APC must move on without Oshiomhole —Princewill
Ahead Tuesday meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, a chieftain of the party in Rivers State, Prince Tonye Princewill, spoke with some journalists in Abuja on the crisis rocking the party, particularly the plan to oust its national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the unfolding legal debacle, the choice of an acting national chairman, among others. TAIWO AMODU was there.
THE All Progressives Congress (APC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting has been fixed for Tuesday, but a counter directive from stakeholders calling off the meeting has left the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party polarised. Do you foresee the meeting holding?
Yes, of course. Even before the courts reaffirmed it, I was sure that the opposition to it was pointless. I mean only those who are afraid of a discussion will be afraid of convening the NEC.
As a victim of court rulings, it surprises me how quickly politicians run to the courts, but I guess if you don’t go, others will. So, it’s best to go first. What all those who want a discussion to take place are saying is let the NEC meet, discuss the way forward and put the party in line for a mini convention where the proper things are done the proper way.
You are from the South-South. Is your zone going to this meeting as one united family to defend Comrade Adams Oshiomhole? There has been insinuation that the zone is already shopping for replacement. How true is that?
I am quite disappointed with the performance of our South-South zone and to be honest, the inability of our leadership to bring the benefits of democracy to our people is appalling.
If it is not one fight, it’s another, struggle for supremacy, a competition for villa access or key leaders getting in each other’s way. As a result of this, we have suffered a mixture of intra and interstate disharmony which has left us in one case, without candidates in a whole state, in another, losing a governor-elect, while in Edo State, a national chairman of party and a governor are [engaged] in open warfare.
This alone calls for drastic change at the highest level and for those of us that know who did what and when the buck stops at the table of the suspended national chairman.
For us to make progress, he has to step aside. Even then, the leaders have to sit down and get their acts together. Enough is enough. We have a president who can move mountains for us, if we sing from the same hymn sheet. But instead, we are self-isolating like coronavirus suspects. The rank and file are not happy with the leadership and if it continues like this, they will make life very uncomfortable.
Comrade Oshiomhole, at a session with State House correspondents penultimate week, fingered a certain minister from his zone as the arrowhead of the agitation for his removal. Some alleged that it is Rotimi Amaechi. He is the leader in Rivers. Is Rivers really angry with Oshiomhole and why?
I wish he knew how much Amaechi had defended him. From the days of Magnus Abe to now, Amaechi has been telling us that he trusts Oshiomhole and that if he has any flaw, being a puppet to another man’s negative agenda is not one of them.
When people told him Magnus was working with Oshiomhole, he said they were wrong. When they told him Oshiomhole was working with Nyesom Wike, he told them to relax. The list goes on. In fact, I had to do this interview without his knowledge, because he would not want me to. That’s how much he tries to stay away now from the politics, especially in the South-South. His influence became a threat to his fellow South-South leaders. So, he decided to focus on his ministry and mind his business.
Look at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), amnesty programme and even the issue of the national chairman, he had no interest, until recently, when Oshiomhole tried to replace Victor Giadom. Amaechi has learnt that you can struggle to place people somewhere today and those same people will deny you tomorrow. So, why make unnecessary enemies? Just live and let live. It’s the rank and file that are not happy. Call a mini convention and you will see.
Ahead 2023, some perceive the NEC meeting of Tuesday as a make or break meeting, that the resolution of Oshiomhole›s fate will lead to a chain of other reactions which could divide the party. Many people have also been talking of a likely third force ahead of the 2023 elections. What is your take and do you think the current APC crisis is the beginning of that third force?
We have to try and avoid dividing the party, but the freedom to associate means people will only remain where they are most comfortable. The issue before us is, I agree, a potential catalyst for a third force. But if it is not addressed, a third force will most definitely emerge and it will be stronger and bigger. But I still feel we can get beyond this if all sides accept that the status quo won’t work and agree to make changes that reasonable minds can live with. Our decline must stop.
Buhari has said he won›’ meddle in the affairs of the party. To some, it is a sign of weakness and selfishness. They claim he doesn›t need the platform again and doesn›t care what happened to it or what the contending forces do with it. How do you see this?
He has never been the meddling kind. All of us know that. Many would like him to meddle some more, but he’s a product of a time when power was absolute. So, he knows the implications of using it too freely. I believe the term extreme democrat has been used.
Unfortunately, he can’t afford to sit this one out and I don’t believe he will. Politics affects governance, especially in the last few months of the end of a term. In the case of APC, 2023 affected even 2019. That’s way too soon and shows a dangerous level of indiscipline among the troops. Only one person can restore order. If he doesn’t, it will overflow into governance and affect it even more. That we cannot afford.
As an aside, the state of the economy is worrisome. Oil is now about $30 per barrel. Considering our mono-product economy, aren›t we going into recession? What measures would you canvass that we adopt to absorb the shock?
We are looking at two separate issues which are the cause and effect of each other. The first is the novel coronavirus which is impacting and will impact the global economy, resulting in negative growth across the world. Nigeria is no exception. Current forecasts put our expected growth rate to hit 2 per cent, as opposed to the 2.5 per cent earlier predicted.
The second issue is the Saudi-Russia crude cuts debate and the impact of a crude war. That sent the price stumbling. But Russia has since indicated a willingness to talk; so, oil price is recovering slowly again. It’s important not to panic. Oil prices will go above our estimated $57 per barrel, but it may take a while for that to happen and we are losing time. The government will be under pressure to devalue the naira, but it shouldn’t subscribe to knee-jerk reactions. One month from now, things will be a lot clearer. In the meantime, our handling of the coronavirus issue is our biggest currency.
APC doesn›t have Rivers. Bayelsa has slipped off its hands. Edo is threatened by internal strife. Is the claim to penetrate the South-South not becoming an empty boast?
No, it’s not. We all know why we didn’t win Rivers and we all know that we won Bayelsa. In both cases, the court reigned supreme. So, let’s not debate our acceptance in the zone. Let’s, instead, debate our acceptance in the courts.
We need to look inwards. Tuesday’s NEC meeting is a beginning. I remember when I was running around the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2019 to find out why it was not ready to put us on the ballot, I bumped into some people in the legal department and we had a heart-to-heart discussion on our matter. They said you are here, but nobody from the APC secretariat comes here. We only see in court. Reflect on that.
Edo State is already an APC state. So, penetration there is already a concluded affair. What is of concern to us now is returning Godwin Obaseki, but we can’t do it, if his party is fighting him. Again, Tuesday is a step in the right direction.
How best do you think the party’s crisis can be resolved, considering the two state governorship elections ahead?
I believe I have answered you. But let me try and spell it out for the avoidance of doubt. Obey the preliminary court, set up a caretaker committee, set a date for the convention and put in place fresh leadership. APC needs to become a well-oiled machine again.
The Bisi Akande-led reconciliation committee has been silent since the unfolding drama in the last two weeks. Can we say it has crashed before taking off?
I won’t go that far. The recent developments would have, no doubt, impacted on the progress the committee would have made. The need for reconciliation remains. So, the need for the committee will remain as well. How the recent dynamics will affect things remain to be seen. But I foresee a delay, not a denial of the reconciliation mandate.