Professor Taoheed Adedoja, is a former Minister of Sports and Special Duties, and currently one of the aspirants for the office of national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he speaks on why he is contesting, why the position should be micro-zoned to South-west as well as dismisses anointed candidates and godfatherism among others. BODE OLAGOKE, reports.
Why are you in the race to lead the PDP?
The PDP was in power for 16 years since its inception in 1998 and it is a party that has been very, very lucky to have been established on a very solid foundation of democracy, fairness and equity. It is a party that has repositioned Nigeria as a nation since its establishment 17 years ago. Unfortunately, the PDP lost power in the last 2015 general elections for a number of reasons.
One, because of some mistakes that were made which I will refer to as internal mistakes, the other reason was impunity in the party. The third, I will consider was international conspiracy to get the PDP out of office by the powers that be internationally. The fourth reason why the PDP lost election can only historically be described better by the persons involved, because Nigerians didn’t see everything. The party leaders, Mr. President that was concerned, Goodluck Jonathan, saw more reasons than many of us and I believe that he will come out in his own personal memo as to what happened to the PDP- not necessarily what went wrong.
If, therefore, the founding fathers had laid a solid foundation for the party, and in its environment for 16 years, provided the dividends of democracy for Nigerians, and those indices of development that we know that will make Nigerians to be happy, but because of those four factors that I have mentioned and of course, the fifth one; that Nigerians themselves, whether it was good or not just wanted changes and sometimes, changes for changes sake, just because they wanted something different. Even if the PDP did better than they did, up till 2015, there is a strong possibility that Nigerians would still have been carried away by the same change mantra.
But even in the last two years, the same Nigerians have started to compare notes they don’t want to be patient enough. Ordinarily and mathematically, one would have expected Nigerians to wait for a change of government for 16 years and compare. But Nigerians have seen a clear difference in style of governance, in providing the dividends of democracy to them and, of course, looking at the democratic culture that we know them for. It is the same Nigerians that are yearning for the PDP to come back.
For PDP to come back, therefore, will require not a new PDP but a PDP that still has its constitution to be amended intact, a PDP that has its manifestoes in place, a PDP that is still having around its founding fathers, including the founding chairmen who are still around. Nigerians want the PDP, as a party, to come back but one of the strongest expectations of Nigerians is its leadership. Nigerians want to see fresh ideas, they want to see a person that understands Nigeria as a country, a person they can relate with.
It isn’t sufficient to know so much about the PDP as a party. The unity of Nigeria is paramount in the minds of anybody. Nigerians want to see that a Nigerian that represents the unity of Nigeria, because they want to believe if we have 6 geo-political zones, anybody that will emerge the national chairman of the party would be seen to be somebody that the whole three geo-political zones in Northern Nigeria will relate with.
That person will be somebody that the whole of South-west will relate with, will be somebody that the people, the young and the old of South-south zone will relate with. The same thing will be applicable with the Eastern part of the country. That’s why I represent that person that’s the bridge builder in Nigeria today that will be able to bring about the unity of this country through the leadership of the PDP. That’s the reason I am offering myself.
The PDP in this 21st century cannot survive unless its members and leaders believe in the leadership. A leadership that will bring intellectualism into governance, a leadership that is visionary, a leadership that has grassroots support, a leadership that understands the economic, social, political terrains and the needs of Nigerians: A leadership that will be the bridge between the old and the young, that will be vibrant, a leadership that will not be bossy, a leadership that will be democratic, diplomatic, a listener, a leadership that will carry everybody along. That’s why I feel very strongly that I should volunteer myself to lead the party so that people will see a new PDP with vision, a new person, a new personality in the leadership of the PDP as a party, to lead Nigeria to bring the glory of democracy back to the people in the 2019 elections.
There are so many of you, contenders for the exalted office of national chairman of the party in the south-south and south-west. What will you advance as your Unique Selling Point?
I have already said it! The party needs a new face. I have stayed 15 years as a member of the party but I haven’t been one of those that have created problems in the party. The PDP needs a committed member. Remember I have had an opportunity in the process of my political life to have emerged a governorship candidate, governorship aspirant, two times in the political system in this country.
I have held positions, both in government and private sectors, both in state and national level. I have been part of government as a minister that held two portfolios at the same time. So, I am well grounded in what it takes in terms of the rudiments of governance and governing, both at state and federal levels.
There have been insinuations that the South-west stakeholders held a meeting recently and they discussed micro-zoning of the office of national chairman?
