Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI in Abuja, spoke on issues affecting the ruling party, the forthcoming national convention and other issues
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From May 14, your party again shifted its national convention from June 2 to June 23. Many people say it is because you are afraid that there may be an implosion at the convention owing to the multiple crises that trailed the congresses, and that you have mandated the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu reconciliation team to pacify the aggrieved members before the date.. How true is that?
That is not exactly correct. As a matter of fact, there was no time we said we are going to do our convention on June 2nd. It was just a proposed date and you cannot point at a single statement that the party issued through me that says that our convention will hold on June 2.The moment we constituted the Convention Committee, it was important for us to reconcile with them the date that will be suitable for this exercise. Some people proposed June 2nd, but there were also so many other people who felt it will not be politically sensitive for us to hold a convention during Ramadan.
But there were contending argument that there was nothing in Islam that says we could not do convention during Ramadan.
So, we were going back and forth with this argument until the Convention committee came back to say even in terms of logistics, we may not be ready by that June 2nd and that many of our members are traveling for Umrah (lesser Hajj). So, we feel it is best we fix a date after Ramadan and that was when the party now decided that June 23rd will be an appropriate date. So, it had nothing to do with any issue being put forward about whether crisis will occur at the convention or not. It is just a matter of looking for a convenient date for everyone.
Based on the outcome of the congresses, are you confident that there won’t be an implosion in your party as a result of this convention?
We are confident that there won’t be any implosion not just because of the work we are going to do between now and then to resolve the contentions around the congresses. There are some that are straightforward while some are a bit complicated. But the golden rule for us is this: wherever there had been congresses, did they comply with the guidelines that were handed to the committee sent to the states to conduct the congresses? As a matter of fact, were these congresses conducted by the committee sent to the state to do so? These were the questions we have been asking. Also, wherever there are aggrieved members who felt that they were shortchanged or certain things were not done properly, we have appeal committees sent to the respective states who have also submitted their reports. As from Wednesday 30th of May, the National Working Committee which is like the Supreme Court in this instance will be sitting to consider those cases coming from the states. Paramount in our consideration is to ensure that justice is done to everyone based on available evidence to us. I believe that even those who will not be satisfied in the end should be able to see that justice is done. If everybody is able to see that justice is done, even if they are not happy they will be able to live with it. It is therefore incumbent on us in the NWC to ensure that justice is done to everyone based on the evidence available before us. That is not just the report of the congress committee, not just the report of the appeal committee but also other report s that will be made available through other channels to the NWC. But I can assure you that this NWC will ensure that justice is done to every member because we want peace in our party and we know that fundamental precondition for peace everywhere is justice. That is one side of it but there are also other conversations going on at other levels. There are other issues that are coming up by other members of the party who are saying they are not happy with the way things are going and there are other levels of engagement that are going on. So, we believe that some of these issues will be better handled in order to ensure that we don’t have what we call an explosion by June 23 when we meet for the convention.
Many were surprised that even in states that were thought to be peaceful, there were parallel congresses, especially in Kwara, home state of the Senate President and Lagos state, which is the home base of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the man appointed to head the reconciliation team of the party by Mr. President. Were you surprised by these developments especially in your state, Kwara?
If I say I am surprised is to admit that there was a parallel congress. There was no parallel congress in Kwara state. What do you define as a congress? A congress is a political gathering meant to elect new officers that have been authorised by the parties authority constituted to do so. In other words, you can only call it a congress if at least one or two members of the committee sent by the NWC to carry out such congresses were present in such gathering. Otherwise, it is just a political gathering. Now, what you just mentioned that happened in Kwara, were there any member of the committee sent to conduct the congress in Kwara present at the event? The answer is no! They were all present at the congress that was held at the Banquet hall. Two, did the Appeal committee sent to Kwara receive any petition from any member of the party in Kwara state? The answer is no. So as far as we are concerned, only one congress happened in Kwara on that Saturday. If there were political gatherings elsewhere, we cannot dispute it but to call it parallel congress, I think we will be conferring on it the authority that it does not have. The same applies to any other states where people gather together to hold any meetings. As long as the committee that is sent by the NWC to carry out such assignment was not present at the event, you cannot call it a congress. So, many of these things that people call parallel congresses are really not congresses.
With the endorsement of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole by President Buhari and the withdrawal of incumbent chairman, Chief John Oyegun from the chairmanship race, is it to safe to assume that Oshiomhole id the next national chairman of your party?
I will not be in a position to say that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is the next national chairman of the party. All I know is that he has declared his interest to contest for the chairmanship position of the party. I don’t even know if he has obtained the relevant forms. I don’t even know if others have declared interest to contest. What I know is that the position is zoned to the South- South and he is not the only one from that region. So, if the incumbent national chairman decides not to contest doesn’t mean other eligible members of the party from the South- South cannot come out to contest. So, we are not in a position to say Comrade Adams Oshiomhole will become the next chairman. I know he has declared interest. I know he is a very strong contender but we cannot say that he is the next chairman of the party.