By Onyedika Agbedo
FORMER Minister of Information and Culture and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, is optimistic that President Muhammadu Buhari would sweep the polls at the 2019 presidential elections.
He told Sunday Sun that the achievements of Buhari in the last three years would make his return to be easy, pointing out that the South-East and South-South zones where the president had dismal performance in 2015 would give him over 25 per cent votes in 2019 because of the dividends of democracy the president has delivered to the regions now.
Prince Momoh also said that the crisis rocking the APC was normal in a democracy. He, however, advised the leadership of the party to address the grievances of disgruntled members, saying that those who are not satisfied with the party’s decision thereafter are free to quit the party.
The crisis of confidence within the fold of the All Progressives Congress (APC) deepened with the conduct of its ward, local government and state congresses recently. A lot of pundits say that is the beginning of the end for the party. Do you agree with such submissions?
Do you want me to agree or disagree with people’s expression of opinion? People are expressing their opinions on what they see or what they hear and then draw conclusions. Do you want me to agree or not agree with their conclusions? What I’m telling you first of all is that people are entitled to their opinions. Secondly, what they are saying is their opinions. Thirdly, those submissions are no less than speculations. And what is happening is consistent with democracy. Why are we afraid to practice democracy? Some- times, I wonder whether our people are democrats or dictators; or drawn into ways of dictator- ship not democracy. Democracy in the area of governance is the market place. People go to the market place to argue and sometimes they even fight but at the end of the day they go home. So, there is no other form of government where there is such noise making as democracy. But when we hear noise being made, we jump up and say, ‘ah! The noise being made is an indication or evidence of collapse.’ In 1999, I started writing Democracy Watch. For 11 years, I did it every week and it is in three volumes – Democracy Watch: A Monitor’s Diary 1999 to 2003, Volume 1; 2003 – 2008, Volume 2; and 2008 – 2011, Volume3. Every week, I monitored everything that was happening. At the first convention of the PDP, there was a unity list that emerged and that almost caused an implosion. At another meeting of the PDP, there was a disagreement and Gambo Jimeta and a few others went and set up an office in a three-storey building in Abuja and said that they were another version of the PDP; but the police drove them away. That kind of disagreement occurred very often then, not once or twice.’ So, any time a big party like the APC holds a convention where lots of people with differing views’ come together; there is always disagreement and that disagreement may even lead to some people leaving the party or some people coming into the party. That is what is happening now and it is not a big deal. The decision to come together is a decision freely taken. So, if you come together and it is no longer comfort- able, you go, something binds you – the constitution and the manifesto. The manifesto is your documentation of ideology; what you want to do in the social, political, educational, economic, cultural, foreign policy and the other spheres of the polity. And with that political parties are entitled to ask for votes.
So, every political party in Nigeria has a constitution and a manifesto. If you are no longer comfortable with what is happening in the group you belong to you pull out and go to another group. That has been happening since 1999. So, if they say that there were parallel congresses, did the party order the parallel congresses? The party gave guidelines on what to be done. Some people might have taken advantage of what was happening and tried to cheat That is why at every stage from ward to the national level you have the appeal committees. The decision of the appeal committees binds everybody because the guidelines are there and the party appointed people who moderated the congresses and also invited INEC to monitor them. So, there is no problem with the disagreements arising from the congresses. Which one was conducted according to the party’s guidelines? Which one did INEC monitor? All the reports are there. At the end of the day, you know politicians; they make peace when they see that the collapse is near. I was a founding member of PDP. I was Chief Alex Ekwueme’s media director in 1999 and 2003. What normally happens is if the “come is coming to become” like Mbadiwe would say, in other words, if there is more danger looming, they will call them together and say, ‘Mr. A, you have 50 delegates, Mr. B, you have 50 delegates, Mr. C and Mr. D should bring 30 delegates each.’ And that’s how they resolve their problems. So, the danger many people see is their own perception of what is happening and their own wishes of what they want to happen. But heavens will not fall if anybody leaves. Even if the party collapses today, heavens will not fall. Nigeria will move on.
