2023: Why old politicians won’t allow youths rule the country – Nabena, ex-APC spokesman

From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

Former Spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hon. Yekini Nabena, has always been blunt in his views about anything.

Little wonder in this chat with Sunday Sun, Nabena did not only admonish his kinsman and former President Goodluck Jonathan, not to dent his reputation by falling to the trap to contest the 2023 presidential election under APC, but also frowned at the continued election of ex-governors as APC chairmen.

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He speaks on other political issues,  especially as it concerns his party, the APC, what Nigerian youths must do to wrest power from the older politicians, among others.

What is the assurance to party members that APC will not implode after the convention?

Nigerians don’t need to be worried about postponing the national convention of our party. The chairman, Caretaker Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni, is not relenting. You can see that each time we postpone our convention, a good thing is about to happen. Although there are no plans to postpone the March 26 date, I can also tell you that two governors are about to join the APC. Let me emphasize that two serving PDP governors will soon join the APC before or after our convention or latest before the general elections. Resolving the zoning arrangements is not a big deal. I also want to dismiss the speculations that our party will implode after our convention. It will not happen. All these speculations are fuelled by people with selfish interests. They are coming from people who want to remain relevant in the party. Most of the persons making noise and predicting implosion doom for the party are those that want to be carried along. Haven been with the party in government, they don’t want to be left out. Some of them want to make noise to be part of the government and to be on the sharing table. The party will not implode after our convention. One thing you need to understand is that in every exchange of batons, there is bound to be some crisis because whoever is coming is bound to upset the status-quo by coming with his own people. People who want to belong at all costs are the ones responsible for the impression in many quarters that the party is in serious crisis. Come to think of it, APC is a moving train that nobody can stop. That two governors are joining the APC from the PDP is a confirmation that the ruling party is a moving train. I still maintain that there is no reason to be afraid of anything like the implosion of the party before, during or after our convention. Whoever that is nursing such thought should perish it because it is not going to happen. Yes, I understand the fears of those that want to make noise and be carried along because haven been in government, they don’t want to see themselves outside the government. They want to cause crisis so that they can come to the sharing table to continue benefitting. Otherwise, if they feel so popular, why can’t they float a political party where they will exercise overwhelming influence? But because they want to be on the sharing table, they decided to stay with the APC and cause confusion.

Who is actually in charge of the APC, President Buhari, the governors or the Caretaker Committee?

The President is undoubtedly the leader of our party and should expectedly have an overwhelming element of control in the affairs of the party. Members of the APC Progressive Governors Forum are also strong stakeholders and do meet from time to time to discuss and take a stand on issues concerning the party. The Caretaker Committee, for me, oversees the day-to-day running of the party. In most cases, that is why it has been easy to make acceptable decisions.

Judging by the agreement to swap the national offices between South and North, how sure are you that the presidential ticket will not tear the Southerners apart, especially micro-zoning it?

I don’t think so and I don’t see the reason it should tear them apart. I know that ambitions will certainly clash but I always believe in the supremacy of the party. Once the party makes a decision on the zone to get the ticket and even decide on micro-zoning it, everybody at that particular point will have to sacrifice their individual ambitions in compliance with the decision of the party and support the anointed person. We must always know that it is only God that gives power because no single individual can make himself president of this country or elsewhere in the world. Anybody can get angry over the decision of the party, but will be left with no other option than to comply. Everybody must queue to join the moving train. However, let me say that the permutations of the viability of which zone is competent enough to produce the next president is better discussed when the party takes the decision on it. We will cross the bridge when we get to the river. We must learn to take one step at a time, not rushing it. We have to finish our convention and go into the primary before knowing which zone will produce the next presidential candidate.

What is giving you the confidence that APC will retain the presidential seat beyond 2023 especially with the volume of crisis rocking the party?

Let me reiterate what I said earlier that there is no crisis in the APC. I should, however, admit that even in a very small family, there is still little misunderstanding. The noise many are misinterpreting as a crisis is coming from people wanting to belong. On your question on confidence, I can tell you that APC has worked very hard and we are trusting Nigerians to still vote for us massively as they did previously. If there is crisis in APC as many claimed, how come it performed very well in the recently concluded bye-elections? APC performed well even in a state like Cross River where they believed that the governor is a pushover. What I can tell you for free is that PDP will not pose any challenge that will be of serious threat to the APC in the 2023 general elections.

Did anyone among those that have declared interest to contest the 2023 presidential election come to you as a surprise?

