With less than two weeks to the inauguration of its new Exco, on April 13, 2021, National Chairman of the Action Alliance political party, Chief Barr. Kenneth Udeze tells TheFact Nigeria that the Party will not be distracted by frivolous Court cases as it aims to win at least, five governorship elections in 2023 and expand to take power at the center. Excerpts:
What were the issues that took you to a Court in Oshogbo, Osun State recently?
I would rather say that what took me to Oshogbo was one of those sacrifices that leaders must make while serving the people. It has to do with my abduction some time in 2019. Recall that it was in the media, electronics and print media in 2019 when I was abducted in Abuja all the way to Oshogbo in Osun State. The truth remains that I thank Nigerians and particularly the FCT Police command for their prompt action because what was planned by my political opponents then was actually a way to assassinate me. But when that incident happened, because I have not seen a situation whereby a police division all the way from Osun State would come all the way to the FCT to make a purported arrest for a case of forgery being reported by a former party chairman of Osun State, the person of Hon. Adekunle Rufai Omoaje. For police to have come to Abuja for a petition as they later claimed, because when Nigerians started shouting on top of their voices concerning my abduction, it was everywhere. They got the information and they now turned the whole incident to be official arrest by the Nigerian police. How can the Nigerian police come to make an arrest in Abuja only to have driven the person, my person, I was taken in a car being driven by my political opponents and you call it a Nigerian police arrest? So to cut a long story short, that issue led to my being charged for forgery. The question is forgery of what? They said that I forged an INEC document during the 2018 Osun State gubernatorial election. That the person who was supposed to be the candidate of the party, that his name was substituted with another name. It is laughable because what has party affairs got to do with the police coming to arrest me from the FCT to Oshogbo. They said that I came to Osun to forge INEC documents. Its very laughable. Like I told you, that’s the story.
And I want to assure them, every member of the Party wherever they may be, 2023 is our year.
What are the political undertones to the whole …..
The situation is that I was arraigned then. I took my plea of Not Guilty. The matter is still ongoing. In fact, this is even why I have to go to Osun because the matter was adjourned last week when the police could not lay their hands on any evidence to continue our prosecution, they said they wanted to reframe the charge on the ground that the person they wanted to use as a Principal Witness died in an accident. So the charge was re-read. We were re-arraigned again. We were granted a bail, provisional bail to come back on the 25. So the truth of the matter is that what we are going to Osun to do is more of political. Somebody said his name was substituted. But you have to be a candidate of the political party before your name can be substituted. This is like a pre-election matter, something that happened in 2018. Election has come and gone yet somebody is still claiming to be a candidate of the party. This is somebody that did not obtain the party nomination form, he did not even pay for the nomination form and his name was not in any way on the party list. INEC have long shortlist the party list that was provided by the Action Alliance and elections have come and gone, so using the issue of forgery that your name was substituted, you have to be a candidate before you can say that your name has been substituted. So I see it as a distraction. It is a distraction because, recall that we just finished our Convention recently and our inauguration is coming up on the 13th of April. And we cannot wait to continue the second phase, the second term of my administration. I see all this as a distraction and one thing I believe is that my team of lawyers who are handling this matter know their onions. They know what they are doing. The only thing my opponent is doing is just a kind of stressing the party to get the National Chairman of the Party always traveling from Abuja to Osun state to answer on frivolous allegation. But I don’t want to go deep into the matter because it is a matter that is still before the Court but I trust and believe, so far. The person who is the nominal complainant in this matter is still the same person who had accused me previously, written petition to the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja to say that I was not a Lawyer, that I was not called to the Nigerian Bar. He abandoned that petition and ran away when the chips were down. It is the same person who has sued to challenge my emergence as the National Chairman of the Action Alliance in Osun State, his home town, and when my Lawyers put up a very serious defense, he abandoned the matter. The matter was later transferred to the FCT High Court and the case was struck out. He has instigated all manner of legal actions, charged me for forgery in the FCT Magistrate Court. I was discharged and acquitted. So am not even seeing this as a big issue. Its all about political intrigues. We are used to this. I don’t see the matter going into full trial because I trust the lawyers that I have in Osun State and I trust that this case will end up on the level of a No Case Submission. That’s all I can say for now.
How come you’re sued on party matters in Osun State and not within the territorial jurisdiction of the Party, which is Abuja?
