By Simon Ebegbulem
Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige is the Chairman of the National Congresses and Convention Committee of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In an interview with selected media men in Benin City last week, Dr Ngige spoke on the preparation being made by the leadership of the ACN and some leaders of the opposition to dethrone the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming 2011 general elections.
He also spoke about the forthcoming national convention of the party and gave some hints as to the role President Olusegun Obasanjo played in his removal as Governor and other national issues. Excerpts:
So far Sir, there have been series of protests in the on-going congresses of the party, like in Edo state we noticed there were parallel congresses in most wards, how is your committee going to sort out issues like that?
We have a three man appeal committee in every zone. If there are parallel congresses we have people in each state called state coordinators and they are supposed to work with the state Local organizing committee of six persons, two from each zone. Four Local Government LOC again from the state and three in the ward. So these state coordinators will bring their report and those people who feel aggrieved will write a petition and submit to the Appeal committee.
We will look at it and where we find injustice done, we will give justice and where we find very glaring manipulation we will cancel the result and orders a fresh congress. By our guideline the National Convention Committee is the final committee on this matter. But we are of the same family, we are not going to fight. Where we can reconcile brothers to brothers so that they can harmonize in their wards and Local Government we will do so. It is only when that fails that we are going to apply the guidelines strictly.
You were one of those who formed the National Democratic Coalition (NDC), but it seems your efforts to bring all the opposition together failed, why?
We formed the National Democratic Movement (NDM), we formed it about five months ago. Buhari, Atiku, Bola Tinubu, Bafarawa, and some other leaders. We came together to form a unified opposition. When we started it, Chief Olu Falae, Tom Ikimi, Prof. Pat Utomi, were all part of it. But as you expect in politics, people have their own interests. So at one time or the other, Atiku went back to PDP, Buhari formed his CPC, Bafarawa sojourned with us and we now agreed to melt his DPP into ACN, and we had to change our name to ACN. We also had some changes in the logo.
Now Buhari wants us to work out a modality so that we can use a common platform to go to the Presidential election. We can field joint Governorship candidate without one party attacking each other. He has met with out National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande. Our caucus set up a technical committee headed by Otunba Niyi Adebayo and CPC also put up their own and we have been discussing on how we can cooperate. Nothing is yet defined but we are working with
all progressives so that we can work together.
Of late the ANPP National Chairman, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu came to our caucus meeting and we had fruitful discussion. Chief Chekwas Okorie and Umeh, both factions of the APGA have been talking to us. So within a shot time, the progressive will team up to drive PDP out of power because PDP government is tyrannical. So whatever it will cost us to team up together to do that business we will welcome it.
We have few months to go in the elections, would you say you are satisfied with the on-going amendments in the National Assembly?
What they have done so far is that they have tried to accommodate the time line as requested by INEC and you know that the time line is also constitutional. So they have tried to make a second amendment to the constitution, bringing us back to the original time line of the constitution of 1999. So in effect, if their first amendment stands, because a court has already pronounced that it does not stand.
If it stands because they have gone on appeal, it means that their second amendment on the time line will be in order but if it does not stand, it means that we are still with the old constitution with the old time line. Those time lines are also good for a national election the only thing is that say for Governor, it will now be 120 days, that one is not also bad because in all the amendments, none will give us a time line that will give time for judicial proceedings due to time constraints. So head or tail, we are going to have the election. If we use the old constitution, 1999, unamended,
we are still home and dry. If we use as amended, time line stands. But the portion of the electoral Act that is worrisome is the one that the National Assembly wants to make themselves members of their parties National Executive Committee. They are trying to smuggle that in for themselves. I was an Assistant National Secretary of the PDP, we formed that party, we were the first group that amended the constitution of our party in 2001 and we made for the leadership of the National Assembly to be part of the NEC so that they can form a bridge between the NEC of the party and government.
Thereafter it was amended again to encompass senators from zones, three per zone. So we now have another 18 people from each chambers. So if you look at it aggregately in the PDP, they have close to forty members of the National Assembly. In our own constitution in the ACN, it is our principal officers in the National Assembly that are members of our NEC. All our House of Representative members and Senators are not members of our NEC of our party.
There is clear demarcation between the party and the elected officers; the party is a vehicle to those positions. So you do not use the Electoral Act to prescribe a uniform modus of operation of the whole political parties in Nigeria, that is anti democracy, it does not fly at all. What they are trying to do is to use a sledge hammer to kill a small fly. Most of them are fighting with their Governors and I can tell you that the muscles they are adopting is not the cure. The cure to the problem is what we are doing now.
