I remain APGA national chairman – Victor Oye

By Dirisu Yakubu

Chief Victor Oye is the national chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Nigeria’s third largest political party. In this exclusive interview with Saturday Vanguard, the journalist-turn politician speaks on a wide range of issues including the party’s preparation for the 2023 general election, the wrong perception of APGA as a regional party, the growing insecurity situation in the land amongst others. Excerpts!

There is a near consensus among Nigerians that the two major parties in the country, the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have not done well since the nation’s return to democracy in 1999. In the event that your candidate becomes the president of Nigeria, what does an APGA-led presidency portends for Nigeria?

APGA as we speak is the only political party in Nigeria with a clear cut ideology. Most political parties in Nigeria lack ideology; they merely exist. In APGA, if you look at our constitution, it is very clear on who become what and what we intend to do for Nigeria. We are committed to the preservation of national unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria conscious of the need to save ourselves and succeeding generations of Nigerians from poverty, diseases, ignorance, corruption, discrimination and exploitation which have constituted stumbling blocks to our nation’s political, economic and progressive development. Our resolve is to render selfless service and rekindle in all Nigerians a deep sense of patriotism and nationalism. And we also further resolve to form an effective and a very progressive political party for the articulation and realization of these ideals. That is what APGA stands for.

APC is haemorrhaging, PDP is asphyxiating, APGA is the only political party in Nigeria with a clean bill of health and very soon these two political parties will go into irreversible coma and APGA will become the ultimate undertaker.

Could this be as early as 2023?

Yes, we are going to win the Presidency. The time has come for Nigerians to test a people- oriented government and APGA is the political party in Nigeria that will give Nigerians a true sense of what democracy means. And our Presidential candidate, Peter Umeadi has his own manifesto. He is going to work in accordance with the vision of the party, the manifesto of the party and our party runs a welfarist programme- a people oriented system.

APGA is seen rightly or wrongly as a regional party. What measures have you put in place to see that that the party is embraced by Nigerians ahead of the 2023 polls?

Every political party in Nigeria has a regional bias; no party was born a national party. You must have your regional orientation from where it begins to spread. Rome was not built in one day. It takes time for your ideology to take roots. So for APGA, considering when the party was formed which was in 2002, it is about 20years old. We have done very well. We have won elections in almost every part of Nigeria; I will give you examples: We have House of Representatives member in Taraba state, three councilors in Kaduna.

We won House seat in Niger state and other parts of the country.  How can you call such a party a regional party when many parties in Nigeria have not won a single election? We won 24 out of 30 seats in Anambra State House of Assembly and in 2015, we won 13 out of 24 seats in Abia State House of Assembly and a House of Representative seat. In Imo, we won six seats in the House of Assembly in 2019. APGA is the party to beat in 2023.

 The Peter Obi movement is gaining momentum and for the first time, Nigerians are witnessing a mass campaign for him to be voted the next President. Why was it difficult ton convince him to return to APGA instead of Labour party?

You can take a horse to the stream but you can’t him it to drink water.

Was there an effort on the part of the party?

I don’t know. Political parties are very big. But let me tell you something, Peter Obi has his destiny, he is living out his destiny and we wish him good luck. He was a former member of our party and the party is open. If he wants to come back tomorrow, we will welcome him. We will not shut the door against anybody. The larger the better for us.

For me I don’t have anything against him, I wish him luck. If he becomes the President of Nigeria tomorrow, why not? What I am interested in is somebody that will salvage this country from its doldrums, give Nigeria a focus leadership so that our people will be saved from their present agonies. I am not interested who become the President; I am interested in who can deliver the goods.

As a party chairman, can you tell us if the party made effort to have Mr. Obi back in your fold?

Don’t you know that the constitution confers on all of us various freedoms including the freedom of association and expression?  Obi is not a minor. He is a man who can take decisions. When he went to Labour Party, it was almost spontaneous, nobody consulted him. He made a choice. Anytime he wants to come to APGA, we will welcome him but remember that anything that has got to do with us, belongs to God.  

Would there be any special consideration, perhaps with the movement that he is building across the country?

We have our own candidate.

