'IMPOSITION OF CANDIDATES HAS NO ROOT IN APC'
George Moghalu is secretary of the inter-party contact committee for the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in the merger party, All Progress Congress (APC). He is also national chairman of the ANPP for the South East. In this interview with journalists in Abuja, he spoke on the successes of the merger process; refuting claims that the crisis in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) pose a threat to the merger process describing the merger as one that was done without conditions. He also said nobody has been endorsed for the party's presidential ticket ahead 2015 election. Chibuzo Ukaibe was there. Excepts.
In the last meeting you had there was a setback in the sense that you were not able to agree on whether to drop APGA or to include it; we don't know if the issue has been rested.
No, no, no. It is not as if there was a stalemate; there was nothing of such. The truth is that APGA as a political party has its issues. We are all aware that they have leadership problem. There are some internal challenges they're trying to address and that is not part of the mandate of the merger committee. But the truth about it is that a group in the party led by His Excellency, the Governor of Imo State, are pro-joining the merger process. In fact, they have joined the merger process, whereas another group being led by governor of Anambra State, is not in support of the merger. We have a problem here in the sense that all other merging partners have the total mandate of their party leadership as demonstrated by the instructions or the instrument appointing them to the extent that their conventions and national executive committees as well as their working committees all met and gave them terms of references.
All these are actually the situation on ground. But in the case of APGA, they have this problem which we wish them well, they are trying to resolve. If you look at the instrument appointing, for example, my own committee, the ANPP committee, we were authorized by that instrument to even discuss with individuals, groups, civil societies and non-governmental organizations all with a view to create strong, veritable, viable political platform that will be available during the race. So, as far as we're concerned, the team dealing with us from APGA is credible and strong and we're discussing with them. They approved of what we're doing and are part of where we are today.
Another issue is that of the logo, whether or not to include APGA in the APC logo?
If I remember, Lai Mohammed, the ACN national publicity secretary, we spoke in consultations with the publicity secretaries of the other two parties, ANPP and CPC, made it very clear, and that is the truth of the matter. You cannot take APGA logo and put in the logo of the merging parties, knowing full well that you're exposing yourself to unnecessary litigations, because that issue has not been resolved. However, that is not to say that the issue of the logo has been conclusively concluded. Let me put it this way. Because we got to a very reasonable point as to resolving it, as to getting what is generally acceptable to everybody. But be that as it may, we're still discussing. The new party has not come up to show Nigerians what we're presenting them as a logo. Because of the fact that we don't want to make unnecessary mistakes; because we want to carry everybody along; because we want to present something that is all-inclusive; because you can't be talking about APGA alone.
There are also other parties that have indicated interest. For example, few days ago, the national executive committee of the DPP met and declared their intention to be part of the merger. MDJ have declared their intention to be part of the merger. These are all registered political parties and associations, which you cannot ignore, because they have their own followership. So, what we're now trying to do is to create a situation where it will be all-inclusive; everybody will be carried along so that we don't drop anyone by the side. We are creating a vehicle that will be available to every Nigerian irrespective of tribe, religion, colour and whatever; a platform that will be generally acceptable, that will be so democratic, that people will be comfortable in it.
As a major stakeholder in the ANPP, there have been reports that some prominent members of your party are out to scuttle the process of the merger?
The truth about it is that I will say these are actions or opinions or comments by fifth columnists. We have heard that repeatedly about infiltration. Even they went to the extent of mentioning the name of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and in the last meeting, he was there. He spoke; he has not met with the vice president. Even the office of the VP also said no such thing happened. Senator Sheriff who is the chairman of the board of ANPP has demonstrated, both in his actions and comments, his total commitment to the merger.
One thing you must understand is that when somebody is seen as a serious political threat, every attempt will be made to shoot him down, using whatever means they think is potent enough to achieve that objective. I will rather describe Sheriff as a very viable political machine whom you cannot ignore. Probably there is a reason why people want to shoot him down to create disaffection where there is none. He has been consistent with the merger meeting. He spoke in the last meeting. He said he just came back to the country. He has not seen the vice president. He just picked the newspapers and read it like all of us who read it. So, it's just mere perception.
But during an early meeting in the ANPP concerning this merger, Senator Sheriff was said to have insisted that alliance is better for him being that ANPP is well ahead of all the other parties, and it will be difficult for him to accept losing the soul of the party?
