Senator John Akpanudoedehe is a former Senator and a one-time Minister of State in the Federal Capital Territory FCT. He was also the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in the heated 2011 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State.
In this interview with OMEIZA AJAYI, he speaks on several national issues including what he alleges as the faulty reward system of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC which he said has caused the party a lot of damage. Excerpts:
What is your response to the wave of defections from your party?
It is unfortunate that the last leadership of the party in their own wisdom had given this crisis the oxygen to continue to increase. The former party chairman handed over a party with more than 20 states with parallel executives.
In Akwa Ibom State for instance, for all the four years and upon all the petitions we wrote to John Oyegun, they did not open one. They relied on rumours; they relied on what they wanted to rely on and even when they made mistakes, they didn’t want to admit. I want to talk about my state, the party did not give us leadership to listen to. They took decisions based on what they heard from one side.
What are the chances of your party in Akwa Ibom and the entire South-South come 2019?
If we field the right candidates, we are sure to win. The APC campaigned based on the mantra of change but if you now made it to power and also through the back door threw power back to the people you were changing, you make mockery of your change because one, they cannot campaign against the government in which they served. Like in 2015 in Akwa Ibom, the APC threw up a candidate who was the Secretary to the State Government, SSG. What was he going to campaign on?
Would he have been campaigning to probe the government in which he served or that he was going to remove the party which he was part of? It is like probing yourself and it must resonate with the people. If you are doing something and the people still see you as the same person, what is the difference?
Every politics is local. I am not saying that new defectors should not be allowed to fly our flags.
You see, I did not want to talk about this because people would say, well, that is politics. We fought a government and we handed over power to that same government. That is why the party chairman (Oshiomhole) is crying now.
What exactly are you bringing to the table?
We are talking about changing the system. For instance, Akwa Ibom has collected more money than many Niger Delta states. Akpabio collected nearly N5 trillion and there is nothing to show for it, but our money is being celebrated elsewhere, outside Akwa Ibom State.
So, I am bringing the change that we are talking about. Changing these people who have destroyed our state. If you are going to replace PDP, you cannot replace PDP with PDP just because you have come to APC. These people were in government. What are they going to bring different from what they did? So, changing parties does not throw up alternatives. I was in the PDP and I left it when it was juicy, when there were killings. How can you be in a state where over 500 people were unaccounted for and no one has been brought to book?
I actually created the opposition in Akwa Ibom, the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN. We won elections but they changed results. In 2011, we won two senatorial seats, seven House of Representatives but they swapped the results. These same people crossed over to our party and said they were going to win but they have not even won one councillorship seat.
What is your response to the issue of zoning?
Zoning is a PDP thing. In Cross River and Akwa Ibom, Etiebet did not complete his tenure; Isong did not complete his tenure and Akpan Isemin as well. In Uyo, Obong Victor Attah came and completed the tenure of Akpan Isemin; in Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, Akpabio came and completed the tenure of Etiebet who was only three months in office; then the present governor is completing the tenure of Clement Isong who served only four years. So, if for that sentiment, you want to talk about zoning, we are fair, but another thing is that the main reason why zoning was propagated was because of other smaller ethnic groups. You can see Udom Emmanuel is an Ibibio man like me and Nsima Ekere. So, if you are doing zoning, it should be the turn of Eket, Ibiono etc. But if you still zone it to Ibibio, the aim of zoning would have been defeated because for the PDP, they said it was to achieve peace. But we as APC, we do not have zoning. If you want to start zoning in APC, whoever wins, zoning starts. But that is not the point I am making. My point is that when you are going to take power from the opposition, you cannot play to their sentiments because they will take advantage of that. If you go with zoning, you cannot defeat Udom because where I come from, the Uyo senatorial district has 1.2 million votes; where Udom and Isima come from, they have 400, 000 votes and where Akpabio comes from, they have over 500, 000 votes. So, would zoning be the right strategy?
Despite your pioneering role in mobilising the opposition in the state it seems you have been pushed out, what happened?
I was the founder of the party. It was the party that betrayed me. John Oyegun betrayed me by selling the party to the PDP, those who came in two weeks to the party primaries. That is one of the problems we are still having today in the party when he was saying after all, without the PDP, the APC would not have won, making reference to those PDP people who came into the party.
