Ide Eguabor

Crisis recently erupted in the newly registered Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance over its leadership and custody of the certificate of registration. In this interview with Onyebuchi Ezigbo, the new National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Ide Eguabor, spoke on issues surrounding the formation of the party and the foundation of the crisis. Excerpts:

Alot of people believe that APDA was floated as a stop-gap for the PDP in the event of an unfavorable Supreme Court judgment. Is that enough a solid ground to form a political party?
Yes, APDA was originally designed as an option B for the PDP but in the process of forming the APDA, certain facts emerged. One, that if APDA was going to be an offshoot of PDP, then its constitution and manifesto must take adequate care of the deficiencies in the constitution and manifesto of the PDP. That was the first thing. Second, we knew at some point that after the Supreme Court judgment, not every APDA member was going to go back to the PDP if it was favourable to the Markafi group and that option B will no longer be necessary.

A number of other very senior members amongst the founders and conveners are not PDP members and therefore, the decision that had to be taken after the Supreme Court judgment was clear and inevitable. With the departure of some PDP members, those of them who wanted to go, because there were quite a number of them, who did not want to go back, the question was whether after they go back to PDP, there would be enough persons to continue with APDA or whether to wind down or fold it up.

The decision that APDA now has a life of its own and could only gain strength and wax stronger was unanimous. There is no conflict whatsoever; nobody wants to forcefully take APDA into the PDP. Nothing like that! The constitutions are different, the ideologies are different. The APDA is a social democratic party; the PDP has its defined ideology but the political philosophy of both parties are very different and all you have to do is read the provisions of the constitutions of both parties to be able to reach conclusions. So there is no crisis and what you call turbulence is a misunderstanding.

Turbulence – perhaps, that you have interim national officers, whose term had expired and had refused bluntly to resubmit themselves to renewal of tenure for reasons best known to them. They forget that the papers filed before INEC, including their letters of appointments, signed by Chief Raymond Dokpesi as interim Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) said explicitly that their tenure would be for three months, which expired June 14, 2017.

Now to answer your question directly, the NEC meeting of APDA that held a couple of days ago on Tuesday, August 8, 2017, is the very first meeting of the party’s NEC since its registration. The NEC of APDA, according to its constitution, is the organ of the party that gives directives to the NWC on how to run the party on a day to day basis. So, for me, there is no confusion, there is no conflict; it is just for you to understand that some people are taking an action based on perceived fears and those fears don’t exist. It is a premeditated action, long planned and plotted but doomed to fail.

Who is to summon and preside over the NEC meetings of APDA?
To summon and preside over the meetings of the NEC is the Interim National Chairman or the substantive and we won’t have a substantive Chairman until after the convention. The maiden convention of the party is to hold in March next year according to our constitution. Where the chairman fails to hold a meeting, a request by two thirds members of NEC can call for and hold that meeting of the NEC and that is exactly what happened on Tuesday.

The real problem is the misguided claim by Mallam Shitu that once the party was registered by INEC, they have become substantive national officers until another four years. You will agree with me that this is as outlandish as it is bizarre. Only at a National Convention of the party can National Officers be elected through direct primaries or in the case of the very first Convention, indirect primaries depending on the readiness of the party to implement its policy of biometrics and electronic voting. This is what the APDA constitution stipulates.

But the interim chairman said the process you adopted in convening the NEC meeting was flawed?
No, that is not the proper position of things. What happened is that the two thirds of NEC members signed a document putting INEC on notice to be present at the NEC meeting and gave INEC a notice of 21 days as specified by section 85 of the electoral law as amended on meetings, conventions and gatherings. It says that a letter signed by two thirds of members of NEC calling for a NEC meeting shall be served on the chairman not less than seven days before that meeting.

Shitu had that letter of notification at least three weeks before Tuesday’s meeting. We have his acknowledgement and the letter included a copy of all the signatories to INEC made available to Shitu. The NEC as you know is made up of national officers, zonal and state officers, founders of the party, who are automatically BoT members and BoT members who are by extension, members of NEC. If you want a copy of the signatories, I will give it to you.

