come from but rather the one who can unite the country better.
Why did Bayelsans abandon their son, Goodluck Jonathan for another person?
Let me say that we Bayelsans are aware that Jonathan is our brother, but there is a saying that a good friend is better than a bad brother. Former President Jonathan was a bad brother. I have asked why should Jonathan not do anything to show that the South-south was rewarded for their agitations. The South-south asked for some portion of the food in the pot and they got the whole pot yet could not do anything with what they got. Under President Jonathan, Bayelsa had the president, full-fledged Minister of Petroleum and the National Security Adviser (NSA) in the person of Azazi. But what did Bayelsans gain from it, nothing. Can Jonathan tell Bayelsans and the South-south one singular project he executed in the state or zone during his six years as president?
Former president Obasanjo awarded the East-west road, but Jonathan could not do anything on that road even with the Minister of Niger Delta under him coming from that zone. They left the road in its deplorable state today. In fact, it is the current administration that is constructing the road to his village, Otuoke. Tell me why Bayelsans should have voted for Jonathan?