Saturday, August 5, 2017 9:18 am
Are you going to work towards that kind of consensus?
I will not force any position on the party. If you don’t open the political landscape, then, you are not practicing internal party democracy. The party deserves to get the best national chairman that can lead it to the 2019 general elections and to do that; we must leave the political space open. If we have just one candidate, I will not say another person must come out, just as I will not tell another person not to come out.
But there are already jostlings by members of your party who wanted to contest in the 2019 elections and they will certainly want to install people in different positions to facilitate their ambitions during the convention. How are you going to tackle this challenge?
You cannot devoid this issue from any party at any convention. In every convention, you will hear of the underlying political interest and we are in politics. But I will be more concerned to see that the national delegates are freely elected and that they are freely allowed to elect whoever they wish to elect, but that interest will always be there.
As a former governor and a former presidential aspirant, are you also looking at the PDP presidential ticket which has been zoned to the North where you also hail from?
I am not looking at any particular ticket. I have a responsibility. You see, part of the issues that led to the suspicion and created crisis around Modu-Sheriff was that he was trying to combine that issue of leading the party with some kind of ambition. Rightly or wrongly, that is the general view and that created problem which brought us to where we are today. If I don’t learn from that, then, I must be a fool. I have been given a responsibility and my preoccupation is to discharge this responsibility efficiently and in such a way that we will have an all inclusive convention that will be transparent and democratic. Whatever becomes of me at this stage is not important. When I am done with that, whatever I want to do, I can make that decision for myself. But I cannot be having this responsibility and the trust reposed in me and then begin to talk of personal ambition.
In essence, you are sacrificing your personal ambition for the sake of PDP now?
Absolutely, I can sacrifice anything for the party. This national party position that I was given, I never thought of it, I didn’t look for it. So, I am not that sort of individual with quest for power anyhow it can be gotten. This assignment that has been given to me, I want to do it efficiently well, not just for the PDP, but for the good of this country and for the good of democracy because if you build a virile political party, you will get it right because virile political party will also produce good candidates, good candidates will become good leaders and good leaders will lead this country to greater heights.
What about of if they put you under pressure again like they did in Port Harcourt?
How can I be put under pressure when you have myriad of people already looking for it?
Some of the things that people said were responsible for the emergence of Modu Sheriff as PDP Chairman was lack of strong individuals with deep pockets who can lead the party who is going to opposition after 16 years in power. Don’t you think this will also be a factor at the Convention?
I don’t think so. First of all, I am not aware that Modu Sheriff spent his own personal money. He said so. But the records indicate that he was collecting money left, right and centre from both PDP and non-PDP people. That is the record that we have. So, it is not about deep pockets, so to say. And of course, in PDP, we have many capable hands from all nooks and crannies of this country.
The Northern part of the country used to be one of the bastions of support for the PDP. But in the 2015 elections, the party was only able to win Gombe and Taraba States. So, how are you going to rebuild support for your party in this region? If free and fair election were to hold now, PDP will sweep the North.
Are you sure of that?
Let me give you an example. In the President’s senatorial district in Daura, Katsina State, the bye election in a constituency which was made up of two local governments- PDP clearly won in one local government as declared, PDP won in the second local government, thereby winning that federal constituency, but the result was not declared as such. And it was election observers that addressed the press that result announced by INEC was not a true reflection of the people’s choice. That’s in the president’s own state which is governed by APC, and the President’s senatorial zone. Even, if we did not win eventually, but we won one local government and they won one local government narrowly, let’s assume the result declared was the correct one. And you know bye-elections are easier to be won by sitting governors, but it is another issue entirely for general elections. In bye-elections, those in power can concentrate all the security forces and their men and women there in order to get a favourable result. But during the general elections, everyone is on his own; the voters will have a field day. You may not be able to intimidate everybody; you may be able to intimidate a few.
What gives you the confidence that the PDP will return to power, especially given the number of your party members currently being tried for corruption at various courts, a fact which the APC will surely use to campaign against you in 2019?
