Prince Tony Momoh, one of the national leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former Minister of Information, in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the latest developments in the party, the Edo governorship election and other issues. Excerpts:
Do you think the intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari in the crisis rocking the APC has helped in resolving the issues or further deepen it?
The intervention by the President has worked in quelling the crisis in the party. Everybody recognised the fact that APC was drifting. Court injunctions here, another court injunction there; people rushing to different areas to collect court injunctions. The latest judgment is what the authorities recognise so that they won’t say they are disobeying court orders. The NEC meeting which was supposed to meet once in three months never took place for a long time. The last time it was to be held was March but it was postponed. So, several issues that should have been resolved were pending. Also, there was the issue of Edo and Ondo and there is a need to avoid what happened in Adamawa, Bayelsa, Zamfara, Rivers and others. APC NWC has been very careful and so what they did with the Edo state primary in which many people also went to court again was defensible in the area of inconsistencies in the documents the governor presented. They Screening panel was careful enough in ensuring that the mistake they made in Bayelsa was not repeated. According to the constitution of the party, especially section 20 (5), it is clear that certain decision that the NWC was taking in organising the primary had to be approved by the NEC. So, if the primary result were not ratified by the NEC, some people believe that if someone decides to go to court, the election may be canceled. There was a need to have a meeting of NEC arranged and in their wisdom, the party leaders looked at all the options and the NEC meeting which was postponed in March and banking on the court injunction which pronounced Victor Giadom as the acting national chairman, they reconvened the meeting at the villa. The President decided and they agreed to dissolve the NWC and uphold the primary for Edo.
According to section 13 (3) of the APC constitution, paragraphs 5 and 6 shows that NEC has the power to control all the organs of the party, which are 14 in number, including the NWC . It can discipline other organs of the party and decide the type of discipline. So, if the NWC fails to call for a meeting of NEC and there is disagreement like we have, the appropriate thing to do is to dissolve it, set up a Caretaker Committee and then go to National Convention.
Is this the end of the road for Oshiomhole or do you see him returning to his position in the near future?
Oshiomhole can still return as National chairman of APC. He was the national chairman of the party before his suspension. He is popular and so if he likes, then he can go to the National convention and ask for the votes of the delegates. If he wins, he becomes the National chairman again. But he cannot return even if the Supreme Court said he should. Since the NWC has been dissolved, he cannot return.
People said his tenure as national chairman was the most controversial, do you agree?
The fact is that he inherited crisis and because of the greed of man, many of them manifested when he wanted to instill discipline in the party. The governors are a necessary body in the party. APC governors are in charge in their states and they fund the party in the states. So, naturally they will like to exercise powers commensurate with their inputs but they find it difficult to exert their influence. Oshiomhole on his part is very serious about enforcing discipline in the party. That was why manygovernors and some members of the NWC fell out with him.
There is this belief that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of your party was excluded in the arrangement. Do you share that view?
Is Tinubu not a member of NEC? All the leaders are members of NEC and they were all informed of the date of the meeting. It was a virtual participation which means you can attend online if you can’t attend physically. So,why can people say Asiwaju was not carried along? Do you want Buhari and Tinubu to go and swear affidavit that were carried along or not? All those talks are speculations. The way forward is for everyone to plan to go for the convention and then test their popularity. One thing I know is that Oshiomhole showed enough leadership and should be given another opportunity at the convention.
What are the chances of APC winning the Edo governorship election now that Governor Godwin Obaseki is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
When Ize- Iyamu joined APC, I said APC will overrun Edo because since he left PDP, they have been seriously decimated that they can’t win any election. But now, the governor of Edo state who was formerly in APC has moved to PDP and now he is their governorship candidate. PDP now has incumbency on their side.
I also said during my last interview that the governor will not move to PDP alone. He left APC to PDP with all the money that is coming to Edo state now such as federal allocation, internally generated revenue and so on. He will spend the money on PDP not PDP. He may spend it on the structures he has built such as education, infrastructures and so on but if he wants to spend it on any political party, it will be PDP not APC.
I also said he will leave APC with all the structures such as local government chairmen, ward chairmen and others. Also, during election, he may have the sympathy of teachers, civil servants and pensioners that he has been paying their salaries and emoluments. All these are advantages for Obaseki because he may get sympathy votes from these people. So, based on this, I cannot say APC will overrun Edo again or that we will win by a landslide. Nobody will sweep that election. The fact is, Ize-Iyamu has been endorsed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC, so he is the candidate of APC in Edo state. In 2016, APC defeated PDP with about 50,000 votes and Ize- Iyamu is a grassroots politician in Edo state.
So, he has the support of the APC in Edo state, he also has the support of grassroots PDP members who decamp with him to APC. Inspite of the departure of the governor and incumbency, we have a grassroots man in APC. APC is in control of the seats in the House of Assembly.Also, we have two PDP senators and only two House of Reps members. So, while PDP has most of the elected people at the National Assembly, APC has most of the people in the Edo state House of Assembly.
All these things show where the candidates power lies and so, anyone saying one candidate will overrun the another is not backed by the fact on ground. I believe that my party, APC is organised enough to win. Don’t also forget that federal might is also there. Federal might is everywhere in Nigeria. We have Progressives Governors Forum; we have federal might and it is very obvious. So, nobody can say because he has incumbency, he can rig the election. The election is likely to be free and fair. All the security agencies will be there in Edo, even though they will not be there to rig elections for anybody. The incumbency by the governor will be counter-balanced by federal might. So, we will use everything we have to retain Edo state.