Ume-Ezeoke has been ousted, he is no more in charge — Oyegun
By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
John Odigie Oyegun, former governor of Edo State is believed to have joined the race for the chairmanship of ANPP and is part of the splinter group that ousted the current national leadership of the party led by Second Republic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke.
In this encounter, Chief Oyegun insists that last Friday’s meeting that sacked the National Working Committee of the party is legal as the tenure of Ume-Ezeoke’s leadership has expired.
What is the reason for the crisis in ANPP?
The reality is that it is a fight for the soul of ANPP. Do we continue to be a surrogate party or do we go back to being the great party of potential, the number two party in the country with potentials for taking over the Federal Government? That is what the struggle is about. A lot of work is going on. Really, there is also quite a bit of misinformation going on, all these talks about Babangida being negotiated with is not the issue. We have a very strong issue of principle. We have a very strong issue of direction, whether we are really a left party that is now satisfied with being a surrogate party. That is the real issue.
ANPP like you said used to be the main party in opposition, controlling nine of the states...
Yes, but now, we control only three and we have been losing members everyday. And why this struggle is worth it is because, we know the people of this country are disenchanted with the PDP.
They are angry with us, for not being able to provide the kind of leadership that can challenge the PDP and so it is as if we have abandoned the people of this country to the lavishing policies of the PDP.
So, we need to re-align this party and put it on the side of the people of this country. We are committed to doing this but unfortunately those who are satisfied with the current position of things in the party, who are not bothered with the fact that the party has dropped from what it used to be, people who have no future ambition; are those controlling the party today. And we think that in the interest of democracy in this country, they have to go.
You are talking about the current national chairman of the party?
I’m talking about the current leadership of the party, the current National Working Committee.
It was speculated that this current leadership has been ousted but another group said it is not true.
Who said it is not true? We have ousted the current leadership led by Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke. I know INEC made a statement to say it was not given 21 days notice but I am totally aware of where that came from.
We are required to give one week’s notice to members of the EXCO, not even to INEC and because the current executive refused to call a meeting of NEC, we are to go through a long process of getting the leadership to call the meeting which they still refused to do.
So, we followed the provisions of the constitution of the party, when one-third of the people required at the NEC met and the executive refused to call the meeting, we took the decision that ousted the leadership of Edwin Ume-Ezeoke. And because there are other important issues involved, we duly informed INEC.
So, how can INEC say they are not representative to an illegal meeting or a meeting that has no locus? And they were there throughout the meeting.
They didn’t say they informed us that the meeting cannot hold or that there was anything.
They were there. So, we are back again to the old INEC and their interest.
So, does INEC have the powers to do what it did, deciding for the parties?
Of course, the people we ousted are fighting back and that is to be expected. In any case, the life of that executive expired last Thursday. They were elected on the 1st of September four years ago and our constitution does snot provide for formal swearing in or formal inauguration.
They took over from the day they were elected.
But I learnt their tenure will expire sometime next week.
No. They have expired and they cannot stay a day longer because we don’t even trust them. What we think is that they are seeking an extension so that they can conduct the primary for the governorship and presidential elections.We don’t want them to do that.
That is one. Secondly, they want to extend their tenure but we don’t want that. They are insisting on the convention taking place on the 16th and the 17th and because we don’t trust them, that is why it became imperative that they be removed. We don’t trust them to preside over our primaries because if they do, they will inflict a lot of harm on the party and we don’t want to sit back and see all that happen.
But if their tenure will end with the next convention, is it good to let them be till then?
Didn’t you hear what I just said? We have very good information that they want to extend their tenure so they can conduct the primaries. We don’t want them to do that. If they do, the party is finished. You will not see anybody in the ANPP who wants to contest as governor if they are still in the party. If we leave them even within these few days, the party is finished.
So, what is the deal with IBB?
There is no deal with IBB. That is part of the misinformation that is going on. There is absolutely no such a thing as a deal with IBB because within the ANPP, there are people who are looking forward to becoming the President.
That is the issue, that is the problem. It is the campaign from PDP. We have a case of one man that is in three parties in one month. He is a governor from the South-East. We have been loyal ANPP members for a long time and cannot sit back and watch decampees take over the party.
We will welcome them but we cannot let them take over the party because they will go back to the PDP later. So, its really a titanic battle for the soul of ANPP. But I want you to understand where we are coming from. For democracy to survive, it is important for ANPP to survive and grow stronger.
We want our party back. We want the party to grow. We want to re-engineer the party and prepare it for great re-positioning and taking over of government.
What is the position of the party on zoning? Will it toe the line of ACF and adopt a northern presidential candidate? What role is Shekarau playing in the crisis within ANPP?
Shekarau is not even in the country. I’m sure he will be very surprised to learn they dragged his name into this. We have three ANPP governors and they are all out of the country.
What is the future of the party? Indeed, most people believe PDP will produce the next President.
Well, we will see about that. Next week is very crucial. If we can get our leadership right, then, wonderful things await us in ANPP. You see, nobody needs crisis but it occasionally becomes necessary because it is the process of crisis that will bring rebirth and make us a vital party in the polity.
You are from the South-South, what is your opinion on Jonathan’s bid to contest presidential election despite the controversies surrounding it?
That is a PDP issue. It will concern the rest of the country when he becomes a candidate but for now it is strictly PDP affair. ANPP has at last two aspirants showing interest in the presidency. When they all come out, then, we will know who becomes.
General Buhari, the former presidential candidate of the party still wants to contest on a new platform. Will ANPP consider an alliance that could brighten his chance?
Well, alliances will come but first of all, let us put our house in order. Our house is not in order. When our house is in order, we will now work out some kind of arrangement with other parties in opposition subject to agreement on a set of principles. Once we can get into principles that are sensible, then , getting an alliance will be easier. We don’t want an alliance for just the sake of wanting to grab power. We want an alliance based on shared beliefs, shared objectives and a firm belief in the nation and the people of this country and that governance should be for the betterment of the people of this country. It is then that we will talk alliances.
Elections are coming. Some people think INEC needs more time. What is your take on the issues of election generally?
As a matter of fact, I think, holding elections in January will be a mistake. We are asking for credible elections. Yet, we want to stampede INEC into conducting one without giving them enough time to make it free and fair.It is contradictory and I feel that good sense should prevail and the elections will be shifted to April/May. It is vital. We are in September. No party has done its primary. INEC has not started registering people not to talk of all myriads of papers they have to print. If we decide to rush them, it is as if we have decided to throw good monies away. Due to the urgency, things that could have cost N1 will now cost N100. And we cannot do all these things credibly before January. We will be asking for trouble if we insist on January. My advice to Nigerians is to prepare to defend their votes no matter what. We don’t need any more nonsense.