Mr. Fouad Oki, a former vice chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) , emerged as a factional chairman of the party in the state last Saturday. In this interview with WALE ELEGBEDE, he speaks on the reason for the parallel congress that saw his emergence and the need for internal democracy in the APC, among other issues
What is your take on the state of the of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State looking at the outcome of last Saturday’s state congress of the party?
There is no doubt that there are frictions and crisis in our party. Most of our people are not satisfied with the state of the party prior to Saturday. Our commitment has always been that there is the need for reconciliation. Several attempts have been made for reconciliation, but it was met with stiff resistance. This is partly because those who are making efforts to reconcile are actually part of the problem. In going forward, our immediate task is to ensure that all members of the party are genuinely reconciled. Our mission is to reconcile all the members of the party.
Some of those who emerged at the state congress held at the Lagos APC secretariat described your congress held at Lagos Airport Hotel as a charade and waste of time. How would you react to that?
Whatever you were told is just individual opinion and I may not comment on that. The organ of the party that will determine that is the National Executive Committee (NEC) and by extension the National Working Committee (NWC). You may want to look at the constitution of the party and I am sure that what we did on Saturday at the Lagos Airport was in strict compliance with the guidelines for the conduct of the congress as stipulated in the constitution of our party.
There are insinuations that the parallel congress you and your group held and your eventual emergence as the chairman of the state chapter of the party was an affront against the leadership of the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu…
I think this question is essentially an opinion to sensationalise headlines and it is understandable. But let me set the tone right. What we are talking about is constitutionality and otherwise, nothing personal with anyone. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is my leader and I have a special relationship with him. You can’t imagine the level of my relationship with him, but the issue here is not about that, but on constitutionality and otherwise. What is the position of the Constitution of Nigeria? What is the position of the constitution of our party and the Electoral Act? What is the requirement of the guidelines for the conduct of the congress? We must interrogate all these before we form our opinion about what happened last Saturday?
There are insinuations that some chieftains of the party are using you in a proxy war against the leadership of the party in the state?
Again, an individual opinion! I am 59 years and if someone or some people are still teleguiding me, then something is wrong with me. The issue here is clear for all to see, it is simply about constitutionality and rule of law.
Can you elucidate on the constitutionality or otherwise that you are harping on?
The Constitution of Nigeria listed local governments in the country and they are 774, Lagos State has 20 local governments. Yes, sometimes in 2002, Lagos State government created local governments. The APC constitution also recognises the fact that only local governments duly listed in the Constitution of Nigeria would be recognised in the party’s process. Therefore, congresses into party offices can only hold in Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recognised local governments and wards. We all know that any rule or regulation that is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will remain null and void to the extent of its inconsistency. So, what we have here is a situation where the guidelines for the conduct of congresses clearly say that congresses shall hold in INEC recognised ward.
In the case of Lagos State, it is 245 wards. Any congress, which holds contrary to that regulation, you know what the implications would be. For us, we have held all the congresses in absolute compliance with the law and its guidelines for the conduct of the congresses, 245 wards, and 20 local governments. The issue is this; when we demanded that congresses must hold in compliance with guidelines and extant regulations and rules, we were told by those who want to play God that, no, it should hold in 377 wards. We then raised an observation with the chairman of the state congress committee that these things cannot be done this way.
Because of that, we were not just excluded from collecting forms, which we paid for and have the tellers of payment, we were also forcibly barred from entering Plot 106 ACME road, Ikeja, the party’s secretariat. Now, you may want to ask if we went through the necessary gamut. The answer is that we did. We sent a petition to the Appeal Committee and they scheduled out their sitting arrangement. On the day they are supposed to attend to us, some people created commotion shooting teargas into the hall where members of the committees are. They took to their heels and never to return again. We also made another effort during the local government congress, but met the same brick wall from them.
Another interesting scenario is that the same set of people, who refused to conduct wards and local governments’ congresses in 245 wards and 20 local governments, reverted on the same day and venue of the local governments to elect national delegates in 20 local governments. Last Friday, the committee that was sent from the national headquarters to conduct congresses held a stakeholders meeting with everybody wherein we were all told that congresses can only hold in 20 local governments. What do you now find is that those who have elected delegates to the state congress in 57 local governments and 377 wards resorted to now writing out names of delegates into 20 local governments. Maybe you want to ask how do you convert delegates that were elected on the basis of 377 wards to come and hold state congress in 245 wards. I think people should ask the question and the answer will show where the legality and constitutionality of this exercise or otherwise.
Can your group be addressed as a faction of Lagos APC and where is your party’s secretariat?
We are not a faction of APC. We are the authentic party as of the moment, known in law and the constitution of our party. Because we are non-violent and I used to tell people that no human endeavour is worth fighting for to the extent that an arm will get maim talk less of life getting lost. We are not given to violence and we have chosen to move away from ACME secretariat because someone has gone to drive away officers sent from Abuja because the property belongs to him. Therefore, we have chosen to temporarily relocate the state secretariat to somewhere around Surulere. We will notify the world in the coming days of the permanent secretariat.
Don’t you think this issue will have implications on the fortunes of the party if it is not resolved before the 2019 general elections?
There are bound to be issues and differences and they would be ultimately be resolved. That is the hallmark of democracy, not violence. But the issue here is about the rule of law and constitutionality of events and process. We expect that the national secretariat, at the appropriate time, and I hope in not too distant future would look into this. So, the issue is not about personality or wanting to be something, but it is about standing for which is right. If we say we are democrats we must also be seen as defenders of rule of law and sticklers to constitutionality. The law is the law, everybody must obey the law. You cannot either as an individual or as a group put yourself above the law, it will not hold.
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