Why my suspension from APC can’t stand —Niger Delta Affairs minister
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Uguru Usani, in this interview with journalists, speaks on his suspension from the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the national working committee of the party on March 2, 2019, for alleged anti-party activities, and the role the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole. TAIWO AMODU brings the excerpts:
Stakeholders of the APC in Cross River State led by the National Vice Chairman, South-South, Honourable Ntufam Eta, have accused you of working against the interest of the party during the recently concluded elections. How would you react to this?
These allegations are not strange to me. You can cross-check everything I am going to say because they are verifiable. From 1999 to 2015, I have had reason to dine with the PDP; it was a political fallow season. You will probably be surprised to hear that when I contested for governorship in the opposition in 2003, there was an attempt in broad daylight to assassinate me and I ran out of the country and returned after two years.
At that time when I was to contest, I was offered to contest for the senate and I declined. In 2012, when I contested against the PDP candidate, offers were made to me and I declined. If you talk to Cross Riverians, they know us by character. So, when I had a political fallow season, if I did not accept overtures from them [opposition], what will attract me now as a minister?
If for 16 years, I declined everything that the PDP offered to me, now that I am minister, what do I intend to gain? Is it that if I support them, I will become president? This is crafted blackmail intended to decimate my reputation. Thank God that as journalists, you have the capacity to verify what you get or the information you receive.
When the people coming together to fabricate these things, who were said to have the capacity to win election, came into the party, the first person to send a message that if the APC was to win election, Usani Usani has to contest was Senator John Owa-Enoh. The person he sent did not tell me the message until we were together with him and he said, “Senator, I want to deliver that message you gave me before. That person is Godwin Asam Efa, who was vice chairman of Ikom Local Government council. Please, you can verify these details I am giving you. But something happened. When the former governor of Cross River State felt that it was too risky for them to allow Usani come in, he told him to go and fight for it so that whether it goes the way of PDP or APC, he will be in charge. Meanwhile, that former governor was zonal coordinator for PDP presidential campaign. Suddenly, he started recruiting different interests.
When the National Chairman came into office, they caused him to believe that I was supporting the former national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and I wonder what type of sense that made, because Oyegun did not contest any election. So, even if somebody was supporting him, of what value would that support be?
You were accused of working for the PDP…
To suggest that I worked for the PDP can only be authenticated by the indices we lay across. Find out if in the course of the recently concluded elections they did not say ‘vote for the PDP presidential candidate and for the rest, vote for us.’ Go to Calabar and verify. Find out if the national vice chairman South-South won one polling unit in his own ward for the president. There are two wards in my community and the PDP did not win any unit. I accumulated over 4,000 votes while the PDP got about 1,000. Assuming I was working for the PDP and I produced results against them, which one is more viable to believe? They have held several meetings and I will tell you that they are trying to do everything to make me politically irrelevant. They know that my continuous prevalence in the system will expose them. These are people who have been scared ab initio that if the president comes back for a second term and the anti-corruption struggle goes on, they will be in the web. For them, instead of allowing sleeping dogs lie, they want to stir the hornet’s nest. I can tell contracts in my state they have received and failed to accomplished. The dissolution of the NDDC board is the foundation of their vengeful attitude towards me. You know how the place functioned for a while, which is in public domain.
But the factional leaders of the party in the state have said…
We don’t have factional leadership in APC. Before the current chairman came, congresses had been concluded. He decided that they would dissolve the state executive whereas as soon as that was concluded, we were given certified true copies of the results of the congresses supervised by INEC as prescribed by law. One day, they just came and said ‘we dissolved it.’ We sought redress in court and up till now, the subsisting judgement in that regard showed that Honourable Godwin Etim John is the chairman of the party. So, impostors are just buying their ways as a result of favours that did not accrue from any due process. There are no factions in the party. Every action being taken in response to this situation by them is contemptuous. They have also gone ahead to write a petition to the president alleging these same things.
Incidentally, I have given a response to that petition. These people have no interest in this party. They came to destroy the party and would run back to PDP. Between a man who has stayed for 16 years without changing focus and those who today belong to one party and tomorrow, they are somewhere else, who is more likely to prevaricate in circumstances of pecuniary inducement? The South-South zonal chairman was the national coordinator for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar during the APC national convention in Lagos ahead of the 2015 presidential election. He failed woefully to win votes for Atiku.