You have repeatedly said that those who are aggrieved can leave …
(Cuts in) Why is it that people are always misquoting people? I said that communication is the key to every disagreement. Part of the outcome of communication is that people can decide to leave. And you can’t stop them because the constitution guarantees freedom of association and freedom of movement That’s what I said Am I wrong? Are you going to force anybody to be a member of your party? If, for instance, you try all ways possible to retain people and they say they
are going, they can go because you cannot force them. That’s what I’m saying. Why can’t they go if they take the decision to go? Why can’t they go if their grievances are not addressed to their satisfaction? Why can’t they go if they think that there is more sunshine on the other side? Why can’t they go if they think that what they were looking for is not there? Why can’t they go? Are you going to force them to remain?
What’s your take on the grievances of the new PDP bloc of the party and their moves to get the presidency to enter into an agreement with them ahead of the 2019 elections?
There is no nPDP bloc in the APC; there is no bloc called nPDP. Everybody who came into APC came in by going to register in his or her polling unit.There is no group registration in APC; none! I was the national chairman of CPC; we dissolved the party. ANPP was dissolved; ACN was dissolved. Then we went to register in our polling units. Anybody who is a member of the APC came in as an individual not as a group. If people start behaving like a group within the party it’s only natural, just like peers who were in another area. And in any case, there is no group called the nPDP because there was no party called nPDP that came into APC. So, if you are now saying that there are those who came into APC from the PDP when APC was being formed and you call them nPDP giving them a name that is not there. That beingthe case, if these people have a grievance I think they say they have, then you attendto it and discuss it but to act as a trade unionas if there was a party called nPDP that came into ourparty and wants to leave, there was no such thing.
From every indication, it is obviousthat the APC has failed to evolve a cohesive groupfive years after it was formed. Why is it difficult for the different elements in the partyto forge common front and move as a unit?
The party is moving as a unit Tell me any group that moves not as a chain, but as a link in a chain to the detriment of the chain. For instance, the units in APC are individuals, but there is nothing wrong with those who are in ACN remembering their ACN days and trying to behave as if they are from ACN. They will tell you that CPC produced the president; ACN produced the vice president and a majority of the party leaders like the national chairman, deputy national chairman North and South, the publicity secretary, legal adviser and so on. Let us for convenience sake here say that nPDP produced the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of’ representatives. So, the major positions were shared between the ACN, CPC and nPDP. If you look at it, you will see that nobody is cheated for the elective positions, the president, vice preside! party leaders, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives were all elected.
Those are the leaders of the party. So, if you look at it, having listed the gains, who is cheated The Speaker of the House of Reps appointed hundreds of people. Those hundreds of people were not from CPC or ACN if you lift the veil. The Senate President also appointed hundreds of people and all those were not CPC and they were not ACN. So, everybody has his own pockets of support and control, but at the end of the day, all of us belong to the same party. If there are grievances, the people should sit down and discuss them. If; for instance, you cannot meet the wishes of a group, then that group should decide to sit down and accommodate the pain or pull out. As a journalist, I’m your professional colleague; I analyze issues. I’m not talking based on party loyalty or any otherthing. I am a monitor of governance and I have been so vis-à-vis a Journalist. I have never been taken away from looking at the issues and pronouncing on them.
From the look of things, don’t you think that those who were pushing for the extension of the present executives of the of the party were politically correct?
How can they be politically correct and legally wrong? What if in being politically correct, the party adopted the proposal and people go to court and the court rules in their favour? If that happens, it means that what they did will collapse. That’s the thing. So, the thing is to provide legal support for what you do irrespective of the political support, emotional support, material support and so on, not going in such a way that at the end of the day, the thing turns out to be legally wrong. The law courts make the final pronouncement on the rights of individuals.
With the state of affairs in your party and even the country as a whole, are you still convinced that President Muhammadu Buhari will win a second term in office?
