From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr George Moghalu, has admitted that the huge number of presidential aspirants on the party’s platform should be a source of worry. Consequently, he urged the national leadership of the party to provide a level playing ground for all contestants.
While advising politicians to stop capitalising on the tribal and religious cleavages for personal gain, Moghalu, however, claimed that the ruling party has a rich report card to retain power beyond 2023.
In this interview, he spoke about the chances of APC winning the 2023 presidential elections, the upcoming party primaries, his fears for the 2023 general elections among others.
How will you describe your victory against Andy Uba in the case that the Supreme Court ruled recently?
For me, the judgement at the Supreme Court is not a matter of being happy; it is rather a matter of mixed feelings because nobody would ordinarily want to go to court against his party. But when you also feel that you need to right a wrong, put a stop to the unnecessary impunity, change the narrative or get people to understand their limits to guarantee a political process that will be honourable, you have to do it. I did it so that at the end of the day, both the winner and the loser in every election, no matter how small, will feel happy. I said no, I need to start and take it to a logical conclusion. So, going to the Federal High Court in Abuja, where the court agreed with our submissions was my decision but the aspect of the Appeal Court and Supreme Court was not my decision; it was the decision of those who lost in the High Court. They were the ones who felt the judgement of the High Court was not right, and they appealed against it. We had no choice but to defend the appeal and fortunately, the two steps; the Appeal and the Supreme Courts went in our favour.
It is not about being happy. Yes! I am happy that I followed the process to a conclusive end and that the learned judges agreed with me and our submission, that what we said was right.
With the outcome of the case, can we now say that there is hope to get it right in this country through the judiciary?
Yes, and for me, I have always had confidence in our judiciary. It is always we, the politicians that are the problem. The judiciary is always there, but it is when we bring our matter to them that they will adjudicate. We are the ones that drag them into our politics.
I am very confident that from the judgement, lessons must be learnt. It is not about my party now; it is about the entire political class that should learn lessons from the judgement.
There is an established fact today that if you don’t do your internal democracy well; if you don’t do your primary well, somebody may decide to toe the line of George Moghalu tomorrow and go to court to challenge the decision. There is an expectation that justice will be served. For me, lessons should be learnt but it is now left for us, the politicians, to do what is right.
What is your fate with the party?
My fate with the party is that I am still a committed member of APC. How can I leave the house that I built? I am bold to say that I am one of the very few politicians in this country that have not changed parties, right from the All Peoples Party (APP), in 1998/99 to when we formed the APC. I also participated in the process of forming APC. So, I am an APC man in blood; fully committed and dedicated to the ideals of the party.
What is your advice to the party ahead of the upcoming primaries?
My advice is that we should learn our lesson and do what is right. We must obey our guidelines and rules. We made the rules and they are intended to throw up the proper candidates. That’s why the President, in his wisdom, advised the current party leadership not to field unpopular candidates, but candidates that are acceptable to the people. And you can only determine that by preparing a credible electoral process. Once the process is credible, free and fair, two things are guaranteed – the winner and the loser will feel happy. Secondly, there will be unity in the party. But the moment you manipulate the process and bend the rules you made, you have created disaffection and the consequence is that you can’t achieve unity at the end of the day. By the time you throw up a candidate with such a flawed process, you will have internal problems, and at the end of the day, we will lose. So, these are the things that should be avoided by anybody. I believe that the party and its leadership must have learnt some lessons from it.
With the legion of presidential aspirants in the APC, there are fears that the quest for zoning of the presidency to the South may fail. Are you not worried that the party has not said anything about zoning?
If I tell you that I am not worried, then I must be fooling myself. I am worried because you have such a number aspiring for one position, all qualified. I believe that all of them are capable of running the affairs of the country. So, it is of great concern and worries for me as a person and committed party man. We may all end zzzup going to pray and ask for divine intervention. I really sympathise with the party’s leadership currently.
Don’t you think the more the merrier, since they are going to be guided by the rules to allow all to contest?
Yes, I have no problem with the number so to speak, because certainly, the process that will be credible, free and fair, will throw up the best at the end of the day. That is why I started by saying that they are all qualified. Okay, they all have the capacity to emerge as president, but that does not remove the fact that there is a clamour for zoning. That does not remove the fact that the Igbo, have made a case for the presidency to be zoned to the South East. I also believe very strongly that as the days go by, we may reach a point where there must be discussion.
Does it not worry you that the Southern part of the country is always not united?
I don’t agree. I don’t agree with you. In the interview I granted to the media, I said I wish the president comes from my family; it is a wish. If I am the one allocating it, you can’t remove the aspect of selfishness so long as the person is qualified. I have also said that every street in this country can generate a complete cabinet. So it is not about the capacity of the individuals.
The wish of some people is that the presidency be zoned to the South West. I should expect that just as I wish that it should be zoned to the Igbo nation. I am also entitled to that, okay. And if you ask somebody, if it is a matter of go and take it for your people, a lot of us will certainly want to take it for our family members. These are the realities of the moment. But when you are looking at politics of our country, you look at equity, fairness and justice; you look at balance because at the end of the day, it is a matter of numbers. That’s why there must be a handshake across the Niger because whoever will be the president of Nigeria today, even if he is from the South East, he must have the required support from Kano, Sokoto, Lagos, Oyo, River, Cross River and all over the country because you are talking of a Nigerian president, but of Igbo extraction. For you to be a Nigerian president, you must win the confidence of people across the country. It is not about your village now. But if you are talking about the president of my town union, then I will go straight to my village and then deal with my town union members.
