The Acting National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Yekini Nabena recently spoke with The Daily Times’ TOM OKPE in his office at the party Secretariat in Abuja. Nabena talked about the defection of members to the major opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Saraki, Ekweremadu saga in the Senate.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that your party, the APC is plotting to use security agencies to arrest the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. What’s your take on this allegation?
I’ m happy you said security agencies. We are a political party, if Saraki and Ekweremadu have cases to answer, they should go and answer. This is not a matter that concerns the APC.
It is only those who have something to hide that have a reason to fear, if they have nothing to fear, they should go and clear themselves.
For more than three years now, the party has not been able to have a grip of the National Assembly despite having clear majority. The opposition has cited this as the reason why your party has failed; could this be a correct assertion?
Just like I just told you; with people like Saraki as Senate President who is using his position to negotiate with government which is not possible with this government. This government is serious about the anti-corruption fight.
How can we live with a situation which Saraki put the APC-led administration by having a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party as Deputy Senate President? And on top of that, he now wants to be president when we have a sitting president who has indicated interest in seeking for a second term.
All that Saraki is doing is to pursue his selfish interest; he is not interested in the people.
With the gale of defections, some have argued that your party has become a minority in the National Assembly from your records, is this true?
How many Senators does the opposition have? We are not in the minority; we are still the majority party in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Let those in opposition go back and check their own records.
The President of the Senate had no choice because he wanted to play a double game and he was caught. He wanted to remain within the party in order to kill it. From the beginning you will agree with me that he was never faithful to the party.
The coup d’état he plotted with PDP senators to become Senate President against the wishes of the party is there for everyone to see.
That he has left our party is not a surprise to most of us, he was never present, he only used the party to achieve his personal agenda.
The only reason many people believe is responsible for the defection in APC is the party’s failure to deliver on the change it promised Nigerians……
Which defection are you talking about?
Several of your party members including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal and so many others.
All the people that left our party were those who left based on their personal interests; it has nothing to do with our performance or will affect our victory in the 2019 general election.
Take Saraki for example, he left the party because we could not offer what he was asking for.
What did he ask for?
He wants our Presidential ticket, also Kwankwaso and Tambuwal, so who else do you want to call? So, you can see that all of them have personal ambition which they believe is best for them than the interest of the populace and the nation.
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared his intention to seek re-election come 2019. What can you say he has done to deserve a second term?
The President has done a lot but you see, the problem is that we need to do more to show- case the serious work and the achievements of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration.
We need to embark on a lot of publicity for people to see what the President has been doing. People always think that it is only in the area of anti-corruption that the President is working. No.
If you look back some years back when the PDP was in power, most of the contractors we had were portfolio contractors.
Now, look at the agricultural sector, these are things that can speak for themselves, the major problem is that people are expecting that the flow of easy money like it use to happen during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, but this time around, you must work for every kobo you get, no more free money anywhere.
The way they used to share the money is no longer there. When you work and get paid, you will spend such money wisely, nobody will go out and spend the money he genuinely earns carelessly.
Those days when you go to the airport you will see a lot of private jets, go to Maitama and Asokoro you will see a lot of houses and people are not living in them.
As far as I am concerned, the President has done more and my belief is that we need to re-elect the President so that the policies put in place can be stabilized, because if all our institutions begin to work, the presidency will have less to do, but if our institutions fail to work it will be a problem.
These institutions must really work. Anybody that is complaining that the President is not doing anything must still be living in the past.
I don’t blame them it takes time for that PDP blood to be cleansed from the system; it will take time for them to see the reality of life.
Some have argued that the rate of employment is worse under this government which earlier promised to boost employment. Will this not impact negatively on the chances of the President come 2019?
How many people did the PDP administration employ? Or has this government sacked the people employed under the PDP administration? I believe this government has created jobs.
There is a difference between the kind of jobs this administration has created and the ones some people expect.
If you ask a lot of people they are looking for white collar jobs, is it the rate of white collar jobs you are talking about or the people we have created opportunites to employ others, especially in the area of agriculture.
