Comrade Mustapha Salihu, currently National Vice Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in charge of North-east zone, is at the forefront of the campaign to force out the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. He spoke with Gboyega Akinsanmi on why members of the party want the comrade out. Excerpts:
What is the root cause of the APC crisis?
What led to the crisis in the APC today is the highhandedness of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. This is also characterised by unconstitutionality and flagrant disregard to the democratic process. This is just the sum, which now led to his suspension in his state and which needed to be enforced. It is not that we have something against him. There is nothing personal about it at all. He took decisions that cost the APC victory in some states. There is lack of organisation when it comes to holding primaries. But this one has to do with the problem he had in his state. He was suspended at his ward and continued to parade himself as the APC National Chairman. That is why I approached the court to prevent him from parading himself as the APC National Chairman.
Apart from being highhanded, what are the other reasons that culminated in the court action?
Because of his highhandedness, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole did not conform to the APC Constitution. That is the problem we have with him. If he is managing the affairs of a strategic institution and he does not want to be constitutional, it cannot stand. We are running a democratic state. You can see the court is no respecter of any person. Once you made a mistake or took a wrong decision, the court will send you out. This is evident in what happened to our candidates in Bayelsa, Rivers and Zamfara States. These are lessons. This is the tip of the iceberg of what will happen to us before 2023 if we do not put our house in order.
In 2019, this thing happened in Lagos State. It was largely adjudged that there was no primary election in the state. Yet, the NWC accepted the result of the primaries in the state. What did the NWC do then?
In the case of Lagos, the APC National Working Committee (NWC) set up a committee to look into it. In its report, the committee claimed that there was primary election. There was an appeal committee. But I do not know what happened at the level of appeal. Honestly, we do not want to be specific. What we are saying is that the APC must be run in line with its constitution. For instance, the day of closure of primaries is tomorrow. We are constituting the committee today to go and conduct our own primaries. That is not right. We do not have the time to manage the affairs. That is not the way to manage the party affairs. We do not take our time to do things right. We have taken a lot of wrong decisions.
Lagos may be one of them. It is not by design. It is because we do not start our process on time or when we are supposed to start. Time! We need time to plan. We need time to make the plan; adjust the plan and reform the plan before it becomes a plan. From the plan, you develop a thesis. The thesis will throw up antithesis. We then bring both thesis and antithesis together to form synthesis. That eventually becomes a grand design that will be executed. We set up committee to conduct primaries. We will still send the same committee to be in charge of appeal. That is not the way to do things or conduct the affairs of a ruling party. Sometimes, when we do the screening, there will not be screening appeal. That is what happened in Bayelsa. The APC Chairman constituted himself as the screening appeal and did not look at the papers. That is what happened to us.
On March 5, some associates of the APC Chairman secured an order from the Federal High Court sitting in Kano to vacate the order of the Abuja High Court. What is your reaction to that?
It is not legal. Before he did that, I had inkling that he would do that. I issued a press statement that the APC Chairman was calling some people to make some decisions. As we speak, the APC National Secretariat is condoned. It is only those who have legitimate business that can enter there. People, who are not authorised cannot go near the secretariat because it is illegal. After we have the National Working Committee, we will ensure that the announcement of the new officers is investigated. This is fraud.
For you to say we have done nomination on January 14 for the nomination that was done on February 20 is not right by all standards. That is falsehood. Are we witches or wizards that we anticipate that we would bring nomination to the Southwest zone on February 20. It is absurd. I do not expect a mature person to do all things. I still want to believe this is not true. It seems like a dream. How can you contradict the facts? If you count from January 14 till date, it is about 60 days. We made decision since then and we did not announce it. We now made announcement on the date Comrade Oshiomhole was suspended as the APC National Chairman.
Does it mean that the NWC never met on the appointments that were announced on the day the court gave the order?
We never met at all. The facts are there for all Nigerians to see. If any person claimed we met, I challenged him to produce the evidence of the meeting. The meeting we had did not go through because I challenged Comrade Oshiomhole that he could not preside over the meeting because he had been suspended at the ward and state levels. I challenged his legitimacy of sitting as the APC National Chairman. That was why I went to court the next day. That meeting did not hold. We stopped the meeting. There was no minute. There was no decision taking. I told the meeting that the man presiding could not present himself as the APC national chairman in the interpretation of our constitution. I insisted that he could not take the decision that would hunt us later.
Is it true some party leaders are now working to make Senator Abiola Ajimobi the acting National Chairman of the APC?
This is a national issue. It is all about the ruling party. We are also talking about the future of the ruling party. We are talking about the entire progressives in the country. So, we are not about individual, but about issues affecting the ruling. If Senator Ajimobi must be National Chairman, we must follow due process and laid-down procedures. If tomorrow we convene a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), the NEC agrees that Ajimobi should take over. We do not have any problem with such decision. If Ajimobi takes over and leads the party right, we will support him. But if he does not lead right, we will fight him. Ajimobi is a two-term governor. We are not scared by big names. We are trained to argue constructively. We are trained to stand by the truth. So, it is not all about Ajimobi, Bulama or any other person. It is all about the APC Constitution. Let the APC Constitution be followed. You cannot come and superimpose people without procedures and due process. It will scatter our party. The nomination is null and void already because the APC National chairman has been suspended before the nomination.
How will the impasse end now?
The way forward is constitutionality. That is why the constitution is the ground norm. Once we follow the constitution, there is no problem. When there is a case like this, there is going to be bias when one of us is involved. So, the next thing is to call the NEC meeting. The NEC is a larger body, which involves the president, governors and the senators, among others. The NEC will agree and disagree on issues. But at the end, it will come up with the decision that is lasting. The National Working Committee is just to run the affairs of the party day-to-day. It is not a decision-making organ of the party. But the NEC is the decision-making body pursuant to our constitution. Under the circumstances, the acting National Secretary, who happens to be the head of the Secretariat administration of the party, has the right to call for a meeting after due consultation. He will convene the NEC meeting as soon as possible.
When will the policemen at the national secretariat leave?
There have always been police officers at the APC national secretariat. They may be more police officers now because of the issues on ground. Have you been to the secretariat before and you did not see policemen? We have a lot of policemen at the gate. We have more than 20 police officers inside.
Were police officers not deployed to enforce the court order?
The police officers did not come to enforce the court now. Nobody attempted to float the court order physically. They only stayed in their apartments where they are making their own decision. Nobody came to the national secretariat to force himself inside. The police officers are provided in case some people want to force themselves inside. The idea is to be proactive. We should not wait till problems start before looking for the way out. We should not wait till some people are injured before security operative will now wade in. They are not there not fight any person, but to maintain law and order.
Have you received any notice of appeal from the suspended chairman?
We have not received any notice of appeal from any person. But I have read on the social media that the suspended chairman has appealed. The court granted us interlocutory injunction. It is not an interim order. The injunction restrains him from performing the functions of the office of the APC National Chairman until the court rules otherwise.
The injunction can only be vacated only when an appeal court rules that the court that suspended Oshiomhole lacks jurisdiction to hear the case. In the first place, who presides over the meeting where the decision to appeal the case was made? If it was Oshiomhole then, it is contemptuous and if he was not the person that presided who has the authority to make decision for the part?
What is the position of the Progressives Governors Forum about this crisis?
I do not know their position. I am not a governor. I do not know what they are saying. I advise that you contact their spokesman to find out the position of the progressive governors on Oshiomhole’s suspension.
However, the governors are all critical stakeholders. We intend to carry them along to ensure that we restore peace, normalcy and constitutionality to the ruling party. This is very important to secure the future of our party.