But what really happened, because you started well with Shittu; why do think he might want to avoid a meeting?
I think it is opportunism. First, you must realise that he is completely misadvised? I know you Onyebuchi, because both of us have a commonality, which is THISDAY and the pen is our fraternity. You cannot hear anything about me and go and meet your friend and say ‘oh boy, this is what I heard this guy is planning, let’s swing into action’ without having a chat with me. I tell you theirs is premeditated, because a couple of weeks before the certificate was issued, Shittu had started to behave funny and since the day he received the INEC certificate, he made himself completely unreachable for no just cause.

A stakeholders meeting set up a reconciliation committee headed by a prominent member of the party, Alhaji Yusuf Garba Goronyo, the chairman of APDA in Sokoto State. They met with Shittu, they met with Raymond Dokpesi. Shittu came here and everybody agreed that the misunderstanding was based on wrong perceptions and another meeting was fixed for the secretariat. We went over to the secretariat and inaugurated the media committee at which Shittu brought the certificate he got from INEC and handed over to Raymond Dokpesi and Chief Dan Nwuanyanwu. He handed over the certificate he received from INEC as a way of showing that a full reconciliation had been effected. A few days later, we learnt it wasn’t the real certificate. So, we had to write to INEC for a CTC of the certificate. It is premeditation. If I quarreled with you and you come to reconcile, we have a handshake and you say ‘ok this was one of the bones of contention, let me give you back the certificate’ and it turns out it is not the certificate is that reconciliation?

Did Raymond Dokpesi demand for the certificate?
Raymond Dokpesi didn’t demand for the certificate. It was only just noise that had filtered out that Shitu ran away with the certificate. Now, as far as I am concerned, for the life of a political party, there is no time anymore that INEC is going to be demanding for the certificate of registration from the party. I’ll give you an example: APGA has split into two. Okorocha, Imo State governor, took one leg of APGA and put in APC. Obiano is holding on tightly to the other leg and name of APGA. Has anyone ever asked who between the two of them is in legal possession of the certificate? It is not an issue.

You did say that in forming APDA you took care of the shortcomings in PDP and also tried to avoid the issue of impunity but the sacked chairman is claiming that people from PDP that helped to form this party have come in the same style of operation in PDP by trying to impose a new leadership in the party.
I am a stickler for constituted authority. The constitution is our guide. If you are the interim chairman of APDA at the beginning and your letter of appointment is valid for a period of three months, there is no other way to interpret it. In point of fact, because he refused to call a NEC meeting that ought to have elongated their tenure until convention, stakeholders, NWC members, NEC members, BoT members and founders met and proposed to NEC that the tenure of this interim administration should be elongated until convention time so as to stabilise the party but Shitu had his own agenda. I am not discussing Shitu. He had his own agenda because as soon as he collected that certificate, he disappeared until that stakeholders meeting setup a reconciliation team, met with Shitu and he agreed to the terms of reconciliation only to find out that he had given a fake certificate.

Have you tried to find out what his agenda is?
I have asked him but I think he has this phobia that somebody wants to take the party back to PDP and I said no, because High Chief Dokpesi is close enough to me to tell me what his true intentions are. The interim party headquarters is too small for a party like the APDA. We agreed that his place be used only for the purpose of registering the party, so, I don’t know what his problems are. Even if he is being controlled or tele-guided by some politicians, he shouldn’t forget the constitution that guides the party.

Have you been communicating this to INEC?
Of course, the process is being followed to the law. Our decisions will be communicated to INEC. INEC wouldn’t have any say in the matter, because the constitution is very clear. We have followed the letters and spirit of the constitution – not a single breach – but I don’t think he understands the constitution, because when he makes allegations, they appear reckless. For instance, the letter we wrote to INEC, which was dated 15h of July indicating our intention to hold the NEC meeting on the 31st of July and suddenly someone pointed out that we didn’t make the 21 days so we wrote another letter to INEC to say, ‘No, instead of 31st the NEC meeting will now hold on the 8th of August’.

