By Olakunle Olafioye
A The leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Jackson Lekan-Ojo, said the ruling party would not survive February’s national convention, just as he rocked the country’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, benefit immensely from the looming crisis staring the APC in the face ahead of its national convention.
The Port Harcourt-based politician believes the ruling party will be too unattractive to disgruntled PDP members, who he says will be forced to stay in the opposition party.
In this interview, Lekan-Ojo talks more about other issues of national importance, including his reported endorsement of Niger Delta Minister Godswill Akpabio as the best APC presidential material from the South.
The number of people aspiring to contest the presidential ticket on the platform of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC, continues to grow day by day. Do you foresee this having an impact on the party convention scheduled for February?
For me, I think they’re just trying to bring down the party. When you look at what happened during the PDP congress, the whole world was shocked and surprised. Democracy lovers appreciated the turn of events at this time as eventually almost all positions were filled on the basis of consensus. Since that time, the party is healthy. In this case, when you look at APC before 2023, about four to five Yoruba men try to contest. In the South-South, we have about two or three. In the southeast, we hear almost five and a governor comes out of the center-north. Ultimately, all of these people are influential in their own way. Remember that APC is a party that stands on four legs, but with one head. The first stage is CPC; the second stage is ACN, then the new PDP that came out with about four or five governors, then a fraction of the APGA. This united force is not yet in the APC until tomorrow and the only unifying factor you see in the APC is President Muhammadu Buhari. When this unifying factor is no longer challenged in 2023, I can tell you today, as a political prophet, that there will be no amount of political evangelism that APC engages in that will stop its splitting into four . The party came from four different legs; it will head in four different directions after the national convention.
Based on your projection, should we then conclude that the PDP returns in 2023?
Definitively! When the PDP governors left the party and joined the APC, some of us saw it and that was what led to the downfall of the party in 2015. If the PDP can sustain the current momentum , he will ultimately turn out to be the winner. If Tinubu does not receive the presidential ticket, no one will be able to console him to stay and support the party. So it will be to the advantage of the PDP. But then, why do we differentiate the PDP from the APC? The two parts are one; it is only their names that are different. Rotimi Ameachi and Akpabio were both in the PDP and where they served as governors for seven and a half and eight years respectively, but today we call them APC members. There are many like that. These people who are now called the Hossana of APC are those who destroyed the country when they were in the PDP.
PDP is not without its own challenges. The current national executive of the party is overwhelmed with the daunting task of unifying the party following post-party congress crises and other issues. Do you see the PDP succeeding before next year’s elections?
The new president of PDP, Iyorchia Ayu is a seasoned politician and one thing I want everyone to know is that the PDP, from its inception, developed the mechanism to settle its crises before the elections. That’s when and why you hear them say “it’s a family affair.” Ayu is a nationalist; he is not like any of the former presidents of the PDP. I believe he has what it takes to rally the PDP. Again, since they now know that the only destination for aggrieved party members is the APC, which of course is not a healthy party at the moment, they will be forced to stay in the APC. In Delta State, the Vice President of the Senate, most of his men have defected to the PDP. In Gombe yesterday, a legislator decamped to the PDP. Look at Jandor in Lagos, he is a postman in Lagos, he also moved to PDP. These people are therefore gradually returning to the PDP. All of them are strangers to APC, their home is PDP. After the APC national convention on February 26th and before the end of this month, you will see a massive movement back to the PDP and that will bring APC down.
Recently, there have been reports of the third force taking advantage of the crises of both the APC and the PDP. How does the third force enter the equation now?
We saw the Third Force come out in droves, but we didn’t know the strategy they were using. What would swell the Third Force was the calculation that disgruntled PDP and APC elements would come to the center to bolster the strength of the Third Force. But it seems that the calculation may not work in the sense that the PDP is doing everything possible not to lose any of its members for the moment. It will be one-sided and of no effect if there is no reason for anyone to move from the PDP to the third force. The only alternative platform for disgruntled APC members will automatically be PDP. Thus, PDP could benefit more from the APC crisis.
It was recently reported that you identified Senator Godswill Akpabio as the best presidential material in the South. What do you think sets Akpabio apart from others who aspire to steal APC’s presidential ticket?
Honestly, it was a sad moment in my life when I received this report. Someone woke me up at midnight asking me why I said such a thing. Two ministers in office also called me to ask me the same question. I told them that I had made no such statement. One of them even sent me the link to this story and I was shocked to read it. Immediately I received the report, I called a seasoned journalist who gave me the contact of the author of the story. And when I asked him if we had ever met and where I had given the interview, he confessed to me that he had never met me and that the story had been written and given to him by the Akpabio’s chief press officer. I had not yet recovered from the shock when I saw the same story published in another newspaper. I’m telling the whole world now that I didn’t do that. If the whole South can parade an array of presidential documents that can rule the country, how will I rate Akabio as the best presidential material? If you ask me to name the top 200 presidential documents, Akpabio can never be one of them. Where is Bola Tinubu? Where is Fayemi? Where is Fashol? Where is Ameachi? The entire South can parade with an array of thousands of presidential documents that can rule the world. What was Akpbio’s achievement within the Niger Delta Ministry? Yes, no one can deny the fact that he did well when he was Governor of Akwa Ibom State, but that was when he rode on the backs of the PDP. As soon as he arrived at APC, his popularity declined. What did he do in the Niger Delta ministry? Millions are owed while so many entrepreneurs have died of high blood pressure because they weren’t paid. So how do you think a sane person will rate Akpabio as the best presidential material? If I did that, it means I insulted a lot of people like Umahi, Orji Uzor Kalu, Rochas Okorocha, Pius Anyim, who are from the South. How can I rate Akpabio above all these people? Akpabio should not use my name to tout his presidential ambition. I’m still in consultation because I’m going to sue them.