A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress from Anambra, Chief George Muoghalu, spoke to journalists on the new face of terrorism in the country, including the alleged Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the party and how the APC has fared in terms of internal democracy. Onyebuchi Ezigbo was there. Excerpts:
Are you worried that some of your party leaders are accused of fuelling insecurity through their comments?
I do not agree with you that APC has politicised the issue. I agree that the country appears to be on a standstill on account of the security challenge. For me and a lot of people, the issue of security is not about partisan politics. I look at the security challenge as a national concern that involves everybody.
For instance the Chibok Kidnapp is very heart rendering and worrisome. I am happy that when General Muhammadu Buhari spoke about it, the presidency even acknowledged that a statesman has spoken. So, for me, insecurity is beyond partisan politics; it’s about the survival of the Nigerian nation. That was why I felt very bad when the PDP national publicity secretary tried to trivialise such a very important national issue.
But I am worried and praying like a lot of Nigerians, who are concerned and we will do whatever we can to support government on this issue of security of lives and property which we know is the primary responsibility of government.
Do you think the extension of emergency rule in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno was justified?
The truth of the matter is that the state of emergency we have in place now, to the best of my knowledge, is intended to allow the government have a leeway to expand its security network and send in more military personnel. But considering the point where we are today, I am happy that the president has called for international assistance. So it is not about state of emergency but about government investing more in intelligence and supporting the personnel on the ground so that their moral will be high.
What is your perception of Nyako's controversial memo to the president?
The truth about it is that when somebody at that level raises such issues, my thinking is that we should really not look at who wrote it but at the content of the memo and see to what extent we can address the issues raised. Communication might be a problem because the way I present my issues might be different from yours. People present views in manner peculiar to them.
Most of the people condemning the governor now might not have read the memo in detail. Maybe they just saw the headlines or issues that have political consideration. There are some issues there that we ought to look at and see to what extent it can be beneficial to the nation in the fight against insurgency.
Can you give instances of such issues?
It is not in my place to point those out now. The letter was written to a particular set of people and it is my expectation that they should not be guided by political considerations. We are talking about insecurity and it involves all Nigerians. The other day it was Nyanya Park, so it could be anywhere tomorrow and anybody can be affected. These attacks in Abuja show that we never can say who will be next. So we need to look at our security issues devoid of political considerations.
But his memo appeared to have deepened ethnic tension when he accused Jonathan of committing genocide against the north?
You may be right to some extent and wrong to some extent. When somebody is angry, you may express yourself in a manner that when somebody is reading it, he does not find it right. While I will not sit here and tell you that everything about the memo is right, I can tell you that in the light of the challenge we are facing, there maybe issues in that letter that maybe of national importance and assist the security agencies one way or the other.
Don't forget he is a retired general, onetime deputy chief of defense staff, a sitting two-term governor and an experienced war general. My advice is that the entire memo should not be treated based on one or two paragraphs.
Some members of your party have threatened to leave if a Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket is bought into?
Why I have not bothered myself talking about that issue is because people are free to express their interest and ambition. It is not a party position. The party has not decided.
What if it happens?
We will cross the bridge when we get there. There are people who want to be president and vice-president. There are people looking to be officers in the party and these things are not wished into existence. These are things that will happen. The convention was not about the presidential candidate of the party. It was about putting the party leadership in place because it is a bottom to the top situation, starting from the ward, local government, state and finally the national. Then we know that the party is fully in place.
Once that is done, then we move to the next stage of determining the presidential candidate and I am certain that the party will be conscious that we are in a religious pluralistic society. We are conscious of the average sensibilities of Nigerians; of their wishes because we want to win election. The essence of presenting candidates is that it will help us win election so that what we have been preaching will be put on the table for Nigerians to see.
One of your leaders, Shekarau has defected. Also in Adamawa and Edo state, we had some APC members leaving the party, citing lack of transparency during the congress. Is this not a threat to the party?
I am not speaking for the Edo government or party, or the Kano government or the party or any of these people. But having had the privilege of serving at the highest level of the party for quite some time, there are processes you cannot alter as an individual. One of those processes as at today is that governors are the leaders of the party in their states. Now, I expect that the process of who becomes what is laid down by the national congresses committee. There is a team put in place by the party to handle issues of congress and what I expect a party leader to do is that if you are not happy with the process or what is happening, you protest to this committee through the appeals committee to express your worries.
And I am certain that these worries will be addressed. One problem that you cannot easily address is the problem of ambition. If I have an ambition and I know that Mr. A's presence in this particular place is inimical to my ambition and I don't want to see reason and follow due process, there is no way I can remain there. It is natural. So in that situation, you can't control peoples’ ambition. You can't tell them the limits on which they can operate. More so this is a democratic dispensation; they might want to freely express themselves.
So, as people are leaving, some people are also coming in because people want to go to where they feel their ambition will be accommodated but the important thing for APC as a party is that we stick to our rules and what the constitution says, of one man one vote and internal democracy.
Once we stick to that, when the person leaving gets to where he is going to and finds out that what he is looking for based on his ambition is not realisable, he will go back to the same place he left, realising now that if he follows due process, he can realise his ambition if not now, in the nearest future.
The impression in the South-east, rightly or wrongly, is that APC is more of a party that is a marriage between mainly northern and western politicians?
It cannot be a sectional marriage. In the South-east today, we have an APC governor in Imo State. Some say he won on the platform of APGA, but before then, there was no APC. There was ACN, APGA, CPC and ANPP. All these parties existed and people used the various platforms to actualise their individual ambitions. So the time came for us to say let's use these platforms to create a viable alternative for Nigerians to see.
But you were defeated in Anambra?
No way. I don't want to talk about the Anambra election because the issue is at the tribunal. But the truth of the issues is now playing out today. The realities are playing out. Do free and fair election, we will win any day and time because you are talking of the coalition forces of acceptable people. What we did was to bring our individual followership to form a formidable platform. I ran for governor in Anambra State in 2003. I am the face of ANPP in Anambra State. And I came with my people into APC. Ngige is a sitting senator, he came with his people into APC; he was a governor in the state who was adjudged to have done very well.
Umeh has said there is no way Okorocha would retain Imo State?
That is his wish and he is entitled to it. Tell him I said so. It is his wish. Just as I am wishing that we form government at the centre and win 35 out of 36 states. That is my wish. If you ask me to declare it I will, probably give PDP two states. What we are asking for is INEC to give us a level playing field and sincerity of purpose. Let the security agencies see themselves as Nigerians and serving the nation. They should not see themselves as members of any political party either the one in government or out of government. They should see themselves as unbiased umpires who will drive the process of bringing into place credible leadership in Nigeria
When Jega was appointed, the legacy parties hailed his emergence but suddenly the APC is singing a different song. What changed?
A lot may have changed. Jega came into INEC with a bank of credibility; there is no doubt about that. He was a known national civil right leader, we knew that. A lot of things can change. Someone who was priest before can decide to be a pagan now. It is a matter of choice. A catholic priest protested the law of celibacy after being celibate for 30 years.
A lot may have changed that is why we have born again Christians. They are Christians; they were not pagans. They got to a point they felt they were not doing things right and became born again. A lot of things may have changed. But I still want to give him the benefit of doubt. I believe you cannot refuse a meal until you open it. Anambra State was a total charade they have offered explanations, promises here and there that it won't repeat itself. I am sceptical, worried but I still give him benefit of doubt.