Having followed politics for years now, what are your fears for 2023 elections considering the crisis rocking the major parties?
When people talk about parties in crisis, I really don’t see any crisis. They are expected reactions because you’re talking about human management. Both the APC and the PDP are human organisations that are managed by human beings. And these human beings are of varied interests and ambitions. Certainly, interest will clash because the 26 presidential aspirants, for example, have 26 support bases and they have the same party and same stock, so certainly their supporters will clash.
Their supporters are marketing them so that their own product will be bought by the entire APC family. After which if you come out of APC family, that same product will be sold to the Nigerian people. So, certainly, interests will clash and when interests clash, it doesn’t mean there is a crisis.
But, for me, I consider it politically expected reactions. It is now incumbent on us to manage it properly, because it is the mismanagement of such reactions that bring problems. The key principle in managing such situations is the neutrality and the honesty of the umpire and sticking to the guidelines that have been established. If there is no intention to alter the guideline in the middle of the game; if there is no intention to change the rules as it affects different persons, then, there won’t be any problem.
Do you think APC has the ability and capacity to do things right to retain power?
Yes, why not? They have the capacity. The party under the leadership of Senator Abdullahi Adamu has the credibility, character and the confidence to retain power beyond 2023. He has a good team to navigate through the murky waters of politics, and drive the process right.
Don’t you think APC chairman announcing governors as the leaders of the party at state level has turned them into monsters?
I keep telling people, and let me emphasise it, that leadership is not elected; that’s why if you look at the APC constitution, from page one to the last, there is no place you have provision for a leader, but a leader evolves from among the people. A leader evolves by his actions, which attract people to him. There must be an arrowhead. It is like President Buhari who is the leader of our party. I am willing to follow him because there are some of his traits I want to copy – his character, credibility, honesty and sincerity. These are factors, because what makes him attractive to me may be different from what makes him attractive to other people.
By the time we know it, all of us are evolving around him as our leader. The same thing applies to the governors in the state and local chairmen in their local . Even in the immediate nuclear families, there is no day that a meeting is called in your family to elect your father as leader of the home. But, by his actions and the responsibilities he has placed on his shoulders, he is the leader.
If you want to take over leadership from him and start paying school fees, and providing food for the family, the man will be willing to concede leadership to you. So, it is not about the national chairman saying that a governor is a leader. By right, he should, but he should also evolve from among the people; he should win the confidence of the people. He should be the rallying point. That is why we pray because even the Bible encourages us to pray for people in positions of authority because of the responsibility on their shoulders.
What do you think about the move to draft former President Goodluck Jonathan as APC presidential aspirant?
I can’t be worried; I wish him luck and you ask again whether it is the best APC can offer. You will agree with me that there are 26 aspirants and he is one of them, if he actually is because he rejected the form that was bought for him and the statement has not been denied.
Do you foresee a situation, where the APC and the PDP zone their presidential tickets to the north with PDP throwing the contest open?
One thing I know about myself is that I am not a soothsayer. I don’t foresee tomorrow, I deal with the present. Yes, even some northerners have bought forms in APC, but I will advise us to be a little more patient, let everything play out. There’s no law that says once you buy a form you become a candidate that will fly the party’s flag.
From your utterances, it is like Rotimi Ameachi is seen as sabotaging your brothers who are contesting?
All of them are Igbo sons and they are all qualified. Ohanaeze, our leaders have said Igbo land is made up of seven states including the Igbo speaking Deltans and Igbo speaking Rivers. So, who am I to question Ohanaeze?
What do you think can make us think of Nigeria, not South West, South East, or North West?
I look forward to that day. Honestly, it will be a day of celebration for me when we discountenance these primordial sentiments because the elite, one of which I am, take advantage of tribe and religion to open the cleavages just to achieve political advantage, which for me, is not good. But, when we want that addressed, it has to be holistic.
We will start by removing state origin from our forms because you can’t tell me that we should discountenance the issue of where you come from, when all of our official forms have town and state of origin in them. What should be there is the state of residence. I was born and bred in Aba, Abia State. I served in the Abia State Government. If it were to be in America, I am qualified to run for governor if I desire, but when the chips were down I went back to Anambra State. I got to my peak in Abia State but I couldn’t break the ceiling there; I moved home and that is not the reality of the moment. So if anybody tells you that we are going to discountenance that by mere pronouncement, it won’t work. Our politics have not developed to the point where zone or religion does not matter.
Don’t you think the APC seems to be in a fix on where the next president will come from?
Why do you think that the party is in a fix? Why would you assume so? Why do you want to cross the bridge when you haven’t got there? For me, those assumptions are not necessary. The important thing is that people have indicated interest in the contest. The party will issue guidelines that you can take to the bank. By the time the guideline comes out, they will look at it. We will address the issues that may be raised by the guidelines, then, questions can be asked at that stage. The truth about it is that APC as a party wants to retain power and that is our wish. We will campaign. We will work hard. We will present our manifesto and our report card, which is very rich, to Nigerians. And then based on that, they will give us another chance to serve them again.