Abia State Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance[APGA] Alex Oti, gives thumps up for the anti. Corruption war of the president administration which targets just its immediate predecessor. Oti who spoke to journalists in Abuja Thursday, also narrates his experience so far, at the election petition tribunal, saying that the Independent National Electoral Commission[INEC] has refused to make electoral materials available for inspection. Our Assistant Editor[North], CHUKS EHIRIM, was there.
Q-Ordinarily one would have asked why you are here. You are an APGA person. are your chairman and other party leaders aware that you are coming to APC?
ANS-Well, you have already asked the question. First of all, I need to tell you why I am here. I am here to felicitate with my senior friend and my daddy, the National of APC[ Chief John Odigie Oyegun] who turned 76. Yes, I am not a member of APC but I keep my friends and I have a lot of friends. He turned 76 yesterday[Wednesday] and I have to felicitate with him, to which him many happy returns and more years. He is looking younger, you can not believe that he is 76.
That is the grace that God has given him. I also think that he has done a great job as the National Chairman of this party. And I believe that in politics we should look beyond party. Once you have friends, you have people who share the share the same ideals with you, you keep your relationship. That is why I am here.
Q-The tribunal is on going . What confidence do you have in it as a petitioner?
ANS-I will try not to talk so much about the tribunal. You know there is something that has to do with prejudice, subjudice and others. But I think the tribunal is doing well. I believe that the conduct of the tribunal has been well, I have very great hope that we will get justice. And that is what is important. Because once you get justice, every other thing is secondary. Justice is that somebody won an election and that person will be declared the winner. If somebody did not win an election and he is declared the winner, that is injustice and it will be addressed at the tribunal .That is why I said I believe we will get justice at the tribunal.
Q- There were speculations before and after the election, that you wanted to join APC. Could you clear the air on this?
ANS- Those reports, I believe, are in the realm of speculation. I never told anybody that I was leaving my party or that I was joining APC. But as I told you, I have a lot of friends. I even have friends in PDP. That I am in APGA doesn’t mean we will no longer be friends. Today I am here to felicitate with the National Chairman of APC . So those reports are in the realm of speculation.
I am a member of APGA, I ran election under APGA and I remain a member of APGA.
Q-Is there any way APGA and APC are co-operating with regards to your case at the tribunal?
ANS-There can’t be. The case at the tribunal is in the remit of the judges. I believe that if APC has a case, APC will be pursuing its case just like APGA. There is no such relationship. Like I said, we are two different parties but there are some areas where we agree .WE agree that change is important in this country, we agree that things should be done better, we agree that corruption should be routed out of our system. We agree that infrastructural decay should be a thing of the past. We agree that we can use our resources to make life better for our people. We agree on all those. So we are not like an opposition that is diametrically opposed to each other. No we are far from that.
Q-Some people are thinking that the leadership squabbles that you have in APGA at the National level and some people who felt that you came from the blues and snatched the party’s Governorship ticket from them, that they are sabotaging your efforts in collating your evidence for the tribunal case. How do you react to this?
ANS=First of all there are no leadership squabbles in APGA. There may have been in the past but all those have been resolved . I am sure that you followed the party’s convention that happened not long ago. You noticed that the former Chairman of the party had handed over to a new Chairman. And I am not aware that there is any disagreement. That is the first thing.
Now, your comment about coming from the blues. I do not think that that is a fair comment. Yes, APGA dose have its constitution and once you are a member, you are equal. With the person who joined about hundred years ago, if there is something like that. That’s the APGA Constitution. So at the time I joined, I contested the primaries, I won and the party has supported me.
In terms of witnesses, I don’t think we have any problems with witnesses. In fact, in the last couple of days, right from Monday up till today[Thursday ] and I believe up till tomorrow, we have been fielding witnesses. We have had a lot of witnesses come to testify. So I don’t think we have any problem in that .
Q Talking about the anti-corruption fight which you said your party agrees with,there are pressures in some quarters that the current government at the National level should not limit that fight to its immediate predecessor, that rather, it should be extended to those who were in government many years before former President Goodluck Jonathan. What is your take?
ANS-Well, it is the decision of the current President and if he says he wants to limit it to the immediate past administration, I believe he has his reasons. He also has a lot of work to do. So he cant spend the next four years probing administrations even before the Nigerian civil war. There must be a time line. It must cut at some point, so that he is not distracted. So I believe that he knows what he is doing. I think it makes sense. Like I said, you can spend eight years, probing, investigating but there is a lot of work to do.
I am sure he is not under estimating the enormity of the job. I don’t have a problem with where he says it makes sense and he has the resources to look into the past administrations. It won’t be my call because I know he also has constraints .
Q-Related that sir, if you are cleared to be Governor
ANS- When I am cleared to be Governor.
Q – Are you going to probe the eight years of your predecessor?
ANS- Well, when you get to the river, you cross it. I believe that what is important at this point in time, is to focus on reclaiming my mandate. When I do reclaim my mandate, then I can look at what is feasible and what is not feasible. There is a saying where I come from, you need to see a kite before you determine whether a woman can eat it or not.
Q-With your experience, with the benefit of the hind sight, because you have become a victim of a flawed electoral system, that is the reason you are at the tribunal ,assuming there is a process of reform of the Electoral Act, what proposals would you make?
ANS-There are a whole lot of proposals to make. I am sure that can take another interview all together. I can asure you that a system that has some of the major umpires taking sides , is a flawed system. We have situations where , as we speak, INEC has refused to give us access to electoral materials.
What is topical at this time in Abia State, is that we had asked to be given access to electoral materials. The court granted it. We went to look at the materials and INEC would not provide them. We went back to the court and the tribunal responded positively, to our plea, to give us access in the local government, because the tribunal asked and they said some of those materials were still in the local government. We went there at the local government, hoodlums arranged by the opposition, which is PDP in this case, attacked our people, the forensic examiners and they had to run for their lifes.
We went back to the tribunal, the tribunal said, go bring those materials to the tribunal, for inspection . They were to bring it on a Monday, on Sunday they went and set the place ablaze. And that is Obingwa local government area which is one of the most contentious areas in our election. So when somebody is presiding over a system that would destroy evidence, it is a criminal offence . People should know the lines and boundaries they can not cross. So like I said, there are a lot of areas we need to look into .
Q- With that evidence lost, because it is gone, do you still have hope?
ANS- Well, I am sure the tribunal will look at it otherwise if we run a system where you can just go and destroy evidence and think you could become free, that will be a Banana Republic.
Q-How do you assess President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance so far?
Q-I think its early days. So far so good. He is doing very well. He has shown clear signal that you can see things have strted changing even in areas where he has not done anything. The signal is very important. It means that he is not going to tolerate corruption.. So you see people are jittery. People are already doing the right thing.. I was with a friend this morning and he was talking about the improvement in power supply. And I know he has not invested in the power sector yet.
People are already doing the right thing. I am aware of an office where people resume anytime they want to but today by 8 am ,8.30 am everybody is on his seat. So I think it is a clear signal. But personally, I think he should move faster. I am not very happy that the cabinet has not been constituted. He has it will happen by September, we are two weeks away from September. I hope that happens very quickly. Until that happens , people still get the impression that we really haven’t started. Otherwise I think I will give him a very high pass mark.