In this interview, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole explained to Seun Okinbaloye how he was grilled by the DSS, vowed to uphold the constitution of the party even if it means losing his friends.
He denies collecting money from aspirants and insists that the DSS has no power to investigate financial allegations.
Read the excerpt below:
You said you were not arrested by the DSS and that you were only called in for questioning. It was also reported that you were called in twice. What was the reason you were called in by the DSS?
It is a regular routine. I have had several meetings with the DG of SSS, both the current and previous ones. It is not unusual that they want to find out what is going on and we share with them what we know and sometimes they share with us what they hear. I believe it is in the interest of the National interest.
So, you were called in twice?
I am saying I have had since becoming Chairman, both the formal DG and the current ones, we have met a couple of times. We discuss issues that have to do with the country, our parties if they have information and clarification they need, we have had conversations on varieties of issues.
In the conversation that you had, the reporting was that you were asked to step down as the chairman of the APC, is that true?
Well, I think even on the man in the street, I wasn’t hired by the DSS and I cannot be requested by DSS to resign or to retain the job. APC is a structured party, we have organs, I know the processes and the procedures and I believe DSS also understand their own roles in the system. It is not up to them to demand the resignation of a party chairman whether the chairman is the chairman of the ruling party or that of the opposition. But I believe it is their right to have a conversation with anyone who in their opinion can assist them in discharging their mandate of ensuring that Nigeria is safe and secured particularly as we move towards 2019 election.
There are a lot of issues relating to that engagement. One they said you were there on Sunday, and the other one they said you were there on Tuesday or Wednesday and it was also said that you went to the President to report the case and the story that came out of it was that the PResident was surprised that that happened, perhaps he did not authorise it. Did you meet the President over your encounter with the DSS?
I met with the DSS on Sunday at about 3 pm and I drove there on my own. My meeting with the President, the President is the President of Nigeria and he is elected on the platform of our party of which I am privileged currently to be the chairman and for any observer of Nigeria, I visit the villa at least two to three times a week. I have a duty to brief Mr. President what we are doing in the party and i also have the privilege of learning from Mr. President what the government is doing as he relates to what the party expect of the government elected on our platform which is why if you play back your story, you will found out that i have a couple of engagement with villa correspondents couple of times, so meeting the PResident is not news at all, those are my privileges and i think it will continue to be so for as long as the President is gracious enough to give me the priviledge to want to know what we are doing in the party and also to hear my own suggestions on varieties of issues as it affects governance, our party and the country.
Mr. Chairman, you have been reporting to the president on the state of affairs of your party, and from what you have told us, why is it that the Presidnet looks like he is taking charge of the party? There has been a series of meeting at the villa with some aggrieved members of the party, it does look like the PResident hold everyday party meeting at the villa, are you still in charge?
That is not correct at all. If there is one thing you must grant to Muhammadu Buhari is the fact that he insists that the government is different from the party, that party matter should be handled by the party while he presides over the governance of the federation.
It goes without saying that because we are in a democracy and the system does not allow for an independent candidate, the president is conscious of the fact that he was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, it is natural we compare notes and i share with him what is going on in the party, what I hear, and also have the privilege of learning from him, his thinking and his position on a number of things, and that does not make him the supervisor of the party just like it doesn’t make me as Chairman, the supervisor of the government. That is the way it should be. The good thing is that we have a President who keeps telling people that a party matter should be run by the party people. I must also admit that on a couple of times, i have asked to request that he is not just the President, but also the overall leader of the party and there are issues which by reasons of his position and the respect he commands within the rank and file of our party, there are issues i plead with him to help to intervene with a view to resolving particularly when people have issues and they are aggrieved and i believe that a handshake with the President might just be what they need to feel reassured that the President appreciates them. That doesn’t make him an overbearing President. This President is totally different from any president before him which is why he has never asked me to change any decision the party has taken. The National Working Committee has absolute power to exercise all of those powers and priviledges as provided by the constition of the APC.
Mr. Chairman, there are allegations against you relating to issues of financing. Infact there are issues that people paid as much as N50m to get a ticket, is that true?
Well, you have to ask them who they paid to. What i can account for which we did publicly and within the provision of our constitution is that we did publish what is requied for ones to express inerest in the presidency, and the cost of nomination for the presidential aspirant, the rates for senators, for the house of reps, for governors and house of assembly. Those were the decisiont taken by the NWC, they were debated, modified and subsequently approved. Those are the rates i know of and they have been properly accounted for and unlike before, we insisted that there will be no cash transaction and everybody that paid paid throught he bank and today i am proud to say that APC accounts for all his finances and since i assumed office, we have not received a penny from anyone outside the membership of the party. No state government, no federal agencies have contributed a penny to support the party. We are running the party based on the revenue and resources we have generated within the system.
