2023 Presidency: Zoning is the right thing to do —Omole, Chairman, APC, UK

Prince Ade Omole is the leader of All Prigressives Congress (APC),  United Kingdom chapter.  He is also Chairman of the Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council. At an interview session with newsmen in Abuja, he says Nigerians would return his party to power in 2023 despite the unfolding chasm within its ranks. He shares efforts of his team to ensure that Nigerians who live abroad are allowed to exercise their franchise in next general election. TAIWO AMODU brings the excerpts: 

 

There are so many power blocks in the   APC . As we approach 2023, the perception  out there is that it might not survive a   post-Buhari era. Do you share that fear? 

We consider that as fake news.

I think the APC which is also quite evident from the caliber of people that are actually joining the party at this present time, is growing stronger . Aside from the people that are actually joining, not just here in Nigeria but also in the Diaspora, because of the achievements to date. I know we have challenges but we actually left where we were before 2015. Even though we are not where we should be yet but I think we have done marvelously well and we will continue to do that. So, when I hear people talk about APC going into extinction in 2023 I just laugh it off and I think probably they don›t understand the dynamics of politics in the country.

We believe that by 2023 this party will be stronger and we will still be in existence and we will still be the governing party come 2023. It is actually the party to beat. The President has done marvelously well despite the challenges we have with security, the challenges that have been brought upon us by COVID-19 but I think having said all that, we still have a bright chance. So, for people saying APC will go into extinction, I think is fake news and we will shock them again in 2023.

 

There is an orchestrated plot to jettison zoning.  Feelers show that the power rotation between North and South is about to be discarded as we approach next general election.  What is your take? 

We all know that zoning is not part of the constitution of the party but it is an arrangement that was put in place for fairness. As for me, zoning has been in our political environment for a very long time and I believe it should continue as long as the party actually agrees with it because at the end of the day, it is the party that will decide what zone the presidency or whatever office goes to. We also believe in the position of the party and we will keep doing that. There are few differing views on it but personally, I believe it is the right thing to do. It is a step in the right direction and it just gives everybody a chance to actually have a shot at the presidency or any other office in the country.

So, I think it is the right thing to do even though it is not part of the constitution. It is more of a gentleman’s agreement. Now,  we know it is (the presidency) still in the North and hopefully, it will come to the South this time round. I read reports and we heard chieftains on both sides of the divide saying that now that the North is having it for eight years, it is time for the South to have it for another eight years. So, it is a gentleman’s agreement that should continue for the greatness of the country. It is the right thing to do and we believe that that will happen come 2023.

 

The  thrust of President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign promises were security,  economy and corruption. The consensus of Nigerians is that he has failed in all his promises.  Considering the massacre in Borno State, how will you rate him, specifically in combating the security challenge? 

I don’t believe the President has failed. I said we are not where we should be but we left where we were pre- 2015.  If you remember bombs were going off in Abuja; the Nyanya motor park and close to about 20 local governments were under the control of the terrorists at that time. Yes, we actually got the setback like every other country that has been terrorised by ISWAP or whatever name they actually give themselves but I think it’s a setback that we will definitely recover from. It’s not the defeat of the Army, yes it happened, it’s quite unfortunate and may the souls of the departed rest in peace. Having said that, I still believe and we still believe in the capacity, strength and unity of this country and we believe that the Nigerian Army is actually capable and up to the task of defeating the terrorists and we would defeat the terrorists.

 

But will state police be a panacea to the insecurity across states in the federation? 

State policing is actually happening at this present time and what do I mean by that?  You have the Amotekun in the South-West, you have another group in the North, the Hisbah and I understand there is another group being put together in the South-East and even the South-South. I also know that a few states actually passed laws supporting those groups to function. So, in a way we’re moving gradually to state policing because the take has always been if you have people from your state policing the state, we know the communal environment that we live in, we know everybody in the village or in the city, we can easily pin point them. We know all the routes, we know all the back roads, so it’s easier and probably more convenient.

But having said that, the Police as it is now the federal Nigerian police, I believe we can still empower them more to actually do more. They have been trying, they are still trying and I know the #ENDSARS thing actually brought them to the limit,  the Army had to be called in but that is the nature of national riot and it happens everywhere even in the UK, US. When the police is overwhelmed you bring in the National Guard. So,  I don’t see it as a bad thing but at the national level we have something that will be looked into as part of the restructuring programme that is actually being talked about.

 

The manner the Armed Forces and the Police handled the EndSARS protests cast a slur on the image  of the country. What is the perception out there in the United Kingdom where you live? 

Most of the news we heard about the human rights abuses are actually fake news. I know that because we have an internet team in the UK that actually fact check most of these stories. You heard of people being shot at Lekki, we heard the live presentation by Major General Taiwo; no one was killed at Lekki and those pictures that were been bandied about, being  shared on social media were pictures from Nollywood, some were not even in Nigeria. So for me and my team we will commend the president for accepting the demands of the #EndSARS and he told the security forces to allow them until the hoodlums took over and started burning and looting and killing which is again quite unfortunate.

I think the police should be commended, the army should be commended and also the president should be commended for the way he actually handled that protest. We have always been working with the youths. The APC is a youth-friendly party. Most of our members in the United Kingdom are between the ages of 18 and 25 and we will keep doing that. We actually love the youths, we have a lot of different youth programmes and you can see there are 23 youth focused programmes in Nigeria for the youths but may be communication is the problem or there is communication gap somewhere, which we have been trying to bridge so that the youths can understand what this government has in stock for them. I read that the N-POWER has been increased from 500, 000 to a million which shows that this government is listening to the youths and will do whatever is right.

