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APGA crisis will make us stronger- Shinkafi, APGA Scribe

By ABIODUN ADEWALE
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Alhaji Ahmed Sani Shinkafi, a former governorship candidate in Zamfara State and National Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is worried about the discordant utterances emanating from the mouths of supposed leaders of the party.

He is also disturbed that people who are supposed to build the party to a formidable level are now working hard to kill it. In this interview with journalists recently, Shinkafi spoke on the state of the party and the opposition, battles it has faced in the past seven years. ABIODUN ADEWALE was there.

Dr. Tim Menakaya, the only member of the APGA Board of Trustee (BOT) granted an interview in Abuja and stated that the party has been operating without the BOT for a long time. What is your take on this?

It is very unfortunate that an elderly man like Dr. Tim Menakaya, a former Minister of Health should be heard spreading such a falsehood. Dr. Menakaya is being economical with the truth as he knows everything that has been going on in the party; he knew that in the past seven years, we have been facing series of legal battles with our former Chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, in different courts.

In this Federal Capital Territory, it is only at the Magistrate and Sharia courts that Okorie did not drag us to, challenging the leadership of the party under Chief Victor Umeh. In 2005, while we were still in court, we tried to re-constitute the Board of Trustees of the party; we invited many prominent Nigerians to be part of the BOT with our late leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu as the Chairman with Tim Menakaya.

He knew all these and that all those we tried to bring in as BOT members at that time were not willing as we were still in court with Chekwas Okorie and their argument was that we may lose in court, so they would not want to be seen to be supporting a particular camp. We found it difficult to constitute the 24 members of the BOT. According to the constitution, we were supposed to have a 24 member BOT, four from each of the six geopolitical zones.

For the past four years, Menakaya had never entered the house of our late leader Dim Odimegwu-Ojukwu until the day he died when he came to console the widow. So, he is being economical with the truth. In 2007, he boycotted us and was hobnobbing with his in-law Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and his Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA). Later in 2010, he bounced back to join the Peter Obi Campaign train.

That was when the Ikemba saw Menakaya in Onitsha when we were flagging off the second term campaign of Peter Obi. Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu was also with us in Onitsha. He left the party for three to four years as he is used to appearing and disappearing.

So, he can't come now and be talking rubbish, as he knew we have been in court until February when the matter was just concluded in our favour on February 29th 2012. All of them were waiting for the Ikemba to die. Ikemba was buried on March 1st 2012 and immediately after his burial, they began to unleash this terror on the party.

Some of the allegations against you and the National Chairman are that you don't want to reconstitute the BOT for selfish interests;that you don't want anybody to control you and that you want to run the party as a private estate?

That is why I am disappointed with these people as they don't read the party's constitution. The party's constitution clearly spelt out the roles and functions of each organ of the party, the schedules and roles of the members of the Board of Trustees of the party.

The members of the BOT have definite role on how the party would be run; they have no right to interfere in the day to day running of the party. Their responsibility is to safeguard the party's assets and liability. So, they don't have any role to play on the way and manner the party should be run.

They can only play an advisory role and not to control the affairs of the party. They can't draft the policies of the party; they can't control members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party. All these are clearly spelt out.

The BOT is not a part of the organs of the party. The organs of the party are the National Executive Committee(NEC), National Working Committee and the National Convention. All these organs have their duties clearly spelt in the party's constitution. The powers of the NEC are vast as they have the powers to interpret the constitution of the party and their decision is final.

In the NWC, their functions are also clearly spelt out in the party's constitution; their powers are to look into the day to day activities and running of the party. The National Convention, which is the highest organ of the party, has its role also clearly stated in the constitution of the party. So, where did they get the power to say that they are supposed to run the party? They are just causing confusion in the party.

Talking about the organs of the party; since after the National Convention of the party in Enugu last year, has there been a NEC meeting?

We have been doing NEC meetings and I had early told you that we were locked up in legal battle with Chekwas Okorie, which just ended in February. For instance, there was a week I went to court seven times.

