Chief George Moghalu, Secretary of the National Rebuilding Inter-Party Contact Committee set up by the All Nigerian Peoples' Party (ANPP), speaks on the mandate of his committee and why it can regain its lost glory.
From being the strongest opposition party in 1999, the ANPP is now confined to only three states. What are you doing to change the dwindling fortunes of the party?
We have had leadership challenges in the past and we acknowledge that fact. That led us to the last convention that threw up the Ogbonanya Onu-led leadership. Since that leadership came into place, it hasn't been the same anymore. The party has kind of regained its position in the consciousness of the Nigerian people and we are fully aware of the responsibilities. Ever since that leadership came into place, things have been working, the party is being turned around, re-engineered, so that we can get back to our pride of place in the body polity, so that we can gain the position we were occupying, prior to the last experiences we had with regards to having the right leadership. I agree with you that, to a very large extent, it appears we missed it. Yes, but the important thing is that we have acknowledged that problem and that's why we are starting the process of getting back our party to where it should be.
One of the very fundamental things we have done apart from many other initiatives of the leadership is the setting up of the National Rebuilding and Inter-Party Contact Committee, led by the former Governor of Kano State Malam Ibrahim Shekarau.
In this committee, we have very credible leaders of the party. The governor of Yobe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, the DeputyNational Chairman, two other governors, former governors, representation from the Senate, there are members of the House of Representatives and other stalwarts of the party across the country, who are determined to rebuild our party: look at the areas we have missed it, look at our areas of strength, reach out as much as possible across the country, to some of our members, who have left the party for some reasons or the other, so that we can get everybody back on stream to get the party to continue playing the role it should play.
So, basically, we are in the process of rebuilding; we acknowledged that the process of rebuilding is a continuous one--it isn't what you start one day and stop. So, we have continued the process and we shall continue until we get to the point where we feel satisfied that our party has returned to its pride of place.
It is in the news that some other opposition parties have been involved in alliance talks, the ACN and CPC; is your party not involved or you are discussing with some other parties?
Like the national chairman said in a recent interview, and in line with the decision of the NEC of our party, we are open and one of the terms of references of the committee is to reach out to other parties; reach out to civil societies, or any other party interested in building a strong democratic nation--anybody who is very committed to getting this nation to move forward.
So, we are talking with very many groups and we don't have limitations, in terms of say, these are no go areas.
We are talking with other opposition parties. The terms of reference of this committee don't limit us to people to talk with; it is open and that's why we are inter-party contact committee. We are open and we are talking to every group.
The ruling PDP is always quick to dismiss alliance talks among opposition parties as a fluke. What's your take on that?
One thing you must know with this particular development is the fact that this is the first time that we are talking about alliances, merger, one year or more than one year before an election.
One major problem we have had in the past is that alliances, or discussion on alliances, merger, are all started few days or months to elections at a time most of the political parties have taken their positions. In a situation like that, there is no way you expect people to drop their ambition, to drop their plans and whatever. So that has been a major constraint. But this time around, negotiations and discussions have started quite early before elections, so that people can have the opportunity to look at all issues dispassionately.
The North East is bedeviled by insecurity and, incidentally, that is where your party is in control. Are you not worried that this could affect the image of the party?
We are worried; I am not even looking at it from the perspective of Borno, Yobe. No, I am looking at it in the context of the entire nation, the general insecurity across the country. I am very worried. Take Borno for instance, the political parties have been trading allegation: PDP is saying Boko Haram was the creation of former governor, Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff, ANPP has claimed it has been at the receiving end and went further to submit that those arrested as patronizing the sect are PDP senators.
So you see politics in all these?
Look, let us be honest about this issue. Why would you want to accuse the ANPP government, when practically all the victims are ANPP? It makes no sense. They have claimed that an ANPP government under Modu Sheriff funded Boko Haram and some of the victims, so far include his blood brother. How do you explain that? How do you explain that in relation to the fact, one of the victims was his brother in-law and close ally? Somebody married to his sister, same mother. How do you relate that to the fact that his attorney general, a close confidant was a victim?
How do you relate that with the fact that major victims in this unfortunate development are key players in ANPP, his party? It doesn't make sense and difficult to reconcile.
But governors are the chief security officers of their states...
Yes they (governors) may be answering chief security officers, but they don't control the police. It isn't peculiar to Borno alone; it is across the country, because the Commissioners of Police don't report to them. They may be answering chief security officers, but to what extent are they chief security officers? So, nobody can easily convince me. So, if the PDP comes out as a party to say it is ANPP, then it is unfortunate. Then you take it a step further: the two senators who have one thing or the other to do with Boko Haram are PDP. So, how do you reconcile that?
But Sheriff is the Board of Trustees chairman of your party and he is the one the PDP sees as the man behind it...
No, not at all! Have you also looked at it from the perspective that the reason why he is a target is because he is a political threat? Everybody knows him, the way he fights his political battle; everybody knows that he is loved by his people; everybody knows that he has capacity to win elections. This is a man who has rarely lost any election. When you look at it side-by-side his political strength, you can also accept the truth that he is a target, because it is a case of do everything you can to get this man off the way, if you must make any political impact in an environment that he has political domination.
If he isn't loved by his people, he wouldn't have been at the Senate for the number of times he was there before becoming the governor. This same man was elected twice as governor of Borno State.