Senator Julius Ali Ucha was a two-term senator for Ebonyi Central zone between 2003 and 2011 and later the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in 2015. In this interview with Benjamin Nworie, he said the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress led by its National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, lacks the constitutional right to coordinate and superintend over the party’s congresses. Excerpts:
Your party, the All Progressives Congress, last week, conducted ward congresses across the states. How did you see the exercise?
Our great party, the APC slated our party ward congress all over the country. This is what we had expected over the years and it came eventually, last Saturday in Ebonyi State. We were expecting an unbiased state congress committee. Fundamentally, congressional election is anchored on quick sand. I say this because when you give your trust on illegality, it is a tendency that trust founded on illegality will eventually collapse.
What is happening today is like a civilian coup against the teeming supporters of APC in Nigeria and also against the leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari. I say this and I’m serious about it. We have an NWC that expires in June, 2018 and these members of NWC want to contest. The national convention committee was put in place, and members of the NWC, who are also going to contest for their various offices, are now driving the process, to jettison the convention. That is why I call it a civilian coup against the system.
These party officials at the national secretariat are now judges in their own course. They are the people who have put in place the structures that are called congress committees that will elect delegates that will elect them. It is in contravention of the Electoral Act, party constitution and constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It’s only in animal kingdom that a situation like that can arise, not in a civil society, not in a human society, not when there is a government, in trying to bring the state leadership, whose tenure has expired to comply with the illegality put in place.
What they have done was to direct congress committees to reach out to the state Exco whose tenures have expired, so they go to a state whose chairman‘s tenure has expired and handover congress material to him. That’s an illegality and these people whose tenures have expired also have intention to contest and you give him material, provide structures that will go to the ward and perform the work of ward congress committee.
Was the said illegality or otherwise of the National Working Committee responsible for the violence in most states?
You are emphasising the obvious. We don’t have two National Working Committees in the APC, even the crisis in Ebonyi, Oyegun orchestrated it. To be frank, those of you who know me, whatever I said here, I will repeat it over and over and I will hold unto it and I can say it one million times. I am making a revelation and I have witnesses. When Ebonyi crisis was coming up, we went to Oyegun’s house to reach an understanding and he said Ebonyi people let me tell you the hard truth and he said ‘all the documents I have indicate that you people conducted one of the best congresses in Ebonyi State in 2014.
The handover note from Bisi Akande also consents that but people are mounting pressure. Oyegun was seated with Sylva, former governor of Bayelsa State during that meeting and Oyegun said ‘this is the position, this is the truth but you know I am a politician, don’t say it anywhere because if you say it I will deny you’. I told him National Chairman, I will say it anywhere with microphone, I will announce it in town hall and market places in Ebonyi State that the National Chairman has told us the truth about Ebonyi State.
I told him Mr. National Chairman, we are all Catholics, I receive Holy Communion and you receive Holy Communion. Catholic is the custodian of the Universal truth and you cannot tell me that you told me the truth and you said I should not announce it to other people. I told him there that if this is the way our APC should be conducted, why do we criticize the PDP? Ikechi Emenike of Abia State was also with us during the meeting. Engineer Peter was there too.
So, if the National Chairman should tell us not to tell others the truth he told us, you can now see that the South African popular saying that the witch cried at night, the child died in the morning – you can see the obvious connection or disconnection, the situation we the APC have found ourselves in the hands of people, who wouldn’t want us to spread the message of truth. Truth is God and God is truth, I will spread the message of truth.
I feel that what happening is unethical, inhuman, it’s intended to create coarse in the system and that’s what is happening. This action of NWC members has endangered the democratic process and that’s why there is uproar all over the place. There is violence all over the place. Indeed, their action has thrown the party into anarchy, where there is lawlessness, because people are not given the freedom to choose who will be their party leaders. So, when people because of their selfish interest decide to hijack a system, yes, instead of leaving the system because they are not wanted, decide to destroy the system. So, what the NWC member are doing is to destroy the APC institution all over the country.