My concern is that most of them are people who have gotten to the limit of their political career. Some have been ministers, governors, and legislators with the desperation that if they don’t do it now, they may not have the opportunity to do it again. Somebody like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has become everything, but age is catching up with him. It does not call for desperation but don’t forget that everybody has his own style of doing things. All I advise them is to know that it is only God that gives power.

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Did the recurring issue of Jonathan contesting with even the recent report that APC will give him an automatic ticket come to you as a surprise?

This is time for him to speak up if he is man enough. He should graduate beyond people speaking for him. Nigeria has passed the stage that he wants the ticket delivered at his doorstep. However, if you ask me I will still say that it is not right or ideal for Jonathan to contest again. It will be so selfish of Jonathan to contest again just to do a tenure because it will be a disservice to the South. In fact, I don’t know what Jonathan forgot at Aso Rock that he is coming back to pick there by contesting as president. What is he going to fix in four years that he could not fix in six years? He will not have time to solve security, economy and political challenges facing the country today. He should resist the temptation, be the Goodluck and statesman everybody knows him for and not come out to dent his little reputation.

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Is it true that Timpre Sylva will be contesting for president in 2023?

I have not heard about him contesting, but if Mr President anoints him to succeed him, so be it. He is eminently qualified to contest, having been tested in one way and the other. However, only God gives power and as a party man, I will abide by the decision of my party if he emerges as our party’s candidate.

How would you rate the Caretaker Committee after being shrouded in one controversy or the other?

Anybody who claims that the Caretaker Committee didn’t help the party must be an enemy. What people must know is that approaches to leadership differ. No two leaders can operate on the same frequency. APC has recorded many successes under this Caretaker Committee. It is not easy to drag sitting governors into running a party. The Caretaker Committee chairman is a target-driven, straightforward, peaceful person. Look at the calibre of sitting governors and politicians he has attracted to the party.

Are you saying that the performance of the Caretaker Committee has justified the sacking of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC?

It is wrong to claim that the performance of the Caretaker Committee has justified the sacking of Oshiomhole. But you ought to know that once there is a gang up against someone, it may be impossible to survive it. The problem with Oshiomhole was very simple. Most of the governors facing serious fear of unknown for the 2023 elections were behind his travails by ganging up against him. Oshiomhole is an independent-minded person who cannot be easily intimidated.

What is your impression about those aspiring for the position of the National Chairman of the party?

Having tried past governors as our chairmen in the past from the beginning of the party, I will suggest that the party must change that pattern and try something different instead of the old format of appointing former governors. Most of the former governors have heavy baggage with their cases in EFCC or ICPC, including most of the current aspirants. We should rather go for an aspirant with integrity, sound and focused person, and good enough to drive the party. However, if the party leaders insist on the old style, I will gladly obey as a party man.

Are you planning to be part of the about to be constituted NWC?

It is zoning that will determine where my political pendulum will swing to. Everything will depend on the party’s zoning arrangements. And the zoning will decide my next move. However, I want to emphasise that fairness and equity demand that the party’s leadership should consider other states like Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom and Delta in micro-zoning the positions for the South-south. Edo State has produced party chairmen, Cross River has also produced National Vice Chairman twice in the person of Hillard Eta, the same with Rivers who has produced Assistant National Secretary twice in the persons of Ambassador Ngofia and Victor Giadom.

Will you support the call for a paradigm shift from the elders to youths for the 2023 presidency?

We should be looking for independent youths that will not go cap in hand to beg the old politicians to lend them the required fund. No old politician will bankroll the youths with his funds to retire him. If only the youths can reduce the money they spend on frivolities like clubbing and merriments, buying nomination forms and even funding their elections will not be a problem. They need to be independent minded if they will stand the chance to wrest power from the old politicians.

What is the level of peace in the APC Bayelsa State chapter?

As far as I am concerned, I don’t think there is a problem in Bayelsa State APC. I hear people claim that there is faction, but I can tell you that there is none. You said that David Lyon is not in the same camp with Sylva, but who is Lyon in the APC? Yes, he was given a governorship ticket, but anybody the party fielded would have won that election. If we have factions as you claimed, do we have two party chairmen in the state? We rather have people who feel they can get the position through the court to impose their brothers on others. They cannot succeed in their plans. Before Lyon claims to be a leader, how much has he contributed to the party at the centre. Leadership is not about collecting sitting allowances from the party without contributing anything to promote the state chapter of the party. I challenge him to come and contest again to test his popularity.

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