Look at the power sector or are you still talking about the white collar jobs that people want to work in government ministries? Go and see what this government has done for small and medium scale industries, so, when people talk about growing unemployment, I don’t know where they are coming from.
It was thought that the change of leadership in the APC, that the party would usher in cohesion instead of the threat of disintegration like the PDP predicted. What is happening?
The PDP has no right to determine what is going to happen in the APC because I can assure you, their own earthquake is on the way and when it happens, everybody will see it.
What happened in APC is because of the selfish interests of the last set of party leaders who were looking for an extension of their tenures because of their selfish interest and that was why they didn’t want the congresses that took place to take place.
Chief John Odigie- Oyegun was working with the likes of Saraki from the beginning which is why we lost the position of Deputy Senate President in the National Assembly.
This is what led to them working against the congresses so that Saraki can have the ticket, it took God’s intervention for a Chairman in the person of our comrade Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole who has not minced words by saying it the way it is and how the party should make progress.
And when you do things the way they should be done, you are going to offend a lot of people. You know that Nigerians don’t like it when you tell them the truth especially when you look at why they are complaining.
Are they not the same people that have taken so much from the system? Those in the National Assembly how many years have many of them been there? They have been in government for years; they’ve seen what is in government that is why they don’t want to leave government, so when you talk of corruption, they are ready to use the money they have taken to fight you.
They have been there, who do you want to talk about? Look at it, Saraki has been there from governor, to Senator, now he wants to be president, look at them. Is it Kwankwaso? I think it is time we look beyond these people. They are the kind of people that are complaining.
After defecting to the opposition, the Federal Government has allegedly sent the EFCC after the Benue State governor to hang corruption charges on him, is there a more vindictive measure than this?
We can’t behave like the PDP. We all know what the PDP did with the EFCC when they were in power; how the then President Obasanjo used the EFCC to chase almost everybody, but the APC as a party will not involve itself with the activities of the EFCC.
Let the governor and government of Benue State sort themselves out.
We also have party members in Benue State we cannot be talking about only the governor; we have senators that are from that state.
If there are cases of misappropriation of funds the governor should go and answer his case it is not an issue for the party.
The opposition has said the APC was only interested in winning the 2015 election without any clear idea of how to fix the economy, is this correct?
Those who were there for 16 years could not put things in proper place and the same people are accusing those of us who have spent only three years.
Let’s look at it, look at how much we have spent, with the little we have; look at what we have been able to do for this country. Like our chairman said about former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is going about accusing people left and right.
He spent $16 billion on power and yet we are not seeing light and so many things have been left undone. Look at the PDP, as I am talking to you is it not the same set of old criminals in this country that are coming together to fight?
Who is that person in the PDP, who is that new person that can say we are working for the public? These are the same set of people that used their pen and paper to defraud the country.
There are insinuations that those who have corruption charges against them have found solace in the APC where they are treated as saints. What do you say about this?
That is where people are getting it all wrong. Nobody is going to remove any case from court because somebody or some people joined our party, if you have a case you go and answer, if you are found guilty, you go to jail.
Was Joshua Dariye not a Senator under this party? Where is he today? Is he not in jail? So, when these PDP people come with their propaganda ask them, were they able to jail any of their members when they were in government?
Dariye a serving Senator came into this party, but what happened? He is in jail. President Muhammadu Buhari will not compromise that, if you like run into his bedroom once you are found guilty, you are on your own.
With the loss of a number of notable figures to the opposition, how do you think President Buhari, the APC, would fare in the 2019 election?
The APC will always win. You see, when you look at the results from the previous election, we didn’t have many votes from the South East and the South- South, but when you look at it now, you will see how we are building up in these areas.
I don’t have a problem of APC wining the Presidential election, when they say that we’ve lost a number of people who defected from the APC into the PDP I don’t know what they mean by that.
Some people have gone to other parties, like I have said before, this is the political transfer window, and we have a lot of injured political players so we sent them out of the team and got some new ones so it’s not a problem.
The APC is telling Senator Saraki to relinquish the senate presidency following his defection, but in 2014 when Tambuwal crossed to APC as Speaker of the House, the same APC praised him to high heavens and never asked him to vacate his seat. How do you explain this?