I was in the witness box testifying for three months on behalf of the party. So, what time do you have to talk about a NEC meeting when Okorie was carrying us from one court to the other; from Kubwa to Gwagwalada, from Gwagwalada to Bwari. There is no court in Abuja that I don't know, from the lower court to the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court because of this Okorie. This has been going on since 2007 during the reversal of the impeachment of Peter Obi by the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division.

At that time due to the impeachment, we included the name of Dame Virgy Etiaba as our governorship candidate for Anambra State. So, when Obi's impeachment was set aside, we tried to substitute his name with that of Etiaba. INEC refused to allow the substitution and we were left with no other option than to go to court to ask for an order of Mandamus to compel INEC to accept the substitution of Etiaba with the name of Obi. Okorie came to court to be joined as a party in the suit which denied Obi of his name being substituted with that of Etiaba.

I was at the INEC in Abuja from 8pm to 4 am to make sure that the name was accepted but all these failed in spite of the legal opinion by the INEC lawyers advising Prof Maurice Iwu to accept the substitution based on the subsisting court orders that status quo be maintained.

He refused. So, for the past three years, we have been suffering from non recognition from INEC until when Prof Jega was appointed in 2010. We wrote to him and attached all the court orders which prompted him to recognise us. Yet, still undaunted, Okorie took us to the Supreme Court to get an injunction that APGA should not be allowed to contest the governorship elections in Anambra State in 2010.

It was Justices Dahiru Musdapher and Justice George Oguntade that advised Okorie to seek a political resolution and dismissed his request on the grounds that APGA had its internal dispute mechanism and that they would not dabble into the internal affairs of a political party. Chekwas Okorie refused to seek a political resolution of the matter.

He went back to the High Court which upheld his expulsion from the party; he went to Court of Appeal and the court upheld the decision of the High Court. Still undaunted, he went to the Supreme Court which also upheld the Court of Appeal decision which made him to return the party's certificate of registration.

So, it is very unfortunate that people like Dr. Tim Menakaya did not appreciate all we went through and triumphed. It is unfortunate. When he was coming here to sign money, there was nothing wrong with the party. He was here signing money to run his expenses as a member of the BOT. He signed over N3.4m from the party's account. I have vouchers where he signed for these monies.

Where was he signing for these monies? What were the moneys for?

For his expenses as a member of the party's Board of Trustees. These are for his operations. We gave him these monies when we were campaigning in 2011 elections. He is always here to claim money. So, why should we be giving him money for his operations?

After the resolution of the Okorie matter, now there is the issue of Masalla. Do you see APGA being ready for the elections in 2015?

All these crises will even make the party stronger because in 2007, Peter Obi was the only elected member of APGA in Nigeria. We didn't have any person in the House of Assembly, House of Representatives or even a Senator. Peter Obi was operating with PDP members of the House of Assembly, PDP members of the House of Representatives and PDP Senators. But in 2011, we were able to control the Anambra State House of Assembly. Now, we have five members of the House of Representatives from Anambra State, we have a Senator.

Under our leadership, the party also has a Chairman and Councilors for Aba South. We also had a member of the House of Assembly in Imo State in 2007 and a Member of the House Representatives from Imo State in 2007. It was under our leadership. Governor Rochas Okorocha was also elected as the Governor of Imo State in 2011 under our leadership with majority of the state Assembly members coming from APGA. So, this challenge will make the party to go from strength to strength as it has made the party more popular. So, it won't affect our fortunes in the next elections.

Don't think that what is happening to APGA is because of the lack of respect by politicians as it relates to the leadership of the party.

It is due to the fact that people no longer respect party leadership. I believe the Governors are wielding much powers. If you remember in the days of Adisa Akinloye as the National Chairman of the NPN, his word was law and not these days when Governors determine who becomes the National Chairman of the party.