INEC replied to say ‘we have received two letters contradictory as you may see from your party’ one was signed by Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who is signing as the chairman of the BoT and the other is signed by Shitu who is interim National Chairman. Shitu is claiming that he is exclusively entitled to call NEC meetings and preside over proceedings. The other letter by Raymond Dokpesi is notifying us of a meeting that would hold on the 8th of August but looking through your constitution only either of ways, can your NEC meeting hold. The chairman can summon a meeting or two-thirds members of NEC can summon a meeting and notify the chairman. We did all that but Shitu in his response is saying INEC wrote back to Raymond Dokpesi that it should route his request and letter through the National Chairman but no such thing exists. This is strange.

So, what is the way forward for this young party?
This young party would, as I have said previously, have a life of its own. Shitu has his faction now and then the other faction of the newly inaugurated national executive. Only time will tell or perhaps if they go to court or we go to court, because that will decide which is the authentic faction of the party. It is better now than later. For me, it is better now that a decision is reached. It is just like the Sheriff thing, which was decided in a matter of months.

Don’t you think that in trying to find solution to a problem now, you may also be compounding it?
I have told you that a committee was set up under the Sokoto State APDA Chairman – a committee comprising people from all zones of the country, who interviewed Raymond Dokpesi, who interviewed Shitu and agreed to a certain course of action. Shittu never followed up on any of those actions. It is not a complication; it is better that this child’s parents are defined and identified at birth than when it becomes an adult and then his parenthood is being contested.

Would your party contest the Anambra governorship election as well other elections coming up this year?
Well, the truth is that we didn’t say we will contest or not contest the Anambra elections. A committee was set up on the matter. let me read to you because we issued a press statement ‘a committee was set up by the NEC to pursue membership drive aggressively after which it should report back to the NEC of the party so as to know whether we are ready to participate in the election or whether we should defer it until the next elections, because time is against us. By the provisions of our constitution, members who have paid up their membership fee and subscriptions till date will constitute the delegates that will vote through direct primaries with membership biometric cards. So, if you are not ready, you are not ready. It is not a question of someone giving us N10 billion, an aspirant and then we start to campaign. This APDA constitution doesn’t permit that manner of electioneering.

You said Dokpesi is not in any way pursuing a marriage between ADPA and PDP. Has he then severed his relationship with APDA?
The truth of the matter is that we understand that the PDP is discussing with at least 15 political parties with a view to forming an alliance. Shitu was in the APDA delegation that met with a PDP committee headed by Prof. Gerry Gana. These talks – any discussions between two political parties for a merger or working agreements or alliances take time. If the PDP comes to APDA and we reach concrete agreements or understanding or a political working understanding or an amalgamation, I can’t tell you what we will do until we get to that point. If labour party wants to amalgamate with APDA, I can’t tell right now if we will agree or wouldn’t agree.

Does Dokpesi still have a role in APDA?
Not anymore. He doesn’t have any role anymore because we have a new BoT chairman in Chief Dan Nwuanyanwu. At the height of Atiku’s crisis with Obasanjo, he went and formed Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM). It was registered by INEC but Atiku is not in PDM today and PDM has a life of its own now. It has its national officers, it has its own admirers, it has its sympathisers and it has its members but by the sheer mention of the innovations that are contained in the constitution and manifesto of the APDA, giving 30 per cent elective positions to women, 25 per cent to the youth and 5 per cent with persons living with disabilities and the way its convention and conferences would hold through direct primaries, it is a novelty that only time will catch up with it. But this is what will be acceptable to Nigerians.

The APDA is the party, whose time has come. Nigerians are frustrated by the APC and the PDP and where a zero party is not yet an option, the APDA will steer the country through dynamited political landscape, using the lessons of how and why the other parties failed especially the instrumentality of youth and women. We have several Macrons of the French mold in Nigeria. Just wait and see!