The National Chairman of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, Shitu Kabiru, tells BAYO AKINLOYE that some prominent politicians are seeking to hijack the two-month-old party

Why was the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance formed?

Since the advent of Nigeria’s democratic dispensation in 1999, Nigerians have never had it good. Therefore, the vision of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance was formed to establish a new Nigeria where every good ideal will flourish. We intend to create a new Nigeria – envisioned by our founding fathers – where people are gainfully employed, where people are free to live in any part of the country they so desire without fear or apprehension; where youths have a say in the governance of the country; and a country that respects its women. In the constitution of our party, 25 per cent of our appointive and elective offices must go to Nigerian youths; 30 per cent must be given to Nigerian women and five per cent for physically challenged people. It is our conviction that there must be a new Nigeria.

We also believe that the restructuring of the country is necessary in order to move Nigeria forward. Devolution of powers must also become a reality in Nigeria. Every state must be allowed to develop its own resources. We want a Nigeria whose states can generate their electricity and build their own roads – there should be no federal roads. Our dream of a new Nigeria is such that ethnicity will not be card to achieve political, economic or social benefits.

What is the relationship between the APDA and the Peoples Democratic Party?

Towards the return of democracy in 1999, political parties were created prior to that time to drive away the military government. At that time, political parties were formed based who knew who; it was a coalition of cronies. Now that democracy has been entrenched, our drive is to have an ideological political party where like minds come together to seek power for the development of the nation.

You have former members of the PDP and the All Progressives Congress in APDA.

Yes. We do have members not only from those two parties but from other political parties like Labour Party, Accord Party and All Progressives Grand Alliance.

Isn’t your APDA an offshoot of the PDP, formed in the event that the Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP faction lost at the Supreme Court?

That is incorrect. That is a blatant lie. You must have heard them (Makarfi-led PDP) publicly deny the fact that they were working with us. I have never had any meeting with them. They’ve never invited me to a meeting. It is not possible that APDA is another arm of the PDP. There is no way we can be part of the PDP – and there is no way they can be part of us. The two parties don’t share the same ideologies.

In less than three months of APDA’s existence, it’s already embroiled in leadership crisis involving a former PDP chieftain, Raymond Dokpesi.

Please, don’t mind Dr. Raymond Dokpesi. He is an impostor. They (Dokpesi, Dan Nwanyanwu, and Mainasara Ilo) joined the APDA with a lot promises to support the party but they were being used by the PDP to break us (the party) apart. You know what Dokpesi and his co-travellers did? They went to gather a few people and arranged a meeting in which they claimed that they were the real executives of the party. After he left that meeting, he left for the inauguration of the PDP reconciliatory committee. How can you reconcile that? What kind of human being would do that? Dokpesi and his cohorts wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission without our knowledge. They told INEC that they were the BoT members. But INEC replied them that APDA doesn’t have a BoT yet. Because we knew that these hawks would, we stipulated it in our constitution that no one can be a member of the party’s board of trustees until the person has spent five consecutive years in APDA.

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We knew we would have these charlatans who would want to hijack our party. It is unfortunate that politicians are still acting in this manner. We need to change our mindset in this country. How can politicians who want to lead the country be acting like that? Some of us are thinking about how Nigeria can be developed and we can put food on the tables of millions of hungry Nigerians but some politicians are seeking ways to hijack the party machinery. Why? Dokpesi and his cohorts are political marketers. They are seeking to sell APDA to the PDP. Can you imagine how God has exposed them? Dokpesi organised a kangaroo meeting without the knowledge of the true executives of the party. They are charlatans; they are dark elements in our society that we must do away with. These are people that never want Nigeria to develop – all they want is just to milk the country dry. Money should not be the basis for selecting a leader again in this country; it should be merit. That’s what APDA is all about.

Who exactly are these people trying to hijack the party?

They are Dokpesi, Nwanyanwu, and Mainasara Ilo. They are all claiming to be who they are not. They wanted to sell APDA to PDP and pocket the money. As the national chairman of APDA, my contract with Nigeria is to give them a credible alternative. They are not just hijackers; they are marketers who want to sell the party to make money. They are doing this because they don’t want democracy to survive; they are doing this because they want to enrich themselves. They don’t care whether Nigerians go to bed hungry – their own is let everybody die.