No, I was at the meeting. There was no micro-zoning done and nobody talked about it. It wasn’t even mentioned at all. The position of national chairman has been zoned to the south-west.
Was it zoned to South-west or the entire south?
It was zoned to the South but there was a meeting by stakeholders from the South, where a position was taken that it should be conceded to the South-west. But the zoning formula as far as the national secretariat is concerned remains intact. What we are doing is that we are appealing to other zones to consider the South-west having a shot because it is the only zone that hasn’t had it.
When you consider the power blocks in the party, one of them is the governors. The party has one outgoing governor in the South-west and there seems to be a plot by the South-south to ensure one of its own emerges. Are you aware of this?
I am not aware of any plotting at all. What I am aware of is that the South-south and South-east know that it is the turn of the South-west and I strongly believe that is what they are working towards.
But you are aware that Dr Raymond Dokpesi is in the race and very interested in being elected the national chairman?
I am not aware.
But what efforts have you made to reach out to the power blocks within the party: the governors, former presidents and national chairmen?
For me, to emerge as the national chairman, you definitely need to reach out to the stakeholders: the founding fathers of the party, former presidents that are members of the party, the former party chairmen, former governors, current legislators in the federal and state assemblies, chairmen: former and present, and the delegates. I want to say that I have reached out to a cross section of these stakeholders, including the governors and my consultations continue, all across the country. I have visited virtually all zones of the country.
You are aware that a sitting governor in the South-west just recently, made a declaration for the party presidential ticket?
Yes, I am aware.
Will that not undermine the agreement that zoned the 2019 ticket to the North and the understanding to concede the chairmanship seat to the South?
I don’t think this poses any problem at all. They are two different matters entirely. The position of national chairman is different from that of presidential candidate. Senator Ahmed Makarfi declared that the position of national chairman is zoned to the South, of which the South-west is clamouring that it should occupy the position and the presidential ticket is zoned to the North. I don’t think that has changed as far as the party is concerned.
But will the declaration made by Governor Ayodele Fayose not alter, or in any way jeopardize the zoning arrangements on ground?
That question is better directed to the national chairman of the party. He is the one that can make clarifications, I cannot make clarifications. What I can say is that I want to be the national chairman and any other arrangement will not change that at all.
What will be your take if the stakeholders in the South-west come up with a consensus arrangement for the office of national chairman? Will you be willing to drop your ambition to lead the party, if you aren’t picked?
My take is that a consensus candidature for national chairmanship of the party will only arrive if all the aspirants come together and all agree to pick a consensus candidate. But I tell you, virtually all the aspirants have said they aren’t in favour of a consensus candidate.
All the aspirants in the South-west that have indicated their interest in the office have jettisoned the idea of consensus. All of us have agreed that we should go to the national convention to seek votes from all delegates and all stakeholders. That’s the position of all aspirants. So, the issue of consensus has already been jettisoned by those that are concerned themselves. That’s the true position.
I also want you to remember that the PDP of yesterday is different from the PDP of today. Part of the PDP of yesterday was a party that had challenges of imposition and the impunity that was experienced by the then PDP. In some instances, the imposition didn’t create problem, people accepted it. In some instances, it created problem to the extent that it made the party to lose many seats, from governorship to the national assembly, to the various elections. The PDP has learnt its lessons and it wants to be careful about the so-called consensus candidate in the sense that people weren’t given equal opportunity to try.
That brings me back to the issue of anointed candidates in Nigeria today. People who anoints candidate, who have in mind a successor, 70 percent have met brick walls in terms of disappointment from those they anointed. So, it is even better that when people are interested in a particular person, it is better to allow two things to play its part: allow the people a free and fair election and give people equal opportunity. Many leaders in Nigeria today that anointed their successors are having sleepless nights because they are disappointed. I tell you, in 2019, people scheming to anoint their successors will be more disappointed.
Are you saying no presidential aspirant is backing you in this your aspiration to lead the party?
Presidential hopefuls that are backing chairmanship aspirants will be the most disappointed because they will not necessarily do their biddings, because what will be on ground at the time the presidential candidate will emerge will be different from the present permutations. The presidential candidate will be picked, not by the national chairman but by the entire stakeholders. As I am talking to you now I haven’t made any promise to any presidential aspirant.
You mean you have no godfather?
I have none that! I am going to the field using 3 things: my pedigree, my integrity and the hope that it is the people that will pick somebody like me based on my neutrality on issues in the party and I have a very strong feeling that with the backing of God, I am going to emerge the national chairman of the PDP.