I put it on record that in 2012, I sponsored him to be ACN chairman in the state. In 2014 when we were discussing the zoning of positions in the South-South, I proposed his name against the wishes of Cross River indigenes and they told me he would disappoint us, but I stood by him. I honour principles and preserve accords and so, I put his name. For some people who do not have secondary vocations, if politics falls out of place, they will be stranded. So, they pursue political ambitions with absolute temerity of desperation and so, we will not be surprised, because we know them. But for me, if anybody says I worked for PDP, go and tell Cross Riverians and see if they will believe you. When nobody could stand up to challenge PDP, I was the sole figure challenging them. So, I can assure you that those fabrications won›t amount to anything. Whatever their anger is, I have given every room for us to sit and discuss, but you will understand that when a society is growing, those who stand as victims are those who have honour and that is our situation.
You are yet to say anything about your suspension by the national leadership of the party. Do you think they have the power to do that?
I started administration at a high level in 1992 and I know what administration entails. I know that administration is not done in the open market or village square, especially when you have rules guiding a particular system.
If, for any reason, I am accused of committing an offence, the constitution provides how the procedure should be. I did not receive any invitation to answer to any query neither did I receive any correspondence suggesting that I am under punitive measure. So, I just presume that it is one of those media rumour and so, I didn’t need to apply myself to it. I saw a letter from my ward chairman saying I remain a bona fide member of the APC in the ward he controls and that I have not committed any offence to warrant a disciplinary measure. So, I remain a member in my ward and that is where I stand.
The question is, why would anybody want to suspend me? All methods, legitimate and legal have failed them in a bid to stop me from my governorship ambition and so, they adopted a cowboy method thinking that pronouncing suspension on air will make meaning. It does not make any meaning. I was the first party chairman in the state, not because I vied for it but because they said that they needed a character that would not sell the party. So, when they say I have been suspended, I have not received any correspondence to that effect and I don’t know what offence I have committed. Suspending me is very dangerous, because we are very few in Cross River that can hold the party. Let them show their results in the just concluded elections. It is not about noise, but unfortunately, in Nigeria, noise means strength. But for me, success means strategy. I don’t need to talk, but to prove and I have proven.
You said the image of President Buhari is what is keeping the party together. In view of that, what faith or future do you think the party has after Buhari?
Like in every vocation or activity in life, even the environment that is natural, there is dynamism. Therefore, the future of the party will not be determined by the projections of today, because tomorrow may turn a new leaf. The determination of the strength of a party does not also lie in the internal melee, but the actions and reaction of contending forces. That can always change the fortunes of the party. At the end of the president’s second term, if Christ tarries, God will give us what befits us, because my bible tells me that a leader emerges from the system and the nature of the people. So, whatever happens, it may be a stronger or weaker party, but there will still be a party.
But I note again that Abuja residents who have the privilege of entering offices are not the owners of the party. The custodians of the party strength are residents in the states. So, it is not for us to gather ourselves, come to Abuja and claim to be key stakeholders. Those who hold the ground for us to rest on are right there.
Has there been any form of intervention from the national leadership and do you believe in Oshiomhole having the capacity to resolve the crisis in the state chapter of the party?
Every leader has what it takes to resolve crisis in his domain. So, I have no doubt that his leadership can resolve the crisis. To ask whether I believe, will my singular opinion override that of the general convention decision to have him as our national chairman?
As the national chairman, he should be able to resolve. Whether he is doing it or not, I don’t know. But for me, I exercise the right and privilege of my membership within the limits of the provisions of the rules of the party. As a member of the president’s cabinet, you don’t expect me to be a dissident and if anybody does not regard his position as a pedestal of honour, you don’t expect me to follow him.
Don’t you think the chairman tried to make a statement through your suspension?
I tell you something, when Socrates was 70-years-old, he found a man whose worker was stealing his proceeds and the man killed that worker and the son of this man came to him and said ‘daddy, you said this man committed evil and you killed him. Are you not committing the same evil like the man?’ Because the Athenian philosophers were afraid that at every time, Socrates would prove them wrong, they decided to imprison him. He told them ‘I am already 70 and will soon die. If you kill me, the uprising will be faster, so allow me to die naturally.’ They refused and killed him and the uprising came earlier than anticipated. If you think suspending me is managing the crisis, let me say it is provoking the crisis, because he will lose a lot. I know that I am not serving any suspension. Did I register in Abuja? We are all members of our ward?