How was the congress conducted in Ebonyi?
In Ebonyi State, we were told that the congress committee arrived in the state but we didn’t see anybody. We were told again that they were operating from Enugu State. I told the chairman of the congress committee that there are two secretariats of APC in Ebonyi State. If you are given directives, to go to a particular place and u went to a particular office, he should have asked questions. There are two functional offices of APC.
What they should have asked the stakeholders was to get a hotel accommodation for them so that they will be neutral. That was what Mrs. Adesola Ndu did in 2014. When you do that, you have not offended anybody. People will be happy and ask leaders of the two groups to send two or three names so you will use it to build your ward congress committees.
Apart from that, it will be difficult for you to do the proper thing. The chairman of the committee told me that he was in the CP’s office that he will get back to me, up till now, he has not gotten to me. And as we speak the committee has not conducted any congress in Ebonyi State.
The committee has not put the structure in place to conduct the ward congresses. That’s why on our own, seeing that the committee was not here to conduct congresses, but to call some people to say look I allocate four wards to you, I allocate three wards for you. I said look, this is to disenfranchise the teeming supporters of APC and create an impression that these pure supporters are idiot, who have no rights to vote. So, what we did was that we have the people we nominated – three persons as congress committee. We used them to conduct congresses all over the wards in the state. INEC visited them and saw our men conducting congresses. They monitored it.
But the state congress committee adopted consensus in exercise. Consensus does not suggest that a congress committee will be sitting in judgment and compelling people to say you will take these numbers of wards, that is not what consensus says. Consensus means that stakeholders will return to their wards and there will be a ward congress. While the process is on, people agree the way to do the consensus. It is not one like one man in majestic authority to stay in a place and say I have chosen this people to lead us. Socrates said you are a leader, when the people have agreed to go with you.
Do you think the results of your factional congress will be accepted?
We have conducted our congress and we are going to present it to the party, we are going to present our results to the national leadership of our party, because what they were asked to do was to conduct formal congresses, not to stay in a place and begin to call people to say come, you will take two wards, you will take three wards. If people take such wards, where are the voters?
This will further diminish the fortunes of the party in the South-east. We must carry the people along. I said if you want to have a structure that will win election in every state, what do you do? Every ward has 27-man Exco. If you have 27-man EXCO in a ward and you have a ward that has 9 booths, on the day of election, you will be having three agents from them. You will not have problem looking for agents on the day of election. We are talking about electoral process. Our democracy will not continue to be fledgling.
Our democracy should grow but selfish interest people have not allowed our democracy to grow. Some of us who are democratic are clamouring let the system be allowed to function effectively. I am not against any member of the NWC but whatever they are doing should be done through a legal process. You will not be in a system and compel people to vote for you, be the one to elect the delegates that will elect you. This is unfair now.
Don’t you think that the skirmishes in the party worsened by the crises from the congress will affect the party in the forthcoming general election?
Well, I do not want to put the cart before the horse. When the new leadership of the APC emerges, there will begin process of reconciliation to bring the people together and to do the proper thing, they won’t allow this type of colossal destruction of the electoral system in congressional election to go on.
I am using this opportunity to call on President Buhari to intervene to save the party from this onslaught by the NWC members who have captured the party as personal enterprise, to give our teeming supporters in the party hope that democracy is still an institution that we will have confidence in.
But people are saying if not properly handled, the crises arising from the APC congresses may mark the end of the party. Do you agree?
Yes, we have crises at hand, because people who are supposed to have left have sworn to destroy the institution that made them what they are. I have said it that God has a way of intervening in this type of situation. Don’t forget that Nigeria is a country that has the capacity of self-mechanism that saves itself and when it evolves, what you think is wrong and might inflict severe injury on Nigeria. God’s intervention will make wholesome and give it a purpose, which Nigeria will become stronger. I think APC will certainly become stronger because a new relationship will certainly emerge that God himself will sanitise the direction and purpose.