Don’t forget that the party is the one organizing for APC. PDP will organize for PDP; ADC will organize for ADC; SDP will organize for SDP; Labour will organize for Labour. And in elections, it’s not those who are party men that must vote. Party men will vote one way or the other and other parties will vote one ‘way or the other. If, for instance, LP or APGA do not have presidential candidates, do you think we in APC don’t have mends in LP or APGA to vote for us?
It’s not only those who are in a party that vote for the party in an election. The registered popu1ation of the APC is 17 million. Is it only the 17 million that will vote for our party? For example, 8.3 million pupils are fed five times a week in 24 states of the federation under the School Feeding Programme. Now, those children have fathers; perhaps their wives are the thousands of women all over the country who do the cooking; and they cook the food grown by farmers of the areas. All these people who earn a living from all these, do you think they will not vote for the president? Are they members of the APC? In the South-East, are all the people members of the APC? In 2015, less than 300,000 votes were recorded in the South-South and South-East. But now, there is hardly any state in the South-South and South-East that will not give President Buhari atleast 25 per cent of their votes because of what has been done in those places. In 16 years, there is nothing you can say the PDP did in the South-East in the area of roads, erosion control, the Second Niger Bridge and so on and so forth. But now, everybody who goes to the South-East will tell you the works that are being done there. People say that we promised to create three million jobs every year, but how many have we created. From four or five million rice growers to 12 million rice growers, how many millions are there? Let nobody be dissuaded by the exaggerated positions of those who will say they man the social media.To answer your question directly, in 2019, Buhari is going to have more votes than any other president ever had in Nigeria. We had 12 million votes without councilors in 2003; we had 12 million votes in 2011; in 2015 we had 15 million votes. Those who support the president, especially the hoi polloi, although the gains of the present administration may not have fully trickled down to their level, the fact is that the foundation being laid in the area of empowerment is growing and touching them and their votes will still be there.
A lot of Nigerians say that the president has not impressed well now that he has been tested. Don’t you think that there will be a cut in his vote bank in 2019?
Why not! That is why I told you that where we lose through people not agreeing with what he has done, he wou1d gain through other areas where results were written up routinely, like in the South-South and South-East I have told some people that the Igbo will vote more for Buhari than any other candidate emerging, because they are not saying give us money. They are saying attend to our infrastructural deficit, which the president is doing. The Igbo have votes all over the country; they control commercial life of Nigeria. And if they agree with you, then you are home and dry. Buhari is attending to the needs of the South-east and that will be appreciated through the votes. Again, it is only the APC that can enable the South-East to produce the president in 2023 than any other party. If the PDP produces the president in 2019, they will like to do a second term. So, the APC is the most fertile ground for the Igbo to drive their ambition to produce the president in 2023. I’m clear headed when I do analysis and I tell people, ‘time will tell’.
President Buhari recently signed the Not-Too-Young- To-Run bill Into law and the youth organisation behind the new legislation has requested that political parties in the country reserve 50 per cent of elective positions for them in 2019. How do you view the request?
That request is not an issue. The Not- Too-Young-To-Run group shouldn’t try to put themselves in a disadvantageous position by giving the impression that they are a weak group. They are the most populated segment in the country; more than 50 per cent Why would they start to operate from the position of weakness? Why do they want favours? I won’t support that favour. It’s just like women who ask for special treatment sometimes when I know that spiritually, women are superior to men. So, why should they want to be equal to men? All these things are the result of disorientation of mankind through wrong teachings. Women are the ones who have the answer. Why should they be asking for special favours? It’s either they don’t know their worth or they are in the wrong profession. So, the Not-Too-Young-To-Run group now has the advantage; they shouldn’t ask for favours. If you are asking for favours, someone will give you conditions and if you don’t meet the conditions then you will lose. So, they shouldn’t ask for favours; they should mobilise them- selves and tackle the problem and confront Nigeria and take over. You know, Nigerian youths will dominate the world environment, not just the Nigerian environment, in the next few years. They are already doing so and they shouldn’t think that they are weakened because they are not They have a strength they don’t understand; they should go and discover it through relevant and necessary studies.