As journalists, you people have a great role to play in letting Nigerians know the truth. It is only when you are not in power that you can be assessed properly. But when you are in power, it is only when you happen to be on the wrong side of the ones that are in higher positions that you can be sacrificed in the guise of ‘there is no discrimination.” Let me give you an example of Osun State for instance. For about two and a half years, no commissioner was appointed, in the local governments, you only have sole administrators and that is an APC State. So, can you ask how was the government functioning? Which executive council was approving anything? How are the funds of the local governments being spent? Even, the issue of Paris Club Debt, as soon as it was released the issue of corruption crops up.
They were just tips of the iceberg, even while APC is still in power. The EFCC is trying to do its job, but they are trying to curtail it one way or the other from doing its job. When you talk about corruption, you talk only about politicians- whether APC, PDP or whatever. But that is not correct. Look at the members of the Armed Forces- sum up all the total amounts the politicians that are being tried are alleged to have misappropriated, it may not be up to what two generals are being tried for. And that is apart from the civil servants and we always try to limit corruption to politicians who may have been responsible for just about the 10 or 20 per cent of the corruption, forgetting about the 80 per cent. We must fight corruption holistically, but the confining it to politicians, especially to politicians who are out of office, we would never be able to defeat corruption that way.
We addressed a press conference in which we said PDP is for it and we also demand that there must be a clear procedure because restructuring means different things to different people. If you go to South-south, restructuring means resource control or fiscal federalism, if you go to South east, to some, it means Biafra; in the South west, it might mean Oodua State to some. So, there is no consensus. But what you restructure are things that are manifestly wrong whether the police or the institutions or the military, electoral bodies, political bodies they must be restructured in my opinion. The issue of fiscal federalism, we must look at it and address it to the satisfaction of all Nigerians.
Will the PDP also set up a committee to come up with its own position on restructuring?
Yes, there is the 2014 National Conference Report. It is a starting point, but it should be reviewed because after it was produced other issues have come up and we should not sweep them under the carpet. But again, we should not waste time on those things we already have some consensus on, just update it and submit it to the legislative process and see what will come out of it.
But the current government said they will not touch the report even with a long pole?
Yes, because to them, everything PDP did was wrong. But if they don’t want the report, let them do their own.
You are a former governor of Kaduna State which has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent times. What do you think about what is going on in that state, especially the killings?
It is unfortunate and it is not just in Kaduna State- the killings of innocent citizens are unfortunate and I have said many times that we must never politicize what is going on. We must unite and fight it. While some of the killings are linked to the herdsmen, but not all the herdsmen are criminals. There are criminal elements among them. But those herdsmen that are not criminal should work with the authorities; work with the local communities to fish out the criminal herdsmen. Some of them (the criminal herdsmen) may be local, some of them maybe foreigners because we have criminal elements coming into the country. It is only by working together that we can solve the problems; a blame game will only continue create gaps which the criminal elements will continue to use to sow greater discord in the society.
You took certain steps to ensure that there was peace in Kaduna State while you were the governor. Are there some of those initiatives you want to share with the current governor as a way of stopping the current orgy of violence going on in the state?
There are, but to be honest, my principle is that I don’t communicate with my successors through the media, especially when I know that there is a way of communicating with them directly and not just in Kaduna, current leaders should not shy away from seeking counsel from past leaders. There must be one or two things that past leaders must know that will be of benefit to them. We are not in position to make current leaders do our biddings, but definitely, we couldn’t have governed a place for four, eight years without having some rich knowledge of the genesis of some issues and how to go about tackling them.
And it is because there is really no effective government in place. The government started with a crisis, it has continued to be in crisis. Under PDP when Obasanjo was in power, there was central authority, under Jonathan, there was a central authority, I am not saying there were no clashes here and there, but everybody knew where the buck stops. In a system in which people are creating cleavages of powers and interests and exercising them, how can you run the country effectively?
Are you in touch with the current governor?
I have never visited the government house, but I have a way of communicating with him.
As a former Senator, what is your opinion on the frosty relationship between the executive and the National Assembly, specifically the Senate?
It is not healthy. When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffered. The Senate President Bukola Saraki is a good friend of mine; many of the senators are my friends. Of course, from the executive side, I don’t know much to be honest, but my plea is that they should find a common ground and kind of cool down for the sake of the country, find a meeting point to get us away from this avoidable crisis.