I am not saying people should not come into the party but let things be done openly and rightly so that we can throw up good candidates that can win elections for the party. In the last congresses, I bended for them so that we could have peace. When they pocketed the congress committee, after all the peace we made, they went and changed all we did. John Oyegun led NWC with Osita Izunaso gave the congress committee to Nsima even when they could not do the congress because they were afraid and we kept meeting for two nights before we came to a consensus to use the 2014 list.
It was not me who brought the idea, but they threw it up for peace to reign. But when they left that place, they moved the committee to Port Harcourt and then to a hotel in Wuye in Abuja. They wrote the results and changed everything we did but we needed to keep quiet because we expected that the leadership of the party that was coming would listen to us. When we met at the South-South caucus, it was agreed that the congresses should be rancour free and if you go and argue now, what they will tell the president, I will not be there to defend myself and nobody will be there to defend me before the president. So, I kept quiet. Keeping quiet is not a weakness. I am trying to show people that I am not what they paint me to be.
In 2015 when they were sharing offices, they went to national newspapers and said I was playing PDP. They were lying but the truth would always come out. I asked them how can you now come to love the party and the president more than me? When I brought the party and when I was campaigning for the president here, I was an outcast. They were enjoying because they thought that Jonathan would win. That time, they could not mention Buhari’s name but what shocked me is that the people who were actually against Buhari are the ones shouting ‘Halleluya’ today. You cannot be more catholic than the Pope.
For instance, if the former chairman of the APP, Don Etiebet loved Buhari that much, why did he abandon him just to become governor? Is that not betrayal? These were the people whose government charged me for treason, murder, arson. There was nothing they did not do when I brought opposition to the state. They are the ones now singing Halleluya. And with their evil collaborators, they rewarded them with offices and they now rally round them because of the contracts from NDDC. I have no such contracts to give out, even though financing our activities and campaigns will never be a challenge but the party that I worked for has now given my opponents power to box me the way they want. They tied my hands and legs behind me and allowed them to be boxing me. Yet, the characters involved have failed to make any meaningful impact. People who never talked about Buhari or the APC, they are now the ones with public funds, they give them security and the army to do whatever they want.
This is a party I funded single-handedly before they came in. I bought all the forms for everyone when Buhari was like a dark horse in the South-South states. What an irony of life? They are the ones who are my accusers today. When they were there enjoying the PDP, I was not there. When Buhari was difficult to mention. I remember when I used to mention Buhari and they would shout me down. And because they have access to security and the Villa, what they are going to say about you, you won’t be able to defend yourself. It is unfortunate.
Oshiomhole in his acceptance speech also talked about APC’s faulty reward system and….
You can see, that is from the National Chairman and even as a former governor, he knows. That is what has given hope to some of us and that is why a lot of these defections under Adams Oshiomhole will not fly. I do not think that they thought it out well because he (Oshiomhole) is appealing and he is bringing a message that actually is our message. It was just like when the wife of the president was talking and some people kicked against her. This is why I believe that it is difficult to beat Buhari because the message the chairman is sending is good. One thing is that I have been a victim of lies just like the president because good people are always victims of lies. By the time the message is sent properly, the people will change. The people ganging up against Buhari were the same people he removed from government and because they are no longer enjoying free money, they will lie and spin something against you.
When they lost in 2015, they told the public that they would have won but that I played PDP. I asked them one question. PDP? The candidate of our party did not vote in that election in his village, according to his testimony at the tribunal. They said the election was rigged. Was I the one who rigged the election?
And thank God I have been vindicated. The party has no influence over appointment of ministers but when they came home they said I tore the agreement. Something that I did not do. They sold lies against me. I brought the story of Jesus Christ and I said no, I do not want to compete with my Lord.
We are people who stand against what is not right and so people who gang up against us are evil people and if you do not check it, they will triumph. If not, how can I be the originator of opposition and a member of the merger committee that formed this party, and the same party I formed would not have confidence in me but just to go and bring people at the dying minute, two weeks to the primaries to give them tickets? Nobody even had the decency to discuss with me or to say, don’t buy form because we are not going to give you the ticket. Why? Was it not money? We resorted to prayers and at the end of the day God has removed John Oyegun.