If you watch in Edo state you will notice that all the National Assembly members in ACN in Edo, Uzamere and others are back home to do their ward congresses. Because it is this ward congresses that will throw up the ward officers and the ward officers will throw up Local Government officers and state and National officers.
But if you sit down in Abuja , governor of your state will do it for you. But if you are around he will be cautious knowing that you are around. He will even consult you as the leader of your constituency. You are either with your governor or if you want to fight him you fight well. That is the problem people want to eat their cake and still have it in their hand. There is no way all members of the National Assembly can become NEC members of their parties, they will water down essence of the National Executive committee.
So those who say they are going in there to checkmate the NEC from dropping them as candidates of their party in the National Assembly election, they will discover to their senses that when congress results come in and hey make too much noise about it the NWC will invoke that section and send he name to INEC. Same goes for whoever is the national chairman. Every party’s constitution says that the national chairman is the Chief executive of the party. A chief executive can take a decision and then get back to you all to concur.
So what they are doing now, I do not think that it is right, a lot of the national Assembly members are my friends, especially in the leadership but I don’t agree with that. That was why last week, the leadership of our party, we went down to the National Assembly and convoked our people and gave them our party’s decision and we say follow it because the party is supreme and they all agreed with us. And if you people watch, you will notice the role of Patrick Obahiagbon, he is toeing ou
r party line and that is what a good party man should do.
Is it true that the DPP, ACN and other parties are forming a coalition in the forthcoming re-run election in Delta state to face the PDP?
The issues in Delta are straight forward and clear. The Governorship election has been nullified and a new election is taking place, and the lawyers will tell you that every body who participated will go back to participate except there is a court that you should not participate. In the case of the ACN we had Peter Okocha as our candidate and Peter Okocha was excluded from the ballot just like I was excluded in Anambra state.
Exclusion is a clear case that was made clear in the Electoral Act of 2006, that when ever it occurs the election will be nullified. Okocha had gone to ask for the nullification of that election based on exclusion. Ogboru went to court and said no election took place. The tribunal in Asaba ruled that Okocha was rightly excluded he appealed to the court of Appeal in Benin, the court of Appeal after looking at documents presented to them they re-affirmed the decision of the lower court.
What it then means is that our candidate was not validly nominated, so we lost our right to participate in that whole election. But today, lawyers will tell you that this election having been nullified and people going back in it, that our party could ask for a revisit of the Okocha’s case. But the matter is now compounded because Okocha is no longer in our party. He is now in the PDP. But we are asking the lawyers to continue looking if there is a possibility of fielding our candidate.
DPP have come into ACN, but there is a new twist to it too. Jerimiah Useni who is the chairman of DPP is still carrying on with some handful of people and some of the officers are following him because they don’t want to come to the ACN where they feel they can be swallowed up. So they rather want to be masters in hell rather than being servants in heaven. That is the situation so we are watching them. And as we speak, Great Ogboru, we don’t know the faction he belongs. So the question of ACN working with him is some thing we are studying, as a matter of fact we have a committee to advise the caucus on this and we are still wait
ing for their recommendation.
Now you are planning to dethrone the PDP from power, suppose you fail as it has happened before, what will be your next action?
It will not collapse, the PDP must go, no body is happy in this country even journalists. Things are bad in this country. I consume a lot of money to run my diesel. The roads are not good, there is no water supply what you now see is sachet water. What has happened to the water works? The alternative to that is that we are going to take all the state governments from them, we are going to over run the South West.
We have over run them in the South East. I was the first Governor to be expelled from the party in the history of this country. Obasanjo instigated my expulsion because he was fighting for the Ubas and when I refused to do the dictates of the Ubas, he called me to a meeting and said I must learn to accommodate people and do their bidding. Of course I told him I won’t. Gen. Mohammed the Chief of Staff is alive today he was my witness. I said I cannot that instead I prefer to go than being Governor and dwindling.
So I was expelled from the PDP because of that and as a smoke screen they put up Oyinlola panel, the panel said myself and Chris Uba should be expelled for heating up the polity. A peace and reconciliation panel now recommending peoples expulsion, of course the idea was to get me out and after a time they pardoned Chris Uba and brought him back after I have left.
I was also told that I won’t continue to be Governor that haven survived impeachment, road accident, kidnapping, carnage and the possibility of my assassination in November 2004, that they will now move all their arsenals to the court and that they will get me out through the court.
Whether the court was influenced is for people of legal jurisprudence to look into that judgment and see. Because I know for sure that if I had agreed to what they said at that time, I probably would be governor today and doing my last term. But life is not all about being governor, life is about how you touch people’s life, how you give back to the society, service to humanity. And that is what I tried to do and that is why I am still in politics. So some of
us opposed the obnoxious stranglehold of former President.