Senator Joseph Waku is one of the aggrieved All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirants in Benue state. In this exclusive interview, he explained the reasons why he was challenging the candidacy of the APC flag bearer, Dr Samuel Ortom, in court.
You were one of the APC governorship aspirants who contested the party’s governorship ticket in Benue State but lost to Dr Samuel Ortom, who decamped from the PDP a few days to your primary election. You seem to be dissatisfied with the process that gave Ortom the ticket. What exactly are your grievances?
Let us put the records straight, by saying that I did not contest for the party’s ticket and lost. No, I did not lose. There was no primary election. So, nobody can claim he wins or loses. The primary election was not concluded; it was inconclusive as a result of a court injunction from one of the aspirants who bought his form, got screened and had a certificate qualifying him to run for that office. So, you cannot say we lose.
But people think that your party’s candidate could have emerged through consensus?
There was no consensus. If there was a consensus, it would have come among the aspirants and not from somebody who was not part of that contest. Our contest was supposed to have been held on December 4, but it was shifted to December 5. We had an injunction for that day because there was a publication in the newspaper that one of us was not an aspirant. He went to court to seek justice. So, when the court injunction was vacated and we were supposed to start again on December 11, key chieftains of the party frustrated the process, having known that by 12 midnight of that day, the time frame would have elapsed. Therefore, there would be no primary election. All the aspirants would have to come together, sit down and reach a consensus or take permission from the national secretariat to extend the date for the primary election. But because these key chieftains had a game plan, they brought somebody, whom they believe, for whatever reason, was most suitable for them and not even for the people. Somebody who was not a member of our party during the contest. We started our primary election on December 5, while the PDP started theirs on December 8. The PDP primary election ended on December 9 and the result was released on December 10. If we had gone ahead, we would have concluded our primary before that of the PDP. So, where would he have found that person? They frustrated this all along so that they could bring their stooge into the game.
When the process was frustrated, we were all waiting for further directives. But we were told that somebody’s name had been forwarded to the national secretariat for onward submission to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). And we said, no, it was unconstitutional; Due process must be followed. Even if it is a consensus, all the interested parties would have been involved in that consensus. Indeed, that consensus would have been among five of us who ran for that office. If we could not have arrived at a consensus, then a delegation of stakeholders would have come in. But all these procedures were not followed. Some people take that party as their limited liability company. They take the APC as personal party where they can anoint and announce anybody they want for all positions, starting from the state House of Assembly, House of Representatives to governorship position. But we said, no, it cannot happen; due process must be followed. So, what you read in the papers is misleading. There is no consensus. Even if there is a consensus, you have to go back to the primary for affirmation. Otherwise, the person is not a duly recognized candidate.
But Ortom’s name has already been submitted to the national secretariat and INEC as your party’s flag bearer in Benue. What can you do now?
We are in court, challenging the decision of the party.
One will expect that it is an internal party affair. Since the party has already chosen its preferred candidate, you will have to resolve the issue among yourselves amicably. Do you have a personal problem with Ortom?
Wait a minute, Ortom is a bonafide son of Benue. He is qualified to contest any office, including the president of this country. We have no problem with him. It is not about Ortom. It is about due process.
Have you tried to resolve the problem internally before going to court?
The so-called leaders told everybody that the party belonged to them. They finance the party. So, whatever they decide, everybody must abide by it. But we are saying the party belongs to the people. We made you the leader. We are not servants. You are leaders among equals. Due consultation has to be made because it is not a one-man-show.
What are you praying the court to grant you?
We are asking the court to stop Ortom from parading himself as the governorship candidate of the APC in Benue State. Secondly, we are praying that the court should order the national secretariat of the party to go back and conduct a fresh primary election, where the people will choose a candidate of their choice.
Haven’t you been invited to a roundtable discussion to resolve the crisis by the party’s leaders?
Who are the leaders of the party? During several meetings that were held, we were told that the leader had concluded this arrangement, so, we can wait: “When Ortom wins, he will make us commissioners. We will be taken care of.” But we are not job seekers. We want to give good governance to the downtrodden of Benue. It is not about me. If I have gone into that contest and lost, I would have known. The people would have known that there was a preferred candidate.
You talk about good governance. But the masses believe that Ortom has what it takes to provide that. Do you think otherwise?
What makes you think Ortom is better than all of us? I trained that boy in politics. Emmanuel Jime, another governorship aspirant, is a two-term member of the House of Representatives.
Are you aggrieved because you think that he is reaping what he has not sown?
Exactly. But it is not even his fault. It is the fault of the so-called leaders. I don’t even want to believe what the people are saying that Ortom bought them. So, let us talk about the legitimacy of his candidate.
If the court case favours you, who would you prefer to be the governorship candidate?
We will all go back and start afresh. Whoever emerges winner, we will rally round him. It is not about Waku. It is about the Benue people.
But why are you the most vocal person among the aspirants?
This is so because I am leading a team. I am a leader among equals. This does not mean that if we go back, I will be the candidate.
What will you do if the national leadership of the party intervenes and states that the status quo should be maintained?
So far, he has told everybody that he has bought us. They have not called us. So, it is assumed that the national secretariat is behind him. But gone are those days when you say this is an internal party affair. It has gone beyond that. Look at the case of Amaechi, look at the case of Dangana in Nasarawa and so many other cases. The law says if you do not go through primary election, your party will have no candidate. We are helping the APC. If we do not challenge it and keep quiet, it is already in the public domain. If we win, the PDP will go to court. The PDP is even very upset with me that I have gone to court. They want me to allow it be so that they will capitalize on the loophole in case the APC wins in the governorship election.
In the Nigerian political parlance, the aggrieved politicians are beautiful brides to other parties. Aren’t you being wooed by the PDP?
It depends on how you appear to yourself. I am trying to sanitize the polity in my party. But we have been approached by other political parties. But we said it is not desperation. We are not desperate to become governor.
As an elder statesman, a prominent son of Masev, Iharev and Nongor Development Association (MINDA), where the governorship of Benue has been zoned to, barring this irregularities you are alleging, if Ortom had emerged through due process, between him and Mr Terhemen Tarzoor, the PDP governorship candidate, who do you think would be a better governor?
It has not come to that stage. This is a statement of fact. We do not have a candidate yet. So, there is no basis for comparison. Why are you not talking about Jime? Why are you not talking about Prof. Ugba? Why are you not talking about Mike Iordye? Why are you not talking about Akange Audu? Why are you not talking about Senator Waku? It is an insult for the APC to say Ortom is its candidate. When did he join APC? What a rapid transformation! Ortom participated in the primary election of the PDP between December 8 and 9. The result came out on December 10. When he lost, he claimed he joined the APC on December 9. If he had two membership cards, then he has violated the electoral law. He was not a contestant in that primary election because it was not a fresh one. It was a continuation.
What are the chances of your party at the national level?
No Nigerian alive today will want Goodluck Jonathan to come back. Genuine Nigerians will focus on Nigeria’s prosperity. That is an advantage to our party. Why are the elite of this country afraid of Buhari? You and I are not afraid of him because Buhari is hope for the masses.