Vice Chairman, Central Senatorial District of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former member of the Cross River State House of Assembly representing Boki Constituency, Cletus Obun speaks with TNN Correspondent, David Odey in Calabar on the crisis rocking his party, those stoking it, the way forward, among other issues
You saw the fiasco that occurred during the Saturday, 5th May ward congresses of your party. What do you have to say about it?
I think we are on a better footing now. All the errors have been corrected. Procedural errors were the major causative agents that sustained the suspicion which pervaded the last botched exercise. I think clearly this chairman has changed the mood and doused the tension and cleared the doubts about the intent of the panel that came from Abuja. Don't forget that the national leadership has shown sufficient bias and compromise on matters concerning Cross River State since February this year. So, it has been a cat and dog relationship between the national secretariat and the Cross River state chapter of APC on account of the misunderstanding between the national chairman and the national vice chairman south-south. The matter got worse when the national vice chairman openly came out to support Adams Oshiomhole's candidature.
Rotimi Amaechi and Usani Usani are always blamed for the crisis in the party in the state. What role are these two men going to play in the resolution of the crisis?
Democracy is about the majority. I have maintained that Cross River state is not a local government in Rivers State. Amaechi's meddlesomeness into Cross River State is provocative. It is insulting given the calibre and quality of people that we have in Cross River tate. We don't only have the calibre, we also have the number to show that Cross River state needs no help. Indeed, it is Amaechi that needs help with the bombardment he is getting from Wike in Rivers State, so that we do not engage ourselves in matters that are going to evidently propel us into a crisis situation. Therefore, Amaechi should leave Cross River alone. As for the minister for Niger Delta Affairs, I do think he has a penchant and unparalleled appetite for the generation of crisis. And this has made it impossible for him to see reason with the great majority of his own people. As former state chairman who was elevated to the position of a minister, one would have thought that Cross River State was indeed the luckiest state in the entire federation because that was the only state chairman that became a minister. But we have known no peace ever since he assumed that office. And this is because he wants Cross River State APC to run as a department under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. These are two distinct positions and different offices that ought to be allowed to run as independent but mutually inclusive bodies and entities within the same setting. One should complement the other. There should be a complementary vision of office and party. But the minister has not allowed that to happen, unfortunately. And I think it is time he comes to the reality that the party belongs to the people and the people alone can decide what they want.
Many believe that it is Usani's ambition to become governor that is fuelling the crisis. Do you share that view?
Ambition will be no crime except it becomes vaulting in the tradition of Macbeth; the Macbethan ambition in which you want to outshine your master, the master is the people. And I think that if he wants to be a governor, he needs a platform. Unless he is telling us that he doesn't need APC. And his actions so far show that he doesn't want a united APC. APC cannot survive under his bombardment, under his starvation. He has cut off the umbilical cord of financing the party in the state. He cannot be claiming to love APC more than the APC itself. You can't be holier than the pope.
How did he cut off the financing of the party in the state?
He has not supported the party in a manner that befits his office in terms of even as minimum as rents and salaries. He pays in spasmodic manner. It is never consistent and regular. He comes in when he has one agenda or the other to execute before he can give financial support. And it is always attached to either doing his will or he will give no support. For a chairman who left and became a minister, one would have thought that even a minimum as honoriarum for members, they are only seventeen members on the payroll of the State Working Committee. No matter how fractured we are, it is part of his duty to keep the party together and not to scatter it. He has done nothing to keep the party together and he has done nothing to fund it. And, therefore, that has made it impossible for the party to proceed. I have told him this in person. I have admonished him on this as early as his first week in office. I have been to his personal house twice to advise him on this. He is a personal friend of mine. We have worked together in very turbulent moments. But it is like the scorpion tradition, where it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, so it is his nature to generate crisis. So, it is difficult for him to stay without crisis. That is the fertilizer with which his political machinery is oiled.
Imoke from the central zone left power a few years ago, now Usani from the same central wants to become governor. How will APC handle this, since other zones are supposed to have their turns before power returns to central?
Those are the moral questions and the political miscalculations that are leading us into the doldrums. And we are insisting that it is not equitable, it is not justiciable and also it is not politically wise to indulge and engage in that. That is precisely why we are saying allow other senatorial districts to take their turn.
Which zone is likely to pick the governorship ticket of your party?
APC is going to win the elections. So it is in the interest of the party to sit back and look at the north and look at the possibilities of winning. As we are now, we are back to 1999. It is coincidental that figure 9 keeps appearing in a changing period. In 1999, it was the will of the Nigerian political class to remove by any means, the military from power. Today, it is the turn of Cross River state to remove PDP by any means from the state. Therefore, any calculation which does not impugn on the moral status of our political calculations and permutations, that is the only way we can go and that is the only means by which we think we can also, including and inclusive of our brothers and neighbours, engage politically to get the success we desire in 2019.
But going into the election with a fractured house, how do you intend to defeat PDP in 2019?
We have no fractured house. What we have are disagreements. And by the time we finish our congresses, you are going to be shocked at what would come out because the principal thing is that even the minister has come to realize that he has to align with the people and he is doing so.
Do you have a formidable candidate that can withstand Ayade with all his achievements?
We have an array. When you say achievements, I do not know what you call achievements in Cross River state.
His achievements earned him the endorsements he had across the state….
When you have hired crowds… I will give you an example. I come from Boki LGA. I know a man and on the day he was being hired he was attending a wedding in Abuja. That is the kind of endorsements you get from hired crowds. The misfortune is that the age of the people and the number of people that go there to do these endorsements will tell you that it is a show of shame. Clearly, that is not how endorsements are done.
Are you saying Ayade has not achieved anything in the past three years, with the super highway, the deep seaport, the garment factory and other projects?
You can mock us more. The garment factory is a tailoring shop where you have apprentices learning how to sew clothes. That much we know he has engaged some of our youths. But to talk of the super highway and the deep seaport is to mock Cross Riverians and insult our sensibilities and our intelligence. Where is the super highway? Are you just returning from Bamenda or fighting for Ambazonian Republic? Otherwise, how will you be talking about super highway? Where is it? I am sure as a journalist you have been there to see it. It is part of your duty to do so. From my own investigation and from what I know as a Cross Riverian, the super highway which was cleared to carry the wood, the pristine forest which has been desecrated by him has today been overgrown into a secondary forest three years after it took off, there is no sign that the super highway is about being one percent completed. After the ground breaking ceremony, nothing else has happened. The seaport is only on paper.
So you believe he has not achieved anything in three years?
I don't know which project you know has been commissioned. I want you to tell me one. You are a journalist. What he goes for are ceremonies. What he signs are MoUs. For three years there have been MoUs. He came into office the same time with Umahi of Ebonyi state. He came to power the same time with Wike of Rivers State. So, what do we have to show for this? Which one projects do you know in Calabar or anywhere? On the contrary, the potholes are everywhere.
So, APC has a better chance to produce the next governor?
APC, therefore, has been handed a platter upon which to ride to victory in 2019.