Apapa is paid to cause crisis in LP –Osuntokun, campaign DG
Director-General of the Labour Party’s Obi/Datti Presidential Campaign Organisation, Mr Akin Osuntokun, speaks on the leadership crisis rocking the party, saying the script being played by the embattled Lamidi Apapa will fizzle out after the court cases in the tribunal. He also talks on other issues in this interview on Channels TV Politics Today, monitored by Deborah Onyofufeke
There was a mild drama recently in court when the embattled acting chairman of the party was booed out of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), what is going on in the party?
As a matter of fact, the spark, the incident started with me. I was sitting, you know our protocol lady usually reserves four seats for us, myself and anybody, party chairman. I think the man is obsessed with recognition because when we were there that was the first question the man came where I was sitting. He led his gang of people to come to me that he wants to sit where I am sitting. I said I don’t know you and he replied don’t you know me? Who are you? You know me. I said if I know you it should be as a nuisance. You know that if you keep on pressing it upon me that you know me. Look it is an aspect of the criminalisation of politics in Nigeria today.
What do you mean by that?
It has several manifestations, you are going to have Senate President who became a senator by an unprecedented judgement of the Supreme Court. He was contesting for presidency and Senate at the same time, after scaling that, they’re bringing it to rob on our face that the man is coming again. He has tons of cases with the EFCC- this is the new normal in Nigeria, his co-contestant Kalu, do I need to tell you his story or the technicality? He was convicted, he was in jail and the Supreme Court again in its wisdom said because the man who gave the judgement had been promoted to another court, not on the substance of the case, but the man who gave the judgement had been promoted somewhere, it was on that basis that it was nullified and you see, it was a form among them to be condemning or castigating the idea of conceding the presidency to the South-East. He was championing the course of not entertaining it at all, it’s not their turn. Now he wants to be senate president, he has made 60 degrees and I say well, it will amount to cheating, and injustice against the Igbo people if he doesn’t make it, if he is not made the senate president. So you see all these kinds of things, the criminalisation of politics if you ask this man what he does for a living or the people around him. Now, this Mr Apapa, where will I know him? He was talking about Peter Obi not knowing him so if you say a prayer somewhere, does that mean I must remember you even if that is the only instance I ever came across you? I must remember. It’s so insignificant, an insignificant person who has a lot of complexity.
So, do you remember him somehow?
No. I never met him.
What about reputation, since this happened, do you know him by his reputation for the incident that happened at the party?
You can extrapolate from somebody’s behaviour. The last time I heard from them, they were accusing Peter Obi of transferring or embezzling campaign money that they were going to withdraw the case from Supreme Court, so, that is their interest in Labour Party. Look, I don’t blame them as I said, they hit the jackpot. People who probably don’t have any means of supporting their livelihood comfortably have become useful to parties who are interested in destabilising Labour Party.
Do you think Apapa and his followers are being sponsored?
Of course. Look, it doesn’t make sense or logic in any other way, how else would you describe it? What’s their interest and to what intent?
To what purpose do you think they might be sponsoring them?
We are discussing the crisis, so, they have a new sound value and unfortunately, they were obliged by one of the judges so they have a nuisance value. As I said, they have a nuisance value and you can extrapolate from their conduct. If, for instance, they support Peter Obi and his presidential aspiration, why should you be creating problems for that kind of person, why not go to him, why not make it open? Look, you have never said anything that bolts well for the party, you are always saying things, accusing the party, dragging the party in the mud, making all sorts of wild allegations, accusing the presidential candidate of diverting campaign money, and saying today you want to withdraw the case, somebody must report to you? How does all that make sense?
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Where do you think all these are coming from?
Maybe the APC (All Progressives Congress).
What gives you that feeling that it might be APC that is sponsoring this?
They have a vested interest in weakening the Labour Party. They want to weaken the party whose presidential candidate is challenging them in court.
But the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is there and he came second and Peter Obi came third. So, why do you think they are after the man who came third?
You know it’s cheating. Obi was cheated. Now, we were so conspicuous right and there is evidence to that effect, they know that it’s all in the media. Obi has attained a level of international status, and the global communities are interested in his case. In Nigeria too, he was rigged out of the election. The APC people know deep in their heart and their soul in alliance with INEC, who won the election. They at least won the majority of the votes, so that’s why he is a target. So, you know up till now, he’s a newsmaker of all the politicians in this cycle, he is the most compelling, he has a demographic of the population that everybody looks at. Anybody who is thinking about Nigeria’s future, that is the demographic that you look at, he is the most important political leader in Nigeria today, going forward he is the focus for so many reasons one of the reasons being, probably the most important is that, he won the majority of the votes in that election and I know that for a fact. In any case, look at it this way, is it logical to think that APC would not have attempted to meddle with the election? Does it have the capacity to do so? It does and it has the motivation to do so. So, you can take it for granted that APC, and to some extent the PDP, would have fiddled with the election results in one way or the other, but we in Labour Party don’t have a similar capacity to do so. We couldn’t afford polling agents all over the country so you know we don’t have the capacity that is non-inclination and don’t forget that in all the opinion polls before the elections, almost seven of them said that was what they recorded on the field. You know these are scientific polls and many of them like CNN, have no interest vested in one candidate or another.