As a major stakeholder of the ANPP as you have rightly described me, I am not aware of such meeting and I make bold to say so. Don't forget that it was the ANPP that kick-started this issue of merger. Experiences have shown in this country that alliances have not worked. If you check our political history, alliances have not worked. Why would you want to repeat what has not worked in the past? ANPP has been consistent in our insistence that the only way for us to build a credible, viable society is to create a mass movement, to create a viable, strong political platform. And the only way you can achieve that is to pull together the strength, the resources of all the opposition political parties so that we can at least in this country, create two strong parties like they have in civilized and developed democracies; so that we can contest and compete.
But one thing you want to do is that we believe very strongly that the only way this democracy can grow; the only way it will be very viable is to create a very viable alternative to check the excesses of any party.
What is your comment on a report that Gen. Buhari might be given the presidential ticket?
On Gen. Buhari, I have been in this merger process from the beginning. There was no time the issue of candidacy was discussed. Our concentration now is to pull all resources together to make sure that we get the APC registered as a fully fledged political party. As to individual ambition, what we want to do, speaking in my position as the ANPP merger committee secretary, our vision is to create a viable and democratic political party, where everyone will be free to pursue their ambition, an institution that would be democratic in action and also in deed. An institution that would practice internal democracy to have people practice democracy such that even if you lose, you can pick your phone and congratulate the winner, imposition of candidate have no root here, the issue of candidate has not arisen at all. People may have their opinion, but as a political party, this thing has not been discussed.
Is there a timeline when parties are expected to submit their certificates?
As a group, we are conscious of doing whatever we are doing taking time as very important. It is not a one day thing, but I am confident we are conscious of time.
Most Nigerian parties have been known to lack ideologies and manifesto, will the APC be different and what would the manifesto look like?
I should not preempt what the committee that would be inaugurated will do, but individual parties have their manifestoes and may be considered by the manifesto committee that has been inaugurated.
Some parties have been agitating for all the elections to take place in a day, would you subscribe to that as part of the clamour for electoral reform?
Don't forget the merger is not from the moon. The merger is a consequence of three political institutions. These institutions submitted their individual memoranda to the Constitution Review Committee of the National Assembly and now that they are coming together, it becomes easier to harmonise. There are committees on constitution, manifesto and strategy. It is natural that the committee would harmonize the positions of all merging parties and when they have finished their work and it is accepted by the members, it becomes binding and individual submissions would be subsumed under the harmonised work of the committees.
I am confident that the four chairmen of the merging committees would take into account all the needs of our society. They are all Nigerians and they know what Nigerians want. Mallam Shekarau, Alhaji Garba Gadi, Chief Tom Ikimi and Senator Okonkwo are all Nigerian leaders who know what Nigerians want.
What was the response of your members, especially at the grassroot, to your sensitization tour on the merger plan?
I was part of the ANPP national rebirth and inter-party contact committee, one of the first things we did on the national tour, we visited the six geo-political zones. In the course of this visit, our party members, the leadership at the local level, ward level and at zonal levels, when they gathered we presented them with the vision of party leaders and to access our political infrastructure. We also showed them the focus of the party regarding the manifesto. One thing I can say is that we received overwhelming support for this initiative across the country.
Everyone believes that it is in the interest of democracy that we build a very strong political platform that would be seen as a viable alternative. Many people appreciate the difficulties opposition parties face, especially when they are balkanized, when they now pull their resources together, for a good number, the concept of coming together is the only way to bring the opposition together so that they can bring their resources together.
I have always said it that when the opposition is weak, it is the people who suffer. Two groups are in government; the party in government is to keep electoral promises, which they made in the course of campaigns. Two, a strong opposition is there to ensure that promises made are kept and to check the excesses of the government and when both of them are very vibrant, it is the people who benefit because the fear of the opposition will make the party in government to keep their promises. So the tour was quite instructive and we received the support of the people.
It is perceived that the ACN is having the upper hand in this merger deal?
Issue of perception is about individuals and in most instance, if not in all instances, perceptions are not reality. I wish I had the capacity to invite you to attend any of our meetings, every party has a 21-member committee and we discussed freely. One of the things we have consistently said is that what we are doing is merger without condition and we all share the same sentiment, merger without condition. We are going there with sincere conditions. There is a desire that it is in the interest of democracy and Nigerians that we come together to create a viable platform. It is not about individual or ambition. It is about Nigeria and there is no upper hand.