We need to put this in the Constitutional amendment to find ways of reducing the powers that Governors wield as some even behave as tin gods. We know the romance or should I say the rosy relationship between Menakaya and Peter Obi is based on what he could get out for himself and not based on principle. We are aware that Menakaya's son is the Commissioner in Anambra; his son in law was appointed as transition Chairman of Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State, for he is being well compensated for the role he has been playing to destroy APGA.

The only crime we committed was that we spoke against the decision of Obi to zone the governorship ticket of the party to Anambra North Senatorial District which is unconstitutional in line with the party's constitution even Nigeria's constitution as Nigeria constitution does not recognise zoning of political offices.

If zoning is in the constitution, President Goodluck Jonathan would not have been the President of this country. It is because these Governors no longer have respect for the party supremacy. If not, how can Peter Obi assume the functions of the NEC, NWC and National Convention of the party to zone the party's ticket? It is because the Governors have no regard for party supremacy.

We advise Menakaya and all other errant members of the party to retrace their steps as we know that Menakaya got involved in this charade for his personal interest. Otherwise, how can a man that people used to see as a man of integrity come out now to say that there was no convention of the party in 2011 when he was on the high table with us? When he was confronted with that, he reverted that the said convention was not conducted through a secret ballot.

For a man of that age to be talking through both sides of his mouth, it is unfortunate. And it goes to show that he is not conversant with APGA constitution. If we read our bibles or Koran as the case may be, all these lies and deceit would not be possible. INEC in a letter they sent to us was emphatic that Masalla and his group have no power to receive the leadership of the party. Let me even point out that the constitution of the party does not recognise stakeholders. So, all these people that are hiding under the guise of stakeholders are just deceiving themselves.

Even when you look at it there is state caucus, national caucus, Governors are not part of the national caucus of the party according to our constitution. Members of the National Caucus are, the President elected on the platform of the party, Vice President elected on the platform of the party, Senate President elected on the platform of the party, Speaker elected on the platform of the party, National Chairman, National Secretary, National Treasurer, and other members of the NEC. Governors and their Deputies are part of the State caucus. So, that is the way it is. In the NEC, we have zonal officers and state chairmen. BOT members are not members of NEC. They don't have voting powers.

Governors are members of NEC; members of the National Assembly are not members of NEC, they have no voting powers. So, I wonder where Peter Obi got the powers to convene the said peace meeting he called in Awka. We have never sat to convene the said peace meeting. So, whoever did that should come out with the minutes of the meeting. So, anything that came out of that is null and void. So, let Governor Peter Obi conduct himself very well. The issue of zoning of the governorship of Anambra State for 2014 is null and void as it is ultra vires.

For all those people that constituted themselves as members of the South East caucus of the party, they know that there is nothing like that. For Chief Chris Ejike Uche, for the mere fact that he took the position of a Commissioner in Imo State by virtue of Article 25 (8) of APGA Constitution he is deemed to have resigned his position as the Deputy National Chairman of the party. Ben Akoma, our former National Publicity Secretary, having taking the position of a Special Adviser to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) he ceases to be the party's Spokesman. The APGA Constitution is very clear on this. The article also affects Ella Nwabueze –Ezeanya, the National Women Leader, who is a Special Adviser to Governor Obi. So, how can these people be the ones that are seen to be convening a peace meeting on behalf of the party?

What is your reaction to the statements being credited to Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu recently as it affects the party?

As for Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, it is unfortunate that she is allowing herself to be misled by the enemies of the party. I will caution against allowing herself to be used to destroy this party. I have never seen this kind of attitude from somebody that is still mourning her husband. She ought to emulate her late husband, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, who has nurtured this party to what it is today. She should shun enemies of the party and our opponents who are hell bent on destroying the dreams of the late Igbo leaders as the party that would be used by the Igbo man to attain the much touted Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. We have respect for her as the wife of our late National leader and that is why we have tried to be diplomatic on issues that concerns her. But if she continues the way she is going, we would tell Nigerians who she is. She should go and face her duties as the Nigerian Ambassador to Spain. She is here causing confusion