Fouad Oki: Why We Held Parallel APC Congress in Lagos

Mr. Fouad Oki, a former Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Lagos Chapter, was recently elected as the new chairman of the party in a parallel congress by a faction of the party. In this interview with Bayo Akinloye, Oki explains why his supporters organised a parallel congress and their search for sanity in the ruling party

At the Airport Hotel, your faction of the All Progressives Congress organised a congress that resulted in your emergence as the party’s Lagos State chairman while another congress recognised by the APC national secretariat held at the Lagos’ secretariat of the party. Why did you and other members of the APC hold a parallel congress?
My answer will be basically in drawing analogies to a scenario and I will leave you to draw a conclusion from it because you must first understand the basics. There must be a ground norm in whatever we do, especially in any association –political associations. And what is the ground norm? The ground norm is the constitution of Nigeria as altered 1999, the Electoral Act 2010 as amended and the constitution of our party, 2013 which is yet to be amended as well as the guidelines for the conduct of congresses, 2018. You now need to interrogate these; what are they talking about as they affect Lagos State which is sub-national –a federating unit of the national body? You must understand that before anything else. It is talking about the constitutionality of a process; about the procedure of a process. The process is: hold congresses in Lagos and other states of the federation.

To hold congresses, what are the ingredients for holding a congress? The ingredients are: One, inclusion of all registered members of the party. That is, for you to participate in the first instance, your name as a delegate to the congress must be in the party’s membership register. Two, that you must indicate interest by obtaining a form and fill it in order to stand for an election. Three, the jurisdiction where an election or congress must hold –that is, you must apply to stand for election at a jurisdiction –jurisdiction in this case is the ward; you must have a political ward that you’re either voting or seeking to be voted for. You now look at what constitutes all of these things. The first one is that the Nigerian constitution has identified and appropriately created political wards throughout the country. These political wards are created again from a larger constituency which is called the local government. Now, the local government areas are listed in the Nigerian constitution. These local governments were equally identified and recognised by the Electoral Act 2010. Therefore, any political activism must as a matter of rights generate its power and sources of legitimacy from this ground norm.
That is, you must look at the constitution. You must comply with its provisions. Therefore, by implication and extension, the constitution of our party –the All Progressives Congress –derives its powers from these two laws: the constitution and the Electoral Act. It is on the basis of that the guidelines for the conduct of congresses were drawn. It goes to say that in Lagos, you can only hold any political contests within the ambit and purview of these extant regulations –that is, those wards where you intend to hold congresses must be wards that are recognised by INEC because INEC has its catechism –the Electoral Act –which was drawn out of the Nigerian constitution. In Lagos State, therefore, the intendment of our party is for congresses to hold in INEC-recognised wards in Lagos State –245 wards and 20 local government areas. Anything outside of that becomes an exercise in nullity. It is void and ultra vires in the eye of the law. The question here is: where did their so-called congresses hold? How did the voting in that congresses hold? This must be understood before anything. That is the foundation. There are several issues tied around that such as when notices for congresses were issued; all contestants were expected to pay –in order to get their intention to contest forms –to the banks and then take the tellers to the party secretariat to obtain the forms which will be filed and returned not later than 12 hours before the congress. And we demanded: as late as Thursday –two days before the congress, May 3 –to know from the committee that was sent by the national secretariat to conduct congresses in Lagos that we wanted to see the list of delegates in this case the membership register. We were told that none was provided by the national secretariat for the congress that the register would be provided by the secretariat in Lagos. We said that was not correct. Two, so many of our members who kicked against the supposed information that congresses shall hold in 377 wards as opposed to 245 wards were clearly excluded by not being given forms when they went to the secretariat with their tellers which are indications and proofs that they had made payments into the party’s coffers.

