Why Buhari, Tinubu Can’t Impose Candidates On APC – Onu

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Dr Ogbonnaya Onu is the immediate past National Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) which has merged with other political parties that  formed the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this exclusive interview with Sunday Trust, the first Executive Governor of Abia State between February 1992 and December 1993 spoke on the challenges and benefits of the new party, the untold stories about APC history and the sacrifice made by the political parties that merged. Excerpts:
How do you feel now that your dream to ensure the registration of APC has been realized?

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I feel very happy. This is a major achievement by our country because our dream and our wish have always been that we should have effective competition in the political arena. The emergence of APC has changed politics. Politics in Nigeria will never be the same. We will now have effective competition in the political arena.

Don’t you feel uncomfortable that you are now an ordinary member of APC, considering the fact that you were the former chairman of a big political party, the ANPP?

No. From the word ‘go’, we have always placed the interest of the nation first. We believe that we must put the nation first in everything that we do. And whatever we can do to make our country grow faster, become peaceful, more developed, more prosperous and better respected all over the world. I think it’s good. For us, as National Chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), I knew that once APC is registered, all occupants of positions from the Ward to National level will now have to leave. But I think what is important is what is in the best interest of Nigeria.

There were reports that INEC was going to meet over your registration because of rival APC that was in court. Were you frustrated?

No. The conditions as set out in the Electoral Act and the Constitution are very clear. And we met all those conditions. As far as we are concerned, there is no court ruling. The matter is in court. We need a ruling for INEC to say anything. So, that was why we were never worried. And I must tell you that we were so prepared that even if INEC come and say change your name, we would have done so very quickly because our convention had delegated full authority to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of both ANPP and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). And in my own party, the National Convention even reviewed the period within which we can call our NEC meeting to only three days. So, within a short period, we would have addressed the issue since we have met all the requirements. It’s not easy to have successful convention where everybody will agree on something like that. But we did it.

Why did the leaders of APC go to IBB immediately after the registration?  

Don’t forget that political parties will be looking for members, ideas and all forms of support. If a party goes to somebody who has been a Head of State, who has governed this country, I think it’s okay. I believe that the party will reach out to all Nigerians. What is before us now; all those who were in ANPP, ACN, CPC, and then the groups from the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) that came together to form APC are automatic members. But we are now interested in going out to bring in more Nigerians.

Are you saying that they are wooing the IBB to join the party?

There is nothing wrong if he decides to join the party. We know where he belongs to. Should he decide to join the party, it will be a very good thing. He is somebody who has governed the country. He understands the problem of the nation. He has a lot of experience that can be very useful in anything that involves how we can improve on the wellbeing of our nation and Nigeria. 
ANPP was once a strong opposition party to PDP before its dwindling fortune. Don’t you think that APC can go the way of ANPP?

The circumstances are different. The nature of the administration that we had in 1999 is very different from the circumstance that we find ourselves now. By 1999, every effort was made to push the nation to one-party state or one party that is dominant. Most policies of government were in that direction. But because our democracy has been maturing over the years that can no longer be acceptable to Nigerians. So, the environment is completely different. And I want to point out now that the emergence of APC; as soon as APC gets registered and is now in the political arena, it has denied the PDP from being a truly national party. APC is now the only party in the country that is truly national. What do I say this? We have six political zones in the country. The PDP, even though they are controlling many States, they don’t have presence in the South-west at the governorship level. They are not controlling any State in the South-west. But there is no single geo-political zone that the APC is not controlling at least in one State. If you really want to look at a truly national party, it is the APC. And that character is very important because it will make APC to be more durable.

Your critics will say that the coming together of ANPP, CPC and ACN is that of strange bedfellows. How will you respond to this proposition? How will you ensure that various interests do not hamper the focus of the APC?

Those who say that I think they should think again. If you look at the manifestoes of those old parties, you will find out that they all had very progressive ideologies. It is actually the manifesto that will show the difference between one party and the other. So, we are parties that are thinking alike. And if you remember, the CPC came out of ANPP. And then the AD gave rise to AC. And AC gave rise to ACN. If you may remember, the very first day that APC was to be shown to Nigerians, the leadership of AD were brought in to be part of APC. It was just some disagreements that made them left. So, we have been the same people. Look at the Joint Merger Committee, the Chairman of ANPP Merger Committee was Governor Shekarau. The Chairman of ACN was Chief Tom Ikimi and the Chairman of CPC was former Deputy Governor of Bauchi State Garba Gadi. Garba Gadi was in ANPP. He ran for office of Governor of Bauchi State before he left for CPC. Chief Tom Ikimi was in APP before he left. So, you can see there isn’t really any basis for any person to make that comment. They have been making this comment. And we have been telling them that it’s not correct.

How will positions be shared in APC at different levels?

We have an Interim Management Team. We did that for us to qualify for registration. And our Constitution which has taken effect now with the registration of the party had a transitional clause whereby members of that Management Team was given maximum of six months. There will be Congresses and Convention after six months. At least for party positions, that has been taken care of. But for elected offices in the executive like that of President, Governor, Local Government Chairman and the legislature; the State Houses of Assembly, Senate and the House of Representatives, for these positions, it will come later. But you know we want to ensure that there is internal democracy. I can assure you this. In ANPP where I was the National Chairman, there was internal democracy. That was why we didn’t have any cases in court. We adhere strictly to the Constitution of the party and ensure that it is members of the party that decide whoever will fly our flags. So, the same will happen in APC. If you look at the APC Constitution, we even go as far as saying that even where there is a consensus and all candidates agree on it, there will still be Yes and No votes. We want to be sure that we promote democracy. If we don’t show it, then we won’t convince Nigerians that they should allow us to come on board. We can’t be criticizing the ruling party and then go and do the same thing.

At the national level, the Interim Leadership seems to have emerged easily. How are you going to achieve similar feat at the Polling, Ward, Local Government and State levels since it will be shared among members of the parties that merged?

No. We don’t have any problem. The Interim Management Team has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday. You are right. We are the first party to have an executive at the Polling Unit because we are a grassroots-based political party. And we want to be sure that we have our people because we want the people to be at the centre of everything that we do. So, it’s not just the Ward executive, we have what we call Committee at Polling, Local Government, State and Zonal levels. All these will be taken care of. That is why we have a National Interim Management Team. They will take care of that and make sure that everybody is given a strong sense of belonging. Don’t forget that before the registration, we have ANPP, CPC and ACN. But now that we are registered, the eyes of the world will go to the States and Councils. So, we are APC. Let me tell you something, if you take cement, sand and water, you will see how they look weak. But if you mix them, you get concrete. It’s a very different thing. When you sugar and water and you mix them, you won’t see the sugar again. So, that is what is happening. We want to be thinking of APC and not the parties that came together because these parties do no longer exist.

If you look at your Interim Leadership at the National level, it seems to be dominated by people from a particular ethnic or religious group. Why is it so?

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