Do you have the feeling that the leadership of your party did not do much to address this crisis which is why it is festering?
Not at all. You know you are giving them the benefit of the doubt attributing objective, motives to them. There is an ulterior motive for what they are doing. Look at their conduct, the conduct is obstructionist. Anything that survives the Labour Party and its candidate, you are going to find them there, and these people don’t have the means of moving around probably by flying all over the place so somebody must be picking the tabs. So, there is no way because you can only reconcile with somebody who has a good interest.
Don’t you think the crisis should have been fixed long before now?
Not at all. Your premise is wrong. You know the premise is that these people long before now, there’s an orchestration, by somebody who has a whole vested interest in the welfare of the political party, the Labour Party, and its presidential candidate. So, they are not there assuming that these people have a good interest or that their interest in Labour Party has beneficial law or benign. Not at all, you can only reconcile with somebody who wants the progress of the party, who wants the case, the petition of the presidential candidate at the election the tribunal to go forward. You find a group of people who specialise in destroying people’s reputations, who specialise in saying they will withdraw the case from the court. So, how do you reconcile it? It’s not a question of reconciliation. Your premise is wrong, they are not benign, it’s not an objective, it’s an orchestration, and it’s a project.
What danger does this crisis portend for your party?
It doesn’t portend any danger. It will fizzle out after the court case and being a very wise man himself, that’s Peter Obi, he has the presence of mind to make himself the 1st petitioner. So, you can have all the problems with the 2nd petitioner, he can do whatever he wants to do. He is the 1st petitioner, so, he is going to go under it. There is little or nothing to subvert that petition in the quote from that purpose. I can assure you that immediately the Supreme Court whenever it chooses to, deliver judgement, these people will fizzle out. They don’t have anything to contribute to Labour Party. If you send them out as acting chairman, ask them to go and call for a rally in Lagos or their village, you will see how many people will be there. What kind of person messes, you know so lacking in dignity that you subject yourself to the kind of thing that happened to him you know today? Look, it’s just that a man of his age deliberately wants to create a nuisance. Everywhere you go, you want to create a nuisance. Look there are other places for you to sit, he didn’t even take that option he must come to me where I’m sitting that he wants to sit there as well, who does that to himself?
What kind of image does this portray of your party?
It’s not about my party. Look, Labour Party has proven what it is capable of doing. What it stands for and the real people who are the engine room of the Labour Party know themselves, not these people who are mercenaries. I’m sorry to say so, they have no consequence at all to the party. Ask them if there is any contribution that they have made to the party, towards the election of either the presidential candidate, governorship candidate, or house of rep candidate or down the ballot. Ask any of them what contribution they made.
What are your views on the recent call by the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, to Nigeria’s President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
You see, the Western power, especially America and Britain, are masters of ambiguity. In this kind of situation you know the emphasis is on stability, not limitless or correctness or propriety of the process. They are always in a hurry to ensure stability even if it means compromising with the devil. So, this is the sneaky way they do things. They know what happened.
What about the move by the US to place visa restrictions on those they tagged as undermining Nigeria’s democracy?
As far as I’m concerned, that is troponins. Of what importance is that?
What would you have thought that the US or UK would have done?
Well, you know that at the time the election was being conducted, the British High Commissioner, her initial statement was that what had happened with the February 25 presidential election was worth celebrating. That Nigerians should be happy about it then months later she did a U-turn and started saying what happened was a failure, disappointment, and this and that. Look, there’s nothing wrong in saying Nigerians take responsibility for themselves. You know I understand them from that point of view but I don’t expect much from them, they have the power.
So, they understand we are also a sovereign state?
That’s what I am saying, ultimately it will be the determinant of our destiny, but you see what you should know is that these people are masters of ambiguity. They are very much concerned and I don’t blame them for that quickly arriving at stability, just stabilise it even if it is the devil who is the President. So much so INEC has declared the President, let’s find a way of living in one love don’t cause problems.
I will like to get your view on Rabiu Kwankwaso’s meeting with Bola Tinubu in France, what do you make of that?
It’s real politics you know I don’t know what they discussed but there’s nothing to say.
Part of what they discussed is to form a government of national unity.
I wish them well, I mean Kwankwaso is not responsible for me. I would have been happy if he comes to us to work together, but if that is his choice, I respect his choice. I don’t see anything wrong in what he has done, I mean quite frankly he makes his own choice.