The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Timi Frank, in this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Festus Owete and Samuel Ogundipe, speaks on the crisis in the ruling party, the corruption trial of the senate president, Bukola Saraki, the Buhari administration and other issues. Excerpts:
PT: Why are you troubling your party?
Frank: I think it is a very funny one. Let me just make it clear that I am not troubling my party; I am only trying to put my party on the right track. That’s what I think I am doing right now.
PT: What is really your grouse?
Frank: Just like I have always said, there are issues in my party, very critical issues. First of all, let me set an example with my case. Since my immediate boss (Lai Mohammed) was appointed minister of information, automatically since I am his deputy and going by the party’s constitution, I should act as spokesperson of the party pending when we’ll go for a convention and elect a new spokesperson and then I’ll come back to my position and continue as deputy spokesman of the party. Since this happened the leadership of my party has refused me my constitutional right. Being somebody that knows my right, definitely I’ll have to fight. I don’t need to keep quiet because this is something that I don’t need to lobby anybody for. I don’t need to beg anybody. My party should accept what God has put in place. My party also failed to follow the right path by honouring God’s decision.
PT: What reasons are they giving for not elevating you to the position of spokesman, at least in acting capacity?
Frank: As a journalist, you have every right to go and ask the leadership of my party and the national chairman ‘why is this man not acting when the constitution of your party is very clear?’ It is not just about the constitutionality of the matter; there is also the issue of federal character. That is why we have office of the deputy. But today, that case does not play out in our own scenario as a party. The APC I belong to today, sorry to say, has made Nigerians to start thinking twice: ‘Is this a party we can trust? A party that cannot allow a process to take place! So, it’s a very sad one. But for me I’ll keep shouting because there are issues and we cannot run away from these issues. I cannot see why my party should refuse me from acting as spokesperson. So, if my party knew that I did not have the capacity, from day one, they should not have made me the deputy national publicity secretary; they should have looked for something else for me.
PT: What reasons did your party’s leaders give for not appointing you into the position?
Frank: Since this matter started till today, not even my chairman (John Odigie-Oyegun) has called me for a discussion to give me any reason why they’re not allowing me. I’ve written an official letter and at the appropriate time, I’m going to publish that letter for Nigerians to see. I wrote not just to the chairman but the entire NWC of my party. I wrote and I copied including the president. I sent out these letters through DHL Courier but till today I did not get any response.
PT: Even from the president?
Frank: I have never got any response. Again, it boils down to my national chairman. If the chairman truly has the capacity I bet you we would have created the right development.
PT: The national chairman told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview recently that you were not elevated to the position because you’re not from the North Central zone.
Frank: Is there anywhere in our party’s constitution that made it very clear that if the spokesperson is not there the deputy should not act because he’s not from that zone? That shows you that we have a chairman that does not even understand the party’s constitution. The chairman should have resigned for making such a statement to the public. You can’t say because I am not from the North Central I cannot fit into the position of acting spokesperson. It is laughable. That shows we have a chairman that does not have the will to put the party together. That is a very big failure on his part.
PT: You’ve been telling us what your party did to you, what did you do to your party?
Frank: Well, as far as I am concerned, I have not done anything wrong to my party. The only thing I did to my party is to put my party on the right path; to make sure my party did the right thing. Let me take you back a little bit. We have two factions of the party at the National Assembly, especially in the Senate – the Ahmed Lawan group and the Saraki group. As a party, till today, we’ve not been able to summon those two factions and say ‘come what are the issues? Let’s harmonise these issues. Let’s stop this infighting.’ Till today, the party has not found itself to be seen as a party that can unite the family. This cannot happen in PDP. We saw it very clearly in 2011 when the former Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, emerged. Even though he wasn’t the product of the PDP, as soon as he emerged as Speaker, the party had no option but to accept him. They felt that since they could not throw him away, the best thing to do was to harmonise that situation at the time. Mulikat Akande (an aspirant for the position) and others came together to accept him. But in our own case today, the party has not been able to do that. It’s very important for the leadership of the party to be interacting with party members and the leadership the leadership of the National Assembly. So, so far as I am concerned, the leadership under Oyegun cannot manage our party.
PT: Are you saying in clear terms that Oyegun is incompetent?
Frank: I can tell you without any fear or favour. That is my own position.
PT: That he’s incompetent?
Frank: I can tell you without any fear or favour. That is why you have so many issues in the party. I am very, very worried. I am always saying it that I am very, very worried because I love this party so much. I mean well for the party, I mean well for the president. As a party we should be able to support the president on his activities. Whenever the presidency is going wrong, the party should be able to harmonise issues. We should be able to tell Nigerians that ‘look, we can still make it.’ But because we have a chairman that cannot manage issues every state chapter of the party today has crisis.
The best way we can resolve the crisis in the party is to first of all acknowledge that we have problem. After acknowledging that we have problems then we should be able to go round within our leaders or set up a reconciliation committee to reconcile all differences. But today, as I speak, no reconciliation process has been put in place at the centre to harmonise all these issues. That is why they’re talking about suspending (Senator Rabiu) Kwankwaso in Kano. Go to Kaduna, they’re talking about suspending Senator Shehu Sani. Go to Bayelsa, the former Governor Timipre Sylva has been suspended by the party.
PT: Do you think all these problems are caused by the PDP bloc within the APC?
Frank: I believe for some of us that came from the PDP, we’ve not been treated fairly. Tell me, if this party (APC) has been treating us well, why would they refuse me to speak? I still repeat: Is it because I came from PDP to join the party? Today, they have turned some of us to be like an outcast within the party. And that is why when my chairman made that statement about the Senate President that the party does not mind if the PDP takes over the position and so on. Shortly afterwards, because of some pressures, he came back to fine-tune his statement by saying that the party still wants to hold the position. But he never denied making the statement. How can you allow your number three citizen, no matter what…….? It’s because the party is not mediating between the executive and the legislature. The party has every power, to go to the president, to appeal to the president, to make it clear that this issue is not just about Bukola Saraki. This is beyond Saraki. It could be anybody. Anybody could be in his shoes. As a party, we’ve not been able to take a position that will please Nigerians. What is happening to Saraki is not just Saraki but it’s something that is making Nigerians to look at APC as a party having issues. Our chairman came out to demonstrate that statement. I wasn’t the one that said it. I also read it in PREMIUM TIMES. So, these are issues that are very, very critical that we must go back to our drawing board because if we don’t, my worry is this: I don’t want us to have a scenario whereby we have power today and in the next four years we’re not in the office. We worked hard to bring this change and we must defend this change. This is because we have a president that has the goodwill to deliver the change agenda. But how you can do that lies on the party?