Honourable Isaccs Kekemeke, the Ondo State chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), speaks with HAKEEM GBADAMOSI on his purported sack by a group within the party. Excerpts:
How would you react to your ‘sack’ by some party members on Tuesday?
It is such an uninteresting joke but don’t forget that we are in a season of drama and it is part of the entire process. The APC is a vibrant party, made of a number of people, activists, non-activists, great politicians, not very great ones and all manner of people in the spirit of progressivism. I think it is just some elements in the social media section of the party that have chosen to dramatise and I think it is their legitimate right to so do.
The ‘new chairman’ accused you of doing the bidding of the national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, against the wish of party members, imposing an aspirant on the party?
First and foremost, nobody is imposing a candidate and I do not know of any new chairman in our party because this is not a banana republic and neither is it NURTW where you carry cutlasses to take over the secretariat. This is a party created by law but anybody has the right to call themselves what they wish. That is one of the benefits of democracy. There are people who do not go to school and call themselves professor, doctor, barrister and nobody fights them over it. So, if you wake up one morning and call yourself chairman, you are perfectly entitled to it. All you need to do is to wait until you are called to the National Executive Council meeting of the party or people take order from you as the chairman.
The person laying claim to the chairmanship of our party in Ondo State is just an ex-officio member of the executive committee and his name is number 36 on the list of officers and cannot be the party chairman. I was duly elected through a congress and votes were cast for me. Of course, this is not the first time this would happen. Even after the congress, people claimed to be chairman and they are still chairman in their imagination in their rooms. So, that is not an issue at all.
On the allegation that Asiwaju is imposing, he is not imposing. If people read the reply of Asiwaju to Dr Tunji Abayomi, I think that should settle the issue and be a lesson in democratic practice and that there is a difference between imposition and endorsement. An endorsement is merely signifying support or preference for a particular aspirant and that is what people do when they canvass for votes and the result is either endorsement or support. I insist, and Asiwaju and the national leadership of the party also insist, that there will be free, fair and transparent primary and that can only be evident through the ballot and for those who may not know, it happens the world over. But as to whether I refused to take a position against Asiwaju, the national leader of the party, let me say that I owe no one apology. I am proud by upbringing, by training and by experience, so I should know that I am a man of authority under a higher authority and that I should ordinarily be obedient to those who have authority over me. If Asiwaju gives instructions and the instructions are not patently unlawful, patently illegal, I should use all that is within my office to carry out such instructions. So, I have no apology for those who say I obey Asiwaju. And why won’t I obey him once the instructions are not unlawful, patently immoral or illegal?
So, there was never an imposition of any aspirant?
In this party, it is not possible to impose. Imposition has no place. It can’t happen because our constitution provides for either direct or indirect primary for choosing the standard-bearer. Now that we have chosen indirect primary, as it were, that election must take place. I want to assure you that everything that is required is being put in place by the national committee to ensure that we have a free and fair primary.
You were also accused of doctoring the delegates list for the primary.
When the party was newly formed, a lot of people tried to take advantage of one another. There were lots of hiccups. After the congress, a committee was set up which looked into all appeals brought to it and my position which was approved by everybody was that the list to be used for this election is the list produced by the Femi Pedro congress, subject, however, to changes approved by the Dr Lambo congress appeal committee report. So, everything is as amended by the committee report where applicable, but where there is no appeal, the list of congress, no matter how imperfect, is going to be used.
The primary is about a week away, will this situation not affect the exercise and November’s governorship election?
I do not think so. This is what happens all over the world when standard-bearers of parties are to be chosen. This is the battle preceding the final battle. It is necessary in a great party like ours with great potentials. In politics, it is a normal thing that prior to election, everybody is emotive. Emotions run high and everybody has a group. There are supporters who feel pained if they found out that their ambition is slipping off. They would like to express themselves. They would like to scapegoat whoever they can find and for now, I am the scapegoat. I should know it is one of the pains one must have as a leader. So, it is nothing extraordinary.
How do you hope to handle the post-primary crisis?
As I said, there would be skirmishes in the process of choosing from among those who want to represent the family. I believe that will happen but if the aspirants truly love the party, nobody gets what they want all the time. That is life and that is the reason I am not bitter about all the name calling and abuses.
Would you say you are still enjoying the support of the chairmen in the face of the allegations of the ‘acting chairman’?
I told you earlier that a drama is taking place and in this kind of season, we must allow that kind of drama. We need that kind of drama to cool off. I need it to have some break and rest. Although some people are bothered, some said they liked the way I have ignored them. What I tell them is that they can let off their emotions; they can let off their angers, but they should know that others also have the right to demonstrate or sleep or dramatise at the party secretariat. It belongs to all of us. When I am set to do meeting there, I will go there. Nobody who is a leader in the party takes what is happening seriously.
something like what is happening. The national, zonal and state leadership do not see what is happening as a crisis. To them, it is fun and some have called me to appreciate the way I ignore them and I will ignore them as long as possible and that is democracy in action.