 

With the picture you have painted on government handling of the recent protests,  it reinforces the view that most of you,  Nigerians politicians in the Diaspora  are insulated from the deplorable  plight of Nigerians at home? 

Nigerians living outside may not be in the country but they really understand what is going on. Remember, these Nigerians have families and the more calls you get for help, the more you have to work, the more you know there is something wrong somewhere in the country. They may not be presently here in Nigeria but they do have a very good feel what is actually going on Nigeria and you will be shocked that people living outside the country have  more information than even people living in Nigeria. We have a Twitter handle for APC youths, you get people in Nigeria asking us questions about what’s going on in Nigeria. That shows you that people over there do understand what is going on in Nigeria and that is the reason why they engage. Membership strength in the United Kingdom is in thousands. Infact we have more Nigerians joining the APC in United Kingdom than even Labour or Conservative even if they can›t vote. That means they are quite interested, they like what the party is doing. Even though they are outside the country they are interested in knowing developments in Nigeria.

This is where I will commend, first the president for signing into law the Nigerian in Diaspora Commission and I will also want to specially commend  Abike Dabiri, the Chairman of that Commission. She is ensuring that people in the Diaspora are fully engaged, they understand what is going on and she is always out meeting with Nigerians and also showcasing Nigerian that are living abroad and bringing in investment opportunities into the country.

The perception which is very wrong that as soon as you leave Nigeria, wash your hands off Nigeria but that is not the way it works. Nigerians living outside the country are committed, patriotic Nigerians. That›s one of the reasons why we are supporting the Nigerian Diasporan Voting. We want people living outside the country to be able to  vote so that whether they are within the country or outside, as long as you are legitimate citizen you should be able to vote from your host country. All that is because they actually love and are interested in what is going on in their country.

 

What is your assessment of APC Caretaker Committee, under the leadership of Yobe state governor, Mai Mala Buni? 

I know that there is a National Executive Committee  meeting that is scheduled on the 8th of December. First and foremost, let me commend the Caretaker Committee for what they have done so far. It’s not an easy job. It’s the governing party with different interests.So you have this group of men and women trying to put the party together. It’s quite an uphill task but today they have shown that they are up to the task.

Talking about deregistration and trying to deregister some members, I think that is not possible. That’s not the ethos and the ideal behind our constitution. This is a progressive party, it’s not about deregistering members. In fact, we should be happy that more members are actually joining the party. I don’t think anyone will try to deregister a member because the more members we have, the more votes you have. So,   I don’t think any sane person,  party leader will want to deregister anybody. Every single member count because sometimes elections are so close that you need every member on board and for every political party in the world whether you are APC, you are the opposition party or Labour party, the Conservative Party, member of the Republican, the Democrat, you need the members. Members actually make the party. The more members you have, the better for you.

Again, I think there might be varying interest because for every party in the world, it’s a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly. So it’s not a time for deregistering members this is time for bringing more members on board and ensuring that we consolidate before the 2023 general elections. Whoever is actually thinking about that is fake news, we should all ignore that because this Caretaker Committee is actually working on unity, bringing members together, getting more members on board and the primary purpose of that Committee, to put together a convention so  that we can have elected executives of the party that will take the party to greater heights so that by 2023 we know we are winning the general election again.

 

Don’t you think the gale of defections  to APC, might ultimately be counter productive:   that it would lead to implosion?

Like I do mentioned the party itself is a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly. When you talk about implosion, I think this party is a progressive party, this party has the capacity to absorb and take on more member. So, I don’t see the party imploding, I don’t see any problem with it, we have done it in the past.

Their  were people that actually joined the party during the 2015 election, their were  people that joined the party in 2019 election, people are still joining and at the same time probably you see few leaving but you still see people joining the party.

No matter the caliber, no matter how highly placed you are, I believe this party is progressive enough and has the capacity to absorb and still retain the unity of the party. Personally, I  and my team, we don›t believe there is any problem with that we will keep taking more people, if the opposition wants to collapse and join us so be it! We are here to help them out because we know that they are clueless. What you get from them is fake news or they don›t have any idea so we are not really surprised that those parties are joining the progression party, the APC. So, we welcome everybody and we will keep them within the folds and that won›t be problem for us at all because APC is the party to beat and a party that will really deliver on its promises.

 

Let me take you back to APC administration campaign promises.  It has also not fared better in management of the economy. We are back bemoaning return to recession. Is that not indicting? 

Now, talking about the economy, it is a global thing. If you remember, it’s not just Nigeria that is in recession at this present time, there are a lot of countries that have actually gone into recession. People are borrowing and the reason for that was actually caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

. In fact, most countries are actually doing worst than Nigeria at this present time. We have a President and a government that is actually responsive, at least in terms of economy because if it wasn’t that responsible, I can tell you that by now, only God knows where we would be by. I did mention that as of today, we have just increased from 500, 000 to 1 million N-Power Youths that will be employed. That means that this same government despite the challenges is still trying even though with low income, the economic issues brought upon us by COVID-19 we are still trying to survive and we will overcome this.

Talking about anti-corruption, I am sure you are aware that for the very first time, 2015, 2019 to date, recoveries have now been part of budget funding for this government. That doesn’t happen before. So for now we are doing well, we will do better and we will keep supporting them. We are just appealing to Nigerians to at this present time, please bear with us. We will keep improving, it’s not the best at this present time. We are not where we should be but we left where we were in 2015.

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