The National Vice Chairman (South-south) of the APC, Ntufam Gillard Eta, says his party needs a strong leader in the run up to the 2019 elections, and former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole possesses that quality. He spoke with journalists in Benin, Edo State. Adibe Emenyonu presents the excerpts:

What informed the zonal executive committee meeting?

On the 9th of April, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party met in Abuja and considered the report of the technical committee that was set up to look at what people considered as tenure elongation and the attendant implications for the party. The NEC at the end of that meeting made five resolutions. It was consequent upon those resolutions that the meeting of the zonal executive committee was convened and we were to deliberate on those resolutions. In the zonal executive committee we have about 168 people as members of the zonal executive committee and the committee speaks on behalf of the zone. All members were invited to the meeting in Benin and I must also say that these meetings are always rotated within the states except for Bayelsa that we have not had these meetings within its borders.

At the inception of the meeting, the agenda was circulated round the leaders. and they were called to make comments for the agenda. Nobody added, nobody subtracted from the agenda. The major item on the agenda was the deliberation of NEC’s resolution. Too show you the importance of that item on the agenda, members accepted to skip the reading of the last meeting so that they could have time to deal with the main issue of the day: Adherence to party constitution and pattern of nomination of candidate

The meeting started the deliberations by attempting to modify the resolutions of NEC but the attention of the meeting was drawn to the constitution of the party which precludes any organ of the party from tampering with any position of NEC. To that effect, the zonal leadership affirmed the decision of NEC and commenced deliberations.

The second item of the resolution was that the zonal pattern of the party be retained and it was put into deliberation and over 20 persons spoke on the issue and the need to respect the position of the NEC and maintaining even the micro zoning of the zone. The interpretation of the zonal executive committee is that the zoning arrangement must be retained from even the ward level to the national level. It was at that point that I personally suffered a loss because my leader and former governor of my state, Chief (Dr) Clement Ebri was at that juncture precluded due to NEC resolutions. The resolution of NEC was to maintain zoning even at the micro level and it went on to ask the position of Edo State given the fact that the congresses and convention commence a week after this meeting. It has historical comparison because in 2014, before the national convention of the party, under the auspices of the then former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, such a meeting was convened in his house.

At that time Chief Tom Ikimi had resigned as the National Vice Chairman of the party, so the two leaders we then had is Amaechi and Comrade Oshiomhole who were governors then. Amaechi invited us for a meeting including Oshiomhole, he invited the persons who wanted to contest for the national chairmanship to speak to us. At that meeting, since the slot was ceded to Edo, the chairman of Edo State APC was called to come and present the position of Edo State. At that time, the chairman of the Edo APC presented the position of Edo which was an endorsement of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as their choice. We followed the position of Edo and endorsed Oyegun as our candidate.

The same thing was done yesterday (Monday) where we invited everybody for the meeting and we called on the state chairman of Edo to give us the position of Edo State. The chairman came to us that the Edo State APC caucus unanimously endorsed Oshiomhole as its choice for chairmanship of the party. At that point, people started speaking, people did not raise issues that the chairmanship should be moved from Edo. They raised issues that we cannot consider the position of Edo caucus in 2018 whereas in 2014 we considered such position in the presence of Amaechi. We also put the question to the house to ask whether it accepted the position of Edo. And majority of the zonal executive committee affirmed the position of Edo.

Walking out by four state chairmen.

Those who were against when the question was put to the house were less than 15. They stormed out of the hall and said they have disassociated themselves. How can they say so when they participated in the voting? Having lost in the votes they resorted to tyranny and desecration of democratic principles by going to say they have disassociated themselves after they lost in the voting. If they had won will they disassociate themselves?

Let me even correct this impression, I read on the pages of newspapers that four chairmen disassociated themselves. I know that Cross River state does not have a chairman as we speak, so it could not have been four chairmen. Let me say that the chairmen are members of the zonal executive committee just like the other 164 people. We are not holding a state executive meeting, we were holding a zonal committee meeting and in the zonal executive committee we have over 168 people including senators, governors, deputy governors, former senators, former House of Reps members. So the chairmen who stormed out of the meeting were not speaking for their states.

Senator Nelson Effiong was seated and participated in the voting when his chairman stormed out and said he disassociated himself. He could not have been speaking for Senator Effiong, he could not have been speaking for Hon.Robinson or Hon.Esieme Eyibo. When the chairman of Rivers State stormed out of the house, he could not have been speaking for Senator Magnus Abbe, because Abe after voting sat until the end of the meeting. He could not have been speaking for Senator Wilson Ake, these are people form Rivers State. In Bayelsa, the man there is just holding forth as chairman, he is not the chairman, however when he left the hall, people like Chief Ikisibor and others who were from Bayelsa remained at the meeting. So these people cannot be claiming to speak for their states.

Why we choose Oshiomhole

Everybody who has been monitoring the situation in Nigeria and our party since understand what it means to have Oshiomhole as the chairman of APC. We are not stopping Oyegun form contesting and Chief Ebiri but what we are saying is that the majority prefers Oshiomhole as our candidate. If you ask me my opinion, I am the National Vice Chairman for close to four years now and what I can say now is that this party, needs rebranding, reinvigoration, we need new creativity, we need to build strong leadership. I can tell you that we have been lacking very seriously, leadership at the national level of our party. And in bringing in Oshiomhole on board, I can tell you that the party will have a new lease of life. The impunity that has crept into the APC will be halted. And the laws of the party will be respected. For now, God forbids that Jesus Christ will come to the headquarters of the APC, he will not flog us with cane, he will flog us with thorns.

APC has to rebrand itself especially in the South-south here, even in other parts of the country. The party enjoys the acceptance of the people on the basis of it being a progressive party. That progress focuses on the well being of the people, a just and transparent system, we have not had these over the years. What the party needs to do now is to find a way of creating a perception that this party is different from PDP. PDP is known for impunity, disrespect for the rule of law, lack of internal democracy and these things are creeping into APC due to weak leadership of the APC. The people at this point cannot see the difference between APC and PDP. We have now presented to the people a good choice and alternative. if we do not change course immediately we will be messed up. Right now the party is not going towards the right direction. It is going in the direction of the PDP and it must be halted. This convention affords Nigerians the opportunity to make a change, effect changes and take the party back to where it should be. If this is done you will observe that millions of Nigerians will join the APC.

On APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

Tinubu has been my leader for a long time right from when I was state chairman of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Cross River State. I have known Asiwaju and worked with him for a very long time. I know what he brings to the table. I know the role he played in the victory of our party in 2015. So I can never trivialise the place of Asiwaju in our party. I am happy with the good relation between President Buhari and Asiwaju because when these our two iconic leaders come together, victory is assured for our party. but we cannot say so for many others who pretend to be leaders, who cannot bring anything to the table during elections.

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PDP is known for impunity, disrespect for the rule of law, lack of internal democracy and these things are creeping into APC due to weak leadership of the APC