In this interview, one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Shuaib Afolabi Oyedokun, says the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government is an amalgam of refugees and expert liars and propagandists. He also declares that Governor Ayodele Fayose’s 2019 Presidential ambition is an aberration. ABUDLRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU brings you excerpts.
What is your assessment of the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the PDP?
Well, it was in preparation for the December 9, 2017 National Convention, which is now slated for December 9, 2017. It considered three important aspects: (1) approves the date of the convention, (2) presents guidelines for the election and proposes amendments of the party constitutions. The constitution amendments had to be considered by the BoT, input had to be taken from the BoT and state chapters.
The NEC looked into the composition of the National Convention; those who should be automatic delegates to the convention. In other words, the numerical and voting strengths at the convention should represent the wish of the people.
The constitution review is to checkmate impunity in the party, because there was a time when the Governors for the purposes of congresses and conventions appoint up to 50 aides and they will swamp the whole place with these appointees to ensure that their will prevailed. And that was a sort of blow on other sectors of the party. All these had to give way for more authentic representation of the people. The review will bring about a new PDP.
There are lot of issues within the party, what do you think is the way out?
The way out is now very clear. Nobody ever thought the party would collapse. But, it did and the party has survived. It was wobbling but now it is standing on its feet. Since we emerged from the crisis following the Supreme Court judgement, there have been influxes into the party.
Many people are returning to the party. And with the convention already set, there are prospects. When we organised ward congresses recently, we were shocked by the large turnout which was unlike in the past when we used to use money to mobilize people. It is a good omen for the party.
Why did you suggest a second Deputy National Chairman?
The idea of two deputies arose from three sources: my personal experience as national deputy chairman when there were two deputies; one for the South and the other for the North. If that arrangement was not cancelled the vacuum that existed after the exit of Adamu Muazu wouldn’t have been there. We won’t had run into the problem of who would complete and uncompleted tenure. That led the PDP to probably choose the wrong persons then.
The second reason was that, during the Ekweremadu committee exercise, I went round the North east and the North west and found it was a popular demand which we reflected in the report and it was adopted.
Thirdly, its make room for more women. The constitution has now provided for representation of at least two women at the Board of Trustees (BoT) and at the convention levels where at least two out of five delegates shall be women. Then it just dawn on me that if we have two deputies, why not constitutionally allocate one to the women. That is one out of the two deputies should be a woman, and it was adopted at the BoT and NEC levels.
Was the party’s National Chairmanship post zoned to the South west?
It was zoned to the South, that is confirmed. But, the South west is agitating that since it has never tasted the position of the National Chairman, it should justifiably be given to it. What the National Working Committee is saying is that, the position had been zoned to the South, but it can be micro zoned to the South west.
Unfortunately, we have about eight aspirants for the post. Ideally, they should have come together to harmonize their interest, but that may not be possible. So, on the issue of the PDP National Chairman, the South west is divided and when the contest is thrown open, it will be unfortunate for the South west PDP leaders.
With the calibre of persons that are interested in the position ahead of the December convention, isn’t the party heading for another long tussle?
No, no, the convention that put former President Goodluck Jonathan as Presidential candidate is different from this elective convention. This should be more unifying than that one, which was unnecessarily competitive and it created doubts. There are two advantages for the party; there is a consensus that others should support whoever wins. It is a gentlemen’s agreement.
Secondly, if anyone wants to leave the party where will they go to? New parties hardly have enough funding strength to compete with the existing ones, and even the All Progressives Party (APC) is already flooded with internal crises which are not yet quite visible to most people. Genuine PDP members have nowhere to run to.
People who run away are doing so for security reasons and that is temporary. There may be little skirmishes, but to the extent that it will adversely affect the party, I don’t foresee it.
In view of the outcome of the last general elections, do you think Nigerians are still interested in PDP?
You see the PDP has one advantage: it had occupied the nooks and crannies of the Nigerian society and has its tentacles everywhere in the country. The PDP is like fibroid root that spreads all over, it can’t be totally destroyed. It is like dried field in a dry season, all it needs to become green again is some sprinkle of water and it will blossom again.
People are still interested in the PDP because they have been able to compare and contrast between the party and the present ruling APC and have seen that the PDP is much better in terms of credible performance, it did reasonably well. When you compare governments, there are certain things you look at: what is the purpose of governance? It all centres on people’s welfare. In comparing the APC and the PDP you have to look at where we were coming from. The PDP came from a situation where the military had polluted the air but it was able to rebuild the nation.
The main thing people accused the PDP of is that there was corruption. But in the PDP era corruption had never risen to the level we have witnessed in the two years of the APC government. PDP was able to regulate itself and was the author of all the essentials anti-corruption agencies in the country. The APC has none and is even weakening existing ones.
So corruption during the 16 years of the PDP rule was brought about by individual and not the party?
Not only an individual, but the whole society: religious community whether Muslim or Christianity, in the police, and in all agencies, it is embedded and has become part and parcel of us. In fact, it has become the culture of most Nigerians.
Take for example, a man donates large amount of money to the church and the pastor and congregation will dance not minding the source of the money. The Nigerian society encourages corruption, but, we must all do our best to kick against the menace that has deprived our country of meaningful development. However, not everyone is corrupt.
Come 2019, what template has your party put in place to reduce corruption to a minimal level?
Most things the PDP was accused of were done out of share ignorance. Most of us did not even know that such things where going on, we thought things were normal. We thought we had human beings handling our affairs, we didn’t know that many of them were animals in human colour. It was our mistake and we took some things for granted. That will not happen again.
We have also put modalities in place to control and checkmate people who join our party. So, as long as we can control the entry point, better people with good record will help put an end to corruption. So, our measure will be purely on moral ground, political control, correct entry behaviour and correct orientation. We will not want to suffer the type of undue black listing that we met in our last regime.
Also, the ongoing party constitution review will help the party to control and checkmate the activities of the governors. The party had control over the governors, but lost that control at a point. The excessive powers of the governors not only encouraged corruption, but impunity. They control executive and judiciary arms of government, and they control the electoral body at state level.
These are all instruments for corruption; they are forces of oppression that lead people to misbehave. All these are being addressed by the ongoing party constitution review.
Talking about governors and party supremacy, the PDP’s NWC had zoned Presidency to the North in 2019, but Governor Fayose has declared his intention to contest that post?
Well, it is not unprecedented. Recall that when we zoned the presidency to the South some persons from the North also contested the primaries. I can remember the case of President Obasanjo’s second term, (Abubukar) Rimi from the North contested against him. However, it was done under different situation: more or less a protest. This one I don’t know how to classify it.
The only way I can describe Governor Fayose’s interest is that in any society there are some aberrations; maybe I will consider this as one of those aberrations. The man, who his now indicating his interest to contest, is doing it at the wrong time, because he was part of those who zoned it to the North. Give it to him; he has the right to contest under the Nigeria constitution. But, when the time comes water will find its own level.
How would you rate the performance of the All Progressives Congress?
Honestly, I don’t know anyone in this government that I have not interacted with in the past. I see them as good people, but a very confused team. And under confusion you can’t attain much. How can you combine different people working together with refugees, who were never put under quarantine or disinfectants?
The PDP was amalgams of five well-established progressive political associations populated by people that wanted to give total change to the country from military to civilian rule. But the APC is an amalgam of refugees that had only regional political experience that merged. The people in government now are experts in opposition who are not experts in governance. Like the PDP that is learning to oppose, the APC is learning to rule. The APC government specialises in lies, blackmailing and propaganda.
Has the APC-led federal government achieved anything meaningful so far?
Yes. Building on what the PDP left: the insurgency in the North east has been brought to a reasonable state. Let’s hope it is sustained. It has built on the PDP’s Treasury Single Account (TSA).
The PDP had already established the platform for the ruling party to succeed. But on their own, they have achieved nothing. In fact, this government of change has brought more hardship into the country, people are suffering.
How prepared is your party in the coming governorship elections in Anambra, Osun, Ekiti states and 2019 General election?
We are prepared to win in body and soul. The party has been rebranded. Nigerians are comparing, economics are proving it and the APC is gradually failing in mind, body and soul. We have set our sail, and we hope to land at the Cape of Hope.