Nigerians suffering because they elected wrong leaders – Oye, APGA chair

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Oye, talks to DIRISU YAKUBU about the chances of his party in the 2023 general elections, vote-buying and other issues

Some political parties have constituted their presidential campaign councils. What is delaying that of the All Progressives Grand Alliance?

Other parties have yet to inaugurate their campaign councils too. Let us do it turn by turn. Let the so-called big parties go first. We are working on it and putting finishing touches to our list. Do not forget that there is a presidential candidate we are going to work with. We will work according to his timetable and readiness. That is what is actually delaying us. When he comes up with his final list and we agree, we will go ahead and inaugurate the council. Even though the constitution of members on the list is a joint effort of the party and the presidential candidate, the list has to come from the candidate. But I can assure Nigerians that we are working together on this.

How do you intend to reach out to Nigerians whose support you need to win elections in 2023?

Our strategies on how we intend to reach out to Nigerians across the states of the federation are not discussed publicly. Our strategies are different. By the time we inaugurate the council, we will roll out our plans. I am very realistic on this. We are going to roll out our modalities very soon. Speaking generally, the situation of the country in 2022 cannot be likened to 2019. It’s a different ball game now because of insecurity. Parties that have decided to do zonal rallies for instance, instead of visiting state by state, probably took that decision because of insecurity. We have to put all that into consideration – factors such as insecurity, state of the economy and what have you. There is no money and the political parties are not funded, but the Independent National Electoral Commission is auditing the political parties it doesn’t fund.

For us in APGA, we are very realistic people. We don’t have much money, but we have to manage what we have, aware that our programmes and manifesto will sell the party. We are a grassroots and people-oriented party. Nigerians will vote for us based on these and based on the fact that APGA is a national party that has the interest of the people at heart.

APGA is seen as the third largest political party in Nigeria but not much is known about its presidential candidate; instead, Peter Obi of the Labour Party appears to be riding on a popular movement, almost in the same fashion as Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu. Why is this so?

Our candidate, Justice Peter Umeadi, is not invisible. My father taught me when I was growing up to cut my cloth according to my cloth and not according to my size. This party doesn’t assume or presume anything; we are a very realistic political party. You did not ask me why we are the third largest political party in the country. So, if we are the third largest political party, which the Presidency didn’t give us, how were we able to make indelible marks during elections? Look at the other opposition parties, like the PDP. Has their presidential candidate ever won an election?  The APC is currently the party in power. If it goes by that kind of rating, it means that it’s only the ruling party APC that should be operating. There are many things that make a political party thick and it is not only the presidency. We have the House of Representatives, state Houses of Assembly, Senate, councillors and local government chairmen. Spread is what makes a political party thick and that’s where we come in, not about social media hype and noise.

Our candidate, Umeadi, is an international legal luminary, a Professor of Law. I can tell you that he has the best credentials among all the candidates. Every Nigerian should be voting for him in this election, but you know what works in this part of the world. What works here is money. Those in power who can press buttons and call the shots rule our society. We are growing gradually and quietly, but the truth of the matter is that APGA is a realistic party.

What is realistic about APGA?

We don’t pretend, we don’t buy votes or engage in various electoral frauds. We work according to our strength and we are not competing with any party. If Peter Obi of the Labour Party is heard of more, that is his luck, but remember it is not the hood that makes the monk. A winner will emerge when votes are cast, collated and counted. Nigerians are left to decide the President of this country. You people are counting results on social media. If not, where else do you people get this information on Peter Obi being the leading candidate? Did you go to places like Tambuwal to conduct polls on how people in that part will vote? I insist that while social media is good; not everything you read there should be taken as the gospel truth.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was similarly popular on social media in 2015 and he went ahead to win the election. What will you say about that?

Many people will be disappointed this time. Quote me anywhere. This is because power is at the grassroots and the people will decide who wins and not social media, because I don’t believe in that.

The role of money in politics has been one of the drawbacks of the nation’s democracy. If money again becomes a factor in 2023, how do you intend to play in the field?

Again, I stand on the fact that power belongs to the people; I don’t believe in money politics. Money won’t be a factor this time because Nigerians are wiser. It is not that money politics does not exist, but it won’t count this time. I am saying that Nigerians should vote for quality people who will give us quality service. If you vote for money, you will suffer the consequences, and that is what is affecting the country today. If you leave the right people and vote for the wrong people because of money, you will suffer the consequences. I believe politics requires money because without money, you can’t do politics or run your family or do anything. What we are saying now is that the game should be played with some degree of decorum and decency. Politicians should stop buying people’s conscience with money. It is not acceptable. Even those who cannot resist this money can collect it and still vote according to their conscience.

Let us vote the right people into power so that our suffering will be reduced, because the hardship is too much. People are suffering without any justifiable reason and that is because they cause it themselves by electing the wrong leaders based on this money politics. So when you go there and vote to install the wrong government, you will suffer the consequences as we are suffering now. I advise the electorate to look before they leap. I advise voters to shun money politics; if they come with money and you cannot resist it, take the money and go ahead to vote for the right candidate.

What exactly does APGA stand for?