Yes, we insist that Saraki should vacate his position because when you look at it, as a Senate President, you have a lot of allegations against you that is where I am coming from.
As a Senate President, you are facing a lot of allegations, you are facing trial, yet you are going about calling yourself a distinguished Senator.
If you are a man of integrity, you are supposed to step down and face these corruption charges against you instead of staying on that seat to fight the case.
How can you be a Senate President and everything that is going wrong in the country your name is always mentioned? Even a case of armed robbery what kind of Senate President are you? What we are saying is that the younger ones are coming, what kind of Senate president is that?
But one of the cases went up to the Supreme Court and he was vindicated… (Cuts in)
Yes, but he is still facing another case. Why will he not step aside and go and clear his name? This is a simple matter, step aside so that you don’t use that power you have to manipulate the system to your advantage.
Specifically, are there things the party is doing to stop the looming defection by some of your members?
As we speak, there is no member of this party that is defecting. The rumour you are hearing is all part of the propaganda of the opposition PDP.
As we speak, we are expecting more PDP senators to join the APC after Senator Godswill Akpabio. You heard Senator Shehu Sani when he said the PDP was promising people automatic tickets, APC did not promise him automatic ticket but he is staying back in the party.
You and I know that the PDP has nothing to offer, they have nothing. This time around, it is time to bury the PDP once and for all so that new people can come into the political scene; let’s see, but not these old soldiers that have terrorised the country and still want to remain there.
What do you think a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari portends for Nigeria’s young people considering the fact that he was the one who signed the Not Too Young To Run Bill?
Buhari’s second term will stabilise the system and also provide a guide for the younger ones that will come after him.
If our system was working very well the presidency will concentrate on strengthening the economy, but if you look at it all that is not happening because the National Assembly is fighting the executive and all of that.
If our institutions were working, if you commit a crime there will be nothing like plea bargain, when you get to court and you are found guilty, you will go to jail.
President Buhari’s second term will stabilise a lot of things so that when the younger generation takes over they will have a proper guide to follow.
There appears to be a pattern of infighting among and within agencies of the government your party is running. You have the DSS fighting the EFCC, a minister suspends the head of an agency under his supervision the presidency over rules him, what is the problem?
All the agencies of this administration especially the security agencies know their functions and they know what they need to do, it is not a matter for the party.
What is your response to the claims by R-APC that your recent victories in the bye-elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi were bought?
First, to the best of my knowledge the R-APC is not a political party known to our laws.
I ordinarily would not respond to them, but just to put the records straight, the victory of our candidates in the elections you have just mentioned has proven to all that Nigerians still have confidence in our party and the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has provided within the last three years.
It is a fact that we won all these elections with a clear margin, those who lost know they lost because the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission has left nobody in doubt that the APC is still the party Nigerians are comfortable with and that they will re-elect President Muhammadu Buhari when we present him as our Presidential candidate for the 2019 election.
The gang up by the PDP and all other portfolio political parties will fail, the APC is preparing for the election, we advise them to also go out and prepare because the crisis that is about to hit their party is one that can only be compared to an earthquake.
What is your take on the accusation by the Senate President that a cabal is running a government within a government in this administration?
It depends on what he means by that. Our function as a party is very clear so that is not an issue for us.
With people like Saraki as Senate President who is using his position to negotiate with government which is not possible with this government. This government is serious about the anti-corruption fight. How can we live with a situation which Saraki put the APC-led administration by having a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party as Deputy Senate President? And on top of that, he now wants to be president when we have a sitting president who has indicated interest in seeking for a second term. All that Saraki is doing is to pursue his selfish interest; he is not interested in the people.
As far as I am concerned, the President has done more and my belief is that we need to re-elect the President so that the policies put in place can be stabilized, because if all our institutions begin to work, the presidency will have less to do, but if our institutions fail to work it will be a problem. These institutions must really work. Anybody that is complaining that the President is not doing anything must still be living in the past. I don’t blame them it takes time for that PDP blood to be cleansed from the system