Hon Nze Chidi Duru, a former Reps member, is the current Deputy National Organising Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with BODE OLAGOKE, he speaks on how the APC’s NWC rejected plot to impose a consensus presidential candidate on the party, why Rabiu Kwankwaso and Peter Ob are no threat to APC in 2023, among other issues.
What led to the division among members of the national working committee (NWC) of the party over the choice of Ahmed Lawan as the preferred candidate of the party?
I won’t want to look at it from the point of view of a crack or division within the NWC. I will rather see it as the position of the NWC to the extent that there were no discussion on the consensus candidate. Some of us within the rank and file of the NWC felt we should address the press and to let the country know that the NWC had not taken any decision. It was a critical turning point in the journey leading to the special convention. It created a sense of confidence and level playing field for the 23 candidates. The NWC needed to midwife a free fair transparent primary. The decision that we took was not a stand alone decision. It was in keeping with the decision of the northern governors forum on the issue of zoning. We were bent in ensuring that against all expectations that the presidency of Nigeria be zoned to the South and not north. It was a patriotic decision and, then of course, that became the decision of the southern governors forum, same with their colleagues from the north and ultimately the position of the progressive governor’s forum. The NWC members that addressed the press took note of that and adopted the position. So I am not looking at it from the point of view of a crack in the NWC.
Did you know whether Senator Abdullahi Adamu who came up with consensus idea had the backing of the presidency?
I will not know if he was backed by the presidency. What for us was important was the fact that the NWC did not take any decision with regard to consensus candidate and that position amplified what we had always said which is that as a body and as NWC for you to be credited with any particular decision, it has to be tabled before the meeting of NWC. And in the usual manner of debate, consultation, the consensus reaching an agreement can only be at that point that one can arrive at a decision. I think it is already in the public domain that yes, there was a view expressed with respect to some understanding that Ahmad lawan is the preferred choice of the chairman of the party. But then, he’s also entitled, like everyone in Nigerian to have a view with respect to his preference and who would be the presidential candidate of the party. And we don’t deny him that and to be fair to him, even in offering that advice, he also said that party NWC would create an enabling environment that would allow the aspirants to also compete and should any of them win, that person would become the candidate of the of the party.
Was it proper for the national chairman to have a preferred candidate?
I would restrict myself again to just make the point that more than any other person, he had the moral responsibility to create an enabling environment and which was created at the national convention of the party. At the end of it, the party remained the same after we organized a free, fair and transparent primaries and in such a way that any of the aspirants that emerged as our standard bearer would have the confidence of his co-aspirant to be able to galvanize them as we’re beginning to see that our candidate His Excellency, Bola Ahmed Tinubu has begun to reach out to his other co-contestants. The other contestants have also pledged their loyalty, support, and offered their resources to campaign for him, to work with him and to deliver the party in next year’s election and that is what a transparent process can only guarantee. Should we have done otherwise, should the candidate have been foisted on the party, It would have created an atmosphere that would not have allowed for a mutual understanding that would have also allowed for a bridge building and understanding of the candidates that will take us to the election.
We have had two national vice chairmen of the party protesting against the leadership style of the Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is the party still united ahead of the 2023 poll?
The NWC of which I’m a member is united and have always worked together. The point you made with respect to the letter authored by a colleague of mine, Saihu Lukman and Kekemeke, was again informing the NWC and informing the party stalwarts of the basic rudiments of party administration which is in our usual parlance carrying everybody along, submitting policy decisions to the scrutiny of the NWC. I will also say that played out and informed the decision that NWC took in addressing the press to make the point that the decision of a consensus around the Ahmad Lawan candidacy is not a decision of NWC because that decision hasn’t been discussed in NWC. And that was largely very influential and very informative. And that will also have also guided the party and continue to guide us on the way to proceed in the management of party administration. It can only get better. We continue to learn party administration. By the way, don’t forget that we’re barely three months old. We just came in in March. And after that we began to get involved in the process of the electioneering process, the process of nominating candidates, delegates to the various elections, and ultimately the primary diverse community culminated in the recently organized presidential primaries of the of the party. I wouldn’t see that as a crack. I also see that as part of the discourse, that is essential and necessary in the party building.
How is the party going to navigate through the issue of selecting the running mate of the presidential candidate?
Well, we’re working around the clock. We are looking at not just the issue of the running mate to the presidential candidate but we’re looking at the issues around the candidates that have emerged across Nigeria – from States Assemblies to the Senate, gubernatorial and presidential primaries to ensure that our party meets the basic requirements as stated by the INEC guidelines. Of course, we have to go back to the issue of the Vice Presidential candidate. Yes, we have between today (Saturday) and Friday to complete the entire process. But it’s important to also make the point that having emerged as the presidential candidate by the way, it is his sole responsibility to nominate his deputy or his vice after having consultation with the various layers of the party and stakeholders. I believe that that process is ongoing. Various consultations are going on as most of them are in the public spaces.Tinubu has met with Mr. President, met with the Vice President, also met with co- contestants, which I think the process will be completed between now and tomorrow. He has also met with the NWC of the party. And then of course, he will continue to meet with critical stakeholders. And I’m sure that in the final analysis, he will be in a position to nominate that candidate that will complement his strengths and also give a face of the kind of government Nigerians should expect come May 2023.
What is your take on the prospect of a Muslim Muslim joint ticket for the party?