APGA is the only political party in Nigeria with a clear-cut ideology. No other political party in Nigeria has a clear-cut ideology. Our party is a welfarist political party. We are a party founded on justice, equity and fair play. If you look at our constitution, you will see that we are committed to the preservation of national unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, conscious of the need to save ourselves and succeeding generations of Nigeria from poverty, disease, ignorance, corruption, discrimination and exploitation, which have constituted stumbling blocks to our nation’s economic and political development. These are the many things the party is committed to and no other political party has exemplified what I have said to you.

And you think other political parties do not have these in their constitutions?

APGA is the only party in Nigeria that has a clean bill of health today. While other parties are haemorrhaging, APGA is healthy. By this, I mean that there are crises in all these parties. They are all struggling to exist. Look at the PDP, which is in total disarray, just because one man, (Nyesom) Wike is holding them to ransom. They can’t even extricate themselves from the entanglement. Look at the APC, fighting each other over who is healthy and who is not. Do you hear all that in APGA? Our candidate is young, energetic, cerebral, committed, focused and visionary.

I know it is high time our people stopped voting sentimentally. We should vote for quality men and women, who will give us quality service and save our nation from this current state of stagnation. This country is stagnated, nothing is working. We need to move Nigeria forward by working assiduously to produce a government of the people by the people and for the people. That is democracy! If we fail to follow these three tenets of democracy, we will not get it right. Let us return power to the people, let them take charge and produce candidates that will serve them patriotically and serve them with love, dignity and reverence, not the calibre of leaders we have, who are egocentric, self-centred and don’t think of any other person other than themselves. All of us are suffering and feeling the heat; the rich, the poor, the small, the big. Insecurity affects everybody.

Apart from his security strategy and management of the economy, which other areas are you left unimpressed by the Buhari-led Federal Government?

The government is not proactive and it is prone to avoidable errors of judgment. There is nothing wrong in making a mistake, but as a leader, you are expected to learn from past mistakes and prepare for the future. Take for instance the long fuel queues everywhere just because the Abuja-Lokoja Road is flooded. Why can’t the government find a solution to it since they know it’s a perennial problem? It can be solved. America suffers from various natural disasters such as tornadoes, storms and all others, but they are still surviving with minimal discomfort because they have already made emergency arrangements to address these challenges. This is what advancement in science and technology can provide for you. On the contrary, in Nigeria, we don’t prepare for anything. We must stop this kind of attitude. What stops them from stockpiling enough fuel across the Lokoja area before the rains to serve people in Abuja and environs since they know this happens every year? After several years of governance in Nigeria, it is the same experience, and this is very sad.

When will the country move forward?

Somebody is not qualified to contest an election, but he still goes ahead. The security agencies are there doing nothing. Take for instance what happened the other day. The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, is fighting one man from Yobe State to get back a seat he left for something higher. Is that not an insult? Why should you contest for Presidency and then turn the next day to contest for Senate? Politicians should stop all these. Once you have participated in the primaries of a particular office, you cannot and should never contest for any other position. That should be the law, but in Nigeria today, a person in one party will jump to another when he doesn’t get what he wants.

In all these, is there something the people can do?

The people should be more forceful and give the nation a new trajectory in leadership. They should silence all these impostors and noise makers and take back our nation; otherwise generations unborn will not forgive us. I feel for a lot of Nigerians because many people are begging to feed and survive daily, but if the nation is working, a lot of these people won’t beg for food. Look at the kind of leadership we have. Everything is based on who you know. It’s either you are my brother or sister, acute nepotism. This country is beyond that. This is a country of over 350 linguistic groups. We must get out of this present decadence and think properly on how to develop our country.

Some election observers recently raised issues about the possible compromise of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System. Are you in any way worried about the possibility of that happening?

I have the assurance that INEC will stick to the use of the BVAS. I am one of those that believe that the BVAS will work and INEC will use it. It worked in Anambra State and it is a deliberate design by INEC to give credibility to our elections. It is a very bold move. Let Nigerians not resort to rumour mongering and give INEC the benefit of the doubt on this. There was the BVAS in Edo State, which aided the incumbent governor’s victory

INEC has reminded political parties of the need to focus on issue-based campaigns. How much political education are you doing on this with your candidates?

Issue-based campaigns have been a part of us. What INEC is doing is that it’s talking to political rascals and we don’t belong in that group. APGA has always believed in free, fair and credible elections. That was why our primary election was devoid of any rancour. We play the game according to the rules. That’s why we believe that the candidates we chose will align too, because we gave them a form to fill and in that form, we extracted a commitment from them that they would run issue-based campaigns in line with the Electoral Act and the constitution of the party. We have very credible and decent candidates, who will not resort to any form of violence in the coming election. So, what INEC is doing by all those signing the agreement is not targeted at APGA; it’s targeted at all those who call themselves big parties who do not abide by the rules. I assure Nigerians that in 2023, our political party is going to make a very strong impact in the elections.

It is claimed that Peter Obi once vowed never to leave APGA but he did and quit the party for the PDP. When he made up his mind to leave the PDP, rather than return to APGA, he went to the Labour Party. Does this have any implication on his presidential aspiration?

Whatever happens to a man is the result of his destiny. He has made his decision and that is it.

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