December 25, (THEWILL) – Mr. Osita Okechukwu is a Chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. He is also the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria. In this interview with AYO ESAN, he speaks on the forthcoming APC national convention, the 2023 presidential election among other issues of national importance.
Your party, the APC has scheduled its National Convention for February 2022. But are you worried that up till this time there is no announcement of venue and date for the event?
To be honest there is no cause for alarm as far as the fixed February date for our national convention is concerned. There is a limit to shifting the date, as all of us are aware that 2022 is the eve of 2023 general elections and year of primaries.
Don’t forget that every disappointment is a blessing, consequent upon that today we have BVAS, which is Vaccine to Vote Rigging. In spite of the controversy over the 2010 Electoral Act Amendment Bill; electronic transmission of results is retained. For instance, the Anambra State gubernatorial election has made it clear to any political party leadership that if you don’t put your house in order, the electorate will do it for you.
You were quoted to have said that all other southern Presidential aspirants should withdraw for South East aspirants. How true is that and why and what are your reasons?
Yes, but it is an appeal emanating from the zoning convention which heralded the 4th Republic Nigeria in 1999. It is meant to engender equity, natural justice, good conscience and unity of our dear country. It states that the President should rotate from the south to the north and it started from the South West in 1999 with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the first beneficiary. It went to the north in 2007 and it came back to south because of the unfortunate demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and back to north. Naturally, it will come back to south and southeast is the only geopolitical zone in the southern belt which has not presided over Nigeria from Aso Rock Villa; therefore, in the interest of national unity, equity, good conscience, it’s our turn.
Many state chapters of the APC are having parallel executives. What is your advice to the APC Caretaker Committee on this crisis?
The Reconciliation Committee headed by distinguished Senator Abdullahi Adamu will address the issues to a larger extent. My optimism is based on the little discussion I had with them and the little outcome one could discern from my observation. There is a culture of censorship arising from the BVAS as a critical vaccine to vote rigging.
How optimistic are you about the future of the APC after Buhari’s Government?
There is no doubt that Mr. President is the numero uno and Alpha and Omega of our great party, but this does not presuppose that the party will crumble with his exit or tenure expiration. Far from it, we Buharists and other legacy members are there to hold forth when his tenure expires. Don’t forget that he mentors, and is a master in delegation of powers. His workshop has trained thousands who will keep the flag flying.
What is your position on NASS limiting the manner of choosing party’s candidates in election to direct primary?
I am a supporter of direct primary as it is better in expanding the frontiers of democracy. However, one cannot swipe the salient points raised by Mr. President in his response to the NASS. All one could say is that I am happy that Mr. President did not throw the baby away with the Bathwater. That’s why I made this statement somewhere.
Yes, some compatriots had canvassed for a full package of both the electronic transmission of results, and sole direct primaries as mode of electing candidates by all political parties which was submitted to NASS for the assent of Mr. President.
President Buhari did not assent to the Bill as presented, but had clearly marshaled out his points of departure which as usual in liberal democracy did not go down well with some and went down well with some, especially our dear state governors.
It is my candid view that the Christmas gift is that the baby, the core item and the most treasured free and fairer election enabler in the bill – the electronic transmission of results – and other valuable items are preserved, retained and endorsed by Mr. President, NASS and INEC. Their being on the same page is a Christmas gift.
My dear compatriots please take time off your Christmas holidays and go through the bill, Mr. President’s letter to NASS and go through INEC endorsement of BVAS, it is a vaccine to vote rigging.
INEC submitted, “The BVAS has come to stay. So too is the uploading of polling unit results on INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal in real-time on election day. We are convinced that the introduction of technology in voter accreditation and result management is better than the best entirely manual process. It also increases public confidence in the process. We will continue to deepen the use of technology in our elections.”
For those who feel bad, especially our Civil Society Organizations, please take solace on the truism that the INEC’s reassurance and the truism that no where in Mr. President’s response, did any clause whittle down electronic transmission of results; therefore the retention of Section 87 of the 2010 Electoral Act in the new Electoral Act 2021/2022, is more a dangerous booby-trap to APC and PDP than to ordinary Nigerian citizens. Anambra State governorship election of 2021 is a case study of BVAS is “vaccine to vote rigging.”
PDP is boasting that it will take over the government after the 2023 general elections. How will you react to that?
Spare me the serial boasts of our sister political party, the PDP. Is PDP not the one which boasted to rule for over sixty years uninterrupted? What happened? What is 60-16 = 44. Please help me to tell PDP to first apologize for the uncountable harm done to our dear countrymen. Permit me to mention a few – We are used to such hallucinations from the PDP, a party which regrettably squandered the messianic vision of its founding father, the former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme of blessed memory, frustrated foreign investors and the high exit- expectations of Nigerians from gruesome military dictatorship.
A party whose preoccupation in 16 years was unholy decapitation of institutions of democracy, political assassination of Bola Ige, Harry Marshal, Ogboniya Uche, A.K.Dikibo and host of others, squander mania of oil revenue, and less than transparent sale of state owned enterprises, hence arrant neglect of social and physical infrastructure.
PDP with the realisation of its folly, since election traditionally is a referendum on the incumbent, embarked on disastrous and costly third term agenda which Pan-Africanist, and ex-President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki captured inter alia, “But some time before, in 2005, a campaign began in Nigeria to amend the constitution to allow for three presidential terms. This developed to a point that the draft of the proposed amendment had been presented to the Nigerian parliament as papers.
When I heard about this development, I engaged Obasanjo to communicate my unease at the proposal. In the end, I discussed it with General Abubakar, and we agreed that the proposed amendment was undesirable. We shared the view that the amendment must be avoided at all costs. We were of one mind that it spells bad both for Nigeria and the rest of the continent, tampering with and compromising our democratic system, which is just a few years old.
We agreed to add our voices to those kicking against the amendment. We agreed that Abdulsalam would follow the situation in Nigeria closely and indicate to me when we should intervene against the constitutional amendment. I was very pleased when he said that the Nigerian Senate has voted against the amendment.”
When the third term bid failed, PDP in retaliation punished Nigerians with the worst electoral fraud in the annals of Nigeria history under Professor Maurice Iwu in 2007.
Another ignoble punishment meted to Nigerians was less than transparent sale of state owned enterprises and frustration of foreign investors leading to annual loss of over $15 billion subsidy paid for the importation of refined petroleum products arising from the failed three greenfield refineries and petrochemical plant contract awarded on 13th of May 2010, by President Goodluck Jonathan to Chinese State Construction and Engineering Corporation Limited (CSCEC), at $23 billion, meant to be located at Bayelsa, Kogi and Lagos States. When this fiasco was going on, Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account had over $40 billion in the kitty.
How will you assess the performance of INEC in the last governorship election in Anambra State and what is your advice to the electoral umpire moving forward?
Excellent! INEC has tremendously improved since the exit of Professor Maurice Iwu. Professor Jega did well and Professor Mahmood Yakubu is doing well. That’s my honest assessment.