Well, it is the sole prerogative of the candidate to choose and determine who his number two would be .The number two will be such person that will complement his strength. And then, we’ll also help him in administering the government come 2023 when the party wins the election. Like Alexander Pope always in the “Forms of Government,” what is important for Nigeria today is good governance, creating the level playing field, ensuring security of both Nigerians life and property and then giving hope to the people of this country that indeed, the abilities, the opportunities for them to afford their best of ability will therefore be created and I’m sure that what Nigerians are looking for and in the end whatever decision he takes, will be informed by the various consultation that is going on and then present to Nigerians. Whether they will choose our party which I hope they will as against the opposition parties, one thing that is significant, not laying emphasis on the Muslim-Muslim ticket is also to make the position that APC has taken the moral high ground. It has been understood in the history of this country that when the north completes it’s tenure, the South will take over and after the South, it will go back to the North again. And we have a party that in is clear disregard of the written governance code on how this country throws up its leadership went the other way and the APC chose to stick in that tradition of after eight years of power in north, it should rotate to the South. This is something that is commendable. This is what Nigerians should look at and then take the position that the APC is a better alternative to any other political party.
Assess APC’s chances against the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 poll?
Well, I think what qualifies APC to form government in 2023 is the fact that it kept faith with Nigeria, the unwritten code in tradition, that after north it comes to the south. That, more than any one else, it qualifies APC to retain power. And again, to look at the quality of people that are currently administering both the party and governance across board. The northern governors forum when it mattered most were patriotic to speak for Nigeria, and for Nigeria, rose to the occasion. The members of the NWC heroes of the democracy stood firm and spoke for Nigeria. What that then tells us when it comes to matter of who will speak for Nigeria, you will find that in APC. And when you look at the quality and the credential of our candidate, the work that he did when he was governor in Lagos, people he had mentored before, people he has influenced, those who have also influenced him, what will become very clear is that this man, our candidate, is a private sector driven person. He understands inputs and outputs. He knows what we need to do to unfold the potential of the average Nigerian. He knows what it will take to create a level playing field. One thing he said and I was not struck as part of his acceptance speech is the fact that a friend of his said to him that things are not working in Nigeria, things have gone that bad and to support his statement, he said that not many containers are coming to Nigeria. And I’m sure most of us heard that. And what was his retort? You said it is his responsibility to move the country away from an import dependent economy to an export dependent economy so that Nigerians can continue to produce what they need. He also talked about electricity. It is one thing to privatise. By the way, I was Chairman House committee on Privatisation, when I was in the National Assembly. The whole essence of privatizing is to bring in more private hands into a critical part of our industry. So it’s one thing to govern and supervise over whatever kind of work they do. But unfortunately and regrettably, all of us are witnesses to the current levels of energy supply in Nigeria. Not only are the Discos charging so much, but are also delivering so little. And he has said the basic and the critical part of his governance is to be able to in so short a time hand over 16,000 megawatts of electricity provided to Nigerians. And if we do that, people will begin to see the possibilities that exist in Nigeria. And, of course, in the IT space and all of that. He will walk his talk.
What is your take on the inability of South-east aspirants to make headway at the convention?
I think basically, it would have been our wish that South East is considered for the presidency of the country. We are more than entitled to it, and no doubt, we have the people who would have done what would have worked for Nigeria. We would have also crystallized the level of governance that each and every one of us expect. However, if we can provide this governance that reassures every Nigeria wherever they are, that first and foremost we are Nigerians, that will do for now. There should be a constructive engagement to reassure the people of the South East that they belong to this entity called Nigeria.
Do you think Nigerians still trust the APC to give them their votes again?
I do not think it is a matter of APC. This government has done well. It’s a matter that the Naira speaks in only one language whether you are the APC and PDP and all that. Yes, we cannot deny the fact that a lot more progress need to have been made. We cannot deny the fact that there’s hardship in the land. We can also not deny the fact that there are missed opportunities. However, what will this candidate bring is hope, that all hope is not lost. That in areas where we’ve done well, we will continue to do well. In areas where we’ve not done well, there will be critical strategic inputs to improve on those areas, to arrest the days of the locusts and then take Nigeria back to the path of prosperity and that is devoid of party leanings. At the end of the day, whether you like it or not if you are the governor of a state and then there is insecurity in your land, it doesn’t speak the language of APC or PDP. It speaks the language of humanity. So when the development is not there. It speaks to all of us. So what this present candidate and what the party will offer to Nigerians is hope. That this candidate have seen it all. That This candidate have walked the talk. This candidate from being a legislator to being an Executive have also deployed his God given talent in showcasing what is possible. And that given the mandate that he will introduce that into the national landscape.
Do you see the likes of Kwankwaso, Peter Obi ad threats to the prospects of the APC retaining power?
Peter Obi comes with an incredible credentials as well as Kwankwaso. You cannot deny the fact that they have swaths of followership not in only their area or zone but also across the country. What I do not know is whether this followership will translate to a voting possibility during the election. However, having said that, the point we need to make is that APC is the dominant political party. There are two established parties in Nigeria which is APC and PDP. When it matters most and when we get down to the wire, it will be a choice for the country to make and the choice for the country to make, in my view, will remain the hope that the candidate brings to the table, his achievements, what he has achieved in his private and public life and the kind of bridge building that brings all the component parts of Nigeria together. And I think the candidate that better reflects or represents this will remain the candidate of APC which I believe that Nigerians will be the judge at the end of the day.