Alhaji Tijjani Tumsah is the interim national secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with DONALD OJOGO AND BODE GBADEBO, he clears the air on the skirmishes that characterised some state congresses of the party across the country and the plans for the maiden national convention of the party.
The maiden APC convention is by the corner; how prepared is your party for the event: We are very prepared. We are now at the conclusive stage of the state congresses. We started from the wards up to local governments and we are at the conclusive stage of the state congresses. The party is having a meeting next week (tomorrow) to consider the outcome of these congresses and fix a date for the convention.
But the outcome of some of the congresses are not pleasant enough, there were skirmishes and crises in some of the states: Sometimes the skirmishes are contrived and sometimes they are genuine and the genuine ones are being addressed by appeal panels across the states. There is no way you will have a congress that there wouldn’t be acrimony. Good to say that in our own set-up, we were able to carry most people along because the initial stage of all the congresses starting from the ward to the local government started with the stakeholders’ meeting together to establish their rules of engagement for the congresses. SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>>>>
Where there was a need for contest, that was done, and where there was a need to avoid acrimonies arising from such contests by way of either consensus on the positions where affirmations were done later or votes were casted, that was also done.
Some of the processes of the congresses in some states have led to the defection of some of your key members, like in Adamawa and Edo just of recent. Do you really care about these happenings as a party
We really care. We are really absolutely livid but I must separate the two issues. First, the Adamawa defection happened before the congresses because of the political calculations of certain individuals in the context of the APC.
You probably cannot stop a politician, who is bound by a certain ambition, from leaving a party where he probably doesn’t see a way of having a clear advantage of what he thinks. APC like you know is a merger of parties, the first of its kind anywhere in Africa for a long time.
And in Nigeria, it is a merger based on delivering to the public good governance, rule of law, and the likes. However, it is a trying period for the Nigerian politician to be able to sacrifice whenever it is required like the leaders of the parties in the first instance, who come together to form a new party that is now APC.
The convention will take place in a matter of weeks, are you applying the zoning principle to the party offices
Like I said, the party’s interim executive committee is going to meet next week (tomorrow), I am sure that might be one of the things we are going to discuss. But we are going to apply a situation where voting must be done for any office that is going to be available to the contestants. We believe all these should be done and that is how it is going to be.
Lately there have been calls for or against whether the current interim executive committee should transmute to a substantive National Executive Committee (NEC). Is this part of the things you are going to discuss on Tuesday
The issue of transmutation has never been on the table and it is not part of our agenda. The party believes in establishing structures that are democratic; democratic in sense that offices are contested for, offices are occupied legally and democratically.
The rumour mills are agog with stories of who will be the presidential candidate of APC and who will not in 2015. This might be heating up the polity, what is your party doing about this?
I am glad you said rumours. You can hardly do anything about rumours, and rumours are just rumours. Unless the party sits and decides and goes ahead with the processes of getting these things done, they remain rumors.
Are you saying that both the party offices and the presidential ticket are open to anybody from any geopolitical zone
Yes it is open for now. The party has not decided on the matter yet, so for now the offices are open.
Recently, one of your party leaders and founding member, Femi Fani-Kayode visited the Aso Rock Villa and said the Muslim-Muslim ticket being contemplated by the APC for 2015 is dangerous for the party; what is your comment on this
I met Fani-Kayode sometime back casually but I don’t see him at our leadership meetings.
Are you saying he is not a leader in the party?
I don’t think he is a leader.
Okay, he is a member of the party…
He probably has a membership card, I don’t know.
Do you consider his statement as consequential or not?
It is an opinion and it is a heavily-made statement that should be weighed carefully just as the Christian-Christian ticket. So, it is just an opinion he expressed and you cannot begrudge him. There are a lot of issues available on the political space now and people can make comments.
Without prejudice to APC, do you foresee the workability of a Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim ticket in Nigeria of today
I don’t have an opinion. For you to make any comment on a possible workability will suggest that you a seer, which I am not.
The APC has insisted that it is an alternative to the PDP’s ‘misrule’, do you consider yourself potent enough to dislodge PDP from power
We are very potent because we are a party for Nigerians. We are providing Nigerians with an alternative arrangement. This arrangement is where a government will be responsive to Nigeria’s security, economic progress and to also better the lives of all citizens. Better life will not happen without security, ideas and continuous purposeful leadership and that is what APC is all about.
Looking at the disposition of APC regarding paradigm shift, do you also consider generational shift in leadership in terms of providing opportunity for younger ones in the party?
That is the basics for the formation of APC. The basics are to provide change. Change in how deal with gender issues, security issues and economic issues. These things we are serious about and we have come together to provide the platform for Nigerians for them to make the ultimate choice and the choice is theirs. We will do it Insha Allah.
Talking about APC and 2015, what readily comes to mind is whether Buhari will run, whether Tinubu will run, whether Atiku and others will run or not. Can the party summon the courage to advice people like Buhari or Tinubu to only provide leadership and stay off the presidential race
The people you mentioned are leaders in this party and for every decision we take, we also involve all the strata of the party. So, we will be courageous enough to discuss this matter openly and superior argument will suffice.
In specific terms, what do you think the PDP needed to do that it has not done that the APC intends to do differently
We intend to provide first and foremost, the security for this nation. We also intend to provide purposeful leadership and all Nigerians will be on the same page as regards governance. We are not intent on being clueless because we will make an undertaking with Nigerians on where we are going to go and how to get there and Nigerians will have the opportunity gauge us as we go along.
Talking about security provision, we have a situation at our hands as regards the Chibok girls’ abduction and foreign powers have offered to help. Some people believe that the APC is only fond of condemning the government and not helping in anyway
APC is not condemning the government. What we are saying is that these are things that should not be allowed to happen in Nigeria under a purposeful leadership. Nigeria as a country is a member of the committee of nations and we are supposed to project an image of protection for our citizens.
But you can’t have a country where over 200 girls are abducted from a school and live goes on; it doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. Only in Nigeria that the president has the ability to do other things considered more important than securing the lives of these young girls. So, we did not condemn the PDP government, but we condemn the lack of empathy over the situation at hand and the lack of action.
Given the offer of assistance by some foreign countries to rescue the girls, does the APC consider this as a welcome development
Any development that will lead to the recovery of our girls, any development that will ensure security for Nigerians is 100% welcome