Chief Stephen Lawani is a former Deputy Governor in Benue State and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with select journalists, he speaks on the recent defection of Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, and some other politicians from the party. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there
Governor Samuel Ortom has defected to the PDP from your party, don’t you think his movement will affect the party in the state?
It will not affect our party at all because APC is deeply rooted in Benue state without Ortom. In fact, it was because he knew that we are not satisfied with the way and manner he is running the state and may not get a second term that forced him out of the party.
So, we are not bothered at all, President Buhari will win Benue and APC will retain the governorship after the 2019 general elections. Ortom or no Ortom, our victory is sure. If you observe, all those defecting are doing so because they lost out in the politics of their various states and it is not different from Benue State. Let me also say that the issue of people wanting to defect is a natural thing in politics. People come there with expectations and when they don’t get what they want, they leave. Not everybody come into politics to serve their people, many come for their selfish interest and that is what is playing out now.
Most of them are complaining because what they expected did not come and for me service to the people should be our primary aim. But I am happy this is coming at a time we have Comrade Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the party.
This is a wise choice because I know Oshiomhole very well. When he was governor of Edo state, I was Deputy Governor in Benue state and I enjoyed working with him then. His wonderful contribution in the National Executive Council and how he turned Edo state around made him the best choice for this job. So, I strongly believe he will do a wonderful job which he has started by winning Ekiti state which was his first election.
I watched his press conference the other day and he gave reasons why Fayose was not the best for Ekiti people. So, I have no doubt that Oshiomhole will quell all these rebellions in the party and lead the party to victory in 2019.
Are you saying that implosion in APC will not affect the chances of President Buhari?
My position is that everything possible should be done to prevent the implosion as Oshiomhole is working hard to do. But again, you can take a horse to the stream but you cannot force it to drink water. I support the effort being made by our national chairman and President Buhari to stop people from defecting. I am happy that the leadership of the party are listening to their grievances and working hard to find solution, the national chairman is working hard on that. But at the end of the day, some will stay while some will leave. It is unfortunate that these things are coming up now but I can tell you categorically that President Buhari will be re-elected.
Never mind all the nonsense you read in the social media and most of the people on social media don’t even have voters’ cards. So we have no fear over Buhari’s re-election. As a person, not even the party, Buhari has over 10million votes. Then when you talk about party members who definitely will vote for their party, it will be over 15million votes and when you add everything together nobody will defeat him. What we are experiencing now as crisis is attempt by some people to gain relevance in the system and to get better negotiation. But not as if it will affect the re-election of President Buhari.
What about the killings in Benue will it not affect the APC?
They are various explanations that have been given about the happenings in Benue, Taraba, Zamfara and Plateau. But these killings did not start under Buhari, it has been there even when Jonathan was President. I think the problem only increased and if not the proactive actions of this President it would have been worse by now. Let me also state that these killings is not a creation of the Federal Government. If you know how herdsmen behave, they are unforgiving. If you hurt them 10 years ago, they always come for revenge.
Apart from that, we have discovered that there are criminal elements posing as herdsmen who are perpetrating this evil. Intelligence is showing that people who feel that the anti-corruption war of the Federal government is hitting at them, are fighting back using these criminal means to destroy the name of this administration. These politicians are sponsoring these killings but that is why we are appealing to security agencies to fish them out.
The opposition is sponsoring mayhem against this government. But I hope that the strategies being deployed by the President Buhari led administration to check the excesses of these miscreants will stop the killings. It is not true that the killings in Benue will affect the chances of the APC in Benue state.
That fear is coming from those who are not in the state that do not know what is happening. What happened was painful but we will explain to the people during our campaigns and they will understand when we tell them the truth. That will not be a problem because our people know those who are sincere in working for the people and the pretenders and I can tell you they will not vote on lies being told on social media.
Why did you opt for the senate?
This game of politics is service to the people. I was deputy governor but my boss, former governor Gabriel Suswan had my ears, so I was able to serve my people very well. When I was deputy governor, I attracted roads to my area, gave the town a new look, water was provided. I did a good number of things not only in Oturukpo but other Local Government Areas in my geo-political zone. And our people do not forget easily and that is why I am optimistic that they will remember what I did and give me the opportunity to service them again. I want to go there to serve my people. I contested in 1997 and won. Haven served as deputy governor for eight years, I feel I should run for the senate. So I am in the race and I believe that I will get the blessing of my party and fly their flag and deliver victory for the APC.
PDP is regrouping to take over power from the APC, do you have fears?
PDP lacks the capacity to win the 2019 general elections. How many states do they have? APC has 23 states now with the victory in Ekiti it is now 24. So even if one or two governors defect APC will still be left with 23 states. So we have nothing to fear about, PDP will have to wait for another 20 years not 2019. I can tell you seriously.
As a Sportsman
I was a sportsman. I played Nigeria under 23 then we call it academic football and also played cricket at the national level, I played the principals cup, I participated in the West African University games, I represented Nigeria at that level. But now we are getting old so I concentrate on table tennis at this level. I am also a supporter of the Nigeria Football team in fact, I was supposed to be in Moscow for the World cup to support our team but due to politics at home I was not able to make it.
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