Your meeting with the DSS, does it have to do anything with finances or allegation of fraud?
If there are issues of finances, if there are issues of fraud, and if there are issues of corruption, I don’t think those fall within the purview of the DSS. I think there are established agencies like the EFCC, we even have a whole outfit ICPC whose mandate is expressly to deal with alleged cases of corruption and financial abuses. The role of the DSS is clear: state security and political parties are not under the supervision of the DSS.
Are you worried that some governors of your party want you out? They believe that you are taking the party to a ditch.
I have always said that all my life i found myself fighting on the side of the oppress and I am aware from my long time in struggle that when you choose consciously not to oblige power and to side with the oppressed, insist on the rules and you are determined even if it means stepping on toes, those who are beneficiaries of status quo will fight back. But I am not at the mercy of anyone, I am at the mercy of God and I know that for as long as I stick to the truth and stubbornly insist on the rules and I refused to be intimidated, I am fine.
You speak about the grievances of two of three governors, what about the other 20 governors who are not? I have never prayed in life to have 100 per cent, what I pray for is to be able to do the greatest good to the greatest number. It is humanly impossible to please the right and the left. People who are used to a position and you deny them that tradition, they will fight back.
Do you think it might be to that point where you might want to step down?
Whether stepping down or stepping up, I am not at the mercy of one or two governors. I am not an appointee, I am not a commissioner, I am not a secretary to a state government. I am very happy to have governors who are very understanding that managing change, changing old habits, involving news ideas, building a party that is membership driven based on principle of popular participation, it will require that those people with power moderate and this process of change cannot go without pain and whoever wishes must be ready to fight back just like the President is fighting corruption and corruption is fighting back.
Anybody who knows me well knows that you couldn’t have supported me to be the Chairman just to sustain the tradition of a position, the tradition of the big man does no wrong. I am used to interrogating power, I am used to fighting at the side of the oppressed, I have fought Presidents even when I didn’t have state power and I derived my strength from the depth of my conviction. I believe that this country is a great country but we cannot lament that things are not working or that we want things to change but nobody is willing.
The members of your party paid huge sums of money to obtain the expression of interest forms and nomination forms. Some of them did not find their names on the ballot at the primaries, is that fair?
That is a sweepy generalisation.
In Delta State, for example, there are three other candidates who bought nomination forms for the senatorial seats and they were cleared to run alongside Emmanuel Uduaghan, the former governor of Delta state, only Uduaghan’s name was on the ballot, why?
That is not correct. You admitted that three people bought forms, you also admitted that all three were cleared. I thought you were going to suggest that although three people bought forms only one was cleared. It is not possible to clear three names and in the end, you have one name on the ballot, you do need to tender the evidence.
Just like some people said the other day I was in London, they claimed I was in Aso Rock. It is cheap to make allegations, the challenge is that whoever alleges has the duty and responsibility to prove.
Can you react quickly to the allegation raised by the former Chief of Staff to Governor Okorocha and aspirant in Imo State who said you are responsible for removing names of candidate especially himself, you said you did not prefer him because he is the in law to Okorocha.
First, we did set up a governorship primary panel which was headed by Gulak. He submitted the result and NWC reviewed the result thoroughly and we arrived at a conclusion that the exercise substantially meant the guideline issued by the party and as a result accepted the outcome of that governorship primary which produced distinguish Senator Hope Uzodinma of that exercise. I watched his comment and he admitted that he also participated in that first exercise. You have to ask him why will he participate in two exercises?
The second exercise that produced Governor Okorocha as our Senatorial Candidate in the forthcoming election was just like what happened in Lagos. Remember that the panel that conducted the governorship election was different from the panel that conducted a national assembly election. The same thing happened in Kano, so he misled himself in thinking that the second-panel report, that he claimed was in his favour, he assumed certain responsibilities which are not within his competence. What you need to ask him is to tender the minutes, I am the chairman and I know we have minutes of the meeting where we reviewed the report of the Gulak Committee and we find them acceptable and we accepted it.
I also want to make this clarification, the name was forwarded to INEC before any court order that he is purporting. I heard him talking about one court order has to be vacated before the other, again, it is not safe for we non-lawyers to assume the role of lawyers. I believe we have acted in good faith.
As for my personal sentiment, Governor Okorocha is my very good friends. He stood firmly behind me, he described me as the nemesis of PDP because he knows me well but he also knows that I do have certain conviction. When I am convinced by a fact, I will stubbornly stand by those facts and if there is a conflict between my friendship and responsibility as Chairman, I have no duty in subordinating my personal friendship and upholding the responsibility of the Chairman. What makes a nation strong is when people distinguish their personal interest from their official interest and my oath of office that I subscribed to the day I was elected.
This is a text version of the interview between Oshiomhole and ChannelsTV.
Transcribed by Naija Center News