A former Political Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan and now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Ahmed Gulak, was the Chairman of the Imo State governorship primaries of the party, which produced Senator Hope Uzodinma as the governorship candidate of the party. He spoke to Onyebuchi Ezigbo on the controversial primary election. Excerpts:
From all indications, the report of your primary panel has been upheld by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. Are you vindicated after the initial storm?
I will say without an iota of doubt that the NWC vindicated my stand. One, I did not appoint myself and other members of the panel. The NWC approved our appointment – I as the chairman and returning officer and six other members, including the secretary making us seven as enshrined in the guideline. We went to Imo against all odds. We stood our ground, elections held, results collated and the winner announced.
We came back, in fact, after the collation, I and a few others escaped, because the governor himself came to arrest everybody in the hotel but before he arrived, about four of us escaped and he arrested other members including the secretary.
He took them to the Government House and they read a prepared speech declaring his son-in-law the winner of that exercise. But I had already left Owerri for Abuja, where I submitted my result. As I speak today, there is no single petition against our report and against the result. Let us not forget, Rochas’ in-law was not the only aspirant, Hope Uzodinma was not the only aspirant. There were other seven aspirants including the deputy governor of Imo state. All the other aspirants, nine of them, there is no single petition against the conduct of the election. And if there were grievances against the conduct of that election, the party has an appeal panel that petition ought to have been lodged. The appeal panel will recommend whether or not a fresh primary will be conducted. That did not happen. As we speak in accordance with the constitution and the guidelines, the result submitted by my committee, signed by me is the authentic unchallenged report and the NWC has no option but to uphold that report.
I feel vindicated. Members of my committee feel vindicated. The issue of Governor Rochas going round blackmailing the party, threatening the party is not the best for a governor. He is supposed to be a statesman. This is his party. I understand very well that he is the senatorial candidate of his party in Orlu, so, he should not weaken the party from within. He should call everybody. All hands must be on deck to ensure that the party retains the state.
Why do you think Governor Okorocha failed to deliver his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor?
Well, I don’t know Imo people very well. But I know that whoever Governor Rochas wants to push forward, decency demands that he should do so in consultation with the stakeholders of that state. Even if he wants to put his son-in-law, he ought to have consulted the stakeholders. No one man can do this game of politics. Everybody must be carried along. I feel maybe because he did not consult the stakeholders before pushing his son-in-law as the person to succeed him. And naturally, people will revolt and if he had his way to impose his son-in-law on the party, what of the general election, can he impose? At the end of the day, the people of Imo State will decide who they will vote as governor and don’t forget it is not a one-party system. We have more than 85 political parties with candidates. And in Imo State, I have it on good authority that we have about 10 or 11 political parties fielding candidates as governors.
If you imposed your son-in-law as successor, don’t forget that it is the Imo people who will decide who the governor will be. And I also have it on good authority that immediately they learnt that the NWC has upheld the result of the Imo primaries, the other candidates subsumed their ambition in the interest of Imo State to support Hope Uzodinma. As party men, we should all be happy about that too. That is politics without selfishness. Rochas has spent eight years as governor of Imo State, you want your son-in-law to succeed you, you want to come to the Senate as a senator, you want your wife to be a House of Reps member, you want your junior brother to be running mate and you want your son-in-law to be deputy governor. That in itself is indecent. It is immoral and the people of Imo State may not take it lightly.
They are not slaves. You cannot enslave them by making it a personal family dynasty. This is a well-educated state; well-enlightened state, where we have professors in almost every family. We have businessmen, industrialists – these people have a stake in Imo State. So, I know they will not lie low when Rochas begin to enslave them. He has gone on air every day to abuse me, maligning me but I have decided to keep calm because it is an internal family matter. But I urge him to be a better party man. Abusing me every day on television and Newspapers will not help him; he should go and work for the victory of his party and leave me alone.
You said you escaped death and was almost kidnapped in Imo State. Can you tell us what really happened?
Naturally, even before I went to Imo State, I was offered a private jet to take me to Imo State by Imo Government House and their proxies but I refused because I don’t want to be compromised. I refused the private jet and even the tempting offer made to me – very tempting. We are talking about $2 million here, which I refused, although I tried to persuade them that I was going to do what is needful: free and fair primaries. Every stakeholder must be involved. But immediately we landed at the airport was where the problem started. They wanted to kidnap every member and only God knows where they wanted to take us to, which I refused. And to say the least, I pity the Imo people but they have to take their destiny in their own hands and elect who they feel will represent them better. I am not from Imo state but I am a Nigerian. There is equality and there is equity. Some of our governors, I am sorry to say this, take state resources as their personal resources and we know that power is transient. After four or eight years, you are out of power and the system will get you. But having said that, I am happy that the party has vindicated me and I know it is the best decision for the people of Imo state.
As 2019 approaches, what are the likely outcomes of a Buhari-Atiku clash?
We are in a democracy. It is not over until it is over. As a practical politician, I don’t take anything for granted. Atiku has been on the political terrain for so long, so, he is not a novice in this game. He is experienced and has the resources and if you want to compare the resources he has with that of our president and candidate, President Buhari, Atiku has more resources but the goodwill that Buhari has; the integrity that he is known for is what is going for him.
But I will advise the party to move in and begin to consult great stakeholders, state by state, local government by local government and I believe Buhari will defeat him. What I am saying is that yes the APC has grown for three and a half years, the PDP has grown for sixteen years and it is left for Nigerians to judge. Do we want to go back to the old days or we want to forge ahead with what President Buhari and his team had tried to do? I know as a fact that we are not yet there but sooner or later, the President needs to rejig his cabinet because we need people who will take this 2019 election as a serious project. Whoever is not a politician and does not know what politics is all about should give way to those who can drive this process successfully.