Was the attention of the national secretariat drawn to that fact?
On Friday when I drew the attention of the chairman of the state congress’ committee, Chief Theo Okoh, who was sent from Abuja, looked into the complaint and then directed that everyone who had come with a teller should be given the forms. Chief Okoh demonstrated non-partisanship and objectivity in his assignment. We must give kudos to him and his committee members. I sent a note of observation to him, raising three issues: exclusion, which he also saw and appropriately made efforts to ensure that as much as possible many members were allowed to obtain the form but it was after so many people had been turned back from participating raising the issue of constitutionality of the various jurisdictions requesting him to give us the interpretation of the guidelines as to whether congresses would hold in 245 wards or 377 wards. And somebody from somewhere,  I understood, later called him to say that in Lagos State, it is 377 wards because after the creation of local council development areas, we took the federal government to court and we won the case. What manner of victory did we get? Because the Supreme Court ruling clearly stated that though the state has rights to create local governments, those local governments cannot be recognised until after they have been noted and appropriately listed in the constitution. Therefore, it says very clearly that the exercise was inchoate. The question is this: how then do we want to entrench illegality for personal reasons? Because somebody wants to rub his ego and therefore, there must be double standards and two sets of rules –one for other states and another one for Lagos. It’s not possible.

This is the issue. So, I want you to deduce which of the congresses was illegal and which was not. Was it congresses held in 245 wards or congresses held in flagrant contravention of set rules?

Was it because your faction didn’t want to be part of the ‘illegality’ that you held another congress at the Airport Hotel?
Yes and more important, if you truly are a democrat, you must abhor violence. You can see what happened in the other so-called congresses –two lives were lost. Tell me, do these congresses worth the loss of one life? What kind of democracy are we practising –encouraging violence?

Contrary to your view, some people have claimed that you are aggrieved because you were not given any prominent posts in this administration. Is that correct?
What prominent post? For the governor to vacate his seat and make me the governor? Or, for the deputy governor to vacate her seat for me to replace her? You see, people –unfortunately –sometimes out of sheer sycophancy, other times out of ignorance would say things they don’t know or they assume. Maybe you also want to interrogate my political antecedents; maybe you want to know my pedigree before arriving at a conclusion about me. In 2009, I was suspended when we were in ACN for similar reasons. Was I also looking for (prominent) posts then? I am contented with all God has done for me.

Does it bother you that somebody like Bola Tinubu did endorse the outcome of the congresses that you considered to be illegal?
To every door, there are two sides –the inner and the outer. To every coin, there are two sides –the head and the tail. I will never join issue with anything or anyone who want to bring Asiwaju into it. Like we say on the street, our Asiwaju is my ‘G’. He’s my big brother and leader and it will be very unfair for me to be seated here and begin to discuss him.

When you said he was your ‘G’, did you mean godfather?
No. I said he is my ‘G’. In Lagos, we don’t have godfathers. I am from Lagos; I am an aborigine. I come from Isale Eko. When I said he’s my ‘G’, I was saying he’s my guy –that’s ‘G’. He’s my ‘personal person’; he’s my big brother.

It is also said that you’re being backed by some individuals in Abuja. Can you please tell us who the big masquerader behind your faction is?
When you got here did you see any ‘Abuja’? Is this Abuja? There are some issues you don’t go into. You know why? Because those are issues that little minds discuss.

But is it true you have people backing your faction?
I have thousands of backers who are party members scattered all over Lagos State –in all the 245 wards I have got backers –young and old; experienced and upcoming politicians. I am just an arrowhead of a struggle and the voiceless in my party are the backers.

Was there any representative from the national secretariat at your congress?
It is very clear that there was a contest that was bungled. There was supposed to be a contest which should have gone through a known channel which is the party’s secretariat in Lagos. Unfortunately, the majority of the members were excluded and when you go through the guidelines for the conduct of the congress, it states clearly issues regarding safety and security and where that cannot be guaranteed you can always move elsewhere –and that is what we took advantage of.

But who should decide such movement and what happens if the national secretariat did not recognise your faction, considering it as an exercise in futility?
It was supposed to be decided by the national secretariat and correspondence in that regard was sent to the national office. I won’t tell you on the pages of the newspaper what was done and wasn’t done. The party hierarchy has started to look into the issues.

Having been the director general of the campaign organisations of Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, your current stance against the APC may be seen as throwing a spanner in the works for Ambode’s second term bid. Is that the idea?
I always like to concentrate on the task at hand. Talking about Governor Ambode; he’s not my friend, he’s a brother. Whatever we have as brothers should not be for public consumption. You don’t demolish the house you built. He’s the governor of this state; he has my support and he’ll continue to have my support –not because he’s a governor but because he’s also a brother. We’re talking about the party not about the government.