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No Controversy, Omodewu Is Oyo APC Chairman — Shittu, Ex-Communication Minister

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A former Minister of Communication, Chief Adebayo Shittu, in this interview with DARE ADEKANMBI, clears the air on the crisis in Oyo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), speaks on the aspiration of Senator Bola Tinubu, among other things.

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Events in the build-up to the national convention of your party have shown all is still not well with the APC with crises in couple of state chapters, including your state, Oyo, and the leaders could not come up with consensus candidates for some positions.

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Let me start by commenting on Oyo State. I think things are getting stabilised in the state. I will not agree with you that there is crisis in the state. If there is any crisis, it is being properly managed and I believe in the course of time we will settle properly into a one, united family. Talking about crisis generally, I have always said that political parties are not like limited liability companies where there is an overall managing director, directors and managers and the disciplinary control goes from top to bottom. Political parties are associations of free joiners and free leavers; anybody can join at any time and also leave at any time. All members are equal, even though some are more equal by virtue of governmental positions. So, there are means of sorting our problems whenever they rear their head. The fact that we seem to have crisis does not mean it is a death knell for the APC. I can assure you that APC will continue to forge ahead as Africa’s largest political party. So, be assured that things are not out of control and will never get out of control.

Talking about consensus, it has its implications. Consensus means, for instance, that when there are four aspirants for a particular position, the four of them will meet and agree to cede it to one person among them. But then, consensus must never mean imposition of candidates. While there is no imposition and all aspirants can agree to present one person, then there is nothing wrong about it. It is only when they don’t agree that there should be proper election. So, consensus should not be a thing that anybody can use without getting all aspirants involved. That certainly will not be democratic and acceptable.

You said there is no crisis in Oyo APC, but a lot of leaders are aloof watching developments from the sidelines and are strongly opposed to the chairmanship of Isaac Omodewu…

Anybody who is dissatisfied should go to court.

They are in court already. I am aware there are about two or three cases in court in Abuja

As a lawyer, I would believe in whatever the court decides ultimately. For now, the position of the party is that Isaac Omodewu is the chairman. Until the court reverses that, that is what we have to live with.

What has changed? You were initially one of those who opposed his being chairman of the party. You even said no congress produced him as chairman…

It is true I said that. But the leadership of the party went ahead to endorse him. What do I do? Do I kill myself?

Are you saying the leadership endorsed illegality?

It is only the court that can make that pronouncement. I am an aspirant today and have very important things to do. I will rather want to concentrate on my aspiration for now.

The majority of APC leaders and members are just watching things…

Political parties are made up of joiners and free leavers.

Are you asking them to leave the party?

I have not said that. I am only saying everybody has a right to whatever they decide to do.

Do you think APC is making any headway in Oyo in 2023 elections with this crisis?

Time will tell. We all have a duty in the party to ensure things are done properly and we succeed. I have always said I will do my best. We have a duty to ensure a successful outing for the party.

Can Omodewu lead Oyo APC to victory?

You better ask him. It is not for me to answer. I don’t know his capacity. I am not in a position to pass judgment on him.

Bookmakers and even some chieftains of APC have projected that there will be an implosion in the party after the convention. From the happenings in the party, do you see the likelihood of that happening?

By the grace of God, nothing like an implosion will occur. Our leaders, very interestingly and very positively, have agreed on the three most important decisions, that is the national chairmanship, the deputy national chairmanship (North and South). They even conceded that anybody who is not interested or does not want to accept that will be free to stand for election which the party will organise so everybody will have an opportunity to test their popularity. I think that is charitable enough.

On all other positions which have been zoned to one place or the other, I am sure that the party will engage in inclusiveness to ensure we get the solution to all the apparently confusing situations.

Apparently confusing situations’ sounds like a euphemism for crisis which you refused to admit there is…

It appears there is confusion, but I am telling you it is not a thing that will be beyond resolution.

Of all the positions zoned to the South-West, only the slot for a person living with disability is given to the state. Why is that?

I am aware that several Oyo State people in APC are contesting for one position or the other, including the national secretary position which two of us are contesting for and nobody said it was illegal to do that. It is not appropriate to say no big position has been zoned to the state.

The South-West APC governors settled for Senator Iyiola Omisore as national secretary and not you…

I think it is fake news. If it is as sacrosanct as you said, then we would not be allowed to contest or purchase forms. Anybody can wish anything, but the ultimate decision will be made by the party members at the convention.

You also once expressed the fear that with Buhari not on the ballot for APC in 2023, the party will have a big problem. Do you see that playing out in what is going on in APC now?

I have been saying that we should do things right because Buhari who is the point of attraction for millions of Nigerians will no longer be on the ballot. That means that the party must ensure it gets its act right and also get the best candidate available for every position. That will make sense.

Nigerians are probably ploughing the depths of misery under Buhari with the prices of foodstuffs going beyond the reach of the commoners, darkness all over the country, diesel price hike choking industries and further job losses looming. Nigerians may punish your party in 2023 for the hardship they are going through…

Nigerians are sensible enough to know that a lot of the problems we have today are worldwide problems; they are not about Nigeria alone.

How?

The other day, you must have seen a video recording of some Nigerians living in Germany or Brussels who were complaining that the cost of petrol there is more than double the cost of petrol in Nigeria.

Can we compare their currency with our devalued naira?

It is Nigerians there telling us that. I am saying the problem is worldwide about hyper inflation. Even the war between Russian and Ukraine has its own effect on the Nigerian and world economies. I know things are hard and I also feel the effect of the hardship. But I am sensible enough to be able to distinguish between which problems are created by government and which ones are uncontrollable.

Government exists to look at the welfare of the people. What is Buhari doing to cushion the effect for the citizenry?

I am surprised you are asking this question, but I concede that you are a journalist. You are speaking for all of us, ‘we the people’. This government has created more opportunities for Nigerians to have cash in their pockets. So many poverty elimination and reduction programmes that the government has embarked on, spearheaded by the vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs.

Let me also tell you that the last budget of the Federal Government of the PDP on federal roads was about N19billion. Not even a kobo of the money was spent on any road. When Buhari came on board, the first budget on roads was N265 billion and that led to the resumption of construction work on Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Oyo-Ogbomosho expressway and others.

The word ‘resumption’ which you used implies that the previous government started the work which Buhari continued…

But they did not conclude the projects. The roads were abandoned for many years.

Nigerians even now feel they fared better under a PDP government that the current government…

Corrupt people of PDP will always bring up such argument.

It is not the politicians who are saying this. Ordinary people are the ones comparing governments and their welfare under both parties…

I have lived in Nigeria for more than 40 years. So, there is nothing new that anybody wants to tell me because I have been politically conscious and intellectually active to be able to compare and contrast. How do you compare a government that revived the railway to a government that did nothing about it?

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