The role of money in elections was again glaring for all to see in the recently conducted Ekiti governorship poll. Do you see money as a possible factor in the outcome of the 2023 elections?

Don’t you like money? Why are you talking as if you hate money? Everybody needs money and which political party in Nigeria didn’t spend money in that election? Did they just fold their hands watching? They all spent money; each tried to outdo the other.

And forget what the CSOs were saying. Did you have any physical evidence and by the way can you do elections without money? The most important thing is adherence to the spending cap set by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. What if I had spent within the limit INEC provided? I don’t know why people are talking about money. All the parties spent money in Ekiti. They were all culpable, all of them, A-Z.

APGA has just a state. It is easier for parties like APC or PDP to pull resources together than APGA

Who told you? When the time comes, do you know what God is going to do for us? You are only speculating and you are underrating us. When the time comes, we will know who will be under stress.

But what I want to tell you on a very serious note is that money politics is a danger to democracy. There is no question about it but where there are no laws to deal with such circumstance, what do you do? The problem lies with the implementation of even existing laws. There are laws which can deal with such circumstances but who uses them? My problem with this country is enforcement of laws and that is why miscreants can wake up and lay claim to being the national chairman of a political party. We must do something; otherwise, somebody can wake up tomorrow and say he is the President of Nigeria. If you cannot deal with irresponsible characters that try to run down our political system, then how can you deal with people who commit felony and the rest of them?

What in your opinion is the right model to address the worsening insecurity situation in the country, particularly in the South-East?

I am looking at unemployment. We should provide more jobs for our youths, and we should look at cutting waste. We shouldn’t cut cost because if you cut cost, you cut quality. Too much money is going into white elephant projects. We should concentrate on those projects that will give meaning to the lives of our people and government should be more responsible and responsive to the yearnings of the people they govern.

Security problems we have in Nigeria are not alien. They are not from abroad. They are from within. These problems can be caused by injustice. Equitable distribution of resources and amenities will also help. Then placing people of quality character in positions of authority will also help because you cannot give what you do not have. If you want somebody to be the President of Nigeria, he must have the capacity, mentally and physically to lead. If you put an invalid in office, the results will be disastrous.

There are many quality leaders in Nigeria. We seem not to be alive to our responsibility as a people and I think that is the problem. Let us involve Nigerians in the primaries of political parties not only in making the final choice of leaders.

So let’s involve the people, organise plebiscite or whatever, is this man okay, let’s hear the people. The people can make their comments and that will help in making the final decision of who becomes a Presidential candidate of political parties.

What do you make of the admission by APC Presidential candidate Bola Tinubu that he did not attend Primary and Secondary schools and that untold soldier stole his degree certificate?

I am not a member of APC, so it doesn’t concern me. Now in terms of what the man is offering, it is left for INEC the regulatory body.  INEC should look at what he has submitted and look at the parameters of the law and see if he has breached any or not. It is their business to do that. Then, we have the security agencies. If he has lied on oath which amounts to perjury then he should face the music. I have already told you that the problem with Nigeria is inability or lack of courage to execute the law, implement the laws.

Laws in Nigeria are respecter of persons. The moment we remove that snag, this country will be a better place because nobody will have the temerity to present a false certificate to the regulatory body because you know you will be caught. Because some persons are above the law, they feel they can go scot free and by the way why have they not strengthened the provisions of the law; why must you leave it at the West African Examination Council, WAEC level? The law says school certificate. They didn’t even say WAEC but school certificate and once it is school certificate it also includes first school leaving certificate. They should have been specific. Then for Tinubu claiming something in 1999 and giving something else in 2022 that is the business of the regulatory agencies to deal with.

See people like Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikiwe, we still remember them today. If you get the best President for Nigeria, without the people having the right attitude, it will be a waste. There should be citizenship development. The citizens should be enlightened, they should be also be given more tasks, they should be more involved in making the choices of who becomes the President, Senators, House of Representatives. We shouldn’t leave that to political parties alone. More Nigerians should be involved in making that critical decision.

As journalists, you owe Nigerians a duty to help build our democracy and you can only achieve that by reporting what is right and not pandering to undue emotionalism of patrons. Let’s report facts and as journalists. There should be morality in journalism to decipher what is good and what is bad.

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