That’s very funny. Most people have asked this question. The party headquarters is in Abuja. Ordinarily, if you’re talking about nomination of candidates, everything happens in Abuja so for you to say that you accuse the National Chairman of the Action Alliance to have come to Osun State during the primary election to forge INEC documents is simply laughable. So that’s why I said I don’t even want to give them much thought as they are just seeking publicity because I know at the end of the day, of course, I am a Lawyer by profession and I know that these people don’t have any case to prove. Its all about distraction. They said they have up to six witnesses, so they are yet to call their witnesses. By the time they finish with the case, I know my Lawyers will do the needful. Ordinarily, this is where I reside, and the national headquarters of the party is in Abuja. I have not visited, in fact, it was this case that took me to Osun for the first time so for somebody to have come to say that I went to Osun and forged INEC documents is just laughable. It tells you the kind of instigation most illiterates can do in order to bring the name of people to ridicule. All the same, it will come and go. In politics, a lot of things happen. These are the kind of people who make some say that politics is a dirty game. It’s never a dirty game but there are some characters that come into political activities and then make it look dirty. And these are the kinds of people we must weed away in Nigerian politics. You don’t resort to self help when you have gone to Court and the Court has not given judgement in terms of the cases that you took to Court and you now resort to self help. I trust that judgment will be done at the end of the day.
Shortly after the Action Alliance party Convention where you got re-elected for a second term, some people came up with a communique countering the Convention. Who are these people to your party?
Nigerian politics most often is filled with drama. It’s not only in the Action Alliance. It happens even in other political parties but the most important thing is the abilities of the leaders in these parties to be able to follow the Constitution of the party strictly and to save the soul of the Party. Yes. Some people said they do not recognize, are not aware of whatever thing that happened at the Convention and they’re not part of it. These are the people that have already been expelled by the party. Truth is, you cannot stop the Constitution from taking effect. The Constitution of the Party is very clear. 30 days before the expiration of the tenure of the present executive, there will be a Convention of the Party to elect a substantive executive that will take over and this is my second term. Official notices have been given to INEC and the Action Alliance has conducted its Convention. If I had emerged in 2017 and by the special grace of God, we were able to get not less than 10 legislative seats at the last election in 2019, for the first time in the history of the Party and now we want to consolidate on what we did, though most of them have double-crossed to the present APC from Action Alliance but the certificate issued by INEC remains indelible. The most important thing is that they cannot take it away from the Party that they rode on the ticket of the Action Alliance and the certificate that was issued by INEC remains indelible as AA candidates but what we are doing now is to consolidate on what we have done in 2019. All this distraction of people accepting or not accepting. If you are not comfortable with what has happened, you go to Court to challenge. Its just like they have been going to Court to challenge my previous emergence when I was elected in 2017. They took us to Osun just like I told you earlier. They abandoned their matter, the case was struck out. They came to Abuja High Court before Justice Taiwo to challenge my emergence as the National Chairman. My legal team put up a strong defense, they abandoned their matter, the case was dismissed. They used one of their cronies to go to the FCT High Court in Jabi before Justice Agbaza to validate their so-called purported suspension of the national leadership of the Party under my leadership, and the Court also dismissed their matter for want of diligent prosecution. So if in all these cases you have lost it, you can’t resort to self help. Just allow the person that destiny has brought forward as the leader and head of the Party to continue piloting the affairs of the Party. After his tenure, he’s not going to be there for life, then the party can elect another substantive executive. But as far as we are concerned, my leadership remains the only subsisting and legitimate leadership of the Action Alliance as at today in Nigeria. The law is on our side, more than any other person.
What is the position of those party members suspended during the March 14 Convention?
That position remains. The Convention is the highest decision making event in every political party. Anything that is being ratified in the Convention remains the final and as it stands today, that decision that was taken at the level of this last Convention of the Action Alliance on March 14, 2021 remains the final decision of the Party. Those people remain suspended until maybe the Party thus thinks it otherwise or when they feel sober and they feel like coming back to the Party, definitely we want human beings in the Party, definitely, we’ll bring them back then we’ll move forward.
What is the Action Alliance’s strategy towards victory at the polls as the 2023 elections approach?
I want to continue to ask Action Alliance party members across Nigeria to continue to remain steadfast as we continue to work diligently towards the 2023 elections. Let us remember there is no going back. In our slogan, we are the Masses’ Party. There is no turning back. We do everything possible to make sure that the youths and women of this country are involved in the political sharing formula of this country. Its not all about those that call themselves the elites hijacking the common patrimony and common heritage of this country to themselves. We are going to be a party that will make sure that both men and women, youths, even the children, everybody in this country, one way or the other partakes in the common good that God has given this country. And I want to assure them, every member of the Party wherever they may be, 2023 is our year. We are hoping to win at least, not less than five States for governorship elections and expand so that in the future, we can talk about taking over power in the center with collaboration with other political allies. That’s what I can tell them for now.