The ruling APC government is said to be hesitant about initiating the process to restructure the country. What do you think about the party’s body’s language?

While we do not intend to criticise the ruling party, we will hope that they will see the wisdom in allowing the country to be restructured. The Federal Government needs to allow every state to fully explore its potential. As a party, just registered two months ago, we have not sat down to assess the progress of the current APC administration to see clearly areas we need to offer meaningful criticisms as an opposition party. By the time we have sat down to critically review what this government has been doing, I will be able to tell you the position of the party. Right now, we will study the situation before taking a position.

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Let me also state that we support the National Assembly’s scrapping of the states independent electoral commission. Also, while we support autonomy for local government councils, we are against independent candidates vying for elections. I do not think Nigeria is ripe enough for that. We should be careful in adopting foreign political cultures hook, line and sinker. We must understand our African culture and traditions and act accordingly. An independent candidate with no political affiliation will not be responsible to anybody if wins an election. Will he have any constituency? Who will call him to order as when he belongs to a party?

President Muhammadu Buhari has been out of the country for almost 100 days for medical treatment in a London hospital in the United Kingdom. What is your view about that?

Let us look at the issue, first from a religious angle; it is God that gives health and it is God that does whatever he likes. We would have criticised the President if he had failed to write to the National Assembly authorising the Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo) to act on his behalf. If he had behaved like (former President Umaru) Yar’Adua, we would have reacted accordingly. What is paramount to us is Nigeria – we pray for the President to get well and return safely to the country – and not an individual. May God heal him as quickly as possible. That he has fallen ill doesn’t make him less human. As a human being talking to you anything can happen to me – I can fall sick. Anybody can fall sick. We do not have to disparage an individual and make his family unhappy just because he is sick. The aim of our party – APDA – is to raise Nigeria up and not to bring the party down. We will like to commend the Acting President for the way he has kept the country together. We will also want to urge to intensify efforts towards the country’s economic development.

Do you think that your party, already embroiled in internal wrangling can be a credible opposition party?

Yes, we can! Why not? We are just two months old. We are coming up. But you know what? There are people who don’t want APDA to be. The PDP people don’t want it – that’s why you see some of them trying to destabilise APDA. Nobody can stop us because we have come to stay. It is our ideology that will tell us apart from the political pack in this country. We are a party of ideology. We are committed to a nation where the federating units excel. Go through our manifesto, you will understand what we stand for. We are not doing things the old ways that keep yielding the same unproductive results.

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For example, our party does not have any zoning formula – in any elective position members vie for, we want the best aspirant to emerge as the party’s candidate. It doesn’t matter where the person comes from or what religion the person professes. Merit is the order of the day in APDA. Why should we zone any position? Tell me, what has zoning done for this country? What good has it done to us? Where have we found ourselves today? I cry everyday because of the condition we have found ourselves in Nigeria. I cry every day because see abject poverty in the midst of plenty.

Do you think anybody will take your party seriously without political heavyweights among your party members?

The truth is that we do not need any political heavyweight. We do not want a party of moneybags. We trust in our ideology and in the Nigerian people to run with our vision. We want Nigerians to believe that political parties aren’t the prerogative of the elites. Power belongs to the people and should be with the people – as a political party, we can hold that trust for them. Who are the political heavyweights anyway? The PDP had approached us; they wanted us to fuse APDA into their party. But we clearly refused because we don’t have the same ideology. We are two different political parties

How does your party intend to win elections if it doesn’t have moneybags?

It is obvious to you what moneybags have done to the Nigerian politics. Have they taken us to somewhere beneficial? Have they put food on the table of the millions of hungry masses? Many children cannot have good education because their parents cannot afford it; and those children who manage to go to public schools are sometimes taught little or nothing. Nigerians must learn not to give power to political despots. We must give power to people who are genuinely interested in ordinary people and not the power that public office affords. We must not put powers in the hands of political marketers.

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