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2023 is very far for any Nigerian to throw his hat into the ring now – Oki

Fouad Oki is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former director-general of the campaign organisation for Akinwumi Ambode and Babatunde Fashola, both former governors of Lagos State. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke on latest developments in the APC, the state of party in Lagos, restructuring, among other issues in the polity. Excerpts:

What is your take on the on-going membership registration of your party?

It is enough for Nigerians to see we must look at the issues from several perspectives; the most fundamental perceptive is the credibility of the membership register that we have. You want to ask yourself how is that register today? I want to say that the previous register is not credible enough for us to hold on as a membership register of our party.

You recall that between 2014 and 2021 there has been a shift of members from other parties to our party and from our party to other parties. The foundational members, a sizable number of them, have left the party and a few others that joined are active. What is the percentage of those who have left and since they left, have we been able to clean the membership register of our party? Today, we have a membership register that still carries the name of former senate president in his ward in Kwara State and Atiku Abubakar’s name in Adamawa State. And in the same vein, we have the former senate president, I mean Ken Nnamani, who joined and his name is not in the membership register and we have so many of them like that in our party. When Nnamani and the rest came in we were not registering, you can see that the membership register is not credible. We have a register where we cannot say those who are financial members and political associations like this are run based on contribution of members. So, if somebody says we should do it and suggests to NEC and says let us go on a new membership drive, profiling new members, while old members revalidate, it is a decision in the right direction. And again, there is a need for us to go on reset as the party in power; we are more challenged than any other.

But some leaders of the APC have spoken against it?

You should understand something that in a democratic setting or in any association some people have the right to their feelings. And I think that is what we are seeing and some of us have responded.

Why do some individuals think this exercise is targeted at them?

I can’t speak their mind. You recall in the last congress in Lagos State we felt cheated and we exercised the mechanism and took the matter to NWC with a view to getting it forwarded to NEC and it was after that point we went to court. They have their right to say their views but it does not mean they are right. They have their reasons for saying that. Is it because of 2023? I don’t know. Let it be very clear 2023 may be far and close, we must look at the view of 2023 within the confine of legal requirement of any general election and I know that any wise politician would not throw his hat yet into the ring. I would not say anything about 2023. There may be undercurrent and consolidation now but coming out to say he wants to contest now, such a person may be violating the law. But I don’t want to join those who would say whether somebody’s influence has been reduced.

But we have started seeing the drums of Tinubu’s presidential ambition for 2023 being beaten by his loyalists. We saw Obasa moves recently. Are you seeing it?

Well, some of the attendants of that meeting have come out to denounce the communiqué of that meeting. They said it was just for them to come together and support this person if he decides to run during the convention. I remember the former speaker of Ekiti State saying that the communiqué was wrong. It is off-season for me; this season is about membership registration, it is about putting together officers that would manage and run the party. The man concerned has not come out to say I want to run; he has friends and supporters who say he is eminently qualified to rule. Nothing is wrong in consulting; it is different to throw your hat into the ring now. Let time and the man come out.

What is the position of your faction now in Lagos APC?

We have not changed our objective; that we want inclusiveness, that we value our diversity, that it’s very important that we do things in fair play, justice and equity where everybody would have a right to choose his leader in the party. We get vindicated every day when you look at the decision of NEC to dissolve all party organs. It means that our prayers have come to pass. It was one of our prayers in Court that this organ in Lagos must be dissolved. We talk about the need for the party to respect the constitution of the party and the country and the regulation that congress should hold only in INEC delineated wards and today registration would hold in only 20 LGAs and you can see that fair play would start. We have made observations to the national body; the litmus test is for them to prove but what is clear is that they are not ready to do anything in a fair manner. That is what we observe. There is nothing personal; it is a process and procedure it is about light and darkness. Secondly, I told you we can’t come together after congress because they are not ready to do the right thing and we are bent on making sure the right thing is done. The party has dissolved all organs; there is nothing special about caretaker except to support other organs that would come to the state for this exercise. And again, it appears some people want to compromise, but we are watching them and on a daily basis we are raising observations. What I am telling the national chairman is that they should take a cue from what is happening in Kwara, because Kwara is the flash point now; if they are not careful with what is happening in Lagos now Kwara would be a child’s play. We would continue to tell our supporters that we would approach issues legally but, we would not allow them to push us to the wall.

What is your take on the spate of insecurity in Nigeria?

My position is clear: all of us must agree to the fact that Nigeria is not going through a good day and we must all come together to find a solution. I don’t deal with emotions. We must try; the way Nigerians are taking the issue of insecurity is on emotion. We need to be careful about profiling. As we have good people who are Yorubas, so we have bad individuals here; as we have good Igbo people, so there are bad elements among them, so it is in the North too.

Is President Muhammadu Buhari doing enough in the area of security?

I have not been able to sit down with those managing security. But we must understand that in governance the safety of the people and their welfare come first. We must ask if the government is taking the matter to act. Yes, there are problems. But the way to go about it, I don’t think it is the way we are doing it now; we are dealing more with emotion than fact and I don’t want to join the train.

What is your position on zoning of the presidency?

In 1999, Nigeria was said to have nascent democracy, after succeeding for some time I think Nigeria is an emerging nation and part of the issues now are what we are doing to throw away the baby with the bath water. The last 21 years have been about greed and self-aggrandisement. We must do things right, else… We saw that with the Soro-soke generation. They showed organisation; they displayed competence to rule this country; they showed organisation and readiness to take this country to where it should be.

But zoning would give all sections of the country opportunity to rule?

If you talk like that you are saying I am feeble but whether I am competent or otherwise I should be allowed to rule. Politics is about consultation, it is negotiation; it is about competence not wanting to forcibly take power. Fashola said recently that there was a gentleman agreement. Let us leave that to those involved. Let us trade softly as politicians; we should consult and negotiate some of these issues internally and not make the issues a Nigeria question. Because Buhari has ruled twice does not mean every candidate must view his ambition from a particular zone. It is a challenge which our party would need to resolve, I want to believe it would be sorted out soon in APC.

What is your take on agitations for restructuring?

Some of these people advocating for this are old people, who are used to the Westminster system. We have to also decide what we want, whether Westminster or regional. I don’t believe in regional systems; we have a federal system; if there are issues let’s look at those issues within the confine of that structure. Some people would say Germany is a federal state but operating regional system. We have to sit down and say this is what we want. Then we can look at the deficiencies and what should be corrected. We can say what the items are in the concurrent list that should go, or exclusive. The same people who want restructuring don’t want local government autonomy. The same people don’t want this and that, let them come out and tell us what they want. When people talk about the 1963 Republican Constitution they fail to know that the constitution was not a federal constitution. If there is deficiency it can be cured within the federal, state and things in the concurrent list should be expanded issues such as health transportation etc. These are issues that affect Nigerians not issues that talk about power.

What is your take on INEC moves to use electronic voting?

We have started something with Edo; it can only get better. That is what APC is doing with this membership registration; it is that if you want to join the APC you don’t come to my house, but rather the polling units, because the party does not belong to anybody. It is an improvement; now every form is coded with numbers. It means if one form is lost it can be traced; it is a decision in the right direction and we must be technology compliant. The last three elections have shown that if we try we can get there.

Do you think APC has delivered on its promises to win the 2023 election?

I know that by the time we get to 2023 Nigeria would see enough reasons to continue to give their votes to APC. We have done well but we could have done better. There are so many issues that affect our development going forward, but we are not doing badly.

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