Votes in 2023 should be based on the capacity to perform’
Chief Stephen Lawani is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former deputy governor of Benue State. In this interview with JOSEPH WANTU, he speaks on the ongoing APC registration and membership revalidation exercise, as well as national matters.
How would you assess the ongoing revalidation and registration exercise of the All Progressives Congress?
THE exercise, as you know, is still ongoing. It’s two weeks from February 9. So we still have more days. But so far, we have recorded success across the country than anticipated. In fact, if you went round, you would have heard that they sent about 100 forms to each polling unit because the organisers didn’t anticipate that more than 100 members would come forward to register. Now, we have about 2,000 members registering in some places. So, what they did is that after finishing the first 100 forms that were sent, polling stations nationwide got back to the organisers asking what to do next. So, we have instructed them to just register members’ names in the register without the forms. Therefore, APC has overshot expectations, because more have registered than anticipated.
So, in that regard, exercise is a success. Those on ground would expect more facilities provided to them than we have provided. But by and large, I think it’s a success because as stakeholders, I’m expected to fill up wherever there are shortfalls.
What would you attribute the success of the revalidation exercise to?
Like you say in religion, evangelism, which means the pastors did their work very well. In this case, the stakeholders have gone out and encouraged their members to come out in large numbers to register or that the members themselves, being overly enthusiastic about the exercise themselves, have come out beyond expectations. That is why I can say that large numbers have come out to register.
I said the exercise is successful; I didn’t say it was orderly. On the question of whether it was orderly or not, a panel has been set up by the party to look into the cause of the death recorded in the state. On Friday, we will be in Gboko for that. After hearing from all involved, then we will determine the next line of action.
With the large turnout of APC members for the exercise, do you see APC taking over Benue and Nigeria in 2023?
I’m being rationally selfish now because I’m an APC member. So, I’ll want APC to win. I’m seeking to contest and when I declare, I’m declaring to win. I’m not going to come and declare and then play the game. I’m declaring to win the election. Besides, I think I can do something. And I’m running under the APC platform. So, naturally and logically, too, I want the APC to win.
There are already agitations ahead of 2023 and politicians are already networking. At the state level, some people want the governorship to go to Kwande, Jechira and others are agitating for an Idoma governor. What’s your take on this?
I think we should not vote along ethnic lines. We should rather look at the characters that present themselves for election based on what they think is their ability to govern the state. They should look at them. A situation where an Idoma man would rather vote for his brother who is bad or who is known to be bad and they support him on ethnic line and vice versa is wrong. So, let’s vote on the ground of merit rather than on ethnic lines. That is the way forward for now.
Would you also say the same for the presidency?
Of course, I will but then I’ll explain. Certain situations call for certain solutions. Yes, because of the party system we operate, the parties decide who they think is best to make the party win election. They won’t put a Calabar man there when they know that the Calabar man will not make them win the election. But it’s wrong to say that certain people are not fit to govern this country. I mean, the Igbo, for instance, over the years have not been allowed to get it. Yes, they led us into the civil war, but don’t generalise and say there’s no good person from there; there are no good people from the west or no good person from the north-central zone and so on. Let’s look for the right person. But as I said, when you take it to a larger scale, a party that wants to win has the right to look for the person that will make them win. However, the system that brings out people that are certainly not the best for this country is not a good system.
A lot of people think this registration is uncalled for or it’s probably to reduce the influence and power of the party’s national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, because they feel he has overbearing powers and the only way they can checkmate him is to call for this party revalidation. How true is this?
When you say a lot of people, I ask whether it was a public hearing that led to this conclusion. All I can say is that I don’t know what you are saying. I’m a party man taking directive from the party headquarters. And by the way, before I registered, Bola Tinubu had registered and showed his registration form. (Chief Bisi) Akande did the same thing. So, if it’s what you are saying, then they wouldn’t have registered.