The National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu on Wednesday granted an interview to journalists at the APC National Secretariat on some of the Party’s post-primary issues.
Among issues discussed during the interview were the alleged media outbursts of Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu.
He also spoke on nepotism allegations against the national chairman of the ruling party just like he spoke on the matters affecting the party in Ogun and others places.
Extracts from the interview are as follows:
VON DG, Osita Okechukwu media outbursts
Mallam Issa-Onilu said: “He is a highly respected and senior member of our party, but you can also understand that this is not about him and the party, it is about his quest to pick the Senatorial ticket of his constituency and that is about ambition. When that does not happen-like the Yoruba would say, you won’t beat a child and say he must not cry. He has a right to ventilate his anger and it is for the party to also listen to him. He may have gone overboard making all sorts of unfounded allegations but you also have to understand the situation that he is now, he lost out.
“If that same process had favoured him, he would be in his office in an air-conditioned atmosphere drinking coffee and taking a laugh at whoever was complaining but that didn’t happen so you would expect him to complain. There would be someone to blame in such a situation so he has picked on the National Chairman unfortunately. But the chairman has no blame in this. If you have issues with the process, you can complain about the process. We had an appeal panel, you could take recourse to that. The internal mechanism for dispute resolution of this party is fairly strong and responsive and it is there for every party member no matter high or low to access. And a lot of people have done that and a lot of such issues have been resolved.
“If he does have very good reasons to have redress, he would get that but his has chosen to go that path (Media) which is quite unfortunate. It is not everybody who has lost an election that has the capacity to soak it in. Some must express themselves in the way Osita Okechukwu has chosen to go about it. It is not about the National Chairman like I have said, it is about the fact that he is a party to the dispute and in such a situation, not everybody would win some must loose. He lost it in his reaction to it, everything he said was completely at variance with the real situation.
On the nepotism allegations
“There are five members for each state on the panel (which conducted the primary) we have 36 states and the FCT for the National Assembly and he (Osita Okechukwu) mentioned only nine panel chairs (from Edo state). Definitely, the others are from some states. By the time you add up the figures, you find out that the appointment of nine cannot be called nepotism in a situation where you have 36 states. When you pick what suits your cause that is what he has done but by the time all the facts are laid there are no issues. Everything boils down to the fact that he lost out and he is not happy about it, there must be a culprit, somebody must be blamed for it,” the APC chief scribe said.
On Ogun State
He said, “It is a straight forward case. If we speak to the merit of this case, the whole world saw it, the visuals were everywhere, where the Ogun State governor gathered some aspirants, stakeholders and said clearly, there won’t be primaries and right there he pointed at who the next Governor, Senator, House of Representatives candidates would be. He named himself the next Senatorial candidate.
“Even if they have accepted those people, it is against the procedure, especially for a governor to open say a thing like that.
“It was clearly stated the party gave two options which is the direct and indirect primaries and you are to have stakeholders’ meetings where majority are to decide.
“In the case of Ogun, after that exercise failed after they tried to handpick who will be what, they sent a letter that they have agreed on direct primary and the party has no choice than to endorse what you want.
“On the day they all came for screening including the governor, he suddenly left with other aspirants and returned back to Abeokuta; gathered some people and sent back to the NWC that they wanted indirect primary and the other aspirants said we were all here together, that they didn’t know when this change was made.
“Meanwhile, someone had gone to court and the court had barred the State executive from anything to do with the party but we all saw on national television where the State Governor and the State executive, actually conducted their own primary and the process threw up the Governor’s preferred candidate. it was the SSG in Ogun State, who was reading the result until it occurred to him that he had no power to announce the names, so he handed over to the state chairman of the party who for also shouldn’t have done that – he is statutory barred, the court had told him not to participate in the primary. Secondly, the state chairman has no power to conduct primary that power resides with the NWC.
“So whatever the governor did was self-help and there is no provision for self help in the party’s constitution. Eventually the NWC panel that was constituted to conduct the primary went to Abeokuta and did the primary. The governor’s preferred candidate chose not to participate in that exercise. So the party stands by the result of that primary it conducted in Ogun state.
“The governor has done his best to get validation for his self-help. That is not possible. The first thing he did was to start saying things that made it look like something wrong has happened when nothing of such has happened.
“Secondly, he took some monarchs to meet the president. I am surprised because someone like him, with due respect to him should have understood the nature of the president we have, that no matter how close you are to him, he will listen to you but he will ask for the rules to be followed.
“So, the next thing we had was he looking for who to blame, and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Segun Osoba readily came to his mind and he blamed them for that. The question to ask is whether they were the one who gave directive to him to organise his own primaries or they were the one who instructed him not to participate in the primaries or his candidate not to participate in primaries the party organised.
“If he didn’t do all of that has not been that and there has not been that consciousness to self appraise and ask himself, have I done the right thing? Am I asking for what is fair? Am I not putting the party in a position to ask them to do what’s wrong? Those are the questions we expect Governor of Ogun State to ask himself. He needs to self appraise, look at the actions he has taken and come to that conclusions that he’s taking the wrong route.”
On Kaduna State
Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu said: “It was the outcome of the primary, properly conducted. The party tried to protectits members in the national assembly for obvious reasons following what has been going on the national assembly. We know the carrots that had been dangled at them. We have a responsibility to ensure that we have a grip on the legislative arm of government so that we can run a smooth government. So we tried to protect our legislators. But the other people can only understand and accept that. If they say no, there is nothing the party can do. It is within their right to say we must go to the field. The initial effort of the party did not get the blessing of other people in that area who are also entitled to bid for positions. The primaries were eventually conducted, Senator Shehu Sani opted out, he relied on the earlier decision.
“At the end of the day, no matter what plan you have even though you are acting on expedience, rule of law, democracy will prevail. It was democracy that prevailed in Kaduna.”
“We submitted list of candidates for legislative elections in Zamfara state, if INEC did not take it, it is a different thing. We have a right to submit and INEC has the legal responsibility to receive. INEC cannot disqualify candidates we all know that. We have said clearly that whatever claims that INEC is making is not correct or a true representation of what happened and we will continue to take progressive steps to ensure that INEC does what is right.”
“The Supreme Court ruling on the Rivers APC governorship primaries has been subjected to different interpretations. As at today, the party has not yet taken a position on the ruling. We have a legal department and they will look into it and do what is right on it. The party will come out clearly on its position after studying the judgment.”
“The issue of submission of governorship candidates to INEC falls due on November 2nd, so we haven’t reached the stage of where we will submit names or beat the deadline. You are aware that there was a court action challenging the Imo governorship primary election. The position of the party is that whatever court judgment, good or bad we must comply with it. We will only decide who will be APC’s governorship candidate for Imo state by November 2nd,” the APC Spokesman said, according to a statement copy of which was sent to The DEFENDER from the party’s Publicity Unit on Wednesday.