In this interview with Adedayo Akinwale, the former National Secretary of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Senator James Akpanudoedehe who recently declared his interest to vie for the governorship position in Akwa Ibom state says with him on the ballot, the ruling party will win the state come 2023. Excerpts:
What are your chances of winning the ticket and election
I anchor my belief on the principle of fairness and democracy. I believe that the party will be fair to me. I don’t think the party can reward me in the manner suggested. A party will look for a candidate that will win election for them. By the experience and the exposure the office of the National Secretary exposed me to, I was privileged to be attending the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) meeting. If they use the equipment they say they will use, which is backed up by the Electoral Law, I think no one should take the coming election for granted. We should be able to put the best candidate that will win the election for the party. So, I strongly believe that the APC will do the right thing. I was not only a founding member, I was one of those who was given the opportunity to merge this party, I was in the Merger Committee, I was also in the constitution drafting committee. Ever since, this party has been unfair to me until recently when the President (Muhammadu Buhari) and those that I mentioned today (Rotimi Amaechi and Nasir el-Rufai) who mentioned my name to be the National Secretary. The party took the ticket from me in 2015. In 2019, the same repeated itself. So, we’ve seen it before, that is why I said we have suffered for this party. We built this party from nothing, people have sacrificed. There was a time it was difficult to mention Buhari’s name. In fact, mentioning Buhari’s name, the governor then, Godswill Akpabio made a law to put me in prison just for mentioning Buhari’s name. But as life will have it, he became the biggest beneficiary and was made the Minister of Niger Delta.
This time around it is expected that you will get the ticket of the party. If you are denied, are you going to pull out your structure from APC?
When we reach that level, we will cross it. The issue is that nobody will do that. I don’t expect anybody to do that. It is wickedness. It is my party, nobody will take this party from me. I worked for it, I toiled for it, I sacrificed for it. This is where my effort is. I will not leave my party, I believe my party will do the right thing because I worked hard for it.
One of the biggest hurdles facing the APC in this state is the APC itself…
When you are running for the office of a leader, one of the characteristics of a leader is accommodation, one of the characteristics of being a leader is love. When I was in the ACN, governors sit behind the leaders of the party. Being a governor does not make you a leader. It is God that appoints one. You don’t force it. You remember in the South-south meeting some time ago when the party decided to make Senator Ovie Omo-Agege leader of South-south because of his position. After that meeting I didn’t hear it again. But in the north, it is not so, when someone is appointed to a particular office, people honour it.
Going by this narrative, how do you intend to bring the whole house together
It is a matter of just being a party man. What we mean by a party man, my party must win, it is not yourself. APC must win Akwa Ibom, you must be a party man, don’t say I want to dominate, my word is final, when you have plenty of people that were there before you, we were there before you. You can only show respect. If you want leadership to be given to you as a former Governor, carry yourself as such, it will be given to you. If you cannot command that kind of leadership, please go back to your school and learn a different kind of leadership. Learn the one that will suit the state you come from. When discussions are made, be objective, answer truthfully, be a father, don’t be a destroyer, don’t lie about someone just to cause separation, don’t be a separatist, be a leader.
I still have that feeling that the house is still divided, if the house is divided, what is the possibility of you unseating the party in power since 1999
With the present structure that we have on ground, APC will win.
What will you consider as your worst moment at APC as the secretary of the party and your fondest memory?
I don’t have any regrets. We did everything we needed to do. Normally I will try to see whether what I have been asked to do constitutes wickedness. That was my greatest fear, because most of the directives given and the direction it was coming from, you cannot oppose that. Then, to some people, the National Secretary signed the paper, maybe they assume I have the power to do that, they don’t know that I was directed, that was my duty and all that. That is what I will consider things I didn’t like. You know the truth but because you have been asked to do something, you can’t say anything about it, that I can regret. But to say I can regret life, I normally ask God, this is the official position of the party, I know this is wickedness, forgive me. Outside that we did very well. We bought the property, we registered 41 million people, we did state congresses, we managed it well, the crisis was one or three per cent in some states, we did well, no regrets apart from some instructions that brought pain to other people and as a Christian I didn’t like doing that.
My fears for APC in 2023
God has chosen whoever is going to be president, he knows how to navigate it, God is involved but people can come together based on interest. But if you love yourself more than the party, that is why the problems come.
What do you think the leadership of the party should do to make it easy for APC to win elections in 2023
Don’t rush into manipulative advice. Number two, be democratic.
To some people, the National Secretary signed the paper, maybe they assume I have the power to do that, they don’t know that I was directed, that was my duty and all that. That is what I will consider things I didn’t like. You know the truth but because you have been asked to do something, you can’t say anything about it, that I can regret. But to say I can regret life, I normally ask God, this is the official position of the party, I know this is wickedness, forgive me. Outside that we did very well. We bought the property, we registered 41 million people, we did state congresses, we managed it well, the crisis was one or three per cent in some states, we did well, no regrets apart from some instructions that brought pain to other people and as a Christian I didn’t like doing that