By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – NATIONAL Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Monday said that President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated his democratic credentials of an inclusive government by nominating two ministers from a state that gave him less than five percent votes in the last election.
Comrade Oshiomhole also said that the ruling APC has performed better since he took over as the national Chairman of the party.
Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, dismissed criticism over the quality of the ministerial nominees and the manner of screening by the Senate.
Asked to comment on the credibility of the appointment process, Oshiomhole, said: “Whose credibility? How credible are some of those who are talking? The point is that I don’t know if there is a Nigerian who knows every Nigerian.
“Even as I can say that I have worked for Nigerian people at all levels, as a worker in a factory, as President of the NLC, as governor of a state and now as a national chairman of a party, there are too many Nigerians I will never be able to know.
“The screening process is meant to enable those watching, it is not for nothing that it is televised, it is to enable Nigerians see who these people are.
“But you will find that people started dismissing the list even before they saw it, just like some other things that Nigerians dismiss without knowing the meaning.
“So, what you and I should insist on is that in the president’s second term, in this next level, our party, our government at the center, state and local government level must deliver. That is the entry point for every Nigerian.”
On political patronage determining Buhari’s appointments, Oshiomhole said, “And when you talk of patronage, should we appoint…have you heard of Americans appointing Russians because they are experts to go and preside over their MDAs? Even in your newspapers do you invite me as APC chairman to come and write your editorial?
“Patronage can be positive or negative but if there is one man who has shown the capacity to patronize all including where he did not win election, it is President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Otherwise, where we got less than five percent, I saw two ministers coming from that state, inspite of the fact that he got less than five percent there. That speaks volumes about a large heart, to accommodate, appreciate and to have an all-inclusive government.
“I am very optimistic that these ministers coming all of us working together, the party, the executive which the ministers belong and the National Assembly where we have overwhelming majority, we have what it takes to take Nigeria to the next level and the next level we are going there”
On the agenda of his meeting with President Buhari, Oshiomhole, said, “I am the chairman of the party and the President’s not only the President of Nigeria but also the leader of the APC.
“So, I have a duty to brief him on what the party is doing and also share with him on what the government is doing. You know, a few things had happened over the past two weeks.
“Last week, we had two days of intensive conversation with the President and select group from the private sector, including foreign experts to look at going to the next level, to deal with the specifics of how to accelerate the pace of development.
“You know normally, even for Governors, they do open ceremonies, then go away and come for closing ceremonies and say , we look forward to the communique. But here we had a President who sat for 10 hours each day to listen to presentations and debates. He even contributed and that for me was something l was happy about.
“It shows that our party has moved from being a rally where people go home to one that after everyone had been sworn in, we now sit down to say going to the next level, what are the policy issues and how we deliver to the electorates. I cane to thank him for providing leadership for that exercise.”
Asked what he was doing on the turmoils going on in the APC, Oshiomhole, said, “You talk about rumors, what about what you see. I am very proud to say that under my Chairmanship, our party has made tremendous progress.
” I am not at the mercy of fake or even disgruntled analysts. I write my own testimonials by my self in terms of what l do, how I do it and what the unbiased people say.
“Irrespective of all the speculations, for example, it was said that 17 governors were going to remove Oshiomhole, what happened? At the end , we provided leadership and had more votes. In the 2015 election, the difference between our candidate and (former) President (Goodluck) Jonathan then, was slightly less than three million, but this time around, we had slightly less than four million.
“I am a National Chairman, not a zonal or state chairman. So, my responsibilities include to get the APC at the national level going, including relating with the President, the way we expect the State chapter chairmen to relate with their Governors and the local council chapter chairmen with their Local government Council chairmen.
“That is the way it works and I believe that Nigerians under my leadership appreciated APC better under my Chairmanship, as evidenced by the fact that we had more Senators, House of Representatives members this year, than before.
“For the first time since 1999, the letter of APC under my signature was read on the floors of both Chambers of the National Assembly, announcing the Principal Officers of the Party, as determined through consensus by the leadership of the party, which is why unlike 2015 where APC as a party had no say whatsoever as to who emerged as the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Principal Officers of both Chambers.
“This time around, we got six out of six. Can I do better than that, can I score more than 100%. You talk about turmoil, if this is how to be in turmoil, I want to live there.”
On the issues of inaugurations of House of Assemblies in both Bauchi and Edo states, Oshiomhole, answered,” Then you should be specific. As the media, you are the most articulate media in the continent.
“The political environment in other countries is not as free as our own. This is the only country where you can abuse the President and you go home and sleep. In other countries, if you do so, that will be the last time, you will be seen.
“We must defend that right- the right to please him, the right to abuse him, the rights to ask me the questions you asking now and you go home and sleep. Go to some countries, if you talk like this to the chairmen of the parties, you will have to negotiate your camera, but we must defend this freedom.
“Here, I spoke to you that what happened in Edo and in Bauchi are unacceptable. It is not about me. But as a Nigerian who believes in democracy, for eleven persons in Bauchi to purport to inaugurate a House of 31 members is wrong.
“Go and read relevant sections of the constitution, it states clearly that a House cannot be less than 24 and not more than 40 members. 11 people in Bauchi where you have 31 members. It is not about me, not about you. I ask, can you form a quorum of something that does not exist?
“All my life, l have run associations, I could say, for instance, when I was leader of the NLC, we had a quorum of National Executive Council of the NLC, now when that quorum had not been formed, I could not say we had formed a quorum.
“So, you cannot form a quorum of the House of Assembly, when it has not been inaugurated. It is about the system. If I condemned Bauchi and I do so in the strongest terms, I cannot condemn less, what happened in Edo State.
“It just shows that truth has no political affiliation. God must give the courage to condemn what happened in Edo. In the security meeting we have had with some of the Senators, Governors and law makers, it was agreed that when it comes to proclamations, you do not only write a Proclamation letter, but you ensure that it is communicated to all those concerned and you give them ample time so that wherever they are, they can come in.
“We were all here in Abuja, don’t forget we went round the country, talked to everyone that we want senator Ahmed Lawan as our candidate. We didn’t want to have two candidates vying for the same position from our party, but you saw on that day how senator Ali Ndume insisted that he must contest against party’s position.
“He didn’t hide but he said he has a right, we didn’t deny him that right. But you know most Nigerians like to describe our President as Commander in Chief, we already know that but for effect, people always amplify it. So as commander in chief, he could have commanded the security service, the police chief to ensure that Ndume did not appear or is facing some enquiries somewhere while the election was going on, but he adhered to the letter and spirit of the constitution.
“Senator Ndume was allowed to go to the National Assembly not out of favour but out of his own rights and against our consensus to say he was contesting. What I did that day as you must have seen (because it was televised) was to lobby our senators even as they were doing the voting to say please don’t disgrace the party.
“There is moment for hard talk, there is moment for soft talk, there is moment for open talk, there is moment for quiet talk. A leader must have the capacity to weave all of that together to get the kind of result you desire.
“As you can see at the end of the day, senator Ndume had his way to contest, but we humbled him by the poor numbers he got but he exercised his rights. At the end he said, I wanted to prove a point. Well he proved a point which is he is not capable of defeating the collective will of the APC family, and who held that family?
“Today, I am privileged to be the chairman. So these are a landmarks you should acknowledge. For once we didn’t fight in National Assembly. Who is now fighting? Look at PDP, and you refused to ask this question – PDP insisted on secret ballot while APC wanted opened ballot.
“PDP doesn’t want their people to stand up and be counted they wanted their people to vote secretly because they thought that our people would betray us the way they did in 2015, but we had worked hard on our people psyche and changed the mindset to recognize that to belong to a party is to be loyal to that party, and that loyalty goes